When a stunt turns into disaster
We all love those big summer blockbuster type action/adventure movies, with each of us squealing in delight at all the big explosions and death defying stunts taking place on screen. The action is fast-paced and thrilling, but we all know that the actors were never in any danger during the filming of those stunts(why people love watching adventure movies). We assume that they were all tucked up in their trailers sipping some expensive beverage while an underpaid stuntman put life and limb in danger to create that perfect shot. That’s a not always the case, though, with some actors willing to do the big stunts, with disastrous outcomes sometimes the result.
Of today’s big name stars, Tom Cruise is probably the most recognizable of those that chooses to do the majority of his own stunts. When you see Cruise hanging from a rock face or running down a glass building in the Mission Impossible movies, you are actually seeing him do those feats, not a stunt double. It’s easy to imagine that the actors that want to do their own stunts are seeking a sense of adventure as opposed to just making the movie more authentic. Perhaps they have grown tired of the cushy Hollywood lifestyle and just want a little taste of the action for real. So far, Cruise has been lucky to walk away unscathed, but not every actor is so lucky.
There is a certain expectation of scratches, bumps, and bruises when an actor decides to up the adventure ante and do his own stunts. Sometimes, though, the pain can be a lot more severe. For example, when Brad Pit was filming the movie “Seven” he decided it would be a good idea to go leaping over the hoods of cars in a chase scene that took place in a torrential downpour. A wet car exterior is not the easiest of surfaces to navigate, and sure enough, Pitt crashed hard and did some real damage to his hand. This all took place in the middle of filming, forcing the writers to add the injury into the script. That explains why the second half of the movie see’s our intrepid actor with a bandaged hand.
In a recent stunt gone wrong, Scottish actor Gerard Butler very nearly lost his life for his craft. He was filming an as yet to be released movie about surfing and decided to tackle the waves without the aid of a stunt double. Butler got bowled over by a particularly large wave and was dragged into the undertow, firmly believing he might never get out. Butler can laugh about the story now, as he did on a host of late night talk shows, but his story just goes to highlight the dangers of untrained actors trying to pull off adventurous stunts that they are ill prepared for.
The good news for those guys is that they got to walk away from their little adventures, but not everyone has had that same luck. There have been countless stunt actors who have lost their lives in the line of duty, but there have also been headlining actors who have done the same. Back in the 80’s, during the filling of the Twilight Zone movie, actor Vic Morrow was decapitated and killed by the blade from a helicopter rotor after a stunt had gone horribly wrong. To make matters even worse, a pair of child actors were also crushed and killed by the falling helicopter.
One of the most recent deaths on the set took place back in the 90’s when Brandon Lee was killed during the filming of “The Crow.” The scene in question required him to be shot, of course using dummy bullets, yet the gun somehow ended up loaded with a real bullet. All attempts to save the actor failed, and he died en route to the hospital. There were a number of issues on that set that led many to believe the whole filming was cursed.
We all like a little bit of adventure in our lives, and you have to imagine that actors are no different. The question you have to ask yourself, though, is whether that adventure is worth risking your life for.