Director Michael Bay caused a minor commotion last week at the premiere of his latest movie, Pain & Gain, when he made some rather disparaging remarks toward Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s wrestling career.
Mentioning that the film’s leading man was not at the event because he was recuperating from injuries accrued in his WrestleMania match with John Cena, Bay said that it was time for the star to “grow up” and “stop wrestling 300-pound men.”
After his comments garnered widespread attention, Bay quickly took to his website to insist his remarks had been made only in good humor and he had no problem with Rock’s wrestling career on the side.
So, everything's fine? Well, probably not.
Truthfully, Bay’s remarks smacked of damage control and Hollywood politics more than anything else.
Come on. The famously temperamental director could not have been over the moon that the actor was laid up in a hospital bed when he should have been out and about performing PR duties for the film, could he?
Indeed, Bay’s comments may serve as the first real grumblings from Hollywood about the A-list star jeopardizing his film career by risking in-ring injuries.
It may very well be a valid concern.
For those who don’t know: Movie studios have to insure leading actors, in case they get sick or die during filming. As NPR notes when discussing the matter, “Producers insure their stars because having an actor unable to film can cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars a day.”
NPR mentions that this has contributed to the career dive of troubled actress Lindsay Lohan.
Yes, even if some big-time director decided to disregard the star’s worrying drug and alcohol problems and cast her in their film, the insurance factor means they probably won’t be allowed to use her anyway.
As the Toronto Sun recently noted, Robert Downey Jr.’s drug abuse and jail time in the late ‘90s left him virtually uninsurable, too, and his work dried up. It wasn’t until he turned his personal life around—and insurance companies felt comfortable posting bonds for him—that he could get regular acting gigs again.
Director Milos Forman also told BBC Radio of the incredible difficulties of insuring wild rocker Courtney Love in 1994 after he cast her in biopic The People vs. Larry Flynt. Forman eventually managed to wrangle a deal and Love starred in the film, but it was time-consuming and costly.
Of course, you could say that Rock is totally different from Lohan, Downey Jr. or Love. After all, he’s not a drug addict. He’s not getting arrested and having his mug shot posted on TMZ every other month. He’s never been in jail.
In fact, by Hollywood standards, he’s actually very well-behaved.
Should Rock stop wrestling for the sake of his acting career?
But the principle still applies: If the star, who has become increasingly injury-prone in recent years, is constantly getting hurt in bouts, it will potentially cause postponements and disruptions for his films.
Even now, his status for Brett Ratner’s Hercules movie, due to start filming soon, appears to be precarious due to his recent surgery.
Considering this, it’s very possible Rock will never wrestle again and his bout with Cena at WrestleMania was his last.
Sure, he truly loves wrestling, but it’s hard to see him being willing to squander the A-list status he has worked so hard to attain—and tens of millions of dollars—for what is essentially a hobby.
He’s simply too astute a businessman for that.