10 Actors Who Were Seriously Injured During Filming
They say that true artists suffer for their craft, but perhaps no artists have suffered quite like Hollywood's actors and actresses.
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Movie sets can be very dangerous places, and oftentimes, it's the actors who are right at the center of the stunts and pyrotechnics. Even something as simple as warming up between takes, or standing perfectly still on a hilltop, can go horribly, disastrously wrong (see: Channing Tatum and Jim Caviezel, below), leaving the movie's star with a crippling (and sometimes permanent) injury.
Whether it was because they elected to give their stunt performer the day off, or simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, here's 10 actors who suffered serious on-set accidents:
When filming the climatic fight scene between Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago in "Rocky IV," Sylvester Stallone instructed Swedish actor Dolph Lundgren to actually try to knock him out. Lundgren obliged, and hit Stallone so hard in the chest that Stallone's pericardial sac became swollen and started pressing against his heart. Sensing that something was seriously wrong, Stallone went to a local hospital only to be put on an emergency flight to St. John's in Santa Monica where he remained in intensive care for nine days. Oddly enough, his insurer, Lloyd's of London, initially refused to pay his medical bills since an injury of that type is usually indicative of a head-on car accident, and not a boxing match. (They eventually paid up after watching the fight footage).
As a result of performing his own stunts, Jackie Chan almost always gets hurt while filming. By his own account, however, his worst injury ("the one that almost killed me," he writes in his book), was sustained on the set of the 1986 film "Armour of God." During one particular scene, Chan was supposed to jump from a castle wall and land in a nearby tree, and performed the stunt quite easily on the first try. When Chan attempted a second take, he missed his target and fell 25 feet to the ground, landing head-first on a rock. His skull was fractured, a piece of bone shot up into his brain, and blood started leaking from his ear. Chan was then rushed to a hospital for emergency brain surgery, and to this day, he wears a plastic plug over a hole in his skull "to keep [his] brains in."
Ten days after shooting began on "Aeon Flux," Charlize Theron performed a backflip and landed on her neck. As a result, she suffered a herniated disc and production was shut down for eight weeks. Theron's doctors believed she might be suffer limited mobility as a result, but fortunately, the actress recovered. "That injury scared me — I was almost paralyzed," she told Total Film magazine. Theron also cites this incident as the reason she no longer performs her own stunts: "I've definitely come to a place in my career where I would be the first to say, without feeling guilty or not bad-ass enough, 'You know what? I don't need to do this.'"
During the filming of "Thor: The Dark World," actress Jaimie Alexander suffered a laundry list of painful injuries after falling down a set of stairs. “It was raining, it was dark outside, it was like 5 in the morning — and I went down a metal staircase and slipped, and [I] slipped a disc in my thoracic spine and chipped 11 of my vertebrae,” she told Page Six in 2012. In addition, Alexander tore a rhomboid muscle in her back and dislocated her left shoulder. "It took me out of filming for a month," she added.
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In 2009, Channing Tatum was in Scotland filming a scene for "The Eagle" in which his character wades through cold, icy water. In order to warm up between takes, a crew member was instructed to mix boiling water and river water, and pour it into the actor's wetsuit. When filming wrapped for the day, Tatum indulged in one last splash of warm water, but the crew member forgot to dilude the kettle with cold water and severely scalded the actor's privates. To make matters worse, his wetsuit kept the boiling water against his skin, which burned partially off. Tatum was rushed to the nearest hospital (an hour away) where doctors administered morphine and bandaged him up.
Jim Caviezel was struck by lighting while filming the Sermon on the Mount sequence for "The Passion of the Christ." "I knew it was going to hit me about four seconds before it happened," he told the Christian Broadcasting Network in 2004. "I thought, 'I'm going to get hit.' And when it happened, I saw the extras grab the ground … What they saw was fire coming out the right and left side of my head." Miraculously, Caviezel walked away without major injuries. However, he wasn't so lucky during the rest of the production, and reportedly suffered a separated shoulder, hypothermia, pneumonia, as well as lung and skin infections.
In the 2003 film "Gothika," Halle Berry played a psychologist who finds herself trapped in a sanitarium. One scene required her to struggle against a doctor — played by Robery Downey Jr. — who was trying pin her to a cot, but she resisted his grip so forcefully that she actually broke her ulna. "I knew that it was broken instantly and Robert knew it, too, because he heard the [ulna] snap," she stated in a 2003 interview. Berry returned to the set after just three weeks, and finished filming while she continued to recover.
While making "Syriana" in 2005, George Clooney hurt his spine so severely that he began expelling spinal fluid from his nose. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2011, he explained that the injury caused migraines so severe that he even began contemplating suicide. "I was lying in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm, unable to move, having these headaches where it feels like you're having a stroke, and for a short three-week period, I started to think, 'I may have to do something drastic about this,' he said. Subsequent surgery helped to relieve his pain, though at the time of Rolling Stone's 2011 interview, Clooney still reportedly suffered from occasional, less severe headaches.
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For a particular scene in "The Exorcist," director William Friedkin instructed a stuntman to violently yank Ellen Burstyn around the set on a wire. "I said [to] 'Billy [Friedkin], he's pulling me too hard, I can get hurt,'" remembered Burstyn in the BBC documentary "The Fear of God: 25 Years of 'The Exorcist.'" When Friedkin told her he wanted the action to look real, she again expressed fear for her safety. "And the stuntman was standing there, listening to this, and Billy said to him, 'OK, don't pull her so hard.'" Unbeknownst to Burstyn, however, Friedkin went behind her back and instructed the stuntman to "give it to her," and in the next take, Burstyn was pulled so hard that she flew across the room and landed hard on her coccyx. "I screamed in horrendous pain … I was so furious," she said of her reaction, which appears in the finished film. Burstyn only grew angrier when she realized Friedkin didn't bother to cut, instead choosing to let the camera linger on her wincing face. "I couldn't stand that he was willing to just get a quick shot of it before they called the ambulance."
Margaret Hamilton, who portrayed the Wicked Witch of the West in 1939's "The Wizard of Oz," suffered severe burns when a pyrotechnics stunt went wrong. In order to stage the Wicked Witch's magical exit from Munchkinland, smoke was supposed to obscure Hamilton as she dropped through a trap door, immediately followed by jets of fire once she was safely out of harm's way. On the second take (the first one went well), the trap door failed to open in time, and Hamilton's face and hands were badly burned when the fiery jets activated. Hamilton took a break from filming for six weeks to recuperate, and when she returned, she refused to film any scenes involving fire. She also wore green gloves (as opposed to green makeup) for the remainder of filming, as the skin on her right hand had not yet healed.