The line between acting and reality changes in size dramatically depending on the actors who are performing. There’s nothing that says that, “the better the actor, the more capable they are at faking something.” That just can’t be true because some of the very best performers in the world need as much realism as possible to portray something convincingly. Take, for example, our much-mythologized method actors, like Daniel Day-Lewis. This acting legend needs to live a character out in order to do his best work. Considering that, you should expect that, during physical scenes, things can get a little too real for actors sometimes. Whether by accident or by design, some actors take their physicality too literally and their co-stars are often the ones that suffer.
As any good wrestler will tell you, faking or pulling punches ain’t easy. Sure, if you’re throwing a weak or slow-motion punch, it’s a breeze, but we’re talking about the big leagues here. For a good film fight nowadays, actors need to be able to throw a punch and mean it without hitting their co-stars in danger zones. This, as you can imagine, leads to an obvious problem. Sometimes an actor will get punched in the face. Sometimes they’ll get thrown a little too hard. Sometimes, well, you get the picture. We’ve gone out and tracked down all the stars who got too rough and all the co-stars who felt their wrath. Here are 15 actors who got too physical and hurt their co-stars.
15. Idris Elba & Chris Pine – Star Trek Beyond
On the set of the newest Star Trek film, Star Trek Beyond, actors Idris Elba and Chris Pine decided to make their fight scenes as realistic as they could, getting a bit rougher than they usually would. As Elba explains, Pine may have gotten the worst of things. “Chris Pine and I actually got a little too physical and he ended up with a black eye – which ended up in the movie, by the way!” said the actor. But Pine wasn’t too sore about it. “It was great,” concurred Pine. “He gave me a black eye, and that was fun, and we used that. He’s a big guy and we tussled and threw some fake punches. All in just a day’s work!” There ain’t no business like show business, folks.
14. Downey Jr & Halle Berry – Gothika
Can we really blame Robert Downey Jr. for getting a bit too rough and snapping Halle Berry’s arm in Gothika? The guy was coming down from a cocktail of drugs that took about five years to finish taking in. There’s a good chance he didn’t even know where he was during that scene. “That scene” is the one where RDJ attempts to restrain Berry as she goes batty in her cell. RDJ slammed one of her arms down and broke it. Apparently, Berry still holds a grudge against Iron Man for the injury too. One of the actress’ representatives has said that RDJ didn’t even send flowers when Berry was in the hospital. But, honestly, who has an extended stay in hospital for a broken arm? You go in, get it casted and leave. Plus, you can’t expect a guy who was out of work for several years to pony-up and buy flowers. They’re expensive.
13. Nagini & Daniel Radcliffe – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Okay, so Nagini wasn’t played by an actor as much as a stunt coordinator, but, whenever Harry Potter gets knocked out, it’s worth talking about. Here’s what Daniel Radcliffe had to say about the incident. “I was doing this scene where I fight a giant snake and, being the hi-tech, multi-million production that we are, the snake was being played by our stunt co-ordinator holding a long pole with a boxing glove tied to the end with gaffer tape,” he said. “On the last take before lunch he really planted the front foot. I was fending it off with a chair and was caught unawares… The chair went flying into my top lip. To be honest, it was brilliant because I saw the playback later and I go down like a bloody boxer.”
12. LL Cool J & Jamie Foxx – Any Given Sunday
Back in 1999, Jamie Foxx and LL Cool J got into a fight on the set of Any Given Sunday. During a scene when the two actors were meant to push each other, things got pretty heated because LL went off script and punched Foxx. Foxx admitted that he retaliated after that. The police got involved; it was a mess. When asked about it, LL Cool J explained his side of the fight. “[Foxx] felt he needed to hit me, because I touched him,” he said. “My reaction was, ‘where’s the closest hospital? I had to defend myself and somehow his helmet got snatched off, and he got hit in the temple.’” The police reports say that both actors sustained minor injuries to their faces, so we don’t know who won, but, judging by the size of LL Cool J, he won. He won.
11. Jennifer Lawrence & Josh Hutcherson – Hunger Games
Josh Hutcherson may seem like a small guy, and he is. He’s about 5’7 with really tall shoes on, so when he and Jennifer Lawrence spar to get into game mode, they’re a pretty balanced matchup. Still, on one fateful day, the bigger and meaner Lawrence showed Hutcherson who’s boss with a roundhouse kick to the head, Chuck Norris style. “We were just goofing around, and like doing some shadow boxing for fun,” Hutcherson said. “She throws this beautiful kick, but it landed right on my temple and literally knocked me to the ground. I was down. I was seeing stars and she was freaking out, crying.” It wasn’t until later, however, that Hutcherson realized Lawrence may have done some internal damage with that kick. “I didn’t want to make a big deal about it,” Hutcherson explained. “But the next day somebody asked me for my address and I started telling them my address from when I was nine years old. That’s when I was like, ‘This is not right.’ Jennifer felt terrible about it, but it was kind of hilarious.” Ah, dude. You could have brain damage.
10. James Franco & Tyrese Gibbon – Annapolis
The hatred between James Franco and Tyrese Gibbon is as thick as molasses. It all began back on the set of Annapolis where Franco was testing out his new style of method acting. When Tyrese was asked about where the problems stemmed from, he explained that Franco had only one speed during the whole shoot. “I respect method-actors, but he never snapped out of character. Whenever we’d have to get in the ring for boxing scenes, and even during practice, the dude was full-on hitting me…. I was always like, ‘James, lighten up, man. We’re just practicing.’ He never lightened up.” In Franco’s defense, he has acknowledged that his strategies early on were not very polished. “I take full blame for any problems on that film,” he said. “If he had a bad experience working with me, I was probably a jerk. I was not purposely cruel to him, but I was probably so wrapped up in my performance that I was not as friendly as I could have been.”
9. Miles Teller & J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
Whiplash is one of those smaller films that captivates the world with its simplicity and honesty. Part of the charm is the realism that it conveys, something the filmmakers tried desperately to communicate. One of the ways of doing this was to have the cast do everything they felt comfortable doing themselves. For example, the one scene that has Miles Teller football tackle J.K. Simmons was done without stunt doubles. After all, it’s a fairly simple stunt. Who needs stunt doubles for that? Even still, the tackled Simmons was hit with such a force by Teller that he broke two ribs in the hit.
8. Michael Eklund & Halle Berry – The Call
Halle Berry suffers so many injuries on set, you have to wonder if this girl is getting enough milk at home. Either her bones are brittle or her coordination is lacking, but this actress has been hurt on pretty much every movie she’s ever worked on. While filming The Call, Berry was reportedly rushed to the hospital after a fall onto some concrete caused the star to hit her head. Everything was fine and she returned to work soon after. But, after about a year, the actress changed her story, revealing that it was her co-star, Michael Eklund, who caused the injury. “The bad guy in the movie accidentally slammed my head into the concrete. He misjudged how far the ground was and he slammed my head into it so I got knocked out,” she said. Berry’s injury was so severe, she even forgot Eklund’s name.
7. Robert De Niro & Joe Pesci – Raging Bull
When Robert De Niro acts, he does everything with an intensity that not many actors know how to deal with. These days, Joe Pesci is one of the few that can handle everything De Niro throws at him, but it wasn’t always this way. Back when these two were filming Raging Bull, the script called for a fight. Well, more of a beating. De Niro’s Jake LaMotta was to beat the crap out of Pesci, throwing him around the house a bit. At the end, De Niro was to throw Pesci through a glass door, which he did, but he did it a little too roughly, causing Pesci to land awkwardly on the door frame. After all was said and done, Pesci was told by the doctor that he had broken some ribs. Years later, while filming Casino with De Niro, Pesci would re-break the same ribs.
6. Christopher Guest & Cary Elwes – The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride is a film that will probably live on forever as a timeless treasure for so many different reasons. Beside the hilarity and silliness on screen, the stories from behind-the-scenes are some of Hollywood’s best. One of the weirdest is when Christopher Guest did exactly what the script called for and knocked Cary Elwes out. He just didn’t mean to knock him out for real. “There’s a scene after Buttercup and I survived the fire swamp when he’s supposed to knock me out with the butt of his sword,” Elwes says. “But because of the angle, we couldn’t sell a fake blow well enough for the camera, so I told him to just hit me hard. And this was no prop sword. So he bashed me on the head. And that’s the last thing I remember. I woke up in the hospital.”
5. John Cusack & Nicole Kidman – Paperboy
There was some controversy that came out of the film Paperboy when the director, Lee Daniels, spoke of a rough sex scene between the stars, Nicole Kidman and Kevin Spacey. Apparently, Cusack was a little too enthusiastic about the scene and Kidman took some on-set mistreatment from him. In an interview with the director and the stars, Daniels recalled what happened. “I said, ‘Nicole, are you okay?’ And [Nicole] said, ‘I’m fine.’ But it was clear that [Cusack] was throwing [her] around the f*cking room like a mop. And the next day [she] came to set bruised.” After Daniels said this, Kidman did her best to clarify the situation and exonerate her co-star’s actions. “Most actors are like that,” Kidman said, speaking about herself. “We all go, ‘No, no. I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.’ Because that’s how you release into things and find stuff… If you’re tentative and scared that you’re hurting someone or that you’re overstepping a line or that there’s a boundary that you’ve crossed, it makes everybody too cautious.”
4. Margot Robbie & Alexander Skarsgard – Tarzan
Margot Robbie isn’t just a near-perfect specimen of beauty and glamor; she also punches with damaging force. Alexander Skarsgard, Robbie’s co-star on Tarzan, found this out in a sex scene (of all places). “Even though I’m fighting apes, the only injury I got was from a sex scene with Margot – she hit me!” the actor said. “Our director David Yates wanted our sex scene to be really animalistic, so he was behind the camera saying things like, ‘Hit him harder! Come on!’… He kind of egged us on and wanted to feel very primal, so she beat me up!” To be fair, it’s unlikely that Skarsgard was too injured. He may have just faked an injury to prolong the shooting of that particular scene, keeping Robbie close to him wearing what little clothes she had on. Most men would allow Robbie to do whatever the hell she wanted to do to them as long as she was doing something to them.
3. Dolph Lundgren & Sylvester Stallone – Rocky IV
Sylvester Stallone wanted to instill as much realism into Rocky IV as he could. His plan was to ask his co-star Dolph Lundgren to go all out on him in the ring. After all, Stallone’s a tough guy. He can handle it. Stallone forgot or just didn’t consider, however, that Lundgren is a National Karate champion. “Hey I got an idea,” Stallone said to Lundgren. “For the first 45 seconds, really try to knock me out. I mean go for it.” As he remembers it, this suggestion only led to pain for Stallone. “Bad idea,” the actor remembered. “He comes across—boom, boom! He catches me in the chest. Woah. Cut, cut cut, I am directing so I can do that. CUT CUT. He says, ‘What?’ I said, ‘What? I thought I had a car accident! Later that night my blood pressure goes up to 260, I go to hospital, they put me in an emergency jet and fly me back to America. Next thing I know I’m in intensive care for five days with nuns walking around… He hit my heart so hard that it banged against my ribs and started to swell, and that usually happens in car accidents. So, I was hit by a truck!”
2. Kirk Douglas & Charles McGraw – Spartacus
Actor Charles McGraw got more than he bargained for in a scene where he was asked to grapple with Kirk Douglas in Spartacus. The directions were simple: McGraw was to struggle with Douglas and have his head dunked into a pot of soup. Douglas got a bit overzealous and really took it to McGraw, dunking his head furiously into the pot. It was such a task for McGraw to force through Douglas’ strength and come up for air that, when he did, he slipped a bit. While slipping, Douglas was pushing his head back into the soup for another dunk, which slammed McGraw’s face into the pot instead. While they completed the scene, McGraw was left with a broken jaw after the encounter.
1. Bruce Lee & Jackie Chan – Enter the Dragon
Jackie Chan holds nothing back when he gushes about his idol, Bruce Lee. If you didn’t already know, Chan played a small role in Enter the Dragon in which Lee grabs a hold of his long hair and breaks his neck. It’s just about the most hilarious thing ever. But, Chan played a few different characters in that film, and one of them had to pretend to get hit by Lee’s staff in a fight sequence. The trouble was, Lee swung at Chan and accidentally hit him in the temple, nearly knocking him out. Lee finished the scene quickly and then ran to Chan, who admits he recovered right away but pretended to be in worse shape than he was so Lee would attend to him a little longer. There’s also a legend that Lee then promised Chan that he would cast him in every Bruce Lee movie from then on out, but sadly, Lee would never be able to keep his promise, dying not long after.
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