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    How Hollywood Is — And Isn’t — Handling COVID-19 Vaccines On Film And TV Sets

    “There are a lot of, I think, secret skeptics of the vaccine in Hollywood that we don’t even know about.”

    On today's episode of BuzzFeed Daily, we broke down the top pop culture headlines AND discussed Hollywood's attitude toward COVID-19 vaccines. You can listen below or scroll down to read more about the interview!

    Listen to BuzzFeed Daily on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever else you might listen to your favorite podcasts!

    So let's dive right into it! Recently we talked to Vanity Fair’s Chris Murphy about how Hollywood is handling (and not handling) COVID-19 vaccines on set. Here's some of what we learned:

    BuzzFeed Daily: You recently wrote a piece in Vanity Fair about vaccine mandates on Hollywood sets, or rather the lack thereof. The piece pulled a bit from a story in The Hollywood Reporter about a movie set that had to shut down because one of its A-list stars contracted COVID. Can you go into a little bit more detail about what happened?

    Chris Murphy: Yeah, absolutely. It was an aggregated piece, so The Hollywood Reporter definitely broke this news, but an A-list actor — and they used he him pronouns throughout the entire piece — reportedly contracted COVID on set, shut down production for about three weeks on a major movie, and apparently caused the studio seven figures, so millions of dollars. Over a dozen crew members got sick as well. 

    So it was sort of the worst-case scenario for any film production or television production or any sort of production that's happening and trying to operate during COVID. And while it's unclear who the actor was, I will say it's interesting that Disney this week announced a big push of a bunch of its movies, and specifically, a lot of Marvel movies have been pushed back a few months. Thor 3 has moved from May to July 2022. Doctor Strange 2 moved from March to May 2022. Black Panther 2 moved from July to November 2022. So, that could be a coincidence. Who's to say if that has anything to do with this story that broke a couple of weeks ago? But the timing, I think, is kind of interesting.

    BuzzFeed Daily: No, it is. And COVID is still spreading. It was announced today that there was an outbreak at the Eternals premiere yesterday. So it's happening, and there have been multiple actors in Hollywood who have spoken out against the vaccine. Actors Letitia Wright, and Rob Schneider have publicly voiced their skepticism. And obviously, we're all entitled to our own opinions, but when you're famous, you inherently have a much larger platform. Do you think celebs need to be more careful with their words? Or should the public just simply be more discerning with where they get their information from?

    Photo of Letitia Wright
    Dave J Hogan / Dave J Hogan / Getty Images

    CM: I do, as someone who believes in science and has the vaccine and wants every single person to get vaccinated as soon as possible, wish personally that these people would be more careful with their platforms. I do understand that it's a free country. You can say whatever you want to say, but you should be prepared to suffer the consequences. 

    I would say in Letitia Wright's case, she apparently parted ways with her entire team, quietly over the past year after sharing anti-vax rhetoric and anti-vax sort of sentiment on her social media, which I'm sure wasn't a great thing to happen for her career. So, yeah, it's hard because part of me is like, "I do want to know who among us, especially in Hollywood, is not taking the vaccine, and does not believe in protecting the greater good and taking the jab." But also, it's dismaying and it's alarming because so many people look up to and idolize Letitia Wright, and I guess Rob Schneider? I guess we can say that.

    They wield influence and they wield power. Whether or not it directly affects us — it could be someone down the street. It could be our little cousin. It could be our brother or sister, who is to say so? Yeah, it is definitely playing fast and loose and irresponsible with the concept of free speech, and the right to have your thoughts and opinions and spew them wherever you want. But it doesn't sit totally right with me.

    BuzzFeed Daily: On the other hand, there have been several Hollywood stars who have spoken out in favor of vaccine mandates on Hollywood sets. Actors like George Clooney, Giancarlo Esposito, Sean Penn, who even went so far as to walk off of a movie set until the entire crew was vaccinated. Do you feel like this sort of militancy is helpful or is it just adding fuel to the fire?

    Photo of Sean Penn wearing a mask
    Stephane Cardinale - Corbis / Corbis via Getty Images

    CM: My own bias aside, Sean Penn walking off a set — that also does cost the studio a ton of money, right? Because also things are not happening that should be happening at the same rate. I will say in Sean Penn's case, he did end up compromising and came back to set once all of Zone A, which is the actors and the people who are most present on set and most in contact with each other, were all vaccinated. 

    I will say, for that pro-vaccination side, or the militancy of the vaccine, if you even want to call it that, there's way more wiggle room in terms of getting things done. Right. If everybody gets COVID on set because you didn't wanna get the vaccine and the whole production shut down for three weeks, there's not much anyone can do about that because everyone is sick. But if you're Sean Penn and you're like, "OK, I really want everyone to get vaccinated. Let's get 80% or 75% or however many we need to get the show running." Clearly, I feel like that's a better option than a lot of people potentially getting this absolutely terrible disease. 

    BuzzFeed Daily: So, you know, a number of different companies have implemented vaccine mandates for their employees. Companies like CVS, Delta Airlines, and even McDonald's are all requiring their employees to get the shot. But Hollywood only has a loose agreement between the producers and unions for COVID protocols, so it's mostly been up to individual productions to create their own rules. Have you heard anything of what a mandate in Hollywood could look like?

    CM: I think there's been a lot on Hollywood's mind in terms of unions, right? IATSE just reached an agreement, and the contracts that they have in place, in terms of how the vaccine or how COVID protocol is, expire on October 31, so everything is subject to change. I do hear that there's sort of varying degrees of COVID safety or a sort of COVID protocol that's happening on set and what a vaccine mandate might look like. 

    You have NBC Universal, who has some of the strictest guidelines in terms of how many people need to be vaccinated, who can be on set, mask safety, all of that stuff. And then things sort of tilt the other way with some of these other studios that are a little bit more lax. And it's really not unified in any sort of concrete way. And I do think come October 31, it's going to be interesting to see if it moves more towards unification or if it gets even more divergent in terms of different studios' approaches to this ongoing situation.

    BuzzFeed Daily: So something that I'm kind of wondering about is that the studios are losing so much money, either when people are getting vaccinated or even when they're not getting vaccinated. There's really no if, and, or but about it — they're losing money regardless. Where is the hesitancy coming from? Why haven't studios created this mandate already?

    Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

    CM: Well, I think it comes back to, as sad as this is to say, there are a lot of, I think, secret skeptics of the vaccine in Hollywood that we don't even know about. I mean, if we look back at the Met Gala, which happened in September, a lot of people's favorite stars didn't show up. And while Kylie Jenner, Bella Hadid — who did then say that she got the vaccine, she did prove it — but Kylie and Hailey Bieber, there are a lot of stars who just did not show up, and that was a vaccine-mandated event. 

    But that's the thing with these vaccines. Unless you're standing in the room and you see someone or they have their vaccine card — which we can't even trust anymore because we're hearing reports that some Hollywood stars are faking vaccine cards to be able to attend events — it's a hard thing to trust, you know? So I do think this upper echelon of celebrities are so protected from the rest of the population, to the point where they probably feel a certain distance from the vaccine, given that they're sitting in their mansions, they have their team, they're not walking on the street and they're not taking the subway to work. With a lot of these people, I think we sort of undercut that, which is kind of the really messed up thing about it: that not everyone is at risk in the same way, given how they live their day-to-day lives. 

    So I do think there's a higher amount of vaccine skeptics in Hollywood, and we're seeing it in sports and in Kyrie Irving. We're seeing it across this upper echelon of people who can afford to be skeptical of the vaccine. And guess what? I can't afford to be skeptical of the vaccine, the way the vast majority of us aren't and can't. So I do think it's sort of an unknown and untouched-upon aspect of this entire thing that is sort of difficult to talk about because it sucks.

    We also discussed a problem so universal even celebrities have to deal with it: online dating.

    View this video on YouTube

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    Alicia Silverstone recently went on The Drew Barrymore Show and revealed she’s been banned from a dating app not once, but twice. 

    She said the first time she put up a fake profile because she wasn't comfortable being herself yet, and the profile was taken down. After hearing about other actresses trying dating apps — including Drew and Sharon Stone — she tried it again with her real info.

    “I was like, 'Well, if they can be on, I can be on,'" she said. “And then I did it, and I had a date with someone planned. [But] the day I went in to find out about the date [like] where we were meeting or whatever, I had been banned. Poor guy. I got kicked off as myself too."

    As always, thanks for listening! And if you ever want to suggest stories or just want to say hi, you can reach us at daily@buzzfeed.com.