As spectators to the epic chases, crashes, explosions, fights, and other mayhem that make up the action genre, the audience assumes actors aren’t faced with any real danger. But while there are precautions and preparation that go into any stunt, things don’t always go as planned — and some scenes are seemingly only made possible at the expense of the actor’s health.
While directors often cast a stunt double in their stars’ place when danger calls, it’s fairly common for adrenaline junkie thespians to push their bodies to (and sometimes past) their limits to make a production work. It is effectively expected for career-long daredevils, like Tom Cruise and Jackie Chan, to pump out nail-biting action blockbusters with minimum CGI. But even those who don’t specialize in action have made the sacrifice.
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Actors frequently take their cuts, burns, bruises, and broken bones like champs, and will often try to push through if the damage permits. Even those who have been rushed to the hospital and put out of commission in the middle of filming aren’t always discouraged by pain. Some have rushed back to set generally fine, but before they’ve fully recovered; while others have returned with permanent afflictions, eager to do it again. The risk of injury can be a deal breaker for some, and Hollywood accidents have resulted in a smattering of spectacular lawsuits. But for others it’s the price of a clean shot, and just one more reasons the Oscars ought to have a Best Stunt category.
While hand-to-hand combat adds excitement to any storyline, there is more that goes into production than pointing the camera at two actors exchanging haymakers. Fight choreography and pre-production planning are essential to any successful action scene. Timing, location, camera movements, and reactions all play into the story’s plausibility and are just as important as the scene’s daring main events. Although stunts are rehearsed and mapped out in advance, filming them for the first time can be nerve-wracking – even for veteran stunt-people and actors, like Cruise who has to be reminded by producers to contain his smiles of excitement while filming. For those who are less eager and more so paralyzed by the fear of heights, fire, or severe bodily injury, performing their own stunts is a terrifying curve from which to learn.
Keep reading on for an incomplete list of stunts that seriously injured actors during production, which will be updated overtime. Then, check out IndieWire’s guide to nightmare film shoots with The Most Grueling Movies Ever Made.
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