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10 Tragic Film Set Disasters


Alec Baldwin was recently involved in a fatal movie set accident when a prop gun misfired, killing the director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, and injuring the director, Joel Souza. Busy filming the New Mexico western, Rust, with co-producer Baldwin also playing the lead... no charges have been laid yet with a full scale investigation currently underway. The incident recalls the tragic death of 24-year-old Brandon Lee during the filming of action thriller, The Crow (1994), who died after a slug was dislodged and fired into his abdomen by a prop .44 Magnum revolver loaded with blanks.

The shock news story and Hutchins' tragic death serves as yet another reminder of the dangers of working in an industry concerned with the art of illusion. Flirting dangerously close with death in order to get the perfect shot, it's imperative that experienced stunts and munitions professionals are hired to perform and co-ordinate stunts. Tragically, accidents can and do happen on set with Rust joining the long list of deadly movie sets. While these tragedies do lead to films becoming notorious, they should also serve as a healthy reminder of just how much stunt people put their bodies on the line for the sake of the silver screen.

These equally devastating incidents just highlight their contribution and makes you wonder why stunt performers don't get more acknowledgement or recognition beyond in memoriam film dedications. Their efforts are designed to become invisible and while they understand the risks of the job, it just seems as though there isn't enough award recognition for their efforts, respect for their contributions or compensation when accidents happen.

10 Tragic Film Set Disasters

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Steven Spielberg's Twilight Zone: The Movie is steeped in notoriety after a tragic incident led to the death of actor Vic Morrow and two children, who were hired illegally. The production used multiple directors to film three short films, which played as a feature film. During the shooting of an aerial stunt sequence directed by John Landis, tragedy struck when high winds, pyrotechnics and an overly complicated stunt forced a low-flying helicopter to crash into the path of Morrow and the two children.

Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story (2014)

Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story is an unfinished biographical drama, which was set to star William Hurt but led to an investigation due to criminal negligence. Tragedy struck on the first day of filming on an active railroad trestle bridge over the Altamaha River in Georgia. When a train approached, the cast and crew got off the tracks leaving their props behind. Hitting a gurney the train inadvertently threw second assistant camerawoman, Sarah Jones, into the path of the locomotive killing her instantly and injuring several others. This incident has led to the creation of the Safety for Sarah movement.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)

The finale to the successful and long-running Resident Evil franchise, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring Milla Jovovich, left the zombie action series on a tragic note after a serious injury and death rocked the production. Jovovich's experienced stunt double, Olivia Jackson (Mad Max: Fury Road), lost her left arm after injuries sustained during a motorbike stunt forced her to have it amputated. After this horrific ordeal, the set suffered yet another disaster after crew member, Ricardo Cornelius, was killed during a botched car stunt involving a Humvee after it slid off a platform and pinned him to a wall, resulting in injuries that led to his death hours later.

Dead Pool 2

Ryan Reynolds is the star of Dead Pool, an irreverent action comedy that sees the actor play the titular near-invincible and masked superhero. The much-anticipated sequel was marred by the death of stunt performer, Joi 'SJ' Harris, who died after hitting a curb, losing control of her motorcycle and crashing into a plate glass window during an action sequence near Shaw Tower in Vancouver, Canada. An experienced rider, it was her first job and she wasn't wearing a helmet because her stunt double character, Domino, didn't wear one in the scene.

xXx (2002)

xXx was a stunt-orientated actioner for Vin Diesel in his prime, which saw the actor take on an action adrenaline hero. Sadly, Diesel's stunt double, Conway Wickliffe, who died on set after suffering a severe head trauma during a botched stunt rehearsal. Preparing for a scene involving the Batmobile, Wickliffe was leaning out of a Nissan 4x4 travelling parallel to an old American police car when the driver failed to make a 90 degree turn at the end of the run only to hit a tree.

The Expendables 2 (2012)

Being a tribute to action men of the '80s, it's no surprise that Sly Stallone's Expendables series is jam-packed with wild stunt work and pyrotechnics. The Expendables 2 upped their game, going for bigger and better and hiring Con Air director Simon West to replace Stallone. Tragically, a sequence shot by the second unit saw the death of 26-year-old Kun Liu and injury to Nuo Sun after the stuntmen got too close to an explosion near a rubber boat on the Ognyanovo dam in Bulgaria.

Top Gun (1986)

The iconic '80s film is celebrated in pop culture but a tragic aerial stunt sequence still haunts the film's crew and cast. Well-known and experienced stunt pilot, Art Scholl, was flying a Pitts S-2 camera plane and wasn't able to maintain altitude after an uncontrollable spin forced him to plunge into the Pacific Ocean off the Californian coastline never to be recovered. A chilling and fateful moment, observers watched the incident unfurl in which his last words were "I have a real problem".

Red Heat (1988)

Red Heat is a buddy cop movie from the '80s co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Belushi, who play police officers on either side of the Iron Curtain. Sadly, stunt coordinator Bennie E. Dobbins known for TRON, The Running Man and Commando suffered a heart attack, brought on by a bad case of pneumonia.

Jumper (2008)

Jumper is a sci-fi thriller directed by Doug Liman, starring Hayden Christensen and Jamie Bell. Tragically, 56-year-old set dresser, David Ritchie (X-Men), was killed when frozen debris from an exterior set struck him and workers below whilst dismantling an outdoor set in wintry conditions, seriously injuring another man.

Vampire In Brooklyn (1995)

Wes Craven's horror comedy, Vampire in Brooklyn, sees the charming Eddie Murphy playing opposite Angela Bassett in a story about a vampire trying to ensure the legacy of his blood line. While quite forgettable as a film, it is remembered for Timecop and Strange Days stunt double, Sonja Davis, who fell 42 feet to her death.