Let’s throw out a little scenario. You’re the Walt Disney Company. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has made more than $2 billion worldwide, becoming one of only three movies to ever accomplish that feat, and you realize something: You have another franchise lying dormant that also stars Harrison Ford. Maybe you should get that back on its feet, too. That would be great! Except — it also stars Harrison Ford.
With the fifth Indiana Jones movie now slated for release on July 19, 2019, Disney is betting that the 73-year-old actor is still capable of leading an action tentpole. Granted, Ford wasn’t exactly Jacob Tremblay at time of the fourth Indy installment — when Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out, in 2008, he was about to turn 66 — but he’ll be 77 when the new one arrives. It isn’t his age that’s so much an issue, though; 100 is the new 50, or something. It’s more what he chooses to do in his old age. Like make action movies. And fly planes.
In 2014, while filming The Force Awakens, Ford broke his leg when he was hit by a door on the set of the Millennium Falcon, an incident that later led to British workplace safety authorities suing one of the production companies behind the movie. The broken leg caused a break in production, though they didn’t end up having to shoot around Han Solo, as was initially feared. Then in March of last year, Ford was involved in the emergency crash-landing of a small plane he was piloting. He wasn’t badly injured, and the crash didn’t delay the film, but much like how athletes can come to be thought of as injury-prone, Ford now seemed to be a lightning rod for these incidents.
Which leads to a question: How expensive is this dude to insure?
To find out, Vulture called Brian Kingman, managing director at Gallagher Entertainment, which brokers cast insurance for movie productions. For films like The Force Awakens or the fifth Indiana Jones, a blanket policy tends to cover 16 to 18 people, usually including the essential elements behind the camera, like the director, cinematographer, and the major actors. That necessary line-item will typically cost about half a point — or .5 percent — of the film’s budget. So, if The Force Awakens’ budget was $200 million, that means cast insurance would’ve run about $1 million — but it would’ve also saved the production the amount that Ford’s broken leg cost in delays.
But does this all mean that Ford’s recent propensity for getting in scrapes will peak Indy 5’s insurance bill? Or is this run-of-the-mill stuff considering what these actors are actually doing on set?
“If somebody is 70-something years old, that’s not a problem; that’s not even a problem at 80,” Kingman said. “Remember that movies are made in 12 to 16 weeks from first camera day to last camera day. So the cast insurance underwriter looks at it and asks, is he healthy, and is it likely that he’s not going to die of old age in four months? More important, almost, is what’s going on with his lifestyle. Does this person like to do extreme things at his or her age? Everybody knows Ford likes to fly, and he had a little issue with one of his aircraft, and it was a miracle he didn’t get hurt more seriously.”
That means, if Ford tells the underwriter that, yes, he’s flying on his days off, and, no, he’s not going to stop during principal photography, even though he’s playing a character who is essential to the film, that could theoretically double the price of insurance, into the realm of a full percentage point of the budget, because without him, the production’s a disaster. However, if Ford’s lifestyle during the shoot suits the standards requested by the underwriter, it’s a different story, as long as medial and physical evaluations indicate that he’s in good health, regardless of his age.
Is Ford’s age and recreational piloting likely to bankrupt Disney, then? Not exactly. But maybe our man should save his death-defying feats for the inside of refrigerators while Indy 5 is shooting.