The good news for Lifetime and the producers of their tabloid headline-making movie Liz & Dick is that it has only about a week of filming left. The bad news is that, as the first two and a half weeks of shooting proved, with Lindsay Lohan as the star, a lot could happen in a week that could impact production.
In the last two weeks, filming on the movie was pushed after Lohan crashed her car on her way to the set and when she passed out in her room toward the end of a nightlong shoot. In a tweet, Lohan cited exhaustion “after working 85 hours in 4 days.” When two crew members in the hair department left the production a day later, also claiming exhaustion, Liz & Dick began to attract union attentions. Despite an awkwardly worded statement by SAG-AFTRA today stressing that “we have thoroughly investigated this matter” and “all applicable penalties will be paid,” there have been no violations cited by the actors union yet, and a SAG-AFTRA rep admitted that “we do not have complete information on this yet.” Liz & Dick producer Larry Thompson, a TV movie veteran who is a union signatory and knows their requirements inside and out, acknowledged in a statement that “an AFTRA rep visited us on the set late yesterday afternoon and was TOTALLY fine with everything,” adding that per the union rep, it wasn’t any complaints from AFTRA members but “tweets and comments in the media” that prompted “their curiosity and desire to inquire.”
IATSE, the union that represents stagehands, film technicians and other crafts people, also officially weighed in on the matter tonight. “We have had union representatives on the set since last Friday [June 15] and will continue to monitor the hours and working conditions there,” IATSE said in a statement, though crew members working on Liz & Dick indicated earlier today that they hadn’t been contacted by their union yet to discuss the issue.
Because their budgets are modest, TV movies have far more compressed filming schedules than features do, which does lead to longer days on the set. But Liz & Dick crew members we spoke with disputed the filming hours account in Lohan’s tweet. “Lilo did not work 85 hours in 4 days and we are not averaging 20 hours a day,” one crew member said. “We worked about 70-75 hours in 5 days last week, which isn’t that abnormal for a TV movie. And we’re on set before Lilo and usually wrap long after she’s gone. We could’ve shaved off about 7 or 8 hours that we sat around waiting for Lilo.” There are multiple accounts of Lohan showing up late for work, once refusing to come out of her trailer for 2.5 hours and screaming at the movie’s producers within earshot of the entire crew. Meanwhile, a source close to Lohan said that the troubled actress, who had not worked on a major production in years, “is having a lot harder time than she thought she would,” adding that “the producers aren’t being very supportive and it’s a lot more work than she’s done in a while.”
People close to the production say the work environment on the movie has deteriorated because of a rift between Lohan and Thompson that has resulted in the formation of two camps “that are going at each other.” Lohan was Lifetime’s, not Thompson’s, pick for the role of Elizabeth Taylor, and Thompson didn’t mince words after Lohan’s car accident four days into production which he said left him “petrified.” (BTW, the movie’s insurance policy does not stipulate that Lohan cannot drive while filming as some reports have claimed.)
Meanwhile, despite the setbacks surrounding Lohan, word is that production on Liz & Dick is relatively on schedule. And despite all the controversy, I hear that Lifetime brass largely like what they’ve seen in terms of daily footage. There had been speculation that Lohan’s accent, which “goes in and out,” and other issues may force Lifetime to reloop her dialogue but so far there is no proof of such intentions.
A lot is riding on Liz & Dick for Lohan, who is trying to relaunch her acting career after years of troubles with the law. Lohan’s casting in the Paul Schrader movie The Canyons, which starts production early next month, is said to be contingent on the work ethic she exhibits during the shoot of the Lifetime movie and the recommendation she gets from the Liz & Dick producers.
(Dominic Patten contributed to this story.)