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10 Horrific Things That Happened During Movie Filming

by Estelle
fact checked by Jamie Frater

People love movies. There is almost nothing better than watching an epic tale unfolding on the big screen while you sit on the edge of your seat munching on popcorn. But behind the scenes there are often terrible sacrifices made in order to get the movie out into the world. People die, are injured or left with mental scarring (these include actors and stunt doubles). And what’s more, sometimes the directors simply don’t care as they are too focused on executing their vision. On this list are 10 examples of things that went terribly wrong during filming.

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10 Stuntman attacked by shark

Shark! (Arma de Dos Filos) (Samuel Fuller, EEUU, 1969)

Many directors are embarrassed by their earliest works. Samuel Fuller directed White Dog and The Big Red One but wished that he had never been involved with Shark! which was released in 1969. So much so that he even requested for his name to be removed from the credits. However, Fuller wasn’t simply embarrassed because the film was bad. The movie, starring Burt Reynolds, also cost the life of Mexican stuntman, Jose Marco.

Marco filmed a scene with a bull shark attacking him. While he was struggling with the bull shark, a great white shark broke through the netting that was set up in the open waters and also attacked Marco, ripping open his stomach. Sadly, Marco passed away a few hours later, after crew members succeeded in scaring off the great white. Disgustingly, the producers of the film changed the name from its earlier moniker, Caine, to Shark! and proceeded to release it. Even worse, they publicized the stuntman’s death to promote the film.[1]

9 Stunt pilot killed in plane crash

Paul Mantz “Flight of the Phoenix” accident

The Flight of the Phoenix, starring Jimmy Stewart, was not a terrible movie. In fact, it was nominated for two Academy Awards in 1965. However, it was a dismal failure at the box-office despite taking its plot from a best-selling novel and having an all-star cast.

But bombing at the box-office was the least of the producers’ troubles. Director producer Robert Aldrich and 61-year-old stunt pilot Paul Mantz wanted to re-shoot a scene where Mantz lands the “Phoenix” in the dunes. As the cameras were rolling, Mantz landed but hit one of the dunes too hard. This caused the fuselage to break and the plane’s nose to pitch forward at a sharp angle, killing Mantz instantly. Bobby Rose, a 64-year-old stuntman flying with Mantz broke his shoulder and pelvis. The cameras caught the entire horrific accident and the video can still be viewed online.[2]

8 Light fixture nearly kills actor

Annabelle – Official Main Trailer [HD]

Working on a true horror movie set is sure to rattle some nerves, no matter how seasoned the actors and crew. Director of the first Annabelle movie, John Leonetti, claimed that there were two supernatural events that happened on set during filming.

One of these events saw three claw marks drawn through the dust on the window of the living room set they were shooting from. It terrified those on site, considering the demon in the movie has three talons.

The second incident was a lot scarier, though. While shooting in an apartment building near Koreatown, the demon was brought into the shot. As the actor playing the janitor of the building headed into the shot as well, a massive light fixture promptly fell on his head. This incident became even creepier after it was revealed in the script that the demon kills the janitor in the hallway where the light fixture used to hang.[3]

7 Boat sinks during filming

Jaws Official Trailer #1 – Richard Dreyfuss, Steven Spielberg Movie (1975) HD

The making of Jaws is just about as legendary as the movie itself. There are lots of jaw-dropping tidbits surrounding the film, including Stephen King’s son claiming that an extra in the movie was an unidentified murder victim found in Provincetown in 1974. Also, one of the scariest scenes in the entire film, involving a severed head, was shot in a swimming pool.

There was drama on set as well, as might be expected when filming in the ocean. What was meant to be a 55-day shoot turned into 159 days. Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw were feuding, and people were getting restless. To make matters worse, while filming the final scene, the boat used in the movie had its hull ruptured and started sinking with the actors still on board. Director, Steven Spielberg, panicked and shouted: “get the actors off the boat.” Another boat was sent in to rescue the sinking Orca and fortunately no one was injured in the incident.[4]

6 Actors suffer near mental breakdown

THE ABYSS – Trailer ( 1989 )

While James Cameron is well-known for movies like Titanic and Avatar, he also directed the 1989 film The Abyss. This movie has gained the reputation of being one of the toughest to shoot because most of it was filmed under water.

The whole experience was very taxing on the cast and crew alike. The actors spent up to 12 hours a day on set which was 40 feet underwater in an abandoned nuclear reactor. The crew went up to 50 feet underwater and had to decompress regularly in a specialised decompression chamber. Everyone had to relieve themselves in their wetsuits which caused algae to bloom and extra chlorine to be required. Eventually star Ed Harris’ hair turned white because of the chlorine and he once broke down crying while driving home due to the sheer stress of filming. His co-star Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio had an emotional and physical breakdown on set and even walked off once.

Cameron himself nearly died on set after he ran out of oxygen underwater and had to be rescued by a safety diver.[5]

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5 Stunt double paralyzed after stunt gone wrong

Daniel Radcliffe talks about his previous stunt double, David Holmes

David Holmes was Daniel Radcliffe’s stunt double in the Harry Potty films. He and Radcliffe had worked together on 6 of the films when tragedy struck. During filming at the Warner Brothers Studios for the next instalment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Holmes was practising a ‘jerk back’ stunt. He was thrown into a wall at one point and pulled back by a high-strength wire. Things went awry though, and he ended up with a broken neck and was instantly paralyzed.

He spent the next six months in hospital and was told he would be paralyzed from the chest down for the rest of his life. Next up was months of rehab. Daniel Radcliffe assisted Holmes with his medical bills by hosting a charity auction dinner and the two remain friends. Holmes went on to start his own production company with two new friends who are also paralyzed.[6]

4 Camera assistant dies during freight train accident

‘Midnight Rider’: The Moments Before the Train Crash

Midnight Rider only ever had one scene made. And that scene was edited from footage depicting a horrific train accident that killed crew member Sarah Jones and injured 7 others.

The movie was supposed to be a biopic about rock star Gregg Allman and would have starred William Hurt. The raw footage from that tragic incident shows several crew members and actor Wyatt Russell struggling to get off a set of train tracks, while also trying to move props on the movie set out of the way. The next minute a freight train is upon them. William Hurt later told a news agency that he had felt very unsettled when they arrived at the tracks and he asked the assistant director, Hillary Schwartz, whether they would be safe there. She said they would be safe, but these words would come back to haunt her later. She was fined $5,000 and sentenced to 10 years’ probation for her role in the accident. It was also revealed later that the filmmakers had been denied permission to film at the train tracks by the company who owned the railway. The movie’s director, Randall Miller, received a two-year prison sentence and 8 years’ probation for trespassing and involuntary manslaughter.[7]

3 Stuntman left with brain damage after head-on collision

Stuntman Scott McLean injured filming The Hangover 2

During the filming of The Hangover Part II, stuntman Scott McLean was performing a stunt that he had rehearsed over and over beforehand. He was inside a moving truck and leaning out of the window for the shot, when the car driving towards the truck skidded and hit him.

McLean was rushed to hospital where he was placed in a medically induced coma to help him recover. He stayed in the coma for two months and unfortunately retained brain damage. McLean had to move to a rehabilitation clinic and went on to sue Warner Bros film studios for financial damages. The former stuntman now suffers from ongoing seizures as well as speech and physical impediments.[8]

2 70 injuries by wild animals on set

Roar Official Re-Release Trailer 1 (2015) – Melanie Griffith Movie HD

In 1974, shooting began for Roar, a movie about a family being attacked by jungle animals. Tippi Hedren and her husband Noel Marshall couldn’t get anyone to rent them forty lions for their script requirements, so they started their own ‘zoo’.

The couple started off raising a lion cub named Neil until neighbors complained. They then moved to a ranch outside Los Angeles where they added tigers, more lions and elephants to their animal family. They used this site to shoot their movie. What should have been nine months of shooting dragged out to become 5 years and included several injuries inflicted by the wild animals. The cinematographer had his scalp lifted by a massive lion, resulting in around 220 stitches. Hedren tried to ride an elephant and was kicked off for her efforts, resulting in a broken leg and scalp wounds. Her daughter, Melanie Griffith, almost lost an eye after being attacked and needed 50 stitches to her face.

As if the constant injuries weren’t bad enough, the ranch even flooded at one point, resulting in the death of three lions. And, adding insult to injury, the film performed very poorly after its release in 1981.[9]

1 Radioactive set causes actors to develop cancer

The Movie That Accidentally Killed Almost Half Of Its Cast

The film, The Conqueror, starring John Wayne and Susan Hayward, was released in 1956. Unfortunately, this film too performed badly at the box office and is often ranked as one of the worst movies of all time.

The controversy surrounding the locations where the film was shot far overshadowed its poor performance, however. The makers of the film thought it wise to shoot the exterior scenes a mere 137 miles away from the Nevada National Security Site, regardless of the nuclear weapons test that had taken place near there. The federal government assured the public at the time that the tests would pose no hazard to anyone’s health.

They were badly mistaken. By the end of 1980, 91 of the 220 cast and crew that had worked on the film had developed cancer and 46 had died from the disease. Director Dick Powell developed terminal kidney cancer and committed suicide in 1963. John Wayne developed lung cancer and eventually died of stomach cancer in 1979. Susan Hayward died of brain cancer in 1975. While many argue that some of the cancers cannot be linked to the location’s hazards, experts say that the sheer number of cancer cases in people who worked on the film cannot be a coincidence.[10]

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fact checked by Jamie Frater

Estelle is a regular writer for Listverse.

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