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End of Week Production Notes: COVID Insurance Woes, RIP Diana Rigg, Dune Trailer and More

September 11, 2020 | By

The first week after Labor Day was a slower one, there being only four working days for most businesses, but production is ramping up across the globe with September to be one of the stronger indicators if all the safety precautions in place are working.

Diana Rigg

Diana Rigg in 1973

Not really production-related, but the sad news came yesterday that actress Diana Rigg, best known for her role as Emma Peel in the British action series, The Avengers, and more recently from her stint on HBO‘s Game of Thrones, passed away at the age of 82. Rigg was also beloved from her stint as a “Bond Girl” in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, famously being one of the few women who convinced James Bond (played by George Lazenby in his only movie in the role) to marry her.


Baz Luhrmann‘s Elvis biopic, financed by Warner Bros., shut down production in March when when star Tom Hanks contracted COVID-19 in March — one of the earlier and more highly-publicized cases –is restarting after nearly six months off. In a statement, Luhrmann said:

“We’re back to, as Elvis liked to say, ‘taking care of business!’  It is a real privilege in this unprecedented global moment that Tom Hanks has been able to return to Australia to join Austin Butler and all of our extraordinary cast and crew to commence production on Elvis.

“I cannot emphasize enough how lucky we feel in the current climate that the state of Queensland, and Queenslanders in general, have been so supportive of this film. We thank our partners in the Queensland Government and Queensland Health for their extremely diligent process, so that we can be an example how creativity and productivity can proceed safely and responsibly in a way that protects our team and the community at large. We are all excited to start working with Tom Hanks when he is out of quarantine in two weeks.”


Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The producers of Robert Rodriguez‘s sci-fi thriller, Hypnotic, starring Ben Affleck, have sued insurer Chubb National for not including a “COVID clause” in the extension of its original $58 million cast insurance policy to cover Rodriguez and Affleck if they died, became ill or were unavailable for the production. The movie had been delayed while looking for a new location to film before deciding on resuming production in Vancouver next month. The original policy only went up to October 28, 2020 but had been issued before COVID had become a predominant global issue. Chubb National refused to include COVID as a possible reason for payout with the extension, and the producers are requesting a jury trial on the matter.

Ironically, Deadline just ran a feature about insurance companies, Spotted Risk and Elite Risk, who are stepping up to help smaller independent productions seek the insurance needed to start filming with the risks involved in the midst of a pandemic.


One of the biggest announcements of the week was the representation and inclusivity clause added to movies being considered for Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Both Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter ran interviews with the key players in this decision — AMPAS President David Rubin, CEO Dawn Hudson, as well as Producer DeVon Franklin and Paramount head Jim Gianopulos, the latter two leading the “Academy Aperture 2025” inclusion initiative task force that put together the list of conditions. Both interviews offer insight into the decision, as well as some of the support and backlash that has arisen from the announcement.


We reported a few weeks back that Disney+‘s The Mandalorian series has been one of the few productions that was able to keep working during the pandemic thanks to Industrial Light and Magic‘s virtual production services, filming at Manhattan Beach Studios‘ StageCraft LED set. Apparently, this innovative technology has proven such a success that Marvel Studios‘ Thor: Love and Thunder, directed by Taika Waititi, will be filming on a new Stagecraft set being build on Fox Studios Australia. Also, ILM, essentially Lucasfilm‘s FX division, will be building a second StageCraft set at Manhattan Beach, which will be operational in March, as well as a unit at London’s Pinewood Studios, which will be open in February.


It was also announced earlier in the week that filmmaker Doug Liman would team with Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway for the sub-$10 million pandemic-based heist movie, Lockdown, scripted by Steven Knight, which Liman will film in London before his outer space epic that reunites him with Tom Cruise.

Yale Productions is backing the John Keeyes-directed action-thriller Red 48, which cast Tyrese Gibson, John Malkovich and Michael Jai White. No production date or location has been reported.

You can learn more about what else is going into production by subscribing to Below the Line‘s Production Listings.


Lastly, the first trailer for Denis Villeneuve‘s take on Frank Herbert‘s sci-fi classic Dune was released by Warner Bros. this week, showing off some considerable crafts work from Cinematographer Greig Fraser (Lion), Production Designer Patrice Vermette (Arrival), Costume Designer Jacqueline West (The Revenant), Editor Joe Walker (Blade Runner 2049Arrival) and Villeneuve’s Oscar-winning Blade Runner 2049 Visual Effects Supervisors, Paul Lambert and Gerd Nefzer.

BTL Production Listings