Inside Disney’s ‘Haunted Mansion’ Red Carpet Premiere During SAG-AFTRA Strike, Director Justin Simien Wants to Talk to Bob Iger

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Disney didn’t let the SAG-AFTRA strike get in the way of its “Haunted Mansion” world premiere.

None of the stars of the movie were expected to be in attendance, including LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson, Chase W. Dillon, Daniel Levy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hasan Minhaj, Marilu Henner and Lindsay Lamb all observing the SAG-AFTRA strike. The studio still rolled out the red carpet at Disneyland in Anaheim Saturday night.

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Director Justin Simien told Variety he was “sad” his cast couldn’t attend, but understands why and supports the actors walkout. Press were initially told that Simien would not be doing interviews.

Also on the carpet was a gaggle of villains, aka amusement park performers dressed as the Evil Queen, Maleficent and Cruella de Vil. Mickey and Minnie Mouse also took photos with guests.

The “Haunted Mansion” premiere, which included the two-hour carpet, a pre-reception and screening at the Hyperion Theatre, marked the first major studio premiere to take place since the actors began striking on Friday. If Disney cancelled the festivities, they would have likely lost revenue generated from corporate sponsors of the premiere, including State Farm, Zillow, New Orleans & Company and Michael’s. It also would have meant disappointing the guests who had already RSVP-d for the night.

The premiere came just a day after Fran Drescher slammed Disney boss Bob Iger for saying that WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikers were not being “realistic” with their demands.

“I found them terribly repugnant and out of touch. Positively tone deaf. I don’t think it served him well,” Drescher said on Friday while at the Paramount picket line in Hollywood. Speaking to Variety chief correspondent Elizabeth Wagmeister, Drescher continued, “If I were that company, I would lock him behind doors and never let him talk to anybody about this, because it’s so obvious that he has no clue as to what is really happening on the ground with hard working people that don’t make anywhere near the salary he is making. High seven figures, eight figures, this is crazy money that they make, and they don’t care if they’re land barons of a medieval time.”

Disney boss Bob Iger usually holds court on carpets, but was a no-show.

Simien also weighed in on Iger’s comments. “I would really love to sit down with him and talk,” he told Variety. “I don’t if how he meant it is how it felt to me.”

He continued, “I would love to talk to him about the reality that we all face as artists to make the impossible happen every day.”

Disney red carpets are also usually stacked with dozens of photographers and reporters, but the lack of expected star power caused the number to dramatically fall on Saturday to a handful of photographers and interview press.

During the arrivals, a pre-reception for the nearly 2,000 guests was taking place at the theater with the screening set to start at 7 p.m.

A tip sheet for the premiere was first sent to press on July 6 with the cast and creatives listed as attending. SAG-AFTRA forbids performers from participating in any publicity or promotional activities for their film and television work.

While walking the picket line at the Warner Bros. lot on Friday, Dawson told Variety that she wasn’t bothered that the premiere was moving forward. If anything, she said, “It only gives more visibility to what we’re trying to talk about here and negotiate here. People don’t want to take off from work, but they’re willing to in order to push for justice in this space.”

Inside the theater, while introducing the film, Simien acknowledged the strike. “Obviously, we’re here at a weird time in the industry,” he said. “There’s some folks that aren’t here. Of course, I’m referring to the multiple walkouts on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.'”

Joking aside, Simien continued on and gave a shout out to the cast by their names.

“Haunted Mansion” is inspired by the theme park ride of the same name. Some of the cast — including Haddish, Stanfield, Curtis and Dawson as well as director Simien — promoted the movie at the Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans on July 1. The film will be released in theaters on July 28.

As a SAG-AFTRA strike was ordered, studios began scramble to pivot upcoming premieres and promotional activities surrounding films and TV shows. Universal announced on Friday that the red carpet for the July 17 New York premiere of “Oppenheimer” was canceled, but the screening would still take place. This followed the cast walking out of the U.K. premiere in London after making the interview rounds on the red carpet on July 13.

The first premiere to be canceled completely was Paramount’s “Special Ops: Lioness.” It was to take place July 18 at the DGA in West Hollywood with appearances by stars Zoe Saldaña, Laysla De Oliveira, Nicole Kidman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Kelly.

Apple has also announced the July 18 premiere of “The Beanie Bubble” will not take place.

The Season 2 premiere of “Minx” in Los Angeles will no longer include a red carpet, but Starz has added a “crafts panel and a reception to toast the new season” following the screening.

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