Studios' AI stance in Hollywood writers strike a 'human obscenity': Sean Penn

The 76th Cannes Film Festival - Press conference of the film "Black Flies" in competition - Cannes, France, 19 May, 2023. Cast member Sean Penn attends.Reuters

Actor Sean Penn said on Friday he supported striking Hollywood writers and called studios' rejection of their demand to restrict the use of artificial intelligence in writing scripts a “human obscenity”.

“There are a lot of new concepts that are being tossed about, you know, including the use of AI,” Penn said at a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival. 

“And this just strikes me as a kind of human obscenity, for there to be any pushback on that from the producers.”

The dispute over AI is one of several issues that led Hollywood's film and TV writers to go on strike earlier this month in their first work stoppage in 15 years.

The Writers Guild of America is seeking to restrict the use of AI in writing scripts.

The 76th Cannes Film Festival - Screening of the film "Black Flies" in competition - Red Carpet Arrivals - Cannes, France, 18 May, 2023. Sean Penn, Raquel Nave and Director Jean-Stephane Sauvaire pose.

Hollywood studios, battling to make streaming services profitable and dealing with shrinking ad revenues, have rejected that idea, saying they would be open to discussing new technologies once a year, according to the guild.

"It's difficult ... for so many people, so many writers and so many people in the industry, to not be able to work during this time," added Penn.

"And I guess it's gonna soul-search itself and see which side toughs it out."

Penn is in the Cannes competition film ‘Black Flies’ - a gritty New York City drama about paramedics that also stars Tye Sheridan of ‘Ready Player One’ - that premiered on Thursday evening.

Penn, who is known for his political and social activism, also co-directed ‘Superpower’, a feature-length profile of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that was filmed before and after Russia invaded the country in February 2022.

That premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February this year.