Magic is what is usually created on movie sets, but at times actors put themselves in dangerous situations to get the perfect shot. Despite safety precautions, disasters have struck several movie sets throughout the years. Accidents seem to increase when the project is working with a tight budget and time constraints.
Stunt doubles do not get enough credit for the dangerous job they do and at times, their stunts do not have happy endings. Stunt work accounts for at least half of film-related injuries, and as you might assume, injuries on movie sets are not common, but they do happen more than one would think. There have also been several deaths on movie sets throughout the years. The first recorded death during the filming of a movie took place back in 1928, on the set of Noah’s Ark, and the most recent death took place on the set of The Expendables 2, in 2012.
Movie extras are often seen as expendable, and because extras are desperate for a piece of the spotlight they are often willing to put themselves in situations that can have painful endings. Extras are willing to take whatever abuse a director will send their way in hopes of getting a real opportunity in the business. Whether it’s the star of the film, a stunt person or an extra, a movie set can be a dangerous place to be. Here are 12 of the worst things to happen on a movie set.
12 Now You See Me
Isla Fisher played a magician in the movie Now You See Me. Fisher got in trouble while inside a water tank. During the scene her release chain got stuck in her costume. Fisher’s scene included her banging on the water tank like she was in distress so the movie crew did not immediately realize that she was in "real" trouble.
Because the safety chain was caught in her costume, she was unable to reach the safety button that would drain the thousands of gallons of water in a matter of seconds. Fisher was stuck underwater for nearly three minutes. Luckily, Fisher was able to escape death thanks to a quick-release switch and a diver stuntman with an oxygen tank that was standing not far from the tank.
11 The Edge
Anthony Hopkins managed to escape death during the filming of the 1997 movie The Edge, which also starred Alec Baldwin and a male Alaskan Kodiak bear named Bart. During the filming Hopkins was taking pain medication for a neck injury. While filming in Alberta, Canada, he fell into a river that had freezing cold temperatures.
Hopkins did not realize how dangerously cold the water was because of the medication that he was on at the time. He began to display symptoms of hypothermia and was rushed to an area hospital for treatment. Fortunately Hopkins made a quick and full recovery.
Brad Pitt suffered an ironic injury while he was filming the movie Troy, back in 2004. Pitt played Achilles in the movie. Achilles is a powerful-demi-god that was brought down by an arrow to his heel. The story of Achilles' fall is supposedly why the tendon around the heel is now known as the Achilles tendon.
While Pitt was filming the scene where he kills the warrior Boagruis, he landed the wrong way on his foot and injured his Achilles tendon. The injury caused him to put filming off for several weeks. He finished the scene with Boagruis 3 months later.
9 Moulin Rouge
Nicole Kidman was injured while filming Moulin Rouge because she was “desperate” to have an 18 inch waist. The stunning actress used a corset to achieve that and broke a rib while having the corset fitted.
This was the second broken rib that Nicole had suffered during the filming. While filming a dancing scene in high heels in the 2001 blockbuster, she fell down a set of stairs breaking a rib. When she attempted to lace up the burlesque-dancer corset as tightly as she could bear, she broke the rib again for a second time. Despite knowing that the rib was not completely healed, Kidman was obsessed with achieving an 18-inch waist like Vivian Leigh had in Gone With The Wind.
8 Top Gun
Famed stunt pilot, Art Scholl, died when his plane crashed into the sea during the filming of Top Gun back in 1985. A search was conducted for Scholl by the Coast Guard, but they could not locate Scholl and the search was called off. It was concluded that he did not survive the crash.
Scholl was about 4,000 feet up when his plane went into an inverted spin. Scholl radioed that he had a problem then moments later, his Pitts Special dove into the ocean. Debris from the plane was discovered by the Coast Guard, but neither Scholl nor the wreckage was ever recovered.
7 Twilight Zone
Three deaths took place during the filming of the 1983 adaption of the Twilight Zone, and those deaths actually helped change the way that movies are made. Vic Morrow, the star of the TV series Combat, along with child actors Renee Chen and Mycah Dinh, were killed by a falling helicopter during the adaption of Rod Sterling’s Twilight Zone.
Cameras were rolling as pyrotechnic fireballs engulfed the wings of the helicopter. The fire forced the pilot down into the river below where the actors were wading. The movie crew watched horrified and helpless as the helicopter crushed 6-year-old Renee. The helicopter then toppled over and the blades sliced through both Morrow and 7-year-old Myca Dinh.
Renee’s mother was on set and grieved heartbreakingly over her daughter’s lifeless body. A civil suit was filed, as well as charges of involuntary manslaughter. All members involved in the charges were acquitted. After the tragedy, Warner Bros. set in motion a behind the scenes evolution that tightened up the industry’s safety standards.
6 The Three Musketeers
The 1989 film The Three Musketeers suffered a loss when English actor, Roy Kinnear, was filming a scene on horseback. Kinnear fell off of his horse and suffered a broken pelvis. He was taken to a Spanish hospital. The next day, while in the hospital's care, Kinnear had a heart attack and died.
Kinnear was survived by his wife, Carmel Cryan, and his three children.
The filming of the movie was almost complete when Kinnear passed away and the film was dedicated in his memory. Richard Lester, the director of the film, was so devastated by Kinnear’s death that he never directed another film.
Harry O'Connor, a well-known and respected skydiver and stuntman, was killed while doing a stunt in Vin Diesel’s film XXX.
O’Connor was a retired Navy Seal who had made a great name for himself in the stunt business. He was a highly trained skydiver. O’Connor had worked on several other films including Charlie’s Angels, The Perfect Storm and Soldier.
O’Connor was Vin Diesel’s stunt double in the film. During filming, O’Connor was being pulled at high speed on a paraglider when he slammed into a bridge. He was killed instantly. The scene, minus O’Connor’s death, was included in the film.
4 The Dark Knight
Conway Wickliffe, 41, a special effects technician was killed shooting a stunt for the 2008 Batman sequel, The Dark Knight.
Wickliffe was sitting in the backseat of a Nissan 4x4 that was travelling 20mph as a stunt was being filmed from the vehicle. Wickliffe was leaning out of the window of the car operating a camera when the vehicle struck a tree.
Wickliffe was from New Zealand and a father of two. He suffered severe injuries in the crash and was pronounced dead at the scene. An inquest into Wickliffe’s death determined that Bruce Monroe-Armstrong, the driver, failed to make a 90 degree turn and hit the tree head on.
3 The Expendables 2
A stuntman was killed and another seriously injured, during the filming of The Expendables 2. The deadly accident happened while filming on the Ognyanovo reservoir in Bulgaria. The two men were performing a stunt, which included them being inside a rubber boat during an explosion.
One stuntman was killed and the second was rushed to an area hospital where he underwent a five-hour surgery.
None of the stars of the film, which include Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Jet Li and Jean-Claude Van Damme, were on set when the tragedy took place. The stuntman’s death resulted in his family filing a wrongful death suit.
2 The Conqueror
Back in 1956, John Wayne starred in The Conqueror, a film about Genghis Khan. Many people who took part in this film suffered greatly. Some of the scenes in the film were filmed in a secluded area of St. George, Utah. The location was downwind from a desert where the U.S. military tested nuclear weapons just two years prior.
During the next few years after the filming, 91 of the 220 cast and crew members were stricken with forms of cancer. Forty-six of those 91 died, including the legendary John Wayne. Experts at that time believe that the high numbers of deaths showed a clear connection between the cancer and the area's leftover radiation.
1 The Crow
Back in 1993, Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee, 28, was killed on the set of The Crow. Brandon was on the edge of superstardom when a small explosive charge, that was being used to simulate gunfire, went off inside of a grocery bag.
Reportedly Lee activated a toggle switch that was placed underneath the grocery bag and that set off the charge. The explosion caused Lee to be struck in the abdomen by a projectile. Lee collapsed on set and was rushed to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Lee showed no vital signs upon arrival at the hospital and was unresponsive in the emergency room. Doctors performed surgery to remove the projectile. Lee never regained consciousness.