There are artists, props, staff people, stunt performers, and a sometimes-risky series of events behind the magical scenes that we get to see of the movies and television shows.
21st October 2021, Thursday was one such normal day of shooting. But it turned out to be a shocking and unexpected event as Hollywood star Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on the movie set of ‘Rust’ which resulted in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and the injury of director Joel Souza.
Over the years there have been many such severe deaths and injuries on sets while shooting for the movies.
Here are some of the movie sets which experienced breathtaking accidents and deaths:
TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE
Vic Morrow died in the film in July 1982, along with Renee Shinn Chen and My-ca Dinh Lee, two child actors.
In Indian Dunes, California, they were filming a scene in which Morrow and the two children were pursued by a low-flying chopper. The helicopter got out of control after being hit by debris from explosives discharged in a scene depicting the Vietnam War. The chopper landed on the three actors, killing them instantly. Following the disaster, the filmmakers were sued for over a decade, and new safety standards for film sets were implemented.
Brandon Lee, the son of martial-arts legend Bruce Lee, died in March 1993 after being shot with a pistol that was supposed to shoot blank cartridges during the production of “The Crow.”
During the filming of a close-up scene, the head of a .44-caliber bullet became trapped in the gun’s barrel and was released when a blank cartridge was fired. Mr. Lee’s abdomen was penetrated by the bullet, which damaged multiple organs and lodged in his spine. Surprisingly, the cameras continued to shoot, and it wasn’t until the star was back on his feet that the crew noticed something was wrong. After six operating hours, he died in the hospital.
Art Scholl, recognized for his aerial exploits in films like ‘The Right Stuff’, ‘Blue Thunder’ and ‘Iron Eagle’ gave his final performance for Tom Cruise’s military action blockbuster, ‘Top Gun.’
Scholl was unable to maintain altitude while flying his camera plane for an aerial spin stunt sequence, leading the plane plunging into the water. Scholl’s final words were reported to be, “I have a problem. I have a real problem.” The plane was never found, thus no investigations into the crash could be performed. “The film is dedicated to the memory of Art Scholl,” says the end credits of Top Gun.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1
While no one died on the set of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” stunt double David Holmes was left paralyzed in both legs and arms.
According to reports, the stuntman was working on a flying sequence when he collided with a wall and collapsed after a fake explosion. Holmes realized that he couldn’t feel his legs right away, and when he was transported to the hospital, it was discovered that he had broken his neck.
The stunt double for Vin Diesel, Harry O’Connor filmed a high-octane action scene for the 2002 film ‘Xx’ for which he paid a heavy price. According to reports, O’Connor accomplished his parasailing sequence brilliantly in the first take, but things went wrong during the second shot, leading to him striking his head on Prague’s Palacky Bridge. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
His final moments were reported to have been captured on film, and the film was dedicated to his remembrance.
THE DARK KNIGHT
The driver of the car allegedly mismanaged a 90-degree turn while rehearsing a scene that involved leaning out of a car window, resulting in a clash with a tree. Conway Wickliffe, a stuntman, died at the moment after suffering severe head injuries.
The death of Conway was not the only tragedy to strike the sets. It was followed by Heath Ledger (who played The Joker) overdosing on drugs. Morgan Freeman was seriously injured in a vehicle accident, and Christian Bale, who played batman, was accused of assaulting his mother and sister only days before the movie’s premiere. All of these events led to the rumor that the Batman film was cursed.
THE EXPENDABLES 2
A catastrophe occurred on the set of ‘The Expendables 2’, a multi-star action film. Two stuntmen reportedly got too close while filming an action scene involving an explosion, injuring Nuo Sun, and killing Kun Liu.
The producers were eventually sued by Liu’s family. Liu’s parents were granted 195,000 Hong Kong dollars (about $270,000) after a four-year legal struggle, prompting ‘Expendables’ star Jet Li to contribute USD 800,000 to the mourning family.
In 2017, a female stunt driver died tragically on the set of the blockbuster film “Deadpool 2” which starred Ryan Reynolds. Joi Harris died after losing control of her motorcycle while performing a stunt and crashing through a building window in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Ms. Harris, 40, had previously worked as a bike racer before joining the movie’s team as a stunt double for Zazie Beetz. The film’s makers were fined $289,562 for failing to provide a safe working environment. The fatality was determined to be the result of the filmmakers’ poor planning and other safety breaches, rather than the rider’s fault, according to the investigation.
Sarah Jones, a camera operator, died in Georgia in February 2014 on the production of the movie “Midnight Rider”. Ms. Jones was killed while assisting in the preparation of a shot that required laying a bed across a CSX train route.
After two trains passed, the film crew figured they’d have enough time to obtain the shot, which was part of a dream sequence. However, a third train appeared, speeding through the set and killing Ms. Jones as well as wounding others.
Ms. Jones’ family acquired a settlement with 11 defendants in a lawsuit over her death later that year. The terms of the deal were not made public.
Prosecutors charged the film’s director with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing. He pled guilty to both charges. OSHA penalized him $74,900 and sentenced him to two years in prison, but he was released after a year.
RESIDENT EVIL: FINAL CHAPTER
In September 2015, Olivia Jackson, a stuntwoman for Milla Jovovich, was badly wounded during filming a scene for “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” in South Africa. Ms. Jackson collided with a component of camera gear while riding a bike.
Ms. Jackson was nearly killed in the collision, which left her with various injuries including disfigurement, a partially amputated left arm, and multiple nerves pulled out of her spine.
The South African Supreme court decided in favor of Ms. Jackson and against a firm engaged in the film in April 2020.
Another crew member, Ricardo Cornelius, died two months after Ms. Jackson was injured when a Humvee slipped off a spinning platform and smashed him against a wall.
Edited by Anupama Roy