Without its lead available to support the film, MGM delayed the release of “Challengers” to spring 2024 and yanked it from the Venice lineup. Taking its place as the festival’s opening-night film was “Comandante,” a World War II film told from the point of view of Italian submariners. While it’s well-shot and full of suspenseful battle sequences, “Comandante” features exactly zero tennis hotties contemplating a threesome, which may hinder its ultimate appeal with a Venice audience that was promised starry romantic high jinks.
Though the festival’s artistic director, Alberto Barbera, admitted at a news conference on Wednesday that the likes of Emma Stone (“Poor Things”) and Bradley Cooper (“Maestro”) will not be attending Venice because of the strike, other actors who hail from more independent productions have managed to secure guild waivers, including “Ferrari” star Adam Driver, “Memory” lead Jessica Chastain, and the cast of Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla.” They’re expected to show up on the Lido this week alongside a posse of high-powered directors that includes David Fincher (“The Killer”), Ava DuVernay (“Origin”) and Richard Linklater (“Hit Man”).
Still, the strikes loom large. At Barbera’s news conference, the jury president, the filmmaker Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”), dressed for maximum solidarity, donning a “Writers Guild on Strike!” shirt and a similar button on the lapel of his sport coat. He noted that as of Wednesday, the writers had been on strike for 121 days, with the actors joining them for the last 48 days, and he called on studios to compensate those artists fairly.
“I think there’s a basic idea that each work of art has value unto itself, that it’s not just a piece of content, to use Hollywood’s favorite word right now,” Chazelle told reporters, adding that that idea “has been eroded quite a bit over the past 10 years. There’s many issues on the table with the strikes, but to me, that’s the core issue.”
Chazelle was joined by the directors Martin McDonagh and Laura Poitras, who both wore shirts supporting the Writers Guild. They are part of a jury that includes the filmmakers Jane Campion and Mia Hansen-Love, among others.