Putting a premium on hard-to-insure stars like Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen
When it comes to deciding which stars will sparkle in a new movie, it's not just the director's fancy, the studio's demands, the tastes of the fans or even the casting couch making the final call. It's also a bunch of insurance guys.
That's what we learned when the production team behind "Inferno," a biopic of tragic '70s porn star Linda Lovelace, announced they had replaced their original star, Lindsay Lohan. For months, director Matthew Wilder touted the dynamic comeback performance the troubled starlet would unleash; this week he replaced her with Malin Akerman because of "the impossibility of insuring" Lohan.
Really? Douglas Turk says he believes it. The CEO of Aon/Albert G. Ruben, an insurance broker for the entertainment biz, notes the off-screen woes of an actor can drive up the price of the policies that producers need to take out on their talent before they start rolling the cameras.
"The underwriters at the insurance companies -- they watch and read TMZ, they read Deadline Hollywood," he said.
But for all the bloggers who've ranked Lohan high in their celebrity-death pools, these policies aren't as morbid as they sound. The question isn't whether a star is about to die, Turk said. "It's 'Will they be around?' "
If a star gets sick and shutters production, the clock's still running during that delay; if they leave the movie altogether, someone has to pay for the reshoots and rewrites. That's where insurance comes in. Typically, the top seven stars in a movie are the ones who get covered by the policy.
Lohan is difficult to insure because of her court-ordered extended stay in rehab -- as well as all the antics that led to it. After a drug arrest and relapse, Robert Downey Jr. was only able to get a role in "The Singing Detective" because co-star and pal Mel Gibson put up his own money as bond. But it's not just bad behavior. Nicole Kidman got a knee injury that shut down production of "Moulin Rouge" for a couple of days; it flared up later, forcing her to drop out of "Panic Room." That made insurers wary of her, according to Slate.com; she was only able to work again (in "Cold Mountain") when she agreed to wear an Ace bandage and put some of her salary into escrow.
Hey, so how do they keep insuring Charlie Sheen? (Latest twist: Late Monday, Sheen sued the porn star swept up in his alleged hotel rampage for allegedly trying to extort him.) Kind of a special case, said Turk. While "disgrace" is a category that might cause a star to get booted from a project, "one could argue that this is kind of his normal behavior. . . . The issue is whether it impacts on his ability to deliver" -- and thus far, he has.
Turk played down the notion that he and his colleagues are driving these casting decisions; they simply "contribute to what is the financial profile of a film." Ultimately, it's up to a producer to decide if a star is worth the high cost of insuring. "We like to say anything is insurable, for the right price."
The Reliable Source
| November 23, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
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