Much has been made of how CGI is changing movies. Many actors have been pressed into scenes without any other actors on set and pushed to often do stuff against a green screen. It’s also led to concern over stunt work, especially given recent fatal accidents on set that makes many believe it can be used more to help out actors. That’s needed as over the years, many an actor has been pressed into doing a scene that they should not have done. In sadly too many cases, it’s an actress pushed into going nude or engaging in a scene of explicit sexual overtones. That’s more troubling with younger actresses who can be too young to do something but still pushed into it. While some are able to resist it and others eager to do it, it’s troubling how a woman is pressed into such things.
But far more dangerous are stunts. Too many actors have pressed into stuff that is so highly dangerous and should have been done by a stuntman. Yet they take part themselves and often pay for it. Some are eager to do it and insist on it, wanting to look real. Other times, it’s the call of the director but the results are poor. Many have suffered for it, humiliation, injury and even stuff far worse. From set snafus to the harsh overtones, from age to injury, these are 20 times actors should not have been allowed to do movie scenes to show how dangerous Hollywood is.
20 George Clooney, Syriana
Rising from just a TV star to one of the most acclaimed actor/directors today, George Clooney loves to defy expectations. He’s done the action game a couple of times from the infamously bad Batman & Robin to Money Monster but prefers to show off more in dramas. So it’s notable that it was a mostly smaller film that nearly caused Clooney severe injury.
For his role as a CIA operative in Syriana, Clooney underwent a scene of being tortured. This got a bit out of hand and he ended up cracking his head. He had to get stitches but after the movie was finished, Clooney continued to get pains and severe headaches. He went for a check-up that revealed the crack was far more serious than it seemed and he was leaking spinal fluid. Clooney may have won the Oscar for the movie but it also counts as one of the more painful experiences an actor could have had for a scene that could have been done by someone else.
19 Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games
One would think that the last thing a director would want to do is to risk the life of your star. That goes double when the star happens to be an Oscar-winning box office starlet. But Jennifer Lawrence has always insisted on getting in deep for her roles and that includes Katniss Everdeen. The Hunger Games made Lawrence a true star and still regarded as one of her best roles ever. That’s because Lawrence threw herself into the part, from learning real archery (despite CGI arrows) to going all out in the stunts.
For a scene of Katniss swimming, she suffered a ruptured eardrum from the cold water and several cuts and bruises. The biggest was for the final film as Katniss was to escape an explosion in a tunnel. However, the smoke was far thicker than anticipated and Lawrence found herself choking and nearly passing out. Luckily, the crew realized she was taking too long to come out and raced in to get her. But risking a mega-star’s life like this for what could have been done by a stuntman was something more brutal than anything in the Games.
18 Linda Hamilton, Terminator 2
This may be a surprise to know about. The first Terminator was a good movie that boosted Arnold Schwarzenegger to stardom and put James Cameron on the map. The sequel was even better with its groundbreaking use of CGI and turning Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor into an action icon. She had a lot of rough stunts and such but nothing prepared her for a severe injury.
One scene has the T-1000 attacking John, Sarah and the Terminator in an elevator with the Terminator firing his shotgun at him. It was an easy scene but Cameron does wish he used a double today. Because they were inside the enclosed space of the elevator, the shotgun blast was far louder than expected and blew out one of Hamilton’s eardrums. To this day, Hamilton has no hearing in that ear yet is able to cope with it. While the film was a hit, rendering an actress half-deaf is hardly something to boast about.
17 Margaret Hamilton, The Wizard Of Oz
Back in the 1930s, stunt work wasn’t a common thing and stunt men only saved for really obviously dangerous stuff. But this should have been a clear sign of how they could be used for other bits. For this classic musical, cast and crew injuries abounded.
Buddy Ebsen was to play the Tin Woodsman but suffered a severe allergic reaction and inhaling vapor from the silver paint landed in the hospital and replaced. Several “flying monkeys” were hurt when a crane fell. But the worst had to be for Margaret Hamilton.
For the scene where the Wicked Witch vanishes in a cloud of smoke and fire, Hamilton was to be dropped fast in a trap door. However, the door got stuck and thus she suffered severe burns (not helped by how the green paint ignited the skin). She spent weeks in the hospital before recovering to finish the movie. Just shows how Oz could be dangerous in more ways than one.
16 Charlize Theron, Aeon Flux + Mad Max: Fury Road
One would think Theron would avoid such action stuff later but for Mad Max: Fury Road, Theron continued the wild stunts. That included nearly being burned and falling under a rampaging car. Most recently, Theron insisted on doing her own stunts for the action film Atomic Blonde and suffered some cracked knuckles and a twisted ankle. She may look hot as hell but Theron is just as strong to handle these scenes.
15 The Cast Of Roar
Buried for years, this film was finally released in 2015 and stunned people with the fact it was ever conceived, let alone filmed. It was the tale of a man who lived in harmony in a house filled with lions and cougars. That harmony was not on set, however, as the cast found themselves surrounded by real animals who were not sedated by any means. It took 11 years to film it mainly due to the fact that 100 members of the cast and crew had been attacked.
Tippi Hedren suffered a fractured hip and broke her right leg after being thrown off an elephant; her daughter, Melanie Griffith, needed 50 stitches after getting mauled; Jan de Bont (then a cameraman), had his head wounded by a savage attack; and numerous cast members were bitten, the worst being assistant director Doron Kaupur, who was bitten in the neck. Even director Noel Marshall wasn’t exempt, cut so many times that he developed gangrene. Everyone involved calls it a nightmare and astounding no one was killed during this to show why modern filmmakers prefer CGI animals.
14 Isla Fisher, Now You See Me
Now You See Me was a surprise hit in 2013, audiences loving the tale of a gang of magicians who sideline as expert thieves. Isla Fisher was good in the role of the token female member, looking very hot and great with her work. The highlight was her opening scene of her character in a tank of water, chained up to escape. It looks like it’s gone wrong with her slamming on the glass and screaming underwater but it turns out to all be okay as it’s part of her escape plan. However, audiences didn’t realize that Fisher wasn’t really acting in this scene. As it happened, while filming, her chains got caught up and she was thus unable to reach the emergency release button for the tank of water. The director assumed her waves and screams were just her getting into the character and didn’t realize it was for real.
Fisher managed to keep her calm, relating that she was driven by how “I am not going to die in a bathing suit.” Luckily, she managed to reach the button to drain the tank. To her credit, she did the scene once more for the movie. However, it’s probably not a surprise Fisher passed on the film’s sequel given her near-death experience here.
13 Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, The Abyss
There is no denying James Cameron is a master when it comes to big-budget sci-fi epics. But Cameron is also notorious for being one of the hardest men to deal with on a set. He openly acknowledges how he can get way too crazy at times and basically giving open apologies to cast and crew when a shoot is finished.
The Abyss is a prime example as Cameron had the crew and actors going hard for 72-hour shoots in an underwater tank. Many divers lost hearing from constantly being underwater while others suffered chlorine poisoning. The worst had to be Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio who had to undergo several takes of a scene where her character drowns and then has to be revived. Having been awake for nearly two straight days, Mastrantonio underwent one take after another of being soaking wet and topless before finally erupting at the director “we are not animals!” The movie is well-regarded today for its groundbreaking CGI but most of the cast still refuses to talk about Cameron today.
12 Isabelle Fuhrman, Orphan
True, the entire point was to see a young girl going dark but that doesn’t make it any less unpleasant to watch. In 2009’s Orphan, a couple adopt a young girl, played by then 11-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman. At first quiet and nice, the girl soon shows a darker side as she attempts to drive the foster mom crazy. When that woman has to check into a hospital, Esther dresses up in a nice dress with makeup and comes to comfort her foster father. She then starts putting the moves on him, even a kiss before he shoves her away. It’s here the movie unleashes its huge twist (SPOILER ALERT): Esther is actually a 33-year-old woman with a genetic condition making her look like a child. She’s also a psychopath who has done this before and after being rejected, kills the family. The scene of her wiping off her makeup and removing false teeth is terrifying as she attacks the couple before killing them. Again, it’s the point of her looking so young but still disturbing seeing a little girl trying to be a seductress.
11 Jaimie Alexander, Thor: The Dark World
The first Thor movie was an important step in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Chris Hemsworth impressing as the God of Thunder. While she didn’t get as much chance to shine as hoped, Jaimie Alexander was still quite good as his warrior friend Sif. However, Alexander nearly got a very bad shot on her own in the sequel.
For a major battle sequence, her character was to leap off a horse to attack some enemies in her full armor. Rather than a stuntwoman, Alexander did it herself but took a bad fall. She cracked a disc in her spine, dislocated her left shoulder and chipped eleven vertebrae. She was rushed to a hospital and had to spend a few weeks laid up. Reportedly, that’s the reason Sif’s role in the sequel was reduced to cover for it and she was back up and running.
So it’s not surprising for her show Blindspot, the producers insist on Alexander using a stunt double (complete with tattoos) rather than risk her in action stuff. She may be a goddess on screen but Alexander is all too human.
10 Maria Schneider, Last Tango In Paris
It’s nearly impossible to forgive this one. After resurrecting his career with The Godfather, Marlon Brando once more had Hollywood at his feet and ready to take any role he could. He chose a dark romance set in Paris directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. Maria Schneider was cast as his love interest and the two were soon put in some very kinky situations that shocked audiences in 1973.
There had been rumors about it for years but it finally came out that Brando and Schneider basically did it on set for real in order to make it look good for cameras. Schneider was uncomfortable but the two men basically bullied her into it. The worst had to be the infamous “butter sequence” as Brando and Bertolucci both agreed to include it without any warning to Schneider. She was horrified, never speaking to either again after the movie and clearly a move that crossed the line of what an actress should be asked to do.
9 Chloe Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass
It’s the role that made her a star but it’s also a role more than a bit troubling to watch. Kick-Ass had Chloe Grave Moretz as Hit Girl, the costumed daughter of an aspiring crime-fighter who’s been taught to be a top level fighter. This led to the breakout scene where Hit Girl slices and dices up a bunch of punks, slicing off limbs while firing off language that would make a sailor blush. The character was actually softened from the original comic which makes no bones on how she’s a total sociopath and insane to boot. But it’s still rather dark to see a little girl going all out for violence and swearing constantly. Moretz would reprise the role for a rough sequel and has gone on for a good career but still one wishes they’d not made a little kid go for a role that most twenty-somethings would see as extreme.
8 Klaus Kinski, Fitzcarraldo
The relationship between Klaus Kinski and director Werner Herzog is one of the most fascinating in movie-making. They worked together for five films and each one was marked by the crew taking bets on which of them was finally going to murder the other. The two were famous for everything from screaming matches to actual fistfights yet continued their odd partnership. The height of this feud had to be Fitzcarraldo, where Kinski played a man building a ship in the Amazon. Herzog shot this on location in the jungles, putting up with harsh weather and building the massive 320-ton ship for real. He then waited until Kinski was on it before sending the ship crashing down a hillside into the river, claiming not warning Kinski would just make it look real. Herzog claims the native tribe used for the film offered to kill Kinski for him and he seriously considered it. Having a guy ready to be murdered takes danger on a set a bit too far.
7 Tom Cruise, Mission Impossible
Many have noted Tom Cruise has a unique mentality. His famous couch-jumping bit on Oprah’s show pushed the idea he was a lunatic. However, with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, people seriously began questioning Cruise’s sanity. For the key scene of the film, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has to climb up the side of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world. Naturally, the studio assumed that they would make a mock-up on a stage and use some CGI to fake it. But Cruise, as a producer, insisted they shoot at the real building. Even then, it was believed it would be a stunt double but Cruise argued it had to be him to make it look good.
The crew was careful building up harnesses with multiple cables and safety gear. They were thus utterly horrified when they came to the floor for shooting only to find Cruise already out there, with a single cable keeping him from an 1800-foot fall to the ground. The final shoot had him with more cables but amazing Cruise risked himself like this. He kept it up, clinging to the side of a plane for the next MI movie and reports of him breaking his foot with a stunt for the latest entry. Say what one will but Cruise still doing this stuff at 55 is something to respect.
6 Tippi Hedren, The Birds
Alfred Hitchcock may be one of the greatest film directors of all time and the master of suspense. But it’s known that he had a rather…uncomfortable relationship with his actresses. In the case of Tippi Hedren, Hitchcock became obsessed with her to the point she had to basically tell him to cut out his advances.
Perhaps that was the reason why, for one of his greatest films, Hitchcock put her through a horrible ordeal. The movie explores birds suddenly going wild to attack people and while much of the sequences were animated, Hitchcock also used real birds on set. For scenes of running in fear, Hedren was shocked when the director had real birds thrown at her face without warning. He claimed it was just to make her reaction look good but it still came off bad, particularly when one clawed at her face and nearly took out an eye. Hedren nearly had a breakdown after the film and she and Hitchcock never got along well afterward with many feeling the great director broke the poor woman badly.
5 Jackie Chan, Armor Of God II
Frankly, half of everything Jackie Chan has done can fall into the category of “why would you let him do this?” The martial arts icon is a legend for doing all his own stunts and many are amazed he’s able to walk. Websites love to show photos of Chan with arrows pointing to the slews of injuries he’s suffered over his career, breaking nearly every limb in his body. The man has fallen off buildings, a hovercraft, even a hot air balloon amid numerous fight scenes. However, his most serious injury was on Armor of God II and it wasn’t even the showcase scene. Instead, it was just a simple bit of Chan’s hero rolling down a hill.
However, a bad bump caused Chan to hit his head on a very sharp rock; he was knocked out cold with severe trauma and mild brain damage. Chan was in a coma for two months before recovering and then going ahead to finish the film. He’s cutting down on the stunts today (he is 63) but still remarkable how this man goes all out for stuff.
4 Kate Winslet & Leonardo DiCaprio, Titanic
Titanic may well be the crowning achievement of James Cameron’s career. A box office smash that set records and won multiple Oscars, it still impresses twenty years later. But the making of the film was a nightmare for those involved with complaints of Cameron nearly a dictator on set. Long hours, impossible shoots and the pressure of the huge production clearly weighed on him to drive Cameron to a breaking point. This was taken out on the actors who had to put up with it all. Stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio were not immune to it, especially for the scenes where their characters handle the ship sinking.
When Winslet is shown gasping in shock entering the water, that’s not acting as Cameron had given no warning the water was just above freezing. That’s not to mention numerous times both actors had to be in or under water, often risking themselves a lot. It turned out okay with the film a hit but it’s no wonder most of the cast were ready to kill Cameron before it became a smash.
3 John Wayne, The Conqueror
For years, the reason John Wayne shouldn’t have taken this role is because of just how horrible it is. Howard Hughes made a big push for an epic to be taken seriously in Hollywood. He chose an epic about Genghis Khan and, for who knows what reason, thought Wayne would be the perfect choice for the lead. Wayne oddly agreed. For bad movie buffs, the sight of the classic cowboy hero in a bad mustache and painted skin mumbling out lines like “you’re beautiful in your wrath” is heaven. The movie was a massive flop although it didn’t hurt Wayne’s standing.
However, what few realized was that to capture the vistas of Mongolia, Hughes had the movie shot in Utah on lands once used for atomic bomb tests. He further brought some of that dirt to the studio for additional shooting, ignoring the possibility of radiation. Over the years, over half the cast and crew of the film ended up dying of cancer, including Wayne himself. Hughes was so guilt-ridden, he bought up every copy of the film to lock away until after his death. Thus, not only was this one of the worst roles of Wayne’s long career, but it also helped hasten his death.
2 Camille Keaton, I Spit On Your Grave
It’s one of the most infamous movies ever made. Openly banned in several countries, it’s been trashed by critics as one of the worst excuses for cinema ever. Yet it retains a cult audience despite its brutal talk. Camille Keaton is Jennifer, a writer taking a break in the woods who is abducted and brutally assaulted by a gang of men. Left for dead, she crawls out of her grave to hunt them down for revenge.
The scenes of the attacks are enough to make one sick to their stomach, the camera lingering on details like Keaton’s face through it all and then her brutal near murder. The movie devotes nearly a full half hour just for those scenes and that’s before we get to the incredibly sick death sequences.
To put her through all this is amazing and one wonders how sick a director is to insist on multiple takes for this. Incredibly, Keaton is set to reprise her role in an upcoming reboot of the franchise which is astounding she wants to return to this world once more.
1 Vic Morrow, Twilight Zone: The Movie
John Landis is a top director, much loved for his work in horror and sci-fi films. But he’s also shadowed by his actions on a movie version of the iconic TV show. An anthology, Landis was doing a sequence where veteran actor Vic Morrow played a bigot trashing everyone he considered inferior. He’s then sent on a journey from being a Jew in Nazi Germany to chased by the Ku Klux Klan and more. The ending was to have him returning to the present with a new outlook on life. But that was changed because of the sequence taking place in Vietnam where Morrow is in the middle of an attack. Landis called for the helicopter used in the sequence to be lowered to make it more thrilling as Morrow and two children extras ran.
The crane holding the helicopter cracked under the weight and fell. The swinging rotors struck Morrow and crushed the two children. The movie was released but edited with Morrow’s character last seen on a train car to a concentration camp. An ugly legal battle ensued with Landis cleared of charges but many still hold him responsible for not using a stuntman in this tragedy.