The Most Dangerous Movie Roles In Hollywood History
Some say acting is easy. That it’s just pretend. But this isn’t always the case. While most movies do a great job at making whatever’s happening on screen look real, every once in a while actors are actually put in danger. Most of the roles discussed here were part of action flicks involving risky stunts, and will definitely make you question how often these sort of accidents could, and maybe should, happen. These are amazing performances in some of the best movies ever, and you’ll never be able to watch them the same way again…
Above is a picture of Bruce Lee’s son Brandon Lee, who was a part of one of the most notorious tragedies in Hollywood history. A stunt involving an improperly cleaned gun went wrong and a small piece of debris from a dummy round hit and killed him. The second image is of Jared Leto, who’s normally one of the most fit actors in the business. To play John Lennon’s assassin Mark David Chapman, he put on 67 pounds and his body never fully recovered. A lot of actors lose and gain weight for roles, but the ones in this article risked a lot more…
Han Solo is one of the most iconic movie characters of all time, portrayed perfectly by the great Harrison Ford, who made it through the three movies of the original Star Wars trilogy unscathed. It’s interesting considering how groundbreaking the stunts and effects were decades ago, versus today, when it would’ve made a bit more sense for something to go wrong. Maybe that was one of the reasons why he was so reluctant to return to the role in The Force Awakens, 33 years after his last performance. Maybe he should’ve quit while he was ahead.
According to reports, he was the hardest actor to get back when Episode 7 was in development, but even he couldn’t have possibly been prepared for what was going to happen on set. During a scene on the legendary Millennium Falcon, a hydraulic door, that weighed as much as a small car, malfunctioned and crushed him. He was lucky to walk away with only some minor injuries and a broken leg considering he could’ve been killed. Unfortunately, at his age, this time of damage will never fully heal. Some younger actors are a bit luckier, but not by much…
Jennifer Lawrence is arguably the biggest movie star in the world. One of the main reasons is her role as Katniss Everdeen in the massively popular Hunger Games films. But her type of success isn’t easy to achieve, and she went through a lot to end up where she is today. During training for the big budget movies, she hit a wall, literally, and could’ve permanently damaged her spleen. Thankfully, an MRI revealed that she was okay, but it wasn’t the best start to what would end up being a series of difficult shoots.
During the production of Catching Fire, she went deaf in one ear for months following an injury on the set. After multiple ear infections caused by filming in water, something that could’ve resulted in permanent hearing loss, her eardrum was then punctured in a completely separate incident. While filming Mockingjay – Part 1, a smoke machine malfunctioned and she almost suffocated. It was during a scene where she was in a tunnel, a very small space, and the smoke was so bad that she actually disappeared, causing severe nausea and vertigo. Filming had to stop while she recovered.
Tom Hanks can do anything, including almost die on set. It’s no surprise that filming Cast Away was difficult, with a massive 50 pound weight loss being a part of the process, but the most dangerous moment is shocking. After receiving a small cut on his knee, he developed a staph infection that could’ve caused death by blood poisoning if it had gone untreated. And it almost did, Hanks admitted to ignoring the problem thinking it wasn’t a big deal.
Halle Berry has done everything from action to drama, even earning an Oscar in the process. But her road to the Academy Awards was bumpy. While sustaining a lot of minor injuries, she’s had her share of serious ones, as well. During her role as a Bond girl in Die Another Day, she almost choked to death. She suffered head trauma filming both The Fall and Catwoman, broke her foot on Cloud Atlas and broke her arm on Gothika.
Joseph Gordon Levitt’s most dangerous role was unsurprisingly when he played a New York City bike messenger, an incredibly scary and risky job, in the unfortunately unsuccessful Premium Rush. The role required him to actually ride through heavy traffic at high speeds, sometimes even going over 30 mph. So when a taxi drove over safety cones, he flew through the rear windshield. In an accident that could’ve killed him, he walked away with just 31 stitches in his arm.
Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman had to go on extreme diets to lose a lot of weight for their critically acclaimed portrayals of dueling ballerinas in Black Swan. And that’s not including the rigorous training involved in the roles. While Portman received an Oscar, Kunis ended up with permanent bodily complications. She resorted to fasting and chain smoking cigarettes to get below 100 pounds, and now her body will never the same. She even says her shape is different.
Brad Pitt is no stranger to danger. During production of the big budget epic Troy, in which he played Achilles, Pitt actually tore his Achilles tendon in what is maybe the most ironic injury yet. And it wasn’t his first. While filming a chase scene on the set of Se7en, he fell through a window and sliced another tendon, this one in his arm, which can be deadly. The cast he wears in the movie was real.
Kate Winslet and all of the actors in Titanic performed a lot of daring stunts that brought the real-life tragedy to the big screen. Winslet was injured multiple times, both being things the actual people dealt with when it really happened. She suffered through an almost deadly bout with pneumonia, and if that wasn’t enough, she almost drowned when she was caught underwater. Titanic won multiple Oscars and is one of the highest grossing movies in history.
George Clooney’s most dangerous role also won him an Oscar. In Syriana, his character endures a brutal torture sequence. While filming, Clooney cracked his head open and hurt his back and neck, including a torn dura, which is part of the spine. This resulted in a grueling recovery process that was so painful he actually considered suicide. This, combined with bad reactions to his medications, pushed him into therapy just to get through it.
Blake Lively is known for her role in Gossip Girl, which was far from dangerous. But while filming The Rhythm Section, a spy thriller, she seriously injured her hand. It didn’t seem too bad at first, but after surgery was unable to fix the problem, the movie’s production was shut down and has yet to resume. First she has to undergo more surgeries, plural, and even then, might not be able to return to the role.
Sylvester Stallone is one of the least shocking additions to this article. As one of the biggest action stars ever, he’s been critically hurt more than almost everyone else. He cracked ribs after a fall while playing Rambo in First Blood, suffered a swollen heart during Rocky IV, and broke his back on The Expendables. He’s even suffered from shingles. His roles have required multiple operations and pretty severe recoveries.
Linda Hamilton’s role in Terminator 2: Judgement Day required a lot of dangerous stunts. Beyond the intense training that took place before the cameras even started rolling, James Cameron is notorious for pushing his actors to their limits. While she survived several scary scenes, her injury came when a close-range shotgun blast caused permanent hearing loss. And it could’ve been avoided if she’d remembered to put in her ear plugs.
Bruce Willis paved the way for the everyman action hero, but in doing so, suffered a similar injury as the previous entry. While Die Hard has been described as a perfect movie, his experience filming it was far from ideal. He reportedly almost went deaf as a result of firing guns that had been modified to make extra loud noise. He still struggles with partial hearing loss to this day.
Jaimie Alexander had the distinct privilege of starring in a Marvel movie, for which she sadly paid a price. While filming Thor: The Dark World in 2013, she slipped and fell from a death-defying height and herniated a disk in her thoracic spine, dislocated her left shoulder, tore her right rhomboid and chipped 11 vertebrae. While she survived, she still suffered temporary paralysis and had to undergo a month of intense physical therapy.
Channing Tatum suffered a unique injury of the set of The Eagle. A scene, that surprisingly wasn’t one of the intense action sequences, required him to wade in freezing cold water, which he did wearing a wetsuit. But it could only do so much to keep him from freezing, so a crew member poured hot water on him. Unfortunately, it was boiling and caused burns all over his body, including his most sensitive areas.
Michelle Yeoh almost made it through shooting the dazzling Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon without any injuries, but it makes sense that the movie’s daring stunts were also seriously dangerous. At one point, she landed wrong and damaged her knee. She tried to continue, furthering the injury, which ended up being a torn ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, that required surgery and physical therapy but never fully recovered.
Tom Cruise has gained a reputation for doing his own stunts, making him possibly the world’s most daring movie star. While this has resulted in some spectacular shots, he was recently injured on the set of Mission: Impossible – Fallout by none other than a serious fall. He was supposed to jump across two buildings but fell short and slammed his leg into a wall causing a broken ankle that shut down production for months.
Angelina Jolie made it through a career full of action films unharmed, including multiple Tomb Raider movies. But while filming 2010’s Salt, her extensive training could only do so much to protect her. She had learned a combination of Muay Thai and Krav Maga for the role, but during a fight scene where she was rolling around on the floor, she slammed her head and sliced her face open, leaving a permanent scar.
Daniel Craig is the most recent actor to portray James Bond following decades of performances in dozens of films. But his 007 movies have definitely been the most dangerous. He had two teeth knocked out during Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace caused multiple injuries like torn muscles, reconstructive facial surgery, bruised ribs and even a partially severed finger. He then sustained a permanent knee injury during a fight scene for Spectre.
Isla Fisher learned the hard way that any film involving magic is sure to present some dangerous challenges. During the production of Now You See Me, a sequence called for her to be submerged in a water tank. In the scene, she was meant to act like she was drowning, but when a prop messed up she was actually trapped underwater. The crew thought her terrified screams were part of the performance, and the shot stayed in the final film.
Dylan O’Brien has made a name for himself with the Maze Runner series, performing a lot of dangerous stunts. While filming The Death Cure, he almost died during a driving stunt gone wrong. The accident left him with a concussion, facial fracture, and brain trauma among other injuries. The road to recovery was long and even caused the star to wonder if he’d ever be able to get back in front of a camera at all.
Uma Thurman, star of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, recently came forward to discuss injuries she sustained during production. After seriously arguing that she wasn’t fit to perform a dangerous driving stunt, Thurman was forced to film the scene anyway. Sure enough, she crashed the Karmann Ghia into a tree so badly she feared she’d never walk again. But fortunately, she did, and unfortunately, still suffered permanent damage to her neck and knees.
Diane Kruger is another actor who was injured filming a Quentin Tarantino movie. During Inglourious Basterds, the scene where her character dies required her to be strangled for real. The director offered to choke her himself, filling in for a reluctant Christoph Waltz, and she obliged, thinking it would be safe. But sadly, it was so intense her air supply was cut off. The near death experience could have easily caused facial paralysis and PTSD.
Jason Statham was also injured filming The Expendables movies, just like the aforementioned Sylvester Stallone. During the production of the third, and most dangerous, in the series, he was almost blown up, crushed and drowned. This happened as a part of a stunt when he accidentally drove a truck off a loading dock 60 feet into the Black Sea.
Charlize Theron sustained one of the most serious injuries discussed in this article during the filming of AEon Flux. She was involved in an accident that almost left her paralyzed. Theron was shooting a sequence that required her to do a series of backflips, but she slipped and landed on her neck, herniating a disc near her spine. This injury stuck with her and she has since been much more careful on set.
Johnny Depp survived five Pirates of the Caribbean movies relatively unscathed, but was injured on the set of 2013’s The Lone Ranger, another Disney action film. This qualifies as accident involving an actor who wanted to film a stunt instead of a stand-in. During a sequence that required him to ride a horse at high speeds, he was thrown from the animal and almost trampled to death.
Matthew Fox has starred in both movies and television shows, the latter of which is typically safer. But it was on the set of Lost, one of the most cinematic TV shows ever, that he sustained a serious injury. During a scene involving a knife fight between him and another actor, his castmate was given a real weapon, instead of prop one. Thankfully Fox was wearing a kevlar vest, otherwise he could’ve been killed.
Ellen Burstyn has one of the longest running and impressive careers of anyone else in this article. She starred in what many consider to be the scariest film of all time, The Exorcist. While filming a scene where her possessed daughter Regan slaps her across the room, Burstyn suffered permanent spinal damage. She was tied to a cable that pulled her so hard she broke her tailbone, and the shot stayed in the movie.
Viggo Mortensen was one of several actors to be injured while filming the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While Sean Astin injured his foot and Orlando Bloom cracked a rib, Mortensen suffered both a chipped tooth and a couple broken toes. If those weren’t bad enough, he almost drowned after being swept away in a current during a water scene.
Kevin Costner was injured filming the very dangerous Waterworld. During a scene where he was tethered to the top of a boat, a storm broke out suddenly causing waves and wind to thrash him around for almost a half hour while the crew was unable to save him. He almost died, and on top of this, he and the director Kevin Reynolds didn’t get along. Apparently Costner didn’t really get along with anyone.
Daniel Day-Lewis is quite possibly the best and most respected actor in Hollywood history. One reason is his “method acting” approach, which means he truly inhabits the characters he plays. The most dangerous instance of this technique occurred on the set of Gangs of New York, when he refused to wear anything other than his authentic period wardrobe during the location’s freezing cold temperatures. He contracted pneumonia and could’ve died if he’d insisted on staying in character.
Cary Elwes starring role in The Princess Bride was obviously iconic, and surprisingly dangerous. One of the film’s fight scenes required him to be hit hard on the head and get knocked unconscious. The actor tasked with delivering the blow was reluctant to commit, but when Elwes insisted he really give it to him, his castmate obliged. The final cut of the movie features the take where he was actually knocked out cold.
Martin Sheen was one of many actors on the set of Apocalypse Now who suffered through the notoriously disastrous shoot. As the film’s lead, he definitely had the most difficult time. He was struggling with alcoholism, which led to him actually being drunk during some of his drinking scenes and seriously slicing open his hand, but it was a sudden heart attack that almost killed him. He was found barely alive on the side of the road.
Buster Keaton was one of the first actors in film history to risk his life performing dangerous stunts. He could’ve died multiple times, but the most iconic instance of a death-defying shot happened during the filming of Steamboat Bill Jr. in 1928. It’s a scene that’s been recreated, but never matched. He stood as the side of an entire house fell around him. If he’d moved at all in any direction, he would’ve been crushed.
Michael J Fox
Michael J Fox was involved in an accident, like some of the others discussed in this article, that stayed in the movie. While filming Back to the Future Part III, his character Marty McFly was to be hanged by the movie’s villain Mad Dog Tannon. But Fox lost consciousness and was unable to breathe. Cameras continued shooting until someone finally noticed he wasn’t acting and saved his life.
Margaret Hamilton might not have the most recognizable name today, but everyone knows the Wicked Witch of the West. While filming The Wizard of Oz, she was involved in a stunt gone wrong that gave her third degree burns. She was supposed to fall through a trap door as flames shot in her direction, but when the escape route malfunctioned her face and hands were scorched.
Malcolm McDowell’s performance in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece A Clockwork Orange made him a star. In one of the movies most iconic scenes, his character, Alex, has his eyes propped open. The sequence lasts for a painful amount of time. His eyes were kept open for so long that the actor suffered temporary blindness and a scratched cornea.
Jackie Chan is another actor known for taking dangerous roles and performing his own stunts. in doing so, he’s broken almost every bone in his body, as well as several spinal injuries and multiple concussions, one of which required brain surgery. He ended up with a metal plate in his head, but that didn’t stop him from continuing to risk his life film after film.
Jim Caviezel’s portrayal of Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is fitting for the final entry in this article. Sight unseen, many would assume this role would be dangerous, and they would be right. He dislocated his shoulder, injured his ribs, suffered from pneumonia and hypothermia and was even struck by lightning.