Lightning strikes, decapitations, shootings, radiation poisoning, hurricanes and people being crushed under falling debris. All things that you would watch without batting an eyelid in a Hollywood blockbuster.
What you may not know is that this is a gruesome list of events that have happened in real life to people involved in the production of some very well-known films.
The Twilight Zone
During the filming of this Spielberg classic from 1983, actor Vic Morrow and two child actors Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen died in an accident involving a helicopter being used on the set. The helicopter was flying too low to avoid the pyrotechnics used during one scene. The tail rotor became damaged causing the chopper to plummet with the blades decapitating Morrow and Le in the process. Chen, who was only 6 years old, was crushed to death as the helicopter crashed.
The Conqueror is a 1956 film starring John Wayne portraying Genghis Khan. You would be forgiven for not recognising the title as it is better known for the health controversy that surrounds it. There were over 200 people working on this big budget, epic film and from them 91 subsequently contracted cancer and by the 1980s 46 had succumbed to the disease including John Wayne himself and the director Dick Powell. The cause has been attributed to radioactive fallout from military atom bomb tests in nearby Nevada.
This controversy was not helped by the fact the film was not the success that the producer, Howard Hughes had hoped. He deemed the movie to be so bad that he spent $12 million buying every available copy so that no one could see it.
The Passion of Christ
This high budget, controversial epic by Mel Gibson grabbed headlines around the world for all manner of reasons. One incident occurred whilst filming a scene in Rome. The lead actor Jim Caviezel and assistant director Jan Michelini were both struck by lightning. The film’s producer said of the incident, “I was about a hundred yards away when there was a flash. I looked over to see what looked like smoke coming from Caviezels ears”. Both men escaped without major injury.
The film The Crow is more remembered for the tragic accident that killed Bruce Lees son Brandon Lee. He was inadvertently shot in the stomach after a real bullet had become lodged in the barrel of a gun that was loaded with blanks.
What people don’t realise is that despite being the most high profile this tragic accident wasn’t the only incident to happen on set. On the first day of filming a carpenter working on set nearly died when coming into contact with live high voltage power lines. Shortly after this another worker was injured when a screwdriver was accidentally driven through his own hand, a stuntman fell through the roof whilst filming and was severely injured then heavy storms destroyed some of the elaborate sets causing long delays. It is fair to say that this film was plagued with bad luck from the start.
The Return of the Musketeers
Roy Kinnear was a well-recognised actor from the UK who had landed a part in the 1980s adaptations of the Musketeers. During the Roy fell from a horse in Toledo, Spain, sustaining a broken pelvis. He was taken to hospital in Madrid but sadly died from a heart attack the following day. Repercussions were felt thorough out the industry and as a result the film's director, Richard Lester, quit the film making business.
This science fiction all action thriller starring Samuel Jackson is known for having received poor reviews from movie critics. Not only were the reviews bad but the makers came under fierce criticism for allowing the filming to continue to be made despite an accident happening on set which resulted in the death of a set designer. David Ritchie was crushed by falling debris tearing down an exterior set.
Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom team up in this 2004 movie. Which such big stars you would think health and safety would be at its most stringent. Not so as ironically, during the filming Brad Pitt who played Achilles actually tore his left achilles tendon. This wasn’t the only incident to happen during the production. A much worst accident occurred when a gentleman by the name of George Camilleri broke his leg while filming an action sequence. He was operated on the following day but suffered complications and tragically died 2 weeks later. In addition to that two hurricanes in less than a month hit the area severely delaying production. Despite all this the movie kept going and was finally a success at the box office.