Insurance Stories: Movies, Mishaps & Insurance

In the first of our ‘Insurance Stories’ series we take a look at some of the weird and wonderful tales from those on the big screen! 

Special effects insurance

The cost of making the 1982 movie E.T. was roughly $10 million with $200,000 paid in insurance premium. That included the cost of
insuring E.T. himself in case he caught on fire or was damaged. As it was such an unusual risk, Chubb assigned the same $10,000 deductible that they would to a human actor.

There’s a famous scene in E.T. in which he experiences a telepathic moment with Elliott after he’d been left alone. E.T. found himself drunk on beer and watching The Quiet Man starring Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne. The characters kissed, prompting Elliott to do the same with a classmate. In that movie and immediately after the kiss, Ms. O’Hara had to slap John Wayne but unfortunately, she hit harder than planned and broke her hand.  This led to delays in filming and a claim at Lloyd’s.

The special effects artist who created E.T. won an Oscar for his work. Carlo Rambaldi had won his first of three Academy Awards a few years before for King Kong, a creation that was also insured at Lloyd’s.

As part of King Kong’s policy, underwriters stipulated that he must be accompanied by an armed-guard at all times. Like Maureen O’Hara, trouble with King-Kong’s hand caused delays in filming, only this time, a high deductible meant that no claims had to be paid.

Ned Kelly: Injuries, illnesses & new songs!

When research was being carried out for the 1970 movie ‘Ned Kelly’, underwriters at Lloyd’s of London made an unusual request.

When asked to quote insurance against possible production difficulties, the film’s production team were first asked to contact descendants of the Kelly Gang. They were told to check with them that they had no objections to the movie being made.

The film starred Mick Jagger and was plagued by insurance claims. The first came for delays in filming when Jagger was injured by a backfiring pistol. He was badly burned and temporarily lost the use of his right hand which doctors told him to exercise as best he could. The injury caused him to devise an alternative way to play guitar which resulted in him writing Brown Sugar:

“I was trying to rehabilitate my hand and had this new kind of electric guitar, and I was playing in the middle of the outback and wrote this tune.”

Further delays and claims were caused when a debilitating virus swept through the production team and after bad weather had prevented outdoor filming.

To add to that, a number of costumes were destroyed by fire and Mark McManus (who played Ned Kelly’s friend Joe Byrne) was injured when a horse-drawn cart that he was riding overturned.

More insured (and injured) body parts! 

Oliver Reed once insured his eyebrows at Lloyd’s of London.

He had to shave them off whilst filming Ken Russell’s The Devils and was so concerned that they wouldn’t return that he insured them for £500,000.

Mr. Reed sadly died during production of Gladiator. His remaining scenes in the film (which lasted two minutes) were completed digitally after a $3.2 million claim was paid by Lloyd’s. Similarly, Brainstorm was completed after the death of Natalie Wood when a £3 million payment by Lloyd’s was used to complete the film using special effects.

Claims from Hollywood are often unusual and unexpected. For example, during the filming of Jailhouse Rock, Elvis dislodged a crown which lodged in his throat. He held up production for six days and the associated costs were paid by Lloyd’s.

In another slap – related injury, in the film Ruby Gentry, Jennifer Jones was scripted to slap Charlton Heston, but did so with such force that she broke a bone in her hand resulting in a $58,000 claim.

Finally, the original lead of Tim Burton’s Batman movie was Sean Young, but prior to beginning filming she fell from a horse and broke her arm. The subsequent claim paid the difference between her fee and that of her replacement, Kim Basinger.

Written by Paul Miller.

Paul is HFG’s in-house historian and is a History Ambassador for the Insurance Museum.

You can find episode 2 of our ‘Insurance Stories’ series here: Animal Tales of Insurance.

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