Two prominent Hollywood unions are investigating the Lifetime movie Liz & Dick, The Hollywood Reporter has learned, with the moves coming in the wake of reports over the weekend that star Lindsay Lohan suffered from “exhaustion and dehydration” from overwork and that two crewmembers went to the hospital for the same reason.
The alleged problems on the biopic about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton first became public Friday, when reports surfaced that Lohan had been found unconscious in her Marina del Rey hotel room and taken to the hospital by L.A. Fire Department paramedics. Those reports were later corrected: It turned out that Lohan was asleep, not unconscious, and had not been taken to the hospital.
But according to a statement from Lohan publicist Steve Honig to KABC-TV, the paramedics who arrived at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel did determine that Lohan was suffering from “some exhaustion and dehydration.” He said: “Lindsay worked a grueling schedule the past few days. She was on set last night at 7 p.m. and worked through the night until 8 a.m. this morning.”
Lohan’s attorney, Shawn Holley, said, “As I understand it, she was exhausted after shooting nonstop for two days.” Lohan herself tweeted that she had worked “85hours in 4days.”
If accurate, some of those figures could exceed union regulations and/or state labor laws.
In a statement to THR, actors union SAG-AFTRA said, “We're looking into this matter but can't yet provide any verified information.” A spokeswoman added, “Our people are on it.”
IATSE, the union that represents movie and television crewmembers, declined comment. However, a source told THR that “the business agents are looking into long hours on the production.”
Lifetime referred questions to producer Larry Thompson, who said through a spokesman, “We have not been contacted by anyone at SAG-AFTRA about any complaint ... [or] by anyone at IATSE about any investigation.” He added, “We are in total compliance with all guild regulations on Liz & Dick.”
Lohan explained the matter thusly in a pair of tweets Saturday: “Note to self.. After working 85hours in 4days, and being up all night shooting, be very aware that you might pass out from exhaustion & 7 paramedics MIGHT show up @ your door.... Hopefully theyre cute. Otherwise it would be a real let down.”
The story widened beyond Lohan on Sunday, when Deadline reported that two crewmembers in the hair department left the production due to exhaustion and that a source said they’d gone to the hospital with “severe dehydration and exhaustion.”
The exhaustion incidents occurred a week after Lohan – who plays Taylor in the movie – was involved in a car crash about nine hours after wrapping a day of shooting at 3 a.m. She and a passenger reportedly were bloodied and bruised by the accident, in which Lohan’s Porsche rear-ended a dump truck on Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica.
Lohan reportedly told people at the scene that the truck cut her off and the accident was not her fault. Police said that Lohan was not impaired, but they had not determined a cause of the accident as of the last reports. In particular, whether exhaustion was a factor has not been reported. Shooting on the picture had begun five days earlier.
Union rules limit the number of hours that cast and crew can work and provide for minimum rest periods between one day of work and the next. In addition, star contracts often contain even more protective provisions of this sort. However, cast and crewmembers often are reluctant to complain about violations, for fear of being branded as troublemakers and becoming unemployable as a result.
Although stars usually are chauffeured to and from the set, other castmembers, and crew, usually drive themselves -- as do stars during off periods, as Lohan’s accident illustrates. Driving combined with long hours can be fatal, as explored in the 2006 documentary Who Needs Sleep? The Haskell Wexler film was prompted by the death of assistant cameraman Brent Hershman, who fell asleep behind the wheel in 1997 after a 19-hour day on the set.
The unions are likely to take the matter seriously, if indeed rules were or are being broken. SAG-AFTRA told THR: "Our contracts protect members on the job, and if these kinds of situations are occurring and our members advise us about it, we will contact production and make certain that the contract is being adhered to in all aspects -- particularly including performers’ safety.”