Thrilling cinematography and seamless special effects have come such a long way in the modern movie industry that it’s easy to forget there’s actually still a fair amount of danger that goes along with making all that Hollywood magic happen. Here’s a look at a few times when it all went wrong and stars were seriously injured on set. Watch our video above or read on below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more awesome list videos!
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Michael J. Fox
During the filming of Back to the Future Part III, Michael J. Fox performed his own stunt during a scene in which Marty McFly is hanged by Mad Dog Tannen and his posse. While Fox would generally protect his throat with his hands during rehearsals, they didn’t seem to help during actual filming, and Fox was asphyxiated and lost consciousness during the scene. That is, until the crew realized that he wasn’t just a good actor—he really couldn’t breathe.
While magicians are known for death-defying escapes, Fisher’s lack of magical powers almost got her killed during the filming of Now You See Me. During a scene in which she was supposed to escape from chains while completely submerged in water, Fisher legitimately became tangled and nearly drowned, unable to reach a safety button in the tank. Signaling her distress to the film crew didn’t do much to save her, as they just thought she was still in character. Fortunately, she managed to free herself after without any crew intervention.
While filming a torture scene for Syriana in 2005, George Clooney was severely hurt when he sustained a head injury. While he knew he was in pain, doctors were unable to diagnose the exact nature of his injury for many weeks. It wasn’t until Lisa Kudrow’s brother, a neurologist, discovered that Clooney was actually leaking spinal fluid that he received proper treatment. Reportedly, the pain was so intense that Clooney contemplated suicide—which is pretty much how Batman & Robin made everyone else feel.
Aeon Flux never made much sense as a surrealist cartoon—and it made even less as a box office flop, failing to earn back its reported budget by a $10 million margin. Even worse, one of the film’s acrobatic stunts seriously injured star Charlize Theron: early in filming, while performing a backflip, Theron herniated a disc in her spine, nearly damaging her spinal cord. Theron’s mishap halted filming for a month, and required six weeks of physical therapy.
One of the most accident-prone actresses in Hollywood, Berry has been injured multiple times while filming. She broke an arm during Gothika, hit her head on a lighting rig during Catwoman, broke and re-injured her foot during Cloud Atlas, and smashed her head on the floor during The Call. Most embarrassingly, Berry had her closest brush with death while filming Die Another Day…when she choked on a fig during a sex scene with Pierce Brosnan. That’s not a euphemism.
Mortensen was definitely the most injured actor during the filming of The Two Towers. While Orlando Bloom cracked a delicate Elven rib, Viggo chipped a tooth during an intense battle and broke a couple of toes after kicking a helmet. Most seriously, however, while filming a water scene, Mortensen was swept away in a current…and almost drowned.
Tom Hanks nearly died while filming Cast Away, a film that was already notoriously hard on his body in a number of ways. After gaining and losing 50 pounds in order to accurately portray a marooned Fed Ex delivery man, Hanks suffered a cut on his leg that reportedly swelled for two weeks. When he finally went to a hospital, he was diagnosed with a life-threatening staph infection. Thanks for nothing, Wilson.
Being an action hero can be difficult and dangerous work—just ask Sylvester Stallone. Sly required surgeries after filming two of The Expendables movies, and broke multiple ribs during a jumping stunt as Rambo in First Blood. Most seriously, Stallone insisted on actually sparring with Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV, and Lundgren hit him so hard that his heart swelled, resulting in a hospital stay (and an actual IV).