Top 10 Tragic Movie Set Deaths
Film actors and crews are often put in to highly dangerous situations in order to give a more authentic result to their films. This has, sadly, on many occasions lead to tragedy on the set. This is a list of the top 10 tragic movie related deaths.
10. Twilight Zone: The Movie – 1983
Deaths: Vic Morrow and child actors Myca Dinh Le (age 7) and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age 6)
The making of the movie had consequences which overshadowed the film itself. During the filming of a segment directed by John Landis on July 23, 1982, actor Vic Morrow and child actors Myca Dinh Le (age 7) and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age 6) died in an accident involving a helicopter being used on the set. The helicopter was flying at an altitude of only 25 feet (8 meters), too low to avoid the explosions of the pyrotechnics used on set. When the blasts severed the tail rotor, it spun out of control and crashed, decapitating Morrow and Le with its blades. Chen was crushed to death as the helicopter crashed. Everyone inside the helicopter survived sustaining minor injuries.
The accident led to legal action against the filmmakers which lasted nearly a decade, and changed the regulations involving children working on movie sets at night and during special effects-heavy scenes. Hollywood also avoided helicopter-related stunts for many years, until the CGI revolution of the 1990s made it possible to use digital versions. As a result of the accident, one second assistant director had his name removed from the credits and replaced with the pseudonymous Alan Smithee. The incident also ended the friendship between director Landis and producer Spielberg, who was already angered before the accident that Landis had violated many codes, including using live ammunition on the set.
9. The Crow
Death: Brandon Lee
On March 31, 1993 at the North Carolina Film Studios in Wilmington NC, there were eight days left before shooting of the film was to be completed. The scene being filmed involved Lee’s character Eric Draven walking into his apartment and witnessing the brutal rape of his fiancée by thugs. Lee’s character would then have been shot and killed along with his fiancée by the thugs.
As the scene was being filmed, Brandon Lee was killed after Michael Massee (who played the villain Funboy) fired the gun at Lee as intended. The bullet unseated from a dummy round was lodged in the barrel of the handgun. The bullet was not noticed and the gun was loaded with a blank cartridge. When the blank was fired, the bullet shot out and hit Lee in the abdomen.
After Lee’s death, a stunt double, Chad Stahelski replaced Lee in some scenes to complete the film. Special effects were used for digitally compositing Lee’s face onto the double. The original footage featuring Lee’s actual death is the source of some controversy. Some accounts claim it was destroyed immediately, without even being developed while others suggest it was later given to Lee’s family. The bullet lodged in the dummy gun due was handed over to law enforcement officials as evidence by the Special Effects department. A display was shown to prove that dummy guns were intentionally built to be unable to fire actual bullets. The bullet was still lodged in the dummy gun when the scene was filmed.
8. Top Gun
Death: Art Scholl
Renowned aerobatic pilot Art Scholl, 53, was hired to do in-flight camera work for the film. The original script called for a flat spin, which he was to perform and capture on an onboard camera. Scholl entered the spin, but was unable to recover from it and crashed his Pitts S-2 in to the Pacific Ocean off the Southern California coast. The cause of the accident remains unknown. Top Gun was dedicated to the memory of Art Scholl.
7. The Return of the Musketeers
Death: Roy Kinnear
In September 20th 1988, Madrid, Spain, actor Roy Kinnear broke his pelvis after falling from a horse and subsequently bled to death!
6. The Flight of the Phoenix
Death: Paul Mantz
In the Dennis Quaid remake of this movie a cameraman broke his leg on the set, however the original 1965 film used real planes with disastrous results. Paul Mantz was killed doing a risky take off maneuver.
Death: David Ritchie
A sci-fi thriller starring Samuel Jackson, was using a mixture of frozen sand, earth, and ice for special effects in exterior set pieces. Set dresser David Ritchie was pronounced dead on the scene after a large piece of frozen sand and gravel fell from the top of a wall at an outdoor set that he and three crew members were dismantling in frigid winter temperatures.
Death: Harry L. O’Conner
Harry L. O’Connor, Diesel’s stunt double, was killed in an accident during filming, in a scene in which he was supposed to rappel down a parasailing line and land on a submarine. When O’Connor failed to rappel down the line fast enough, he hit a bridge at high speed and was killed instantly. His death was caught on camera, but director Rob Cohen decided to include the footage of the scene – with the final moments edited out – out of respect for the stuntman’s final act.
3. The Final Season
Death: Roland Schlotzhauer
In October, 2007, camera man Roland Schlotzhauer was killed while filming parade sequences for this film. Roland was well-known for his ability to capture shots from helicopters and he was filming from a Bell 206 when it hit power lines. The helicopter then crashed into a field seriously injuring the pilot and a producer on board, while ending Roland’s life.
Death: George Camilleri
In a twist of irony, Brad Pitt tore his left Achilles tendon during shooting. Tragically, actor George Camilleri, a bodybuilding extra, severely broke his leg in a scene. He was treated at the hospital, but days later suffered a heart attack from a blood clot in his leg. He was treated once again and released only to have another heart attack which lead to his death.
1. Enter the Dragon
Death: Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee was doing dubbing work in Hong Kong on May 10, 1973, for Enter the Dragon at Golden Harvest studios. He collapsed in the bathroom and was rushed to the Hong Kong Baptist Hospital. Doctors who treated him said he died of cerebral edema. Much controversy exists over Lee’s death over speculation that cannabis may have been part of the cause of his death.
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