Joaquin Phoenix And Rooney Mara’s Latest Movie Shutdown

The upcoming The Island, set to star Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara, has been shut down because of fears of a looming actor's strike.

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

joaquin phoenix

Would you believe that the Joker got defeated not by Batman but by a picket line? Recently, Joaquin Phoenix was set to star alongside Rooney Mara in the ambitious indie film The Island, but it looks like production of the movie has been shut down as a kind of ripple effect from the current Hollywood writer’s strike. Deadline reports that production of The Island has been shuttered because it could not get bonded due to insurance companies’ fears of an upcoming actor’s strike.

This is where things get a tad complex. With the writer’s strike going on, the production of new written content in Hollywood has slowed to a crawl, but movies and shows that already had scripts written could continue production (although many directors and stars, including Mayim Bialik, have walked away from projects in solidarity with the writers). So, on paper, nothing would keep Joaquin Phoenix and the rest of the cast and crew from working on The Island, and everyone had flown to Spain recently to do just that.

Like all movies, The Island needed to be properly insured before production could really begin. Neither actors like Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara nor Oscar-winning director Pawel Pawlikowski had any reason to believe they would have trouble securing insurance. After all, in a world where Tom Cruise keeps getting insured only to nearly kill himself onscreen for our viewing pleasure, getting a tame indie film insured should have been no problem.

However, the insurance companies that would normally bond such productions are getting increasingly nervous that Hollywood actors will join the writers in striking. Right now, the SAG-AFTRA is set to expire on June 30, and that union has already authorized striking in case negotiations go south. Having its stars like Joaquin Phoenix indefinitely go on strike actually drives the cost of insurance up, and as it was during the COVID-19 pandemic, many insurance companies are deciding not to insure independent films for fear of how much it will ultimately cost them.

joaquin phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara in Her (2013)

Why, though, is this primarily being framed as a problem for only independent films? The short answer is that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP (the same organization that writers and now actors must negotiate with to establish union contracts) self-bonds movies via their own major studios. This means that a potential actor’s strike won’t keep the latest Marvel or Star Wars film from getting insured, but the kind of indie films that Joaquin Phoenix typically stars in may have difficulty getting insured for the foreseeable future.

Even if you hate Joaquin Phoenix, this is bad news for anybody who enjoys having plenty of different movies to watch at any given time. The last time independent films faced challenges getting insured was during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is estimated that we lost as many as 400 projects during that time. It’s impossible now to guess how many indie films we’ll lose thanks to fears over an actor’s strike, but we have a feeling any given one of them would be better than studio dreck we’ve been getting lately like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.