On the set of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011), the insurers made the mistake of telling Tom Cruise he couldn’t do a big set-piece stunt on the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, says Alex Mayyasi in The Hustle. So the actor made the obvious choice: “he fired the insurance company and found another one”. Once the new cover was in place, he got straight back to filming the scene, in which, attached to a rope, he jumps out of the world’s tallest building and runs down its side. “He nailed it on the second try.”
Cruise isn’t the first Hollywood star to need bespoke insurance. In 1919, the silent film actor Harold Lloyd lit the fuse of a fake bomb with a cigarette, but it started smoking so much that he put it to one side. “Then it blew up.” He had been given a real bomb by mistake. Since then, film sets have been paying hefty premiums. Actors with a history of injuries or drug problems can become uninsurable – Robert Downey Jr was only allowed to play Iron Man because he accepted a measly $500k salary to offset the cost of insuring him. There are also odd stipulations about after-hours conduct: Russell Crowe joked that he wrestled with tigers in Gladiator but was forbidden from having a friendly kick-around with the crew. And while Tomb Raider’s marketing touted Angelina Jolie performing risky stunts, the on-set insurance agents actually insisted she be “hand-held by safety men in green spandex suits”.