Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Insurance first, Skills later: Nicole Kidman's case
The below-listed quote is from Edward Jay Epstein's book The Hollywood Economist: The Hidden Financial Reality Behind the Movies. Bottom line, skill sets are important and obviously of primary importance. They are not, however, the only thing of substance. Nicole Kidman's portrayal of Virginia Woolf in the film The Hours didn't just depend on her acting skills. It mostly rested on her insurability. If the artist is not insurable, no matter how brilliantly talented they might be, they will not get to work. Epstein's book is an interesting and informative read. It placed the current discussion of health care and insurance in a gripping, new context.
A bit says:
Kidman injured her knee during the filming of Moulin Rouge in Australia in 2000, resulting in a $3 million insurance loss, and then quit Panic Room in 2001, leading to the insurer having to pay some $7 million for the replacement actress (Jodie Foster). As a result, her public and critical acclaim notwithstanding, Miramax was initially unable to get insurance on her for its film Cold Mountain, which had a budget approaching $100 million. From the perspective of the insurer, Fireman's Fund, she was a definite risk. As an insurance executive noted in an email, "...the fact remains that the doctor we sent her to for her examination noted swelling in the knee." The executive goes on: "The other major fact that can't be changed is our paying three claims for this actress's knees over the years."
To get the necessary policy from Fireman's Fund, Kidman agreed to put $1 million of her own salary in an escrow account that would be forfeited if she failed to maintain the production schedule, and she agreed to use a stunt double for all scenes that the insurer considered potentially threatening to her knee. In addition, the co-producer, Lakeshore Entertainment, added another $500,000 to the escrow account...Having made the all-important move from borderline uninsurable to borderline insurable, she could make movies again. No matter how great their acting skills and box office drawing power, stars cannot get lead roles if they are uninsurable. Great acting skills and box office drawing may make the star, but insurance is what it takes to make the movie.
Tip of the hat to MR for the pointer.