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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Charlie Sheen says he is ready to return to acting, but the real question is whether anyone would hire the troubled sitcom star -- and how much would it cost to insure him.
Warner Bros. and CBS have had enough of Sheen, announcing late last week that they were shutting down production of his TV top-rated comedy, "Two and a Half Men."
Now, Sheen is claiming that the move will free him up to take other roles. But the man whose recent publicity tour features such highlights as "The run I was on made Sinatra, Flynn, Jagger, Richards look like droopy-eyed, armless children" has the town asking not what will he do next, but rather will he ever work again?
If history is any indication, the answer is yes, assuming he can clean up his act.
Hollywood, which counts Eddie Murphy, Russell Crowe and Hugh Grant among its crop of scandal-tarred celebrities, loves a comeback story. Take Robert Downey Jr., whose past includes stints both in jail on drug charges and in a treatment facility for substance abuse. Like Sheen's, Downey's behavior once had the industry questioning his career viability, with many arguing nobody would be willing to insure his films. A decade later, he's the star of the blockbuster "Iron Man" films.
In Sheen's case, CBS and Warner Bros. have decided that they don't think he's well enough to continue and have actively tried to get him to seek treatment. "But until you see the doctor reports, who really knows whether it's a problem or not," says Lorrie McNaught, vp at insurance brokerage firm Aon/Albert G. Ruben. "Making comments doesn't make him uninsurable." (While Sheen doesn't currently have a morality clause in his contract, one could be added to void the studio's obligations if he acts out again.)
Nevertheless, getting back to work won't come easy. Already, Morgan Creek Prods. CEO James Robinson has voiced his concerns about casting Sheen in the planned "Major League" update. "I'm not going to risk putting Charlie in the movie if he continues messing up," he told TMZ. "If Charlie doesn't straighten up ... I unfortunately can't put him in the movie."
In the same interview, Robinson cited his experience working with another troubled star, Lindsay Lohan, whom he once famously blasted for erratic behavior. "When an actor doesn't show up for work," he said, "you can lose half-a-million dollars a day paying the 250 other people there for the shoot and the costs for the set."
If you poll those in the business of insuring stars, however, the answer is consistent: Wayward stars can become very -- and in some cases, prohibitively -- expensive, but are never uninsurable. "Everyone and anything, or almost anything, is insurable," says McNaught, "it just comes down to price."
Ross Miller, a partner with New York-based insurance brokerage firm D.R. Reiff, agrees, adding, "What it can come down to is whether you can present terms and conditions to a production company or a financier that they will accept."
Such terms often include higher deductibles, which can range from $25,000 to $250,000, depending on things like the project's budget, the shooting schedule and the cast's history. (For TV stars, rates are revisited at the end of every season.)
In certain cases, the stars themselves can also be asked to put their salaries in escrow, making them personally accountable if their actions end up causing delays. If their troubles are drug related, conditions can include regular testing or having chaperones placed on set.
According to underwriting experts, rates can be anywhere from one to five percent of a project's production budget. Of course, McNaught argues all an errant star needs is an incident-free next act to get his rate back down.
"It's a really forgiving industry," she says, "and everybody loves a comeback."