Ben Affleck’s future playing Batman on the big screen may be over — in part because the cost of insuring him may have gotten too steep, multiple industry insiders told TheWrap.
The actor, a recovering alcoholic who checked himself into rehab last week for the third time in the last two decades and the second time in just over a year, may have priced himself out of a pricey tentpole studio movie like Warner Bros.’ upcoming “The Batman.”
“More than likely the studio will replace him because the insurance costs are going to go through the roof,” a representative for a completion bond company told TheWrap.
“He would be bondable, but the deductible would be really high, probably the budget of the film,” the bond company insider added.
The bond company insider said insurers might only demand half of the film’s budget set aside in escrow as a deductible — which could still add up for Warner Bros. since the production budget on Affleck’s 2017 Batman appearance, “Justice League,” was around $300 million.
If a “Justice League” sequel moved forward at that price with Affleck attached, the insider said, the deductible could drive the budget up to $450 million — before marketing expenses.
The studio and Affleck’s reps declined to comment for this story, but TheWrap previously reported that “The Batman” director Matt Reeves is already exploring the idea of casting a younger actor as the Caped Crusader in the upcoming standalone film.
Affleck would not be the first star to face issues getting bonded — a requirement of 99 percent of studio films, in which insurers provide monetary payouts in the event of unforeseen problems involving the director or top stars that result in the suspension or cancellation of production.
Robert Downey Jr. faced similar issues in the late ’90s and early 2000s due to his past substance abuse and legal issues. Mark Burg, the producer of the 1998 Robert Altman indie “The Gingerbread Man,” told the L.A. Times that the insurance premium for Downey would have cost the production $1 million on a film with a budget of less than $30 million.
“I could not afford to hire Robert Downey Jr. if I had to pay that exorbitant premium, so I basically just gambled, took a shot,” Burg said, noting that he shot the film without insurance.
On Downey’s 2003 film, “Gothika,” producer Joel Silver held onto 40 percent of the actor’s salary as insurance, according to the N.Y. Times. And Mel Gibson paid Downey’s insurance bond himself so the future “Iron Man” star could appear in his 2003 film “The Singing Detective,” according to Entertainment Weekly.
Insiders suggested that Affleck may have to follow Downey’s example and pursue lower-budgeted indie films for a while before insurers will bet on him for major studio releases at a reasonable rate.
“A track record of completing projects without incident, that would likely show the underwriter that the risk has gone down and would likely lead to them lowering premiums and the cost of the bond on future projects,” said Joseph Balice an attorney at Brutzkus Gubner in Los Angeles who specializes in insurance and bond products.
Affleck recently completed two films for Netflix without incident, J.C. Chandor’s “Triple Frontier” and Dee Rees’ “The Last Thing He Wanted.” Neither of those films had higher insurance due to his past rehab stints, according to an individual with knowledge of Affleck’s situation.
But the risks increased with his latest trip to rehab — so soon after his last intervention. “Anytime you have an event that is going to change the risk, you would expect to have an increase in the premium,” the attorney said. “The greater the risk the greater the premium.”
Affleck’s return to a film set would also likely come with some pretty serious conditions. According to the bond company rep, the star would have to not only pass a medical exam but also take a daily drug test on set every day administered by a doctor or doctors chosen by the insurance company.
“Financiers and producers are going to want to see some evidence that his recent round of therapy was effective and that there are going to be some steps taken that he will be sober on his next project,” a top dealmaker in content financing told TheWrap.
“Maybe hiring a sober monitor?” the individual added. “Affleck will have to be on his game on his next project.”
One thing that Affleck does have in his favor is that Hollywood — and fans — love a comeback story.
“In the grand scheme, Affleck has a proven track record of critical and commercial success,” the attorney said. “I would expect that there will still be a market for him as an artist.”