Those in the acting profession put their bodies through a hell of a lot, some more than others. You look at these famous individuals and the amazing scenes in their movies, and the mind gets whirring; how the hell did they manage to pull that off? Watch guys such as Sylvester Stallone and Jackie Chan, and you can’t help but watch some of those scenes, mouth agape in wonderment. Sure, in today’s days and age, special effects are used, and stunt doubles often do the death-defying stunts, but that’s certainly not always the case. On some occasions, actors and actresses are required to put their bodies on the line for the sake of their films, for the sake of realism. For some, the prospect of being faced with shooting such scenes is an exhilarating experience. Adrenaline coursing through their veins, they get the scene done. But sometimes, things go horribly wrong, and they almost succumb to death. But it doesn’t always have to be a dangerous shoot that almost costs a life.
As you’ll read as you go through this article, it could be something pretty innocuous, just something on set that went horribly wrong. Whatever their near-death experiences may be, these actors and actresses are lucky to be alive, are lucky to still be involved in the film industry today. I’m going to touch upon some of these moments on set that almost cost a life. But I’ve also included acting stars that have suffered freak accidents away from the film sets, incidences that have had nothing to do with the movies they’re shooting. After going through such ordeals, these 15 would’ve certainly been left thanking their lucky stars that they’re still around, alive and kicking. Here are 15 acting stars we all know and love that have narrowly escaped death.
15 George Clooney – Suicidal Thoughts
This is a seriously tragic incident, something that may cause you George Clooney fans to shed a tear or two. George Clooney once ended up in so much pain as a result of an accident on set, that he contemplated ending it all, committing suicide.
Clooney was filming a torture scene for his movie, Syriana. He was tied to a chair but fell over and cracked his head. It was an agonizing injury that left Clooney riddled with migraines, and he even suffered from bouts of memory loss. This lasted for around a year, and doctors had no clue what it was. Then, finally, his friend, Friends star Lisa Kudrow introduced him to her brother who’s a neurologist. He was able to identify what was causing Clooney’s incessant paint. When he smacked his head, he’d torn the outermost layer of the brain and spinal cord. Several operations later, and he was a whole lot better, although, to this day, he still suffers from occasional headaches as a result of the injury. When on the mend, Clooney revealed that he turned to alcohol to help mask the pain and even contemplated suicide. We can thank Lisa Kudrow for Clooney still being around today.
14 Diane Kruger – Strangled By Her Director
Legendary writer and director Quentin Tarantino probably isn’t someone who’s on Diane Kruger’s Christmas card list. When she signed up to star in Tarantino’s war epic, Inglourious Basterds, Diane probably didn’t anticipate almost dying on set, more so at the hands – literally – of her experienced director. But Tarantino’s a guy who wants things to be as realistic as possible, and he wasn’t going to settle for a subpar performance, especially if he thought he could do better. So, for one scene, he cast aside his actor who was supposed to be choking the life out of Diane’s character and decided to do the choking himself. That close up of those hands wrapping around Diane’s neck, they were Tarantino’s. Diane, and everyone else, was fine with it – not they’d have had a say in the matter or would’ve been able to overturn Tarantino’s decision – and so the scene commenced. But Tarantino got way too carried away with the scene, with his own performance, and he forgot to yell cut. The long and short of it is that he almost choked his actress to death. Diane actually lost consciousness as a result of being asphyxiated by Tarantino. A moment longer, and she could've lost her life.
13 Orlando Bloom – Stupidity Almost Cost Him His Life
English actor, Orlando Bloom, best known for his portrayal of Legolas in the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, almost didn’t make it to that point in his career where he achieved superstar status. He almost didn’t make it as an actor at all, because his life was nearly cut short by what was -- let’s face it -- a pretty idiotic incident on his part. When Orlando was an immature young man at the age of 21, he nearly fell to his death. He was messing around with his buddies, trying to climb a rooftop terrace by scaling a drain pipe when the pipe broke, sending him hurtling down three stories. He landed smack on his back and ended up breaking several vertebrae. Doctors said he was mightily fortunate to have survived. Even in the days that followed, it was touch and go as to whether he’d make it. He ended up being paralyzed, had several surgeries, and underwent 18 months of rehab before he could continue on his fledgling acting journey.
12 Rachel Bilson – Did Actually Die
For this entry, it’d be more apt to say that Rachel Bilson escaped permanent death. That’s because doctors did actually say she died when she was pulled from the wreckage of a car accident.
Rachel Bilson, best known for starring in the series The O.C. had a serious accident when she was 14 years old. She was in a car with her buddies, cruising down California's beach road the Pacific Coast Highway, when the car they were traveling in met full on with another vehicle. The car was all smashed up, and the window smashed, and apparently, the glass cut into her head. During that incident, Rachel did essentially die but had some fight within her and came back to life. That scar above her right eye serves as a stark reminder of how she just about escaped death. Rachel also still has to contend with migraines and suffers memory loss because of her brush with death those many years ago.
11 50 Cent – Miraculous Survival
It’s amazing to think that 50 Cent is still among us today. Now, he’s on the straight and narrow, earns his corn through legitimate business ventures, and is becoming an established name in the acting industry. He still releases the odd rap single, but you’ve got to say his gangster rap days are well and truly behind him. He’s left that whole lifestyle behind him because it very nearly resulted in his death. There were the feuds he had to contend with, which is part and parcel of the whole rap game, but even before he’d made it as a rapper, he had to deal with pissed off drug dealers and other lowly characters. In April 2000, he was jumped and shot nine times at close range in front of his grandmother’s house. The assailant shot him in his hand, arm, hip, both legs, chest and left cheek, and miraculously, he lived to tell the tale, which he did in his debut film, Get Rich or Die Tryin'.
10 Jet Li – Tsunami Nearly Swept Him Away
Jet Li’s a guy who’s renowned for his martial arts, his stunts, and over the years, on movie sets, because of what he puts his body through. He's ended up in strife quite a few times. But it wasn’t a stunt that almost claimed his life in 2004. It was a natural disaster of epic proportions, one that claimed the lives of a quarter of a million people. Jet Li and his family almost lost their lives at the time of the 2004 Indian Ocean Boxing Day Tsunami. The country worst affected was Indonesia, but there were 12 others that got hit, including the country Li was vacationing in with his family, the Maldives. The giant waves struck so quickly that he thought he’d be swept away. When he saw the waves, he grabbed his kids and the nanny and tried to get them to safety. But in an instant, the water was up to his waist. Everything was getting destroyed around him, but he kept moving. The water level rose to his face, and he was on the verge of being swept away, but they just about made it to their hotel, where they sat and prepared for the worst. They survived, and Li, knowing what everyone had gone through, the devastation the tsunami had caused, set up a relief fund and put in a lot of his own money to help the areas and the survivors affected.
9 Arnold Schwarzenegger – Nearly Killed By Horse On True Lies Set
Global superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger is another guy who’s regularly had brushes with death. His movies are explosive, and because of what he’s put his body through over the years, there’ve been numerous health concerns. But there’s one incident that occurred on a movie set that he remembers vividly. It was 1994, and he was on the sets of his movie True Lies. Those of you who are Schwarzenegger fans and movie aficionados can probably recall that horse scene from that movie. When they were filming it, they had to get a horse to stop at the edge of a building, and so, had to build a ramp of some sort. As they were constructing the ramp and filming it all, the camera dropped and smacked onto the horse’s nose. Understandably the horse didn’t take too kindly to being smacked on the nose and just went crazy. Arnold, by the way, was on the horse as it was rearing up and going wild. First of all, Arnold was almost trampled to death, and secondly, he escaped falling to death. Because the horse was rearing up, it almost took itself and Arnie off of the building, which would have resulted in them falling 90 feet and splatting down onto the cement floor. Luckily a quick-thinking member of the crew managed to get Arnie off the horse and drag him to safety.
8 Meryl Streep – Nearly Plunged To An Icy Death
Meryl Streep’s undoubtedly one of the finest actresses of her generation. But look back through her body of work, and it’s hard to recall any movies in which she’s ended up in a dicey situation. She’s not a stunt woman and hasn’t done the whole jumping off buildings thing or anything like that, which would've incidentally been a hilarious image! But it was on the sets of The River Wild that she almost lost her life. Meryl and her fellow actors were filming a scene out in the open on some icy water rapids. The waves suddenly got too choppy, and not being experts at navigating through such treacherous conditions anyway, they couldn’t control the rubber dinghy they were in, and it capsized. The water was seriously icy cold, and Meryl just couldn't get out of it. If she had been in that water for a couple more minutes, that would’ve been it. Luckily for her, Kevin Bacon came to her rescue and fished her out of the water to safety.
7 Drew Barrymore – Not A Blaze Of Glory
I reckon the majority of people find it inconceivable that someone could remain sound asleep when there’s a raging fire going on a matter of meters away. But you wouldn’t really know unless you’ve been through it yourself. There have been numerous incidences over the years of people dying because they slept and weren’t able to get out of their burning houses when they awoke. That almost happened to Drew Barrymore and to Canadian comedian Tom Green, who was her fiancé at the time, by the way, and was sound asleep by her side. In 2001, their house was beginning to burn down around them. They would’ve slept through it or awoken when it was too late if it wasn’t for their dog who was howling and scratching at their bedroom door. They awoke to discover that most of their house had already been engulfed in flames. The two of them and their dog managed to escape unharmed, but by the time the 50 firefighters on the scene tackled the blaze, their mansion had been burnt to a crisp.
6 Ryan Reynolds – A Perilous Skydiving Incident
Here’s an interesting fact: Ryan Reynolds is afraid of flying, of taking to the air in any mode of transport – he hates it. You might find that a tad odd, seeing as how he’s a global superstar and how jet setting around the world for movies, media appearances, and red carpet events is part and parcel of that whole lifestyle. He just grins and bears it, but he truly does hate it. This hatred, this fear, stems from when he was a teenager. At the age of 17, he went through a terrifying skydiving ordeal which left him traumatized, and, in fact, nearly left him dead. He was plummeting to the ground when he was faced with every skydiver’s worst nightmare – his primary parachute wouldn’t open. He was tugging at it, but the parachute failed to launch. Panic set in, as it does when you’re hurtling to the ground, about to meet a grizzly end, and he kept pulling at the cord, but it just didn’t work. Being so panic-stricken, he forgot about the reserve shoot. When he did eventually remember, he just couldn’t muster up the courage to pull it, thinking about the worst possible scenario that the reserve shoot would also fail. He was scared that that too would malfunction, and he was physically unable to pull the cord. After composing himself, which was mightily hard to do in that situation, he managed to pull the cord and was able to let out a sigh of relief when his feet touched solid ground. That experience traumatized him and understandably so. But when his instructor died a short while later as a result of another accident, it put him off of any form of flying for life.
5 Charlize Theron – A Horrible Backflip
Charlize Theron is regarded to be one of the hottest actresses in the industry. But we very nearly lost the South African beauty due to a horrible stunt that went terribly wrong. Around a decade ago, when Charlize was in her prime, she was cast in the science fiction spy film Æon Flux. It was a pretty weird movie for a number of reasons, and it’s fair to say that most of those who flocked to the cinemas did so just so they could ogle at Charlize and see the brunette bombshell – as she was in that film – in all her glory. But not a lot of people had an inkling as to what she went through to make that film just to complete the filming. In one of the many action sequences in that movie, Charlize was required to do a backflip. She’d obviously practiced, but when it really mattered, it went disastrously wrong. She landed on her neck, which snapped, and because of it, almost died. If she hadn’t have been rushed to the hospital in time, that would’ve been it. It took her months to recover but took her a whole lot longer to recover from the mental scars such an ordeal inevitably left.
4 Isla Fisher – Now You See Me, Now You Don’t
I don’t want to rank the worst ways to die, but drowning has got to be right up there. It’d be even worse if you’re not alone, if everyone can see you struggling, drowning, and no one does anything about it. That’s exactly what Isla Fisher went through on the set of Now You See Me. For those of you who haven’t seen that movie – first of all, what the hell?! – it’s essentially about a team of illusionists who steal money by tricking the authorities. Isla, being the ultimate professional that she is, wanted to do everything she could to pull off her role with realism. There was a scene in which she portrayed an escapist, and so that meant putting herself into the escapist’s shoes– and chains. She was chained up and locked in a water tank, which was all well and good, except that not enough of those around her knew she was practicing. They thought it was an actual shoot, and so, when she fell into some strife and began struggling and writhing in the tank, they just passed it off as terrific acting. Eventually, people began to clock that Isla was in serious trouble and got her out of the tank. It must've been horrific, being so close to drowning with everyone watching and actually applauding and smiling because they think you’re pulling off a great scene.
3 Sylvester Stallone – Things Got Real In Rocky IV
Sylvester Stallone’s another guy on this list who’s put his body on the line time and time again over the years. He’s an action star alright, renowned for being that big, tough, macho guy, and most of his movies involve some sort of blood-and-guts type scenes. Among Sly’s filmography, the movies that have brought him the most success have got to be the Rocky movies. Pretty much every one of those movies did well at the box office, but one that really took off was Rocky IV. It’s the movie in which Dolph Lundgren made an appearance as Ivan Drago, the Russian steroid-infused fighter who mercilessly pummelled Apollo Creed to death. Dolph was – and still is – a physical specimen alright. So, asking him to try and knock him out probably wasn’t a good idea on Sly’s part. Sly had just watched an epic boxing fight, and so, during his fight scene with Dolph, he told him that for the first 45 seconds, he should actually try and knock him out. Dolph happily obliged, punching Sly's chest so hard that his heart bounced against his ribs, and it began to swell up. No, really, that’s exactly what happened. When he was rushed to hospital later that day, doctors said it was as if he’d been in a car crash. Sly almost died at the fists of Dolph and ended up having a stay in intensive care.
2 Leonardo DiCaprio – Almost Eaten By A Great White
Leonardo’s probably one of the biggest stars in the world right now – and not just now; he has been ever since Titanic hit our screens. He can thank his lucky stars that he’s been around to add to his filmography because he’s almost died, not just once, but he’s escaped death on a few occasions. One was a skydiving incident; reading this article will probably eradicate the notion of taking a skydive from your minds! Both of his chutes were knotted up, wouldn’t pull, and they had to be unraveled in mid-air. But I’m going to touch upon an incident that occurred in 2014. He was in South Africa when he was almost eaten by a shark while diving. He went down in a protective cage, but the thing about these cages is that they leave part of the top open. They then enticed the shark with tuna, but a wave came and flipped the tuna to the top of the cage. The shark arrived and went for it and managed to get half its body in the cage. It began snapping away with Leo bent down, cowering at the bottom. Apparently, it was the first time anything of that sort had happened in 30 years. It was “insane,” as Leo put it.
1 Jackie Chan – Straightforward Stunt Goes Terribly Wrong
If there’s anyone who’s got nine lives on this list, it’d have to be Jackie Chan. The guy doesn’t really need any introduction; let’s just say that he’s a movie and martial arts legend. Being schooled in martial arts, he does most of his death-defying stunts himself. He’s consequently suffered a ton of injuries over the years and has narrowly escaped the clutches of death several times. But I’m going to touch upon one incident that happened when he was filming Armour of God. They were filming in Yugoslavia, and there was a stunt where he had to jump from a castle wall onto a tree. It sounds pretty dangerous, but for Jackie, it should've been a piece of cake. But it went horribly wrong. Jackie missed the branch of the tree he was meant to land on and went hurtling to the ground. He smashed his head, his skull cracked, and a piece of it got lodged in his brain. It sounds horrific just describing it. He had brain surgery, and after months of recovery, he was back to making films and wowing audiences.