Last night director Bryan Singeraccused 20th Century Fox of callously refusing to give him time off to “deal with health issues of one of his parents.” This is the health issue that promoted Singer to leave the London set of Bohemian Rhapsody, the Queen biopic. Yesterday, after a reported three-day absence following the Thanksgiving holiday (not to mention reports of heated arguments with Freddie Mercury portrayer Rami Malek and others), Fox fired Singer off the film. Rhapsody was three weeks from completion when this happened. Singer had been shooting since last September.
I’m not an authority on force majeure clauses in talent contracts, but when a parent or loved one has died (or is on his/her deathbed) I know that basic decency has led to arrangements to permit a filmmaker to take a brief hiatus from a film being shot. At the same time a director or actor has to appreciate that the a movie can’t suspend filming indefinitely because of a personal tragedy or severe illness. It might be painful, but you have to get the job done.
If I were running 20th Century Fox and Singer had said to me, “I want to suspend filming for a week or two so I can attend to a sick parent,” I would probably say “Uhm, no…make it two or three days, max. I’m very sorry for your loss, Bryan, but a movie in production is a shark — it has to keep moving or it dies. And you are the owner of that shark. And I doubt if Napoleon Bonaparte would have taken a week or two off from a major military campaign if his mother or father had fallen ill. A motion picture production has to keep filming, has to keep moving. It can’t stop until it ends.”