June 13, 2023
Melinda Head

Will “The Flash” Survive Its Troubled Lead Actor?

It’s time to rethink risk

When $195 million or so is on the table, bums in theater chairs are a must. A lot is riding on “The Flash”, which will be released on Friday.

“The Flash” PR machine is in full swing, with attention mostly diverted away from its main star, Ezra Miller, whose off-screen behavior has caused a social media tsunami, while stoking tabloid fires. At this point, Warner Bros. must be praying for no news, as, in this situation, “no news is good news”. Happily, late night talk shows have shut down due to the Writers Guild of America strike – a blessing in disguise for Warner Bros., as Miller is not conspicuously absent from the circuit and co-stars don’t have to field any awkward questions.  

Ezra Miller won’t be doing the Talk Show circuit for “The Flash”

When hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, how do movie makers protect their investment? If an actor goes off the rails, what happens?

I wonder what Warner Bros. executives think of this body cam footage

Does Lloyds of London underwrite all perils? Can a star associated with violent behavior be sued for messing up a film’s return on investment (ROI)? Can a star with alleged mental health issues sue a studio for sidelining him/her/they despite a stellar on-screen performance?

We live in a different, evolving world that requires new thinking about the risks involved in movie-making.

Film production insurance covers a variety of risks, including property damage, personal injury, errors and omissions, loss of film content, and delays due to inclement weather, for example.

Alec Baldwin’s Appian Way Productions company most certainly had liability insurance to cover the on-set death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and insurance against errors and omissions, such as deficient fire-arms safety procedures, during the filming of “Rust”

Another way to mitigate risk is to invest in films with experienced producers and directors, with sure-fire actors, strong scripts and secured distribution.

Was Ezra Miller a sure thing when he was hired to play the Scarlet Speedster (aka The Flash)?

A high school drop-out, Miller’s true breakout role came in 2011, when he starred in the psychological thriller “We Need to Talk About Kevin”. Although the indie film was not a commercial success, Ezra was nominated for a Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Actor. In 2012, Miller starred in the coming-of-age drama “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Young Actor; this time, the investors made money. In 2016, he was cast as Credence Barebone in the J.K. Rowling Harry Potter spin-off film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”. In between, he played The Flash in “Justice League” (2017), which went on to gross $658 million worldwide. “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” (2018) and “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” (2022) followed, bringing in $1.8 billion across the trilogy. In my books, the ascending Miller checked all the boxes.

How could this now 30 year old become a Studio liability in the prime of his career? Are his movie-making days over? I suspect so.

Once lauded by GQ Magazine as a near perfect example of the Hollywood Star of the Future, the publication has had to eat its words. You see, it, too, must be politically correct. Fortunately or not, depending on how you see the world, any allegation of violence off-camera remains a game-stopper. The risks are just too great for any investor to assume.

Can talent risks be identified before they surface? Perhaps a battery of professionally administered psychological tests might reveal a predisposition to socially deviant behavior, but isn’t living close to the edge what makes actors such great creatives? The challenge remains to find a happy medium that brings great talent to the screen, without being so mired in risk assessment that only vanilla actors make their way to the red carpet. After all, the best actors are the ones who take risks.

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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