Hollywood on Edge in Wake of Strike Threat

Hollywood, already a high-strung town in a famously laid-back state, is a bundle of nerves today.

"You feel the anxiety all around you," said producer Douglas Wick. "Every time you get a ride from the airport from any one of the companies, the car companies, they're nervous. The florists are nervous. The restaurants, in the middle of L.A., they're all nervous."

It's not an earthquake everyone's worried about, or any of the state's other semi-regular disasters. But in terms of the potential for devastation, a strike may as well be.

The Writers Guild of America's contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expired this morning, and while the two sides continue to talk, there are fears that the Guild could strike — and shut down Hollywood.

"I think it would be catastrophic for a strike," said Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney, parent company of ABCNEWS. "The big losers would be the city of Los Angeles, much more so than the studios."

But Eisner said he was optimistic a deal would be reached.

Breaking the Tension: A Little Bit of Humor

That optimism could be reflected in the pace of the talks, which in recent days have lacked open acrimony as the two sides agreed to keep everything behind closed doors until a deal is reached.

In fact, some people were joking about it.

Singer Chris Isaak, who is now the star of a weekly television show on cable's Showtime, said he doesn't want to lose his gig.

"If there's a strike, I've already got a false ID," he said. "I'll be working under a Pan-American citizenship, like an oil tanker, y'know? Just change my name and keep on going? It's Hector Isaak now, The Hector Isaak Show."

"I hope there's not one," said Stephen Sommers, director of The Mummy Returns. "But I'm so exhausted, I tell everybody I kinda need a strike. I need a break. I'm tired."

Finding a Place in the Middle

Frasier star Kelsey Grammer had an age-old answer: compromise.

"If they try to really, genuinely find a place in the middle to work, I think both sides will be a little unhappy, but everybody will be glad we're still working," he said.

But if they don't find that common ground, many actors — their own contract expiring this summer — say they will support a Guild strike.

Camryn Manheim, star of The Practice, is one. "I know that we will support the writers if they strike," she said. "I know that 100 percent we would never cross a picket line. I know I wouldn't." ABCNEWS affiliate KABC in Los Angeles and ABCNEWS Radio contributed to this report.

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