Being a film actor may seem like a sweet gig, but there’s one aspect that can make it the most dangerous job on the planet: the stunts. And this applies to both daredevil A-listers and unsung stunt doubles. Whether they’re flipping a car, leaping away from an explosion, or taking a knock-out punch, these performers are putting their lives on the line — so it should be no surprise that these scenes can go way off the rails. Not even Hollywood magic could cover up some of these very real scars…
Django Unchained and unrehearsed
When filming Django Unchained, Leonardo DiCaprio got a little too involved in his performance as sadistic plantation owner Calvin Candie. He slammed his hand down on a table, which was made of glass, and he sliced up his hand. Like a true pro, he acted through the pain, and the scene made it into the final film — bloody hand and all!
Rocky took an actual punch
While Sylvester Stallone was shooting the classic Rocky IV, he insisted on making everything look as realistic as possible. There’s no denying that it would make for a more believable film. Still, sometimes it’s best to use a stunt double! Stallone asked co-star and on-screen rival Dolph Lundgren to punch him in the face as hard as he could. Lundgren obliged, and Stallone was sent to the ICU for an entire week!
Isla Fisher got trapped for real
In the magic-centered movie Now You See Me, Isla Fisher was supposed to be “trapped” in a water tank. However, her performance was so convincing that the crew didn’t realize she was actually drowning. Apparently, she had gotten tangled on a chain inside the trick box. Fortunately, she was able to get herself to safety.
Jackie Chan missed his mark
Jackie Chan is known for his prowess when it comes to the wild stunts in his action-packed movies. However, that doesn’t mean he’s immune to his own fair share of very close calls. While shooting one of his early films, Police Story, Chan was meant to jump off a roof and slide down a pole. He made a major misstep in the process and broke part of his back and dislocated his pelvis. Ouch!
Motorcycle crash during Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Stunt double Olivia Jackson had been part of the major blockbusters Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: A Force Awakens. But it was while working on Resident Evil that she crashed her motorcycle into a crane-mounted camera. Suffering a spine injury, Jackson was placed in an induced coma for 17 days, and her left arm was amputated. Although she successfully sued those responsible, the mishap changed her life forever.
No land in sight during Waterworld
Stunt man Laird Hamilton performed plenty of tricks on a jet ski for Waterworld — but then his vehicle ran out of gas! This left him stranded for hours in the open ocean, and eventually the U.S. Coast Guard had to get involved in his rescue. He was a legendary surfer, and perhaps those skills helped him survive.
Real-life superhero on the set of The Avengers
For an action scene in The Avengers, Jeremy Fitzgerald had to fall 30 feet. If the fall wasn’t risky already, there was a jagged rain gutter below that could make a wrong move a deadly one. When he began the stunt, Fitzgerald stumbled and fell onto some bricks. Despite tearing off some of his scalp, Fitzgerald considered it a flesh wound and continued working.
Waterfall mayhem during Romancing the Stone
For a Romancing the Stone sequence where a car was sent over a waterfall, stuntmen Terry Leonard and Vince Deadrick Jr. were supposed to jump away from the vehicle and the whirlpool below. During filming, though, Leonard’s jumping platform broke, and he fell into the water. Deadrick Jr. was left stunned when he hit the water. Fortunately, a rescue crew saved them both.
Shaken and stirred during Quantum of Solace
For this Bond movie’s opening car chase, performer Aris Comninos rode as a passenger in one of the pursuing vehicles. Without warning, his vehicle hit another and then broke through a guard wall, dangling the car over the edge of a 50-foot drop. Rescuers bolted to ensure Comninos and his driver weren’t still in the car if it went over. His driver was left in better condition, as Comninos fell into a short-term coma.
Jennifer Lawrence went up in smoke
Jennifer Lawrence has had some big scares when it comes to stunts. And danger can come from the most innocent-looking props on set. During the production of The Hunger Games, a smoke machine malfunctioned, and Lawrence nearly suffocated to death. We can all breathe a sigh of relief — she’s just fine now.
Hoverboard malfunction in Back to the Future Part ll
Stunt performer Lisa McCullough belonged to the team that chased down Michael J. Fox’s lead character on hoverboards, culminating in a crash into a clocktower. After a few failed attempts, McCullough said she wouldn’t perform the stunt anymore. Cheryl Wheeler-Dixon took over. She hit one of the pillars and fell 30 feet onto concrete. She survived, but with facial injuries.
Michael J. Fox runs out of air during Back to the Future Part III
Michael J. Fox didn’t mind doing his own stunts for Back to the Future Part III. That is, until a scene where he was supposed to be hanged went horribly wrong. A rope malfunction resulted in the actor suffocating for real before the director noticed and had him cut down! Fox’s panic looked so authentic, however, that the filmmakers kept the shot in the movie. How’s that for cinema vérité?
Halle Berry mixed up her license to kill
While Halle Berry was doing her time as a Bond girl in the Pierce Brosnan flick Die Another Day, she saw one romance scene go terribly wrong. After popping some food in her mouth, she choked on a piece of fruit and nearly suffocated. Thankfully, Brosnan saved the day with a Heimlich maneuver that would surely impress MI6.
Brosnan also saved Uma Thurman
Uma Thurman had a major close call on the set of Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. A van parked behind her began to roll downhill, and it nearly crushed her. Thankfully, Pierce Brosnan was her costar — and just like with Halle Berry in Die Another Day — he came to the rescue, jumping into van and stopping it.
Gerard Butler caught in the undertow
It wasn’t 300 that saw Gerard Butler come in harm’s way. The actor was filming a movie about professional surfers called Chasing Mavericks when a 20-foot wave knocked him down, pulled him under the choppy water, and nearly drowned him. That’s what happens when you do your own stunts! Needless to say, however, that mishap didn’t discourage the performer.
Gilligan acted as lion bait
Gilligan’s Island told the story of a shipwrecked group of oddballs trapped on an island together. Bob Denver played the titular Gilligan, who was forever getting into all sorts of trouble. Denver himself had some trouble on set, too. Once, in a scene with a lion, the animal lunged to attack him. Thankfully, the animal’s trainer tackled it in mid-air. That close call could have meant curtains for the actor!
Diane Kruger got too close to her director
During a scene in Inglorious Basterds, Diane Kruger was supposed to be choked by Christoph Waltz’s character, who was just off-screen. Director Quentin Tarantino did the honors and stepped in for a little hand cameo, but he went a bit too far. Before anyone knew what was happening, Tarantino had choked Kruger so tightly that she actually passed out! Thankfully, she quickly came to — but not before giving everyone else on the set a real fright.
Jesse was nearly crushed on Breaking Bad
It turns out that Jesse Pinkman was in even more danger than AMC was willing to admit. While filming Breaking Bad, actor Aaron Paul felt uneasy standing directly beneath a prominent boulder. He asked to move, and as soon as he was given permission and did, the boulder fell exactly where he had been standing.
Maze Runner mishap
Lead actor and stunt artist Dylan O’Brien had to jump from one vehicle to another for Maze Runner: The Death Cure, but he wasn’t successful. The star of the film was dragged underneath the first vehicle, and he suffered fractures to his cheekbones and orbital sockets as well as a concussion. His severe injuries postponed the film’s release.
While shooting the hit TV show Lost, Matthew Fox had a scene where he was supposed to be stabbed with a fake, collapsible knife. So imagine the shock he got when the knife didn’t collapse at all! The prop department mixed up its weaponry, though thankfully Fox came out of the ordeal pretty much unscathed. That was because the stunt team wasn’t taking any chances; they made sure that they put the actor in a special protective suit beforehand that took the brunt of the knife’s blow.
Mega collisions during Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Gabriela Cedillo wasn’t a double, but an extra. For one scene, she needed to drive her car down the highway while the stunt performers weaved in and out of traffic. During her drive, a cable snapped and smashed Cedillo’s windshield, striking her in the head and causing several injuries. The day before, the stunt had failed in the same way. She won $18 million in a lawsuit.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt put the pedal to the metal
Acting is just like riding a bike: sometimes it’s extremely dangerous. Just ask Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In Premium Rush, he played a daredevil bicycle messenger who zipped through the crowded streets of New York City. He did most of his own cycling… until he ran into a taxi cab and required more than 30 stitches. Yikes!
Charlize Theron proved the doctors wrong
This one is truly terrifying. When Charlize Theron was filming the sci-fi movie Æon Flux, she fell during a stunt and landed on her neck. As a result, she was in the hospital for eight weeks, and doctors actually suspected she might never walk again. Thankfully, they were wrong, and the star made a stunning recovery.
No laughing matter on the set of The Hangover Part ll
In The Hangover Part ll, Scott McLean performed a scene as the double for Ed Helms’ character. With McLean’s head out a taxi window, the stunt driver erred and hit another vehicle, giving the stunt performer a gash on the head. He survived and sued both the producers and Warner Bros.