A lot of people think that being an actor is a pretty cushy job. You memorize a few lines, get your makeup done, relax in a luxury trailer, and when all is said and done you take home a big fat paycheque for a few months of work. The notion that the job brings with it the potential threat of death is likely surprising for most. But death can come in strange and unpredictable ways, as many of the famous celebrities on this list will surely attest.
12. Jennifer Lawrence
While filming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Jennifer Lawrence almost choked to death when a fog machine went on the fritz and began spewing dense smoke in a tunnel where the scene was taking place. Shooting was immediately halted as panic gripped the set and people rushed to rescue her from the tunnel. When Lawrence emerged from the fog she was gagging severely and reports say she later suffered from nausea and vertigo.
11. Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp barely escaped death while filming The Lone Ranger when he fell off a galloping horse, was stomped, and then dragged for nearly 30 yards through the desert. Luckily, the resilient actor walked away with only a bad bruise on his stomach in the shape of a hoof print.
Director Gore Verbinski told the New York Post that, in Western movies, seemingly simple things can be incredibly dangerous and that the accident with Johnny Depp was one of the scariest moments he’d ever witnessed.
10. Halle Berry
Though most people probably wouldn’t consider The Call to be an action-heavy picture, according to an article published by the Daily Mail, while filming a fight scene for the movie, Halle Berry fell and smacked her head on a concrete floor. She was knocked unconscious and the set had to be shut down for the remainder of the day so she could be taken to hospital. Fortunately, she didn’t appear to suffer any brain damage.
9. Jason Statham
Jason Statham is an actor who deals almost exclusively in action movies so he’s no stranger to shooting risky scenes. But at one point during the production of Expendables 3, things got a little out of hand. While Statham was driving a truck the brakes failed and he was forced to jump out of the moving vehicle as it careened into the Black Sea.
“Luckily we had taken the doors off before,” co-star Sylvester Stallone told reporters at the film’s London premiere. “If anyone else had been in that truck we would have been dead because we were all wearing heavy boots and gun belts. We would have drowned. But because Jason is an Olympic-quality diver he got out of it.”
Statham has mostly down-played any danger he might have experienced on set. When asked of his worst injury sustained during filming, he said, “I snapped a shoelace in the very first scene.”
8. Jackie Chan
Everyone knows Jackie Chan cheats death pretty much every time he steps on set. The numerous failed stunt montages that accompany many of his films are testament enough of that. But one of his worst injuries occurred while shooting the massive fight in the mall at the end of the movie Police Story. During the scene, Jackie jumps onto a metal pole and slides down, causing dozens of light bulbs to explode all around him. The stunt led to him cracking his seventh and eighth vertebrae, dislocating his pelvis, and burning his hands thanks to the sparking lights. As it happens, the stunt was actually made more dangerous because of the decision to use sugar glass, which is thicker than regular stunt glass.
7. Isla Fisher
In the movie Now You See Me, there’s a scene where Isla Fisher’s character has to make a grand escape from a water-filled fish tank before a bunch of ravenous piranhas are dumped on her. But during the actual filming of the scene her shackles got stuck and she couldn’t get out. Everyone on set thought it was marvelous acting, but the truth of the matter was she was actually in the process of drowning. Thankfully, a nearby stuntman noticed she was genuinely struggling and stepped in to break her free.
6. Tom Cruise
Everyone knows Tom Cruise likes doing his own stunts, but some of the more dangerous ones have almost cost him his life. In one such instance, during the making of The Last Samurai, Cruise was nearly killed when the mechanical horses used for some of the scenes malfunctioned. While filming a fight sequence with co-star Hiroyuki Sanada, the horses were supposed to stop just as the two actors swung their swords. Instead of stopping, the mechanical horses collided and the sword came within an inch of striking Cruise’s neck. The only thing that sparred him was the quick reflexes of Sanada, whose skill with the blade enabled him to avoid decapitating the Hollywood megastar.
5. Sylvester Stallone
If you’ve ever watched Rocky IV and been impressed with the realism of the fight scenes, it’s because the actors were actually hitting each other during filming. In one scene where Rocky is meant to take a punch that knocks him to the mat, Stallone asked the Lundgren to hit him as hard as he can. Lundgren acquiesced, and it resulted in Stallone being sent to the hospital because his heart swelled up. He had to remain in intensive care for over a week.
4. Gerard Butler
Gerard Butler almost drowned during the filming of Chasing Mavericks when a large wave crashed down on him while he was doing his own surf stunts. The roiling waters caused him to be submerged for nearly a full minute in what experienced surfers describe as a two-wave hold down, where one wave knocks a person so deep underwater they can’t reach the surface before another wave hits.
Butler was seriously injured and taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, during his stay he became addicted to painkillers and was subsequently checked into rehab for three weeks.
3. Charlize Theron
After an accident on the set of 2004’s Aeon Flux nearly left her paralyzed, Charlize Theron vowed never to rush in to performing any dangerous stunts again.
The actress was completing a series of back flips for the action-heavy movie when she had a misstep and landed awkwardly on her neck. The fall resulted in a herniated disc dangerously close to her spinal chord.
Shooting was shut down for eight weeks to allow Theron enough time to recover. Doctors feared the injury would leave the actress with limited mobility and, although she made a full recovery, she now accepts that she should leave the intense stunt work to the professionals.
2. Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis is a notorious method actor known for taking on the persona of his roles even when the cameras are off. Unfortunately, his artistic process led him dangerously close to death while filming Gangs of New York. Since the movie takes place in 1863, he would only dress in attire befitting the period. This led to the him contracting dreadful pneumonia and, although he tried to muscle through it, perhaps because there wasn’t yet a treatment for the illness back in the mid 1800s, he was eventually told that if he didn’t do something to remedy his condition it could cost him his life. In the end he broke character and got the medical attention he so desperately needed.
1. George Clooney
In 2005, while filming a torture scene for Syriana, George Clooney accidentally cracked his head open and had to be rushed to hospital. However, doctors took weeks to assess the injury and it was only after Lisa Kudrow referred him to her neurologist brother that it was discovered that Clooney’s spine was leaking fluid and the extent of the damage was more serious than anyone realized. He had a two-and-a-half-inch tear in the middle of his back and a half-inch tear in his neck.
In a 2012 interview, Clooney recalled the recovery as being excruciating. He was given a series of 15 agonizing spinal injections as well as a host of drugs to keep the pain in check, which he admits put him a bad state mentally.