Critic’s Corner: Stunts Gone Wrong

Earlier this week, Brad Pitt’s stuntman was stabbed with a bayonet on the set of “Fury,” Pitt’s upcoming film.

The 35-year-old was rushed to a hospital near Pyrton, Oxfordshire after the accident and officials say the stabbing will not be treated as a crime.

Over half of film-related injuries and deaths befall stuntmen who make a living doing the things stars are afraid to do—and yet, these people so often go unnoticed and underappreciated. This is not to say actors who perform their own stunts don’t often get hurt as well. Those actors who are ballsy enough to do their own flips and jumps in bombastic action or science fiction films often pay physical consequences.

Given the amount of publicity the “Fury” stabbing has attracted, I feel it’s appropriate to acknowledge some far worse (and far weirder) film accidents. Below, I’ve compiled a chronological list of the industry’s most famous stunts-gone-wrong. Let’s give these daredevils the credit they deserve.

The Great Flood in “Noah’s Ark” (1928)

Director Michael Curtiz chose to use real water and real extras in the filming of the great flood scene in “Noah’s Ark.” The enormous volume of water used for the flood took the lives of at least three extras and caused a number of other injuries. The incident was so tragic, in fact, it prompted the industry to establish its first set of stunt safety regulations.

Witch Burning in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

During the Munchkin Land scene, Wicked Witch of the West actress Margaret Hamilton was burned when her character evaporated amid bursts of fire and smoke. In another scene, Hamilton’s stunt double was also burned while riding a smoking broomstick.

The Cavalry Charge in “They Died With Their Boots On” (1941)

In a bizarre and morbid twist of fate, an extra named Jack Budlong was impaled by his own sword during the film’s cavalry charge scene—the charge also took the lives of two other stuntmen. The producers of “They Died With Their Boots On” had to build a fully equipped hospital at the film’s location site to treat the hordes of stuntmen and extras injured over the course of the production. Sadly, it wasn’t enough for poor Budlong.

Mauling in “Shark!” (1969)

A stuntman was mauled to death by a supposedly sedated shark.

Helicopter Decapitation in “The Twilight Zone: The Movie” (1983)

In a tragic turn of events, a rogue, low-flying helicopter decapitated actor Vic Morrow and 7-year-old child actor Myca Dinh Le on the set of the film. Six-year-old Renee Shin-Yi Chen, another actor in the film, was also crushed to death by the copter. The incident incited one of the longest lawsuits in industry history and inspired major filming code changes.

Fire in “The Sword of Tipu Sultan” (1989)

“The Sword of Tipu Sultan” made film history when a fire broke out inside the studio and killed a record 62 cast and crewmembers. Director Sanjay Khan also suffered severe injuries and underwent more than 70 surgeries during his recovery.

Almost all of Jackie Chan’s fight scenes (1976-1997)

Jackie Chan

Some of Jackie Chan’s countless injuries include near-suffocation, a chin injury that made it difficult for him to say his lines, third-degree burns, a dislocated pelvis, broken seventh and eighth vertebrae, a broken hand, a dislocated sternum, a dislocated cheekbone, and a broken right foot.

Within just one year, Chan dislocated his cheekbone and his shoulder only to have his legs crushed between two cars in a following film. Worst of all, he cracked his skull open trying to jump from a wall to a tree branch in 1986. A skull fragment lodged itself in his brain and created a permanent hole, which is now filled with a plastic plug. You’d think he would’ve gotten the hint after that, but nope—he kept injuring himself well into the ‘90s.
The man is immortal.

Torture in “The Passion of the Christ” (2004)

Actor Jim Caviezel, who portrayed Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s 2004 film, suffered multiple lashes on his back from a number of on-camera whippings, developed hypothermia and injured his shoulder while carrying a heavy cross. On top of that, Caviezel was struck by lightning just before the Sermon on the Mount scene.

He really, really suffered for our sins.

Fall in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” (2011)

Daniel Radcliffe’s stunt double David Holmes fell during an aerial sequence and wrecked his spine. He is now paralyzed.

Now, what exactly does this list teach us? A few things:

A) Never agree to perform in an action, adventure or sci-fi film without seriously contemplating your mortality first.
B) Stay away from low-flying helicopters.
C) Stay even farther away from Jackie Chan.