Have you had a near-death experience? Death can definitely creep up on us in many ways, and when you survive an experience that could have taken your life, it’s not surprising to reflect on your life afterward. Celebrities are just like you, so you may not be shocked to realize that many of them have been in situations where they thought they were going to die. We have the advantage of not only hearing about the situation from their perspective, but we also get to reflect on how the world would be different if the celebrity did not pull through.
Want some ideas as to the ramifications of this list, had the celebrity died? How about the fact that Star Wars would never have happened if George Lucas had died as a teenager. How about how different Playboy would have looked if Hugh Hefner wasn’t around? What if the impact that Seth MacFarlane had on the world ended alongside his life on 9/11? Do you know why he wasn’t on that fateful flight, and what other prominent celebrity that was supposed to be on it too?
We have some of the most acclaimed actors of all time, like Leonardo DiCaprio, who has faced down death not just once, but three separate times in his life. We have actors that got injured on set like Sylvester Stallone, actors that almost died doing something dumb like Orlando Bloom, a celebrity who got stabbed by a gang and even a celebrity who got shot.
All that and more when you read about 20 celebrities that are lucky to still be alive.
20. Leonardo DiCaprio
Now if you’ve seen DiCaprio in The Revenant, it’s clear that at least on screen DiCaprio is no stranger to getting up close and personal with some animals. But as you’re going to learn, he may be a lot less confident going up against animals in the real world. In an interview with Wired magazine, DiCaprio opened up about one of his near-death experiences that involved a shark.
While out diving in South Africa, “a shark jumped up and grabbed the tuna, and half its body landed inside the cage with me. I sort of fell down to the bottom and tried to lie flat. The great white took about five or six snaps an arm’s length away from my head.”
DiCaprio said it was the first time in over 30 years that something like this has happened while diving. However, as you’re going to read below, this is not the last time that DiCaprio has had a very near brush with death.
19. Kanye West
A lot of people love to hate on Kanye, but there is no doubt that in 2002, the world almost lost an incredibly promising musician. Kanye was in an awful head-on collision and it left his jaw shattered in three places. West had his mouth wired shut from surgery, but that didn’t stop him from recording the song “Through the Wire” two weeks after the accident. The song got as high as number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was in Kanye’s mind, one of the best things that has ever happened to him.
When asked his thoughts on the accident, Kanye opened up to Yahoo Music.
“I looked at this accident as God saying, ‘I’m about to hand you the world…. ‘Cause I had a lot of good records, ‘Slow Jams,’ ‘Jesus Walks,’ already in the pipeline. So he’s like, ‘I’m about to hand you the world, just know that at any given time I can take it away from you, so always keep me first.'”
Hate on Kanye all you want, but that’s a pretty powerful and humbling way to look at an experience like this.
18. Sylvester Stallone
When it comes to on-screen tough guys, Stallone is as tough as they come. Whether it’s his roles in the Rocky franchise, Rambo, Expendables or otherwise, he always seems willing to bring on some ass kicking. Perhaps not shockingly, Stallone’s passion for action translated to some really significant injuries on set, including one incident in which Steve Austin caused a hairline fracture in his neck. Stallone needed a metal plate inserted, but that’s not the time Stallone almost lost his life.
Stallone was working with Dolph Lundgren for Rocky IV, and he’s talked about a scary experience.
“Dolph Lundgren and I always went for it…I gave him orders to try to knock me out while the cameras were rolling. At one point, he hit me so hard on the top of the head I felt my spine compress…he then hit me with an almighty uppercut. That night my chest and heart started to swell, and I had to be helicopter-ambulanced from my hotel to a nearby emergency room.”
Stallone was told by doctors that if his heart had swollen any more, he would have died. Turns out Dolph punched Stallone’s rib cage into his chest, and that’s what caused the heart to begin swelling. Still want to be an actor?
17. Tracy Morgan
On June 7th, 2014, Tracy Morgan was in what was described by his doctor as the 2nd biggest accident in the world. The only one that was worse was the one that took the life of Princess Diane. Morgan was traveling in his limo bus when an 18-wheeler, driven by a sleep-deprived driver for Walmart, plowed into his vehicle. The accident took the life of Morgan’s longtime friend and mentor James McNair.
Morgan was in a coma for 8 days, but on top of the traumatic brain injury, Morgan suffered a shattered femur, cracked ribs and in his words, every single bone broke in his face.
If that wasn’t enough, when Morgan woke up, he was blind for six days. When asked if he thought he cheated death, Morgan stated “I think this was the plan. My room wasn’t ready…I still have s**t here to do, it’s gonna take more than 18 wheels for me to get out of here. I have to raise my girl, raise my wife, raise my family, exotic pets, too, gotta keep my octopus alive. Gotta keep my sharks alive. Those are God’s creatures! I’m needed!”
Morgan has since recovered (mostly) from his injuries and stated in an interview with Rolling Stone that he feels funnier than ever before.
16. Donald Sutherland
Donald Sutherland is one of the longest-lasting actors in Hollywood with roles starting in 1962, and the 80-year-old actor has several projects scheduled to come out in the next few years. So you can imagine how different the world of cinema would have looked if he had lost his life back in 1970, which he very nearly did.
Sutherland was filming Kelly’s Heroes which also starred Clint Eastwood, but unfortunately for him, he had a brush with death.
“I got sick in the middle of shooting. I came to Yugoslavia for a day’s filming and I was out for six weeks. They took me to hospital — I had spinal meningitis. They didn’t have the antibiotics, so I went into a coma, and they tell me that for a few seconds I died. I saw the blue tunnel, and I started going down it. I saw the white light. I dug my feet in, I didn’t want to go — but it was incredibly tempting. You just go, ‘Aw sh*t, man, why not?’”
Given that Sutherland’s son, Kiefer, is also an accredited actor, we should have several reasons to be happy that he was able to recover!
15. Seth MacFarlane
Below you’re going to learn about the world without Star Wars, but another large influence on society was almost lost when Seth MacFarlane nearly passed away in 2001. Because whether you love or hate Family Guy, Ted, The Cleveland Show or any other of the various things MacFarlane has brought to the world, there is no doubt that they’re still a prominent part of pop culture.
One of MacFarlane’s best decisions of his life may have come on September 10th, 2001, when he decided to keep drinking a little bit later than expected. What this meant, was that on 9/11, Seth woke up hung over and was unable to make it to the airport on time for his flight. The flight? American Airlines Flight 11, which tragically was hijacked and crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
When asked his thoughts on the situation and how he has handled being so close to death, MacFarlane explained “the only reason it hasn’t really affected me as it maybe could have is: I didn’t really know that I was in any danger until after it was over, so I never had that panic moment. After the fact, it was sobering, but people have a lot of close calls. You’re crossing the street, and you almost get hit by a car… This one just happened to be related to something massive. I really can’t let it affect me because I’m a comedy writer. I have to put that in the back of my head.”
Mark Wahlberg was also allegedly supposed to be on that flight.
14. 50 Cent
There are a lot of actors on this list who were in near-death accidents, but 50 Cent has the distinction of being the only person on here who has been shot. In fact, he was shot 9 times with a 9mm handgun. He took bullets in the hip, hand, arm, both legs, chest and left cheek. When talking about the incident, he explained “after the actual shooting, I went through a portion of me actually being afraid because I was hurt physically…I was hurt bad. I was afraid and uncomfortable with being afraid and the only time I wasn’t afraid is when I was actively involved in actually looking for somebody connected to it.”
50 Cent said the incident changed him and made him a more decisive person, but also someone who had a more heightened sense of what was going on around him. Furthermore, like many people on this list, he felt that perhaps there was a reason he survived.
“After I got shot nine times at close range and didn’t die, I started to think that I must have a purpose in life … How much more damage could that shell have done? Give me an inch in this direction or that one, and I’m gone.”
It took him 5 months to fully recover from the incident.
13. Michael J. Fox
There are a lot of iconic moments in the Back to the Future franchise, but I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the 3rd one is definitely the weakest out of the bunch. But one thing that the 3rd film has that other 2 don’t is the fact that Michael J. Fox almost died during the filming of it.
There is a scene in the movie in which Marty is about to be hung, so the cast and crew did a few different takes that had Michael standing on a box just off camera. After not being happy with the results, Fox decided to do one take without the box, effectively just hanging himself for the camera. Fox thought someone would stop filming immediately, but didn’t realize the length of the scene, and in his autobiography he stated that he passed out for around 30 seconds. I imagine he really looked like he was choking for those 30 seconds though.
12. Sharon Stone
Sharon Stone may be best known for Basic Instinct, where she made it clear that she’s one of the sexiest stars to ever step on screen. Stone was also outstanding in the 1990 film. Total Recall that co-starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, but her life nearly ended shortly after the filming for the film wrapped.
“I was driving along Sunset Boulevard and was confronted by a car driving straight at me on the wrong side of the road, I was hit head on and don’t know how I escaped with my life. I dislocated my jaw, sprained my back, broke a rib and twisted a knee. I was put in a back brace and told to stay in bed for six months.”
Stone said the accident gave her time to reflect on her time in Hollywood and discern who her real friends were.
This was not the only time that Stone was almost out for the count. Stone suffered a brain hemorrhage but was able to make a full recovery. When talking about her experiences with Express, Stone stated “when you face death you look at everything all over again – life, hope, dreams. I’ve come to terms with death and know it awaits so I am going to do as much as possible with my time.”
11. Orlando Bloom
There are a lot of badass actors on this list, but Bloom has the distinction of being in both the awesome (at times) Pirates of the Caribbean as well as the fantastic Lord of the Rings. Makes the guy seem pretty indestructible, but when he was 21 years old, Bloom almost lost his life in what really was a stupid accident.
Bloom was trying to climb onto a rooftop terrace along with some friends, when the drainpipe he was using for support collapsed. Bloom fell and broke several vertebrae in his back, the incident left the actor paralyzed for 4 days. Bloom required several surgeries and 18 months of rehab but was able to re-enter the acting world when he landed the role of Legolas. While he has since recovered, Bloom says his back is a constant reminder of the accident and constantly requires work and caution to prevent getting overly sore.
10. Ellie Goulding
There are a lot of prominent celebrities that have unfortunately passed away in 2016, but did you know that Ellie Goulding also almost passed away this year? In January, Goulding was traveling on a frozen lake with her photographer Conor McDonnell when the ice cracked and the vehicle started to sink. Conor shared a photo on Instagram stating “that moment when you’re in -25C in the middle of nowhere in Norway in the pitch black and your belt wagon crashes through the ice in the middle of a lake and you have to emergency evacuate through the roof…Oh s**t we’re in” was my first thought…A few minutes later it was all completely gone under the water and ice for good.”
Definitely not an easy situation to find yourself in, especially when all of their supplies were logically in that vehicle. While Goulding has not shared her take on the story yet, you can imagine it was one of the closest calls of the musician’s life.
There is no doubting that Eminem has an extremely public history with drug addiction. In fact, when Eminem released “Relapse” in 2009, it was the first time in seven years that the musician said he recorded something sober. While Eminem has since made the recovery from drugs, he was also able to escape some near-death experiences when he was still a heavy user.
In an interview with Real Rap Magazine, Eminem talks about how he very nearly overdosed on pills one night.
“Had I known it was methadone, I probably wouldn’t have taken it. But as bad as I was back then, I can’t even say 100 percent for sure. My doctor told me the amount of methadone I’d taken was equivalent to shooting up four bags of heroin. Even when they told me I almost died, it didn’t click.”
Thankfully something was finally able to click in the mind of Eminem and he was able to get his life back together before he became another tragic casualty to drug use.
8. Martin Lawrence
There are a lot of examples in Hollywood of actors who have gone to extreme lengths to try and change their body for a role. Lawrence may not be your go-to example of a dedicated method actor, but he may be the only one who nearly died because of his efforts.
In August, 1999, Lawrence was trying to lose weight for the upcoming film Big Momma’s House. Unfortunately, Lawrence collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. You’ll understand why when you learn that Lawrence had decked himself out in several layers of very heavy and warm clothing and then decided to go for a jog on an incredibly hot day. Lawrence did not get far, collapsing in front of his home from extreme dehydration and heat-related issues.
Lawrence was rushed to a hospital where he entered into a three-day coma with his body temperature at one point raising to 107 degrees. Given that the movie is pretty awful, it really just makes the whole experience all the more painful.
7. Martin Sheen
Charlie may be doing a great job of ruining the Sheen name, but his father, Martin Sheen, is a tremendous actor. Granted, I’m also currently watching him on The West Wing, but still. Long before the Wing, Sheen was out filming the classic film Apocalypse Now.
Sheen opened up in an interview about how he very nearly died on the set after a long and exhausting day of shooting.
“My breathing grew strained. When I went back to bed, sleep defiantly refused to come….it must have been about three in the morning that I began to sweat profusely. A nagging pain crept into my right arm, and I leaped out of bed again. Something was terribly wrong, but I had no idea what. I started to feel faint and slumped to the floor. Then came a devastating explosion of pain in my chest…Another blast of pain hit my chest, and I knew what was wrong—a heart attack, the same thing that had claimed the lives of my mother, father and two of my older brothers. I knew I was dying.”
Thankfully for Sheen, a security guard for the movies was making his rounds and saw the collapsed actor on the floor. Sheen says that after that, all he remembers was a priest giving him his last rights, being placed on a prop helicopter and then waking up in a hospital and his wife telling him that he was going to make up. Sheen has opened up since the incident saying how it has strengthened his relationship with God.
6. Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan is one of the best action stars of all time. This becomes all the more true when you realize that Chan does all of his own stunts, but as you can imagine, sometimes this can get incredibly dangerous.
Chan was filming Armour Of God in Yugoslavia when he was required to jump from a castle wall onto a tree. Unfortunately, Chan missed the tree and fell to the ground, landing on his head. The incident caused a piece of Chan’s skull to break and shoot into his brain, requiring immediate brain surgery. Chan required a plastic plate to be inserted into his head.
Another incident occurred while filming Skiptrace, in which Chan was filming a stunt in the water when a torrent of water caused Chan to be thrown out of his raft. “I’m not a good swimmer, so I was really screaming for help,” he claimed, but the crew was unable to get to him. Thankfully the torrent of water re-shifted, and Chan was able to return to the lifeboat.
5. Nikki Sixx
There are a lot of celebrities on this list who had a near death experience and immediately realized the value of the getting a second chance on life. That isn’t exactly how it went for Nikki Sixx, who’s best known for his time in the band Motley Crue.
In 1987, Sixx injected enough heroin into his system that he was legally considered dead. After two paramedics shot him with adrenaline, Sixx allegedly regained consciousness immediately. He then proceeded to escape from the ambulance, find a way home, and took more heroin before passing out.
In Nikki’s book The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star, Sixx admits that he must have overdosed half a dozen times. This one incident in particular, is what inspired the song “Kickstart my Heart” which went on to be a huge hit for the band.
Thankfully Sixx eventually realized the impact of his actions, entered rehab, and was able to continue contributing to the band.
4. George Lucas
There are a lot of celebrities who, if they had passed away, would have left the world drastically different. I’m not convinced there’s a near-death experience that was more impactful than the time George Lucas almost died when he was still in high school. That’s right, if Lucas had died, Star Wars would have never existed.
Lucas opened up about what happened when talking to Oprah. “I was hit, broadsided, by a car that was going about 90 miles per hour. I should be dead… It did give me this perspective on life that said, you know, basically, I’m operating on extra credit… Let’s just go for it. I’m never afraid of dying. I feel like what I’m getting is bonus material.”
The car ended up flipping 7 times, and Lucas was left with several broken ribs and two collapsed lungs. There is no doubt that Lucas is making the very most of the “bonus material” portion of his life. Prior to the accident, one of his biggest aspirations was to be a race car driver.
3. Ed Begley Jr.
There was a series on BIO called Celebrity Close Calls and it featured different celebrities coming on and talking about some of their near death situations. While all the situations on the show were dramatic, perhaps there was none more dramatic than what happened to Ed Begley Jr when he was still a young boy.
Begley Jr. opened up about how he was mugged by a street gang, and then stabbed several times. His lungs collapsed as a result of the event, but thankfully he was able to make a full recovery. Begley Jr. states that the teenagers were later apprehended for their crimes.
Given that Begley Jr. has performed in over 100 films, television shows and stage performances, you can imagine the world would have been dramatically different had he not been able to pull through this tragic ordeal. Begley Jr.’s most recent role that you may have seen is in Better Call Saul, where he plays Clifford Main.
2. Hugh Hefner
You’ve already learned about a lot of really serious incidents that almost took the lives of some of your most beloved celebrities. On this one incident though, you may end up smirking more than anything else.
Hefner revealed in an interview with Stuff that he almost choked to death after he nearly swallowed a Ben Wa Ball. He was in the middle of having sex with 4 different Playmates at the time of the incident. While I am not too sure how many of the ladies surrounding him knew CPR, let’s just be glad that we didn’t have to read the headline “Hefner Dies After Choking On Ball During Orgy.”
To be fair, would there really be a more fitting way for the Playboy icon to go? Hefner is currently 90 years old and is married to Crystal Harris who is only 30.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio Again!
That’s right, not only did DiCaprio get to lead off this list with the time a shark almost killed him, but he has two more unbelievable stories about near-death experiences, so it wouldn’t have seemed fitting to not include him here again.
The first incident occurred when DiCaprio was on a Delta Airlines Flight to Russia.
“I was in business class, and an engine blew up in front of my eyes….I was sitting there looking out at the wing, and the entire wing exploded in a fireball. I was the only one looking out at the moment this giant turbine exploded like a comet.”
Definitely not the best thing to be seeing, but thankfully the plane made an emergency landing at JFK.
The other incident occurred when DiCaprio went tandem skydiving, but as you can expect, there was an issue with his cord. Both the first and second cord had become extremely knotted and were not opening correctly. “We did another free fall for like another 5, 10 seconds. I didn’t even think about the extra chute, so I thought we were just plummeting to our death.”
DiCaprio states that thankfully they were able to get the cord untangled in time, but not before he was warned, “you’re probably going to break your legs on the way down, because we’re going too fast now…so after you see your whole life flash in front of your eyes—twice—he says, ‘Oh, your legs are going to get broken too’…[thankfully] we did, like, this barrel roll. We got bruised up, but no broken legs.
Perhaps not shockingly, DiCaprio no longer skydives.