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10 On-Set Injuries That Forever Changed Actors

 

 

You might assume that when dealing with such a precious commodity as a highly bankable and talented Hollywood actor, moviemakers would handle them with the utmost care. Well, it turns out Hollywood health and safety policies ain’t sh*t because on-set accidents and injuries are more commonplace than you’d think.

Maybe it just comes with the territory for those working in the risky business that is show. When you’re running around pretending to be everything from assassins to CIA agents on film sets that are simulating explosions and other such stunts around every corner a few bumps and bruises are probably to be expected.

Some on-set ouchies are quite easily walked off – bruises fade, bones fix and wounds heal, after all. Other actors, however, aren’t so lucky and have sustained injuries so serious that they’ve caused lasting and sometimes permanent damage to their bodies.

The trappings of show business no doubt cushion the blow of those injuries somewhat but there’s only so much Academy Awards, fan adoration and massively inflated wage packets can compensate for … especially when you’re left with mangled bones, permanent scars and missing body parts.

10. Heidi Von Beltz – The Cannonball Run

20th Century Fox

Budding actress, former champion skier, and stuntwoman in training Heidi von Beltz’s life was forever changed following a devastating injury she sustained during the filming of the 1981 comedy The Cannonball Run on which she was acting as a stunt double for star Farrah Fawcett.

Von Beltz’s task that fateful day was to sit in the passenger side of an Aston-Martin and help operate a smoke machine that would give the effect of the car being on fire as it sped along weaving between oncoming vehicles. The only problem was that the car didn’t have seatbelts so when it accidentally crashed into a van, von Beltz was launched through the windshield which broke her neck and left her quadriplegic.

After a lengthy court battle, von Beltz was awarded a rather paltry $3.2 million most of which went towards paying off a mountain of legal and medical bills. One good thing that arose from von Beltz’s accident though was that the film industry established new safety guidelines that made seatbelts mandatory on all car-related stunt work – a fact von Beltz was very proud of before her death in 2015 at the age of 59.

9. Uma Thurman – Kill Bill

Miramax

Part of the reason Quentin Tarantino and his former muse Uma Thurman didn’t speak for years was a scary accident that occurred on the set of Kill Bill that could’ve been avoided if a stunt driver had been used.

Despite voicing her concerns that the rickety old Karmann Ghia the Bride drives in the opening scene of Vol 2 might not be in the best working condition, Tarantino cajoled her into doing the stunt herself. The actress ended up speeding at 40 miles per hour down a dirt road before losing control and crashing into a palm tree which left her with a concussion and serious damage to her neck and knees.

Fifteen years on from Kill Bill, Thurman still experiences chronic pain in what she’s recently referred to as her “permanently damaged neck” and “screwed-up knees” as a result of the accident. Physical pain isn’t the only lasting effect of the incident, however.

Thurman’s trust in Tarantino as a colleague and friend was effectively broken and their successful working partnership came to an end. Quite literally adding insult to injury, footage of the accident was also withheld from Thurman by the Brothers Weinstein until Tarantino finally released it to her this year following Harvey Weinstein’s downfall.

Though the gesture goes some way to atone for Tarantino’s negligent actions, it’s a case of too little too late.

8. Dylan O’Brien – Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Fox

Teen Wolf star Dylan O’Brien was filming a scene for the third and final instalment of the Maze Runner series when a stunt gone terrifyingly wrong resulted in him suffering a concussion, several facial fractures and brain trauma.

The scene in question takes place during the movie’s opening sequence and features O’Brien’s character attempting to board a moving train from a car. Although the actor was secured by a harness, he was somehow pulled off the car and slammed into another vehicle.

Filming of The Death Cure was halted indefinitely while O’Brien recovered from facial reconstruction surgery that left him with four metal plates holding one side of his face together. To give his surgeons credit, O’Brien’s face healed miraculously but the biggest toll the accident took on him was psychological – as is to be expected with a near-fatal incident.

During his recovery, O’Brien was plagued by panic attacks and felt like a different person entirely post-accident. For six months, he found himself in a very dark place and even considered giving up acting altogether. Though he’s gone on to finish The Death Cure and fit in a few other projects too, O’Brien still finds it difficult to talk about the accident today.

7. David Holmes – Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows

Warner Bros

All those death-defying stunts we saw Harry Potter perform weren’t the work of Daniel Radcliffe and a crap-tonne of crafty CGI but his trusty stunt double David Holmes. The actor worked as Radcliffe’s double for the first six Harry Potter movies until tragedy struck while rehearsing for The Deathly Hallows Part 1.

While Holmes was performing an aerial stunt that involved being pulled backwards at high speed by a wire he was slammed into a wall before hurtling to a crash mat on the ground below. The accident broke the stunt actor’s neck and left him paralysed from the waist down.

Holmes’ injury was undoubtedly a life-changing one but he was determined to stay positive and not let his disability define him. He now gets his adrenaline fix careering around race tracks at ridiculously high speeds in a specially modified car and has also podcasted about his experience with spinal injury alongside setting himself the not too tiny task of helping to raise £15 million to fund new equipment for the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital where he spent six months following the accident.

6. Taylor Hickson – Ghostland

Taylor Hickson Instagram

While filming a scene for French horror director Pascal Laugier’s latest movie Ghostland, up-and-coming Canadian actress Taylor Hickson (Deadpool, Aftermath) was required to beat her fists against a pane of glass. One hundred per cent real glass, it should be noted, as apparently no one thought that the use of sugar glass might be a little safer.

Acting on Laugier’s instruction, Hickson began to pound the glass even harder causing it to shatter and seriously cut her face in the process. The actress was rushed to hospital where she received 70 stitches but was left with a permanent scar.

Quite rightly, Hickson is currently suing Ghostland’s production company Incident Productions for failing to provide adequate safety measures on set. Her lawsuit states that the accident has not only caused her physical injury and mental distress but also resulted in a loss of income during the time it took to recover from her injury and her struggling to find steady work in the looks-obsessed film industry since.

5. George Clooney – Syriana

Warner Bros.

While on the set of geopolitical thriller Syriana, George Clooney was filming a scene in which his character CIA operative Bob Barnes is being tortured by a Hezbollah agent who’s pulling out his fingernails when the chair he was strapped to toppled over.

Clooney struck the floor, hitting his head and damaging his dura – a rather important membrane that protects the brain and spinal cord. As a result of the injury, the actor suffered headaches so debilitatingly painful that he began self-medicating with alcohol and at one point even contemplated suicide.

Six years after a marathon surgery in 2005, Clooney was still feeling the effects of his injury and was forced to pull out of the big screen adaptation of 60s spy show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as filming would’ve been too physically demanding. He’s since undergone several other surgeries which have fixed much of the problem though Clooney does still experience agonising headaches today.

He did, however, win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Syriana but whether scooping that little golden statue was worth all those years of pain is debatable.

4. Wallace Reid – The Valley Of The Giants

By Picture-Play Magazine [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Silent film star Wallace Reid was en route to a location in northern California to shoot exterior scenes for the 1919 romantic drama The Valley of the Giants when a terrifying railway accident led to injuries that spawned a devastating drug addiction that would claim his life just a few years later.

Reid and a number of co-stars and crew were travelling via a rickety railroad when their caboose toppled off a trestle bridge and rolled 15 feet into a creek below. Most of the passengers were injured and though Reid sustained a head wound, a cut to his arm that went to the bone and damage to his back he gamely attended to his colleagues’ wounds before being treated himself.

It’s what came after the accident that would cause his downfall, however. In order to cope with the pain from his injuries and continue filming Reid was given morphine. This quickly developed into an all-consuming habit that – rumour has it – the studios Reid worked with were only too happy to feed as long as it kept their cash cow churning out movies.

In 1923, four short years after the accident, Reid died while undergoing rehab at a sanitarium at the tender age of 31.

3. Harold Lloyd – Haunted Spooks

Media Asia

Unsurprisingly, Jackie ‘I do all my own stunts’ Chan has sustained quite a few injuries over the course of his 60-year career. In fact, his extensive inventory of injuries reads longer than his arm which – funnily enough – is one of the few bones he hasn’t broken.

He has, however, broken his breastbone, his ankle, his knee, his jaw, two of his fingers and his nose not once, not twice but thrice. That’s alongside dislocating his shoulder, cheekbone and pelvis and damaging his spine after falling from a 50-foot-tall clock tower.

But his most serious injury came when shooting a relatively simple stunt for 1986’s Armour of God. Chan was leaping from a wall into a tree when he slipped and fell to the ground, hitting his head on a rock that drove a piece of his own skull into his brain.

Several hours of brain surgery later and the ever-resilient Chan was on the road to recovery but was left with a permanent hole in his head that is stuffed with a plastic plug to, in his own words, “keep his brains in”. Nothing too worrying, then.

2. Linda Hamilton – Terminator 2: Judgment Day

TriStar Pictures

In order to look the part for her role as the newly buff Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, actress Linda Hamilton undertook a gruelling regime that included three hours of exercise six days a week and a non-fat diet consisting mostly of cereal, chicken and salad. But giving up food that actually tastes nice and exercising constantly weren’t the only harrowing experiences she endured.

During the scene in which Sarah Connor escapes the psychiatric hospital with the help of her son John Connor and Arnie in Good Terminator mode, the trio retreat to an elevator with Robert Patrick’s evil T-1000 in hot pursuit where a shootout between the two Terminators takes place.

Unfortunately for Hamilton, she forgot to replace her earplugs in between takes and so her poor lugs were subjected to the unmuted sounds of Arnie firing a round of dummy bullets in the confined space of an elevator which as you can imagine was quite a racket. To this day, Hamilton still suffers from serious hearing loss in one ear.

1. Olivia Jackson – Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Olivia Jackson Instagram

South African stunt actor Olivia Jackson was enjoying a successful career scoring work in the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy, Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens when a stunt gone horribly wrong resulted in a life-threatening accident.

In 2015, Jackson was working as a stunt double for Milla Jovovich on the set of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter when the motorcycle she was driving helmetless collided with a camera crane. The crash left her with a long list of injuries including a punctured lung, a partially crushed and degloved face, a paralysed left arm, a severed main artery, brain trauma and five nerves torn out of her spinal cord.

Doctors deemed her condition so serious she was put in a medically induced coma for 17 days. Amazingly, Jackson survived her injuries but ended up having her paralysed arm amputated a few months after the accident and was left with a twisted upper body after undergoing several spinal operations.

 

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