Just like in any other industry, things don’t always go off without a hitch in Hollywood. Accidents happen, things go wrong, mistakes are made. While some accidents end in happy endings, others don’t; some accidents make it to the final cut and can actually be seen on the big screen while others are destroyed and all evidence is erased from history. Some of these photographs mark evolutionary shifts that changed Hollywood and the entertainment industry forever.
If you’re looking for photographs of ghosts on movie sets or photographic evidence of occurrences where celebrities mistreated or abused their coworkers, you won’t find that here. It’s bad press for a movie to publicize that the set was haunted, even if the set was for a horror movie (for example, publicists for The Amityville Horror destroyed most photographic evidence that a dead body washed ashore on their set days before filming began), and most celebrities are smart enough to cover their tracks, if they’re going to assault, harass, or mistreat coworkers and assistants.
Instead, here you will find photos of actors that bled for their work, many times because they felt their art was worth it. You will find photos of actors that suffered and broke and continue to endure pain because of their jobs. Here, you will even find photographs of devoted artists and entertainers that died under the guidance of their directors and watch of their producers. Beware: for those that are faint of heart or have queasy stomachs, you may be disturbed or upset by the photographs and stories that follow. Reader discretion is advised.
15. Django Unchained – Leonardo DiCaprio’s Bloody Hand Was Real
At the dramatic climax of Quentin Tarantino‘s 2012 hit, Django Unchained, Leonardo DiCaprio slammed his hand down on the table in a fit of anger. It was the first take of the scene, and no one knew just quite how things would go. When the actors saw that Leonardo was bleeding from slamming his hand down on a knife on the table, they fully expected either him or Tarantino to call cut and fix the damaged hand; but they didn’t. Leonardo barreled on through the scene, using his bloodied hand in ways Tarantino had never thought to imagine. This still came right after he cut his hand, and right before he slathered his blood all over the face of confused and scared actress Kerry Washington in a horrific display of power, authority, cruelty, and disgust. Once the scene ended and the director called cut, they decided to keep the happy (though painful) mistake; while some asides were shot using fake blood after Leo was patched up, most of what you see in the movie is truly his blood.
14. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Viggo Mortensen Breaks His Toes
Early in the film, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli chase down a pack of Uruk Hai that took Merry and Pippin hostage at the end of the last film, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. When they finally catch up to the pack, after days of sprinting across hilly terrain, the Uruk Hai have all been brutally slaughtered, and it is believed Merry and Pippin were as well. Roaming the remains, Aragorn furiously kicks an Uruk Hai helmet, screams in frustration, and collapses to his knees in defeat.
Except that’s not what happened. When Viggo Mortensen, who plays Aragorn, kicked the helmet, he broke two toes. He screamed out in pain and collapsed to his knees. Peter Jackson was impressed with the performance, until he realized it wasn’t acting. This still is on location as a medic is checking out Viggo’s foot and seeing if he is fit to continue filming for the day (if you watch the scene, you can see Viggo limping throughout).
13. The Last Samurai – Extra Kicked In Groin
Though there are certainly plenty of disturbing images to be found throughout this movie, this is perhaps the most commonly overlooked. Look carefully. Tom Cruise is on the right, dismounting his horse. Something Tom Cruise did must have aggravated the animal because, as extras dressed as soldiers stepped forward to grab the horse and ensure that it was restrained, it kicked its back leg out and nailed a poor extra… right in the crotch. If you look carefully enough, you can actually see the horse’s hoof making contact with the poor guy’s nether-regions right now. When watching the film, it’s clear beyond a doubt that this guy took a big hit for the team. The scene moves forward as if nothing happened, and you can barely tell that anything went wrong; only if you’re watching carefully can you see how much it sucks to be an extra.
12. Seven – Brad Pitt Hurts His Arm
It was during this chase scene that Brad Pitt slipped and fell. This picture was taken only seconds before a wet and slippery Brad Pitt took a tumble. It was a minor slip, one that even caused a couple of giggles behind the camera. The director called cut and they went to make sure Brad was fine, but Brad wasn’t laughing. When Brad fell, he landed on his shoulder and it hurt. Though he didn’t break his arm or dislocate his shoulder, he injured it badly; so badly, in fact, that it had to be in a sling for a prolonged period of time. It was so injured that the producers had two choices: either delay filming Brad Pitt’s scenes until his shoulder healed enough to work without a sling, or alter the script that he might work in the sling. That is why Brad Pitt’s character also incurred an injury; the writers changed the script and gave his character a shoulder injury so that he could continue filming with his arm in the sling.
11. Gothika – Robert Downey Jr. Breaks Halle Berry’s Arm
We’re all supposed to fear for Halle Berry‘s character in Gothika when Robert Downey Jr. pins her down; we’re supposed to know he’s robbing her of volition and control. What we didn’t know is that Halle actually had something to fear. When shooting this scene, one that was deemed safe enough to not merit a fight coordinator since all he was doing was pinning her down, Robert Downey Jr. forced Halle Berry down so hard that he broke her arm. When she cried out in pain, he and the crew thought she was just acting, so they kept rolling. There aren’t many safe words in Hollywood besides “cut,” so they rolled until Halle remembered what would free her from his grip. The two still have a great friendship and working relationship, despite the injury, but it put Halle in a cast and delayed filming on the project until her arm healed.
10. The Exorcist – Ellen Burstyn Suffers In Reality
No matter how old it gets, The Exorcist is and will always be a classic horror movie that can scare the wits out of anyone. One of the reasons it is so terrifying is that the young, possessed girl has so many people that truly and genuinely want to help and save her that she torments, including her mother, played by a young Ellen Burstyn. In a particular scene, the demonic child throws her mother against a wall. The stunt was done by a flying rig that pulled Burstyn up into the air and quickly back against the wall. While generally safe, there are always things that can go wrong in stunts, and this was before the age of having stunt doubles for every little stunt. In this particular stunt, Burstyn did everything as she was supposed to, except she arched her back when she was lifted into the air. Likely, it was an uncontrollable, physiological impulse. She hit the wall and suffered an immediate back injury; her grimace of pain in this still is an authentic one.
9. Now You See Me – Isla Fisher Almost Drowns
In the opening moments of Now You See Me, we are introduced to four magicians/illusionists/hypnotists. Isla Fisher plays an escape artist. She shackles herself and is dropped into a tank of water with only sixty seconds to escape before a tank of piranhas is dropped into her tank and she suffers a painful death. In the scene, she tricks the audience into believing something has gone awry and she can’t escape – it’s all a part of the act; in reality, when filming the scene, something did go awry. She tried to communicate that she was unable to undo her chains to the director, but everyone thought it was just part of the scene and that she was just playing up the bit! She was trapped underwater for three minutes before they got her out. She believed she was about to die and she had no way of telling the people that were watching it happen.
8. Back To The Future Part 3 – Marty McFly Almost Hanged
At the end of Back to the Future: Part Three, Marty McFly is hanged from the clock tower. Originally, a rig was setup to keep the rope from ever being around Michael J. Fox‘s neck when filming. It’s against many safety regulations to be so reckless on set and it was needless, anyways. But when the day of filming came, Michael was feeling confident. He offered to the director to actually have the noose tied around his neck. They practiced a couple of times dropping him and having him raise his hand in time to put his fingers under the rope so that it didn’t tighten enough around his neck to actually strangle him. It worked in rehearsals, so they took it to film. Cameras rolled, action was called, Michael was dropped… and he didn’t get his hand up in time. He was suffocating. The director was amazed with the performance – until he realized Michael was turning a remarkable shade of purple and that couldn’t be acted. They hurriedly helped him down and swore never to try that again. With Michael Fox’s permission, of course, they kept the footage in the movie. That’s no makeup; this still is of Michael Fox suffocating as he is actually being hanged on the set.
7. Foxcatcher – Channing Tatum Goes Too Method On The Mirror
Channing Tatum isn’t usually recognized for his quality acting. With roles in movies like G.I. Joe, Magic Mike, and 21 Jump Street, he’s done his share of goofy and shallow. His work in Foxcatcher, however, was unlike anything he’d ever done before. The actor took the role of the United States Olympic wrestler very seriously. In this still, you can see scars on his forehead; these scars are not makeup. In fact, the last time the actor looked in a mirror while in character, he bashed his head into it three times in a fury, walking away with glass shards still sticking out of his forehead. The mirror shattered, and his head went through the wall behind the mirror as well. The level of intensity that Tatum displayed far exceeded all of the director’s expectations for the scene, and he was genuinely concerned for the actor’s safety after the cameras cut.
6. Top Gun – Art Scholl’s Final Take Off
Art Scholl was once known as the best aerobatic stunt pilot for film stunts in Hollywood. Of course, with that knowledge, Top Gun had to have him on staff for some of the flight scenes! Art did a lot of flying for Top Gun and was beloved on set. He would bring his small dog to set and hang with the cast before going up in the air for hours of aerobatics that would then be put into the film under the pretense that it was Tom Cruise or Val Kilmer flying. One day, he went up for some aerobatics with a camera in his plane. He had another plane following him, for safety reasons. His follower watched him dive below the clouds in a stunt and he followed but, by the time the follower dipped below the clouds, Art’s plane was gone. He hadn’t gone back above the clouds, he hadn’t turned around; it was as if he’d vanished into thin air. It’s assumed he crashed in the Pacific, though the plane and his body were never found. This picture of Art was the last taken of him before his plane took off that day.
5. Harry Potter And Deathly Hallows – David Holmes Becomes Paralyzed
Harry Potter was awesome. As the fans of the series grew up, so did the actors and the subject matter of the series. By the last two movies, which were filmed simultaneously, the content had grown very dark; beloved characters were dying left and right, landmarks fans had come to know as home were destroyed, and everyone experienced some form of a loss. No one experienced that loss quite like David Holmes did. Holmes was Daniel Radcliffe‘s stunt man. Throughout the entire film series, whenever Harry Potter was thrown across a room or dove for cover, Radcliffe wasn’t the one doing the work – it was Holmes! Until, that is, this explosion in The Deathly Hallows: Part One, in which Holmes was thrown against a wall just a little too hard in a jerk-throw stunt. He hit the safety mat and didn’t move. He was paralyzed from the waist down, with limited mobility in his arms. This still from the explosion in the movie is when he lost all he’d worked for.
4. The Dark Knight – Heath Ledger’s Joker Journal
Everyone knows Heath Ledger‘s tragic story. The talented method actor was cast in the role of The Joker in the 2008 Christopher Nolan film, The Dark Knight. The actor intended to live up to the high demands of the role, and started his process by keeping a production journal, in which he placed motivations for his character and journaled daily events in character. After his suicide in early 2008, his father was given the production journal that Heath Ledger kept on set. He noted the entries descending into confusing ramblings, and then further into plain madness. By the final pages, incomprehensible notes and scribblings were written over with the words “BYE BYE.” This journal, which was kept as a private outlet for Heath Ledger’s artist process as he took on the role of The Joker, might have warned his coworkers and producers of his weakened grip on reality, had they ever opened it.
3. The Crow – Brandon Lee And The Gun That Killed Him
Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, once had a promising career ahead of him. His most prominent role, and the role everyone believed would be his breakout role, was in The Crow, a graphic novel adapted for the screen. A tragic accident would keep his career from ever beginning. In this scene, abrupt rewrites that occurred the day of the shoot put a prop gun in actor Michael Massee’s hands. In the scene, he would shoot a blank through Brandon’s hand, then two more at his abdomen. He shot the one at his hand with no problems. He shot one more at Brandon’s abdomen; still no problems. Then a last shot, but this one wasn’t a blank. Something had gone horribly wrong and Brandon was shot. He was rushed to the hospital, but was unable to be saved. Michael Massee left the business for a year, despairing an accident he had no control over. The still above was taken a mere sixty seconds before Brandon Lee was fatally shot.
2. Noah’s Ark – Drowning Cast Members
In the 1920s, there were very few regulations surrounding stunts and special effects. Truthfully, there were no special effects; computers didn’t exist. Small things like wimpy pyrotechnics and interesting lighting could be done, but nothing that really convinced the viewers. If producers wanted something to look real, the only option they had was to make it real. Michael Curtiz directed the film, and he wanted the great flood scene to be horrifyingly realistic. So he didn’t tell the extras how the flood would work (how fast the water would come, how long they’d have to tread water, how dangerous it’d be). 600,000 gallons of water poured down onto the extras, horrifying them and setting them into a true panic. Three extras drowned, one man lost his leg, several extras suffered broken limbs, and cast members came down with pneumonia from the horrifying choice. This still shows the panic that set into motion some of the first regulations surrounding the treatment of extras and stunt men on movie sets.
1. The Twilight Zone Movie – Helicopter Crash
A particular sequence in The Twilight Zone: The Movie was based on an episode called “A Quality of Mercy.” The sequence ends in actor Vic Morrow trying to save the lives of two Vietnamese children, played by Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, during the Vietnamese war. Director John Landis broke several regulations in the name of filming this scene at perfection: he hired the child actors without proper permits and documentation, he overworked certain crew members responsible for key elements of the stunts, and he insisted on the helicopter flying particularly and dangerously low and near to the actors. It was doomed for disaster. The cameras rolled, a mortar exploded, the helicopter spun out of control, and the rotors decapitated Morrow and Le, while the crash of the helicopter landed on Chen and crushed her to death. Though director Landis was deemed not guilty and not held accountable for their deaths, the crew present and producer Steven Spielberg believe otherwise to this day.
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