Insurance is a big money game in Hollywood: Not just the usual business of premiums and deductibles that we’re all stuck dealing with, but the power that insurance companies leverage with their willingness, or unwillingness, to insure a film’s production, often dependent on the individual people involved in it. That comes into sharp focus today, as actor-turned-writer and public health advocate Selma Blair revealed that one of the reasons she put off receiving help or treatment for her alcohol addiction during earlier portions of her career was that any such assistance might be flagged to the insurance companies—potentially making her an “insurance risk” for any film or TV show that might want to hire her.
This is per a new profile of Blair in Vogue this week, talking about how her life and career have shifted since she received—after a lifetime of suffering from it—a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. (Chronicled in the 2021 documentary Introducing, Selma Blair.) Blair talks about living in fear that her various (undiagnosed) health issues might become public knowledge in Hollywood, damaging her ability to get work. Meanwhile, she says, “I was worried since the beginning of time that a glaring fault would remove me from the workforce. And usually it was my incoordination or getting stuck, too weak or sick, in my trailer – or any time, really. The vomiting or body issues were terrifying, [and the] baldness or rashes. I remember being very, very poorly on Hellboy and was diagnosed with cat scratch fever and possible leukaemia in Prague. I couldn’t tell anybody. I couldn’t admit alcoholism or [access] treatment in my insurance for fear I’d be deemed an insurance risk. I fell apart once I got back to LA.”
Later, after filming the sitcom Kath & Kim in 2009, Blair essentially retired from acting:
My self-hatred was extreme. I could not manage well and I couldn’t even try to find work… It was a running joke. How far was the audition? How many naps would I fit in on the side of the road before and after? [When I quit acting] I spent my days in bed, crying, sometimes binge drinking, sometimes reading and sleeping, seeing doctors and healers… I gave up almost until the diagnosis. I was always terrified I would be deemed incapable. Or mentally unsound. My mother taught me that was death for a woman career-wise.
Blair says life has, in many ways, gotten less frightening since her MS diagnosis, and her public reveal of it, which has caused her to become a visible figure in the world of disability advocacy. As for acting, she sounds cautious, but not unoptimistic: “I haven’t actively pursued work in acting – it hasn’t been the right time yet – but it’s absolutely doable for me. I have to take the leap.”
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