Charlie Sheen, whose bizarre antics have become the stuff of tabloid legend, may find his toughest audience may be in the insurance business, if he wants to work in Hollywood again.
The 45-year-old star of Two and a Half Men wants to restart production on the sitcom, which has been suspended for the season by CBS (CBS) because of his troubling behavior. Sheen has said he wants to do movies including Major League 3, a sequel to his hit 1989 comedy. He even mentioned to a TV interviewer that Sylvester Stallone wanted to do a movie with him. Whether Sheen can resurrect his faltering career may depend on something as mundane as an insurance physical.
Hollywood producers won't shoot a frame of film nor a second of video without insurance policies on their cast members in case they can't do their jobs because of accidental death, illness or injury. The coverage is critical given the huge amount of money that's sunk into a feature film or TV show. Insurance can cost as much as 2% of a production budget, with premiums that range from $35,000 to $250,000. Rates for TV stars are set at the start of each season.
Like other types of insurance, prices for premiums depend on the level of risk involved. Healthy actors are less expensive to insure than those like Sheen, whose lifestyle echoes the depravity of partiers of yesteryear such as Keith Richards and Caligula.
Worth the Trouble?
"Is Charlie Sheen insurable?" asks Dennis Reiff, owner of Reiff & Associates, a New York-based insurance brokerage that has served the entertainment industry for 50 years in an interview. "The answer is, probably yes."
Of course, producers will have to decide whether Sheen is worth the trouble despite his obvious talents. James G. Robinson -- CEO of Morgan Creek Productions -- recently told TMZ that he wouldn't stand for Sheen's antics if he gets hired for Major League 3, actually the fourth installment in the series. He speaks from experience having survived Lindsay Lohan's behavior on the movie Georgia Rule. Morgan Creek didn't respond to a request for comment.
Though Sheen's carrying on has raised eyebrows and the occasional call to the police, insurers are most concerned about whether his problems will affect his ability to work, which it usually has not. There were tabloid reports in January that he was partying in Las Vegas with porn stars instead of shooting his sitcom. The actor later went into rehab and has been carrying around drug test results that show he's clean, which he shows at every opportunity to TV interviewers.
Sheen would be asked by the doctor administering the physical exam for insurance what types of drugs -- both legal and illegal -- the actor is taking. For instance, a Sheen policy may include a high deductible or exclude certain types of claims related to illicit drugs, he says.
A Forgiving Place
Actors with a troubled past have at times had to agree to be watched by "babysitters" who are hired by the studios to make sure that the actor stays sober and shows up to work on time. Occasionally, these stars have had to place most of their salaries, except for the union minimums, in an escrow account to guarantee that they'll finish the production.
"That's typically the last option because actors don't like to do that," says Lorrie McNaught, vice president at Aon/Albert G. Ruben Insurance, adding that actors with issues like Sheen's are able to find work in Hollywood all the time. "Almost every artist that we run into has an issue. We run into that all day every day. There are people who have depression, bipolar disease. They have some kind of cancer."
Hollywood, indeed, can be a forgiving place. Robert Downey Jr.'s reputation was in tatters a few years ago because of his repeated arrests for drug abuse, but now that he has gotten sober, he's a big star. The same fate may await Sheen if he can get his act together, which is a big "if" since his latest ex-wife Brooke Mueller took out a restraining order against him and had their twin sons removed from his house.
One prod for Sheen to stay out of trouble may the potential for lower insurance rates, though that might not be much of an incentive these days for the troubled star.
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