Hollywood is known for its glamorous escapism, taking the audience away from the mundane routine of everyday living into a world of adventure and imagination. At the same time, there is a real side to Hollywood, depicted by the toil and sweat put into it by people laboring for hours both behind and in front of the camera. Injuries and accidents are a natural part of this process. Unfortunately, many a times, these accidents can be fatal, and can even involve serious litigation. Here are seven tragic accidents that occurred during the filming of some of the most memorable Hollywood movies.
1. Midnight Rider (Unreleased)
Based on the eventful life of rock and roll star Gregg Allman, Midnight Rider was all set to become a major hit. What was to be a seriously bad omen for the film, a tragic accident took place when shooting began on the first day. The director was shooting a scene on a railroad track on location with several actors and technicians. When a CSX train appeared on the tracks, the lookout issued a warning to the crew to get away from the tracks. Sarah Jones, one of the camera assistants, was unable to move in time and was hit by the incoming train. She lost her life in the accident. Fortunately, the executive producer and assistant director were charged with criminal trespass. The attorneys for the Jones family and Allan eventually reached an out of court settlement. This was a surprising settlement since in most cases involving railway crossing accidents, the railway firm is found guilty. In a railway crossing accident that occurred in 2008, railway law firm Pottroff & Karlin were able to secure a verdict against BNSF due to whose negligence four people were killed while crossing a railroad track in Anoka, Minnesota.
2. Gone in 60 Seconds 2 (Unreleased)
This is an extremely tragic accident that resulted in the untimely death of a promising Hollywood action director. A sequel to the 1974 hit Gone in 60 Seconds was under production in 1989 and director H.B. Halicki was at the top of his game at the time. Known for his jaw-dropping way of filming car stunts, Halicki had planned a number of thrilling car crashes for the sequel. While shooting one such scene, a cable snapped causing the tower it was holding up to crash onto a telephone pole. The said pole then fell on the director causing his death.
3. The Maze Runner (Unreleased)
While shooting for the third instalment in the Maze Runner franchise, an unfortunate accident put at risk the career of its promising lead Dylan O’Brien. The young lad showed immense promise as a future Hollywood lead when he won hearts in Teen Wolf. However, while performing a stunt involving a jump from the roof of a car to another, the young actor suffered an injury, causing the shoot and release to be postponed for some weeks. On discovering that the injury was more severe than initially thought, the release was pushed back by a year. The movie is expected to release in January 2018.
4. The Twilight Zone (1983)
The Twilight Zone is a landmark 1983 movie that became more famous for a morbid and fatal accident that occurred while filming. While executing an action sequence that required an explosion setting off under a helicopter in flight. As the helicopter was flying too low, it was heavily impacted by the shock of the explosion and veered off course. Its blades hit two actors resulting in decapitation of their heads. A third actor died after being crushed under the landing gear of the helicopter. As a result of this accident, several Hollywood producers avoided using helicopters for stunts in their movies.
5. Top Gun (1986)
The 1986 classic Top Gun is widely known for putting Tom Cruise on the map as one of Hollywood’s best leading men. However, little is known about a fatal accident during the shooting of the movie that took the life of a promising stunt artist, Art Scholl. On the day of the accident, Scholl was aboard a Pitts S-2 plane to capture aerial shots from an altitude. After executing a successful flat spin with his craft, he became unable to return to a safe altitude. Eventually, Scholl plunged with his plane into the sea, resulting in his death. His body was never found.
6. The Dark Knight (2008)
This accident relates to the unfortunate loss of an able stunt artist named Conway Wickliffe. Wickliffe was an upcoming and well-known stunt artist in Hollywood having worked on numerous successful films such as Die Another Day and Batman Begins. While preparing for a stunt scene in the 2008 release The Dark Knight, the one where The Joker destroys the Batmobile with a rocket launcher, Wickliffe was riding in a car going at 20 miles to the hour when the driver missed a 90-degree turn, slamming the car into a tree. Wickliffe suffered extreme trauma to the head and died instantly.
7. The Expendables 2 (2012)
The successful 2012 revenge drama The Expendables 2 had a lot riding on it thanks to the immensely successful prequel. Sylvester Stallone had roped in famed director Simon West who had previously directed Con Air among other successful movies. While shooting a scene involving an explosion, two stunt artists named Kun Liu and Nuo Sun were badly injured. While Sun survived his injuries and recovered completely, Liu succumbed to his injuries and passed away.
Tragedies like these simply go to show that life can be very unpredictable, even on a Hollywood film set. The make-believe world of Hollywood can be equally gritty and real as real life itself. Loss of human life is tragic and people working in Hollywood have witnessed such incidents at close range. At times these incidents are hidden from media glare, but at others they become fodder for relentless media scrutiny, especially when these incidents become legal cases. Thus, it is important to be aware of the sacrifices and loss that goes into completing a grand feature film.