Actors and actresses always try their best to convince us the role they're playing is actually a reality. They memorize their lines, create a personality, some even choose to stay in character during the entire production. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the director to decide what take/shot will end up being in the film.
However, what happens when an unexpected injury takes place during the perfect shot? Well, most of the time the injured actor or actress yells cut and calls for the medic. But what about those brave few who toughed it out, refusing to break character until the scene was finished? Whether it be a broken arm, a cracked rib, or a severe cut, you don’t hear much about these dedicated actors.
We have put together a list of ten professionals who stayed in character after being injured on set. See if you remember any of these scenes, you may be surprised to find some of your favorite actors or actresses who made the list. One thing's for sure: you’ll never see these ten scenes the same way again.
10 Channing Tatum – Foxcatcher
This somber drama had everybody talking during its release back in November of 2014. The plot is based on a true story following the dramatic events surrounding the estranged multimillionaire and wrestling enthusiast John E. du Pont. Channing Tatum played the part of Olympic wrestling champion Mark Schultz, who actually lived on the du Pont estate during his time as a wrestling trainer.
Throughout the movie we learn just how strenuous Mark Schultz' life became, especially after meeting du Point. In result of this, Tatum injured himself during a scene where he loses his temper in a hotel room. He was meant to head-butt a mirror, but he took it a few steps further and head-butt the mirror so hard he went through the wall, just missing a stud. He walked away with just a cut on his head but he didn’t break character during the scene - just the prop and the wall.
9 Brad Pitt – Se7en
David Fincher’s 1995 neo-noir psychological thriller Se7en had a lot of gory scenes, yet one incident was so gruesome it made Fincher himself turn green. During the chase scene between Mills (Brad Pitt) and John Doe (Kevin Spacey), Pitt slipped and smashed his hand through a car windshield, resulting in a severe cut.
Producer Arnold Kopelson recalls, “I’m not going to tell you what I said. Some expletive. He wasn’t supposed to break his arm, but that’s what we’ve done. We worked his injury into the story line.” When you re-watch the scene, you will notice Pitt holding his arm up to his chest half way through the chase scene.
8 Nicole Kidman – Moulin Rouge
Academy award winning actress Nicole Kidman may have gotten some flak for her dancing performances in the star studded musical Moulin Rouge; however, not everyone was aware that the actress was performing all of her scenes with broken ribs - even Kidman herself didn’t realize how severe her injuries were at first.
“Well, it sort of started to heal and then we thought, oh well, with the corset on, that should help it, you know, hold it in place and it actually cracked it more... And I stood there and I remember just, sort of, the blood draining from my face thinking, gosh this doesn’t feel right but then I didn’t call Baz Luhrmann until that evening, and say it feels a little strange. I think maybe I have broken it again.” Kidman pretty much just toughed it out for the rest of the film.
7 Malcolm McDowell – A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick’s genius has brought us many great films, but A Clockwork Orange has to be the most disturbing. The film takes place in a gang-filled dystopian Britain, following the sinister antics and ultra-violence of the main character Alex, played by Malcolm McDowell, and his gang of “Droogs”.
Everyone remembers the scenes in which McDowell has his eyes pried open and held in place while he is forced to watch a never-ending roll of violent images, in hopes that it will prevent him from committing crimes in the future. So does McDowell - at least we can assume he does, considering the fact that not only was he put in an extremely uncomfortable position, but he also managed to scratch his corneas from the metal clamps and was temporarily blinded as a result, despite having a real doctor on set, who can be seen administering eye drops in the film.
6 Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler
Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in Nightcrawler was one of his best. He plays a former thief who stumbles into the world of a stringer for the local news channels. At first his character seems a little odd, yet very determined. However, as the film unravels, we learn Gyllenhaal’s character is a lot more damaged than we originally anticipated.
One of the scenes that support this unexpected change of character is when Gyllenhaal takes out his frustration on a mirror, resulting in a pretty bad cut to his hand and a trip to the hospital. Despite slicing his hand open, Gyllenhaal stayed in character, and can even be seen hiding his hand behind his back during the rest of the film.
5 Fred Astaire – Follow the Fleet
When you think 1936 Hollywood musical comedy, the last thing you would expect is an injured actor. Well, that’s probably what singer, dancer, and actor Fred Astaire thought when he took the role as Seaman "Bake" Baker in the Hollywood classic Follow the Fleet.
The unexpected injury took place during a long three minute shot, where Astaire and his dancing partner Ginger Rogers performed “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”. Rogers was wearing a very heavily beaded dress for the number and Astaire recalls, “I got the flying sleeve smack on the jaw and partly in the eye. I kept on dancing, although somewhat maimed.” After another twenty or so takes, everyone agreed that the first take was best, so Astaire’s dazed injury waltzed its way into the final cut of the film after all.
4 Halle Berry – Gothika
Berry’s character, Dr. Miranda Grey, winds up as a patient at the very hospital she works for after a car accident. Naturally, she’s pretty distressed by the whole situation and doesn’t think she belongs there. Her injury takes place during a struggle between her and her old co-worker played by Downey Jr. In the scene, Downey Jr. is trying to restrain Berry and his iron grip ended up breaking her arm. According to Berry, “Robert Downey twisted my arm and it broke. It was a freak accident but we’re good friends.” Downey reportedly stopped when he heard Berry’s arm pop.
3 Leonardo DiCaprio – Django Unchained
This may not be one of the worst injuries on our list, but it’s by far the most impressive example of an actor staying in character after an injury. No one can deny the fact that Tarantino loves exaggerating the amount of blood used in action shots. However, this scene wasn’t meant to have any blood in it at all.
In the dinner scene where, Leo DiCaprio’s character Calvin Candie learns he is being played for a fool, his return to the dining room isn’t all that hospitable. As the intensity of the scene builds, DiCaprio slams his hand down on the table, unintentionally smashing a small glass in the process. From this point on, all the blood you see pouring out of DiCaprio’s hand is real! Not only did he stay in character, but he pulled off an amazing performance; you can even see him nonchalantly picking small pieces of glass out of his hand as the scene goes on. His cut was so bad, he required stitches after the shot.
2 Martin Sheen – Apocalypse Now
If you’ve seen Apocalypse Now, you know the opening scene is pretty vulgar and intense; it pretty much sets the mood right off the bat. For those who haven’t seen the movie, the opening scene captures Martin Sheen's character Willard in the middle of a breakdown where he proceeds to drink and hallucinate in a hotel room.
What most people don’t know is that Sheen was actually drunk during the filming of the scene, due to the fact that it was Sheen's 36th birthday and he was a struggling alcoholic. On top of that, when Sheen smashes the mirror (yes, another mirror) and covers himself in blood, he is actually using his own blood. Sheen cut himself in his drunken fit and insisted that director Francis Ford Coppola keep filming, saying he was in a “chaotic spiritual state”.
1 Viggo Mortensen – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
This unexpected injury made its way into one of the greatest films ever made. During the filming of the second LOTR movie, a lot of stunts and battle sequences were shot. However, this injury didn’t take place during any of those scenes.
Viggo Mortensen’s character Aragorn, along with Legolas and Gimli, are searching for Merry and Pippin, who have been captured by a band of Uruk-hai. Yet when they find the beasts of Mordor, all that’s left is a heaping pile of burnt corpses, which leads them to believe the two hobbits are dead. This is where Viggo’s injury takes place.
Director Peter Jackson instructed Viggo to kick a fallen helmet towards the camera and scream in regard to losing the two hobbits. After a few takes, Viggo managed to kick the helmet perfectly and let out a gut wrenching scream - only his scream wasn’t fake. He actually broke two of his toes from kicking the steel helmet, but rather than breaking character, he used the pain to add a sense of realism to the shot, which ended up in the movie.