People often love to glamorize the lives of actors. The really successful ones are able to live pretty fabulous lives, right? Who wouldn’t envy the life of a celebrity? Hollywood actors get to travel to real exotic locations and do things the average person may never do in their lifetime. While they certainly do get perks that the average person doesn’t get, acting is still a job. And like many jobs, any number of things can go terribly wrong. Not just the small things, like someone forgetting their lines. But major incidents like someone getting seriously injured, or possibly even killed while on set. While it’s something that doesn’t seem to happen all the time, it certainly has happened a number of times and it’s always tragic when it does.
You’ve got the more legendary stories of actors dying on set, like Brandon Lee. But there are a lot of others. There are even a number of actors who tragically died during production that you may not know of. But we’re not going to merely focus on the most tragic stories. We’re also going to be taking a look at some actors who almost died on set. The ones who almost bit the dust while on set. Whether they made a silly mistake or it was a stunt gone wrong. Some stars probably have a boatload of close-call stories to share with anyone who would be interested in hearing them.
Here’s a list of actors who died on set, and some who almost died and/or suffered some pretty serious injuries.
16. Close Call – Ed Harris
Ed Harris once went through a pretty harrowing experience while on set. Seriously, this one is pretty messed up. It happened on the set of the James Cameron film The Abyss. There’s a scene in the film where Harris’ character is supposed to be underwater and runs out of oxygen. Plenty of directors will fight to get things right and desperately want to get the most out of their actors. So Cameron thought it would be a good idea to actually have Harris’ oxygen tank low on air. As a result, Ed almost drowned while filming. Luckily, he survived but ended up punching the director for the stunt. All in the name of art. We’re sure you don’t blame him for letting some of his aggression out.
15. Close Call – Michael J. Fox
Actor Michael J. Fox has had a very long and successful career in Hollywood. He is probably best known for his role in the Back to the Future series. During production on the third film, however, Fox nearly faced death. The infamous hanging scene; Marty has a noose wrapped around his neck and Doc ends up saving him. During the 7th take, Fox actually ended up passing out for about 30 seconds. The noose was however tied a little too tight and they had already ditched the box that Fox was standing on previously. It took everybody a minute to realize that he needed help, and thankfully, he was fine.
14. Died – Paul Walker
Actor Paul Walker tragically died during the production of Furious 7. Walker was attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide in Santa Clarita, California. He was on his way home with friend Roger Rodas, who was driving at the time. Somehow Rodas lost control of the vehicle, running right into a street light and then a tree. The car then caught fire as the two were trapped inside. Both of their bodies were horribly burned beyond recognition. Walker was halfway through finishing his scenes in the movie. Director James Wan and the studio talked with the Walker family to figure out how to move forward. They ended up using stunt doubles, CGI and Paul’s brothers to finish the film.
13. Close Call – Jackie Chan
Everyone knows Jackie Chan, born on April 7, 1954. Specifically, we know him for his history with action stunt work and martial arts. We all know he loves to do his own stunts in the movies he’s filming. And to be honest, he’s probably had more than one close call while on set. But there is one incident, in particular, that was pretty bad. While filming the classic movie Police Story, one stunt lead Jackie to crack his seventh and eighth vertebrae, as well as dislocate his pelvis. Some thought that wasn’t even possible. In addition, he burned his hands sliding down a pole while light bulbs exploded around him.
12. Close Call – Martin Sheen
On August 3, 1940, actor Martin Sheen was born. One of his breakout roles was as Army Captain Benjamin L. Willard in Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now. We all know that everybody was off in the jungle during production. Well, apparently, Sheen had himself a pretty frightening moment out there in the Philippines. At the time, he was heavy into drinking. The abuse he was putting onto this body caused him to have a heart attack in the middle of the jungle. He crawled nearly half a mile before he reached any kind of medical attention. Thankfully, he was back on set in only a month. You can imagine the remote locations made the situation all the scarier.
11. Died – Steve Irwin
Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin, also known as The Crocodile Hunter, was everyone’s favorite wildlife expert. He was quite popular in Australia and had a pretty big following in America as well. However, Irwin sadly met his end while filming the documentary Ocean’s Deadliest back on September 4th, 2006.
During a break, he decided to go snorkelling to get some footage for his daughter’s TV show. While doing this, he approached a stingray and Steve’s heart was pierced by its barb. The crew members tried to give him CPR but Irwin ended up bleeding to death. Co-host Philippe Cousteau filmed the rest of the documentary with no mention of Irwin’s absence.
10. Died – John Ritter
Actor John Ritter was born September 17, 1948. As it turns out, he ended up dying just 6 days before his 55th birthday in 2003. But what happened? Well, he was playing the role of Paul Hennessy in 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, or more simply known as 8 Simple Rules. He was having chest pains and was vomiting, so he went to the hospital which was located right across the street from the studio. He was originally diagnosed with a heart attack, but it turns out that was a misdiagnosis. By the time he was diagnosed with an aortic dissection, he had already died during surgery.
9. Close Call – Isla Fisher
One of the worst possible ways for anybody to go out would be to drown. Actress Isla Fisher almost suffered this very fate on the set of Now You See Me. You see, her character in the film is supposed to be an illusionist of sorts. In one particular scene, she is submerged in a tank of water and is supposed to magically break from her chains and escape. Sounds simple enough, but during one take, something went wrong. She was actually drowning. But the crew around her thought she was still acting. Luckily, someone snapped to it and got her out of there before things took a turn for the worst.
8. Close Call – Jason Statham
If you’ve got an intense action movie, odds are Jason Statham is going to be somewhere on set ready to shoot. The man is definitely no stranger to filming some dangerous scenes and set-pieces. And apparently according to Expendables star Sylvester Stallone, Statham saved himself from drowning during production on the third film. Statham was test-driving a three-ton truck, right when the breaks decided to stop working at the worst possible time. The truck went down 60 feet into the Black Sea, but Statham quickly swam to the surface. Stallone says he’s an Olympic-quality diver, so that’s definitely a good thing and allowed him to land on the surviving side of this list.
7. Close Call – Charlize Theron
Actress Charlize Theron has had a pretty successful career in the film industry thus far. She has been in a number of small dramas, as well as the big summer blockbusters. For one of her films, Æon Flux, the actress suffered a pretty bad fall while doing a stunt. Meaning, she fell and landed on her neck. This caused all of the production to shut down for about two months. While in the hospital, the doctors were not sure if Theron was ever going to regain full mobility of her body. But thankfully, she did and wound up finishing the film, which didn’t really get great reviews, but at least it didn’t lead to her death.
6. Died – Bruce Lee
As it is, both Bruce and Brandon Lee appear on this list. As we all know, Bruce had a pretty successful career in Hollywood starring in martial arts films. He was directing, writing, producing, and starring in the film Enter the Dragon when he died. In post-production during a dub session, Lee collapsed onto the floor. He was diagnosed with a cerebral edema and luckily, the doctors were able to reduce the swelling. However, a month later, he took a nap and never woke up again. As a result, director Robert Clouse had to take over directing duties for the film.
5. Died – Brandon Lee
This is probably the most infamous on-set death. Actor and martial artist Brandon Lee is the son of the legendary Bruce Lee. He was following in the footsteps of his father, working in Hollywood as an actor. But his life came to an abrupt end while filming the 1994 classic The Crow. Actor Michael Massee’s character was supposed to fire a gun at Lee’s character in the scene. But somehow the gun was loaded with a real bullet instead of dummy cartridges. Massee shot Lee in the abdomen. He was then immediately rushed to a hospital but died. In order to finish the film, the studio used Lee’s stunt double and the usage of CGI to superimpose Lee’s face.
4. Close Call – Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis has to be one of the greatest living actors on the planet. In terms of sheer talent, it’s between him and Meryl Streep for the greatest of all time. He’s known for being super method when it comes to his roles in films. This is important to remember when looking back at his role in Gangs of New York. While on set, he refused to wear clothing that didn’t fit the era of 1863. It may have helped him get in the spirit of the character, but this caused him to contract pneumonia. He was trying to act his way through it while refusing to take any kind of medication. However, he was told he would die if he didn’t, so he finally gave in.
3. Died – Vic Morrow
Actor Vic Morrow was born on February 14, 1929. He was originally studying pre-law at Florida State after leaving the Navy. While studying, he took part in a school play and realized he loved acting. He had roles in movies and TV shows, like Combat!, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Treasure of Matecumbe. However, it was while filming Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1982 that he lost his life. He was killed on set, tragically along with two child actors, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Chen. He was horrifically decapitated by a helicopter tail when it then crashed. It was one of the most horrific accidents to ever occur on a movie set.
2. Died – Chris Farley
I bet you didn’t know that Chris Farley was originally cast as Shrek for the first animated film. We all know that actor Mike Myers had and finished the role, but Farley did have first dibs. But it was his drug addiction that ended up getting the best of him. Farley had already completed nearly 80% of his voice work for the film at this point. So there was still more work to be done. But in December of 1997, was found dead in his apartment after overdosing on cocaine and morphine. Myers then came in and insisted that they rewrite the entire script so we’ll never know how different the version that Farley was at the helm for was.
1. Died – Redd Foxx
One of the oldest but most respected actors on our list is Redd Foxx, born December 9, 1922. He originally started out doing stand-up comedy with the “Chitlin’ Circuit” during the ’40s and ’50s. Foxx truly rose to fame when he landed his own series in 1972 called Sanford and Son. The series ran for 6 seasons and 138 episodes. Everybody remembers Foxx as Fred Sandford. But it was while filming the television series The Royal Family in 1991 that Foxx had a heart attack on set and died. What’s ironic is that he had become famous for pretending to have a heart attack and calling out to his television wife, Elizabeth, on Sanford and Son.
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