ByVaria Fedko-Blake, writer at
Staff Writer at Moviepilot! [email protected]m Twitter: @vfedkoblake
Varia Fedko-Blake

Glitz and glamour aside, the movie business is actually quite a dangerous field to work in. Not only are actors surrounded by huge sets, riddled with electric wires and heavy pieces of equipment, but they often have to put their life on the line when performing difficult stunts for our viewing pleasure.

We've all heard about actors such as Brandon Lee who actually died whilst making movies, and although the following A-listers didn't, they certainly had a close brush with death when filming these iconic scenes.

Let's take a look at 9 actors who pretty much ogled the Grim Reaper in the eye whilst on a film set:

1. Diane Kruger in Inglorious Basterds

In the scene in which Diane Kruger, in the role of Bridget von Hammersmark, is brutally strangled, director Quentin Tarantino was unimpressed with how the choking scene went down.

In order for the moment to look more realistic, he convinced Kruger to be strangled for real, taking matters quite literally into his own hands. He's since said:

What I said to her was, I'm gonna just strangle you, alright? Full on, I'm gonna cut off your air, for just a little bit of time. We're gonna see the reaction in your face and I'm gonna yell cut.

Kruger reluctantly agreed to being choked up until the point of unconsciousness by a man sitting on top of her wearing a Nazi outfit (Tarantino). Following the scene, Kruger reportedly had to take 15 mins out and a long bathroom break to recover her breathing.

2. Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz

The scene in which the Wicked Witch of the West disappears in a puff of smoke almost killed the actress. The reason for this lay in her petroleum based make-up which reacted with the sparks from the special affects, causing her face to catch-on fire!

Although she could have died, Margaret ended up suffering second-degree burns to her face and had to spend weeks in hospital.

3. Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future 3

The part in which Marty is hanging with a noose around his neck, only to be saved by Doc at the last minute, almost killed Michael J. Fox.

In an autobiography written many years later, he admitted that for the first couple of takes, he stood on a box when doing the stunt. But in his eyes, this didn't look realistic enough so he decided to do it without - on the 7th take, Fox dangerously miscalculated the timing and actually passed out for 30 seconds. Here's the scene:

Fox said:

“It was a full 30 seconds before anyone noticed. Thankfully Bob Zemeckis, a fan of mine though he was, realized that I wasn’t that good of an actor.”

The actor was given a day to recover from this near-death incident.

4. Halle Berry in Die Another Day

In the passionate love scene between Berry and Pierce Brosnan, she cuts off a bit of fruit, puts it in her mouth and shares it with James Bond. In the movie, the moment is very slick but in fact, Halle got so carried away that she almost choked.

And because the scene was so dark, nobody in the crew noticed that she couldn't breathe. Only Pierce saw what was happened and had to swiftly perform the Heimlich maneuver on her, saving the day once again.

5. Jason Statham in The Expendables 3

Yep, the hard-man of movies almost died whilst on the set of The Expendables 3. In fact, he was driving a truck when the brakes failed and his vehicle plunged straight into the Black Sea.

Whilst any other human would be flapping about underwater in panic preparing for a watery grave, Statham laughed in the face of danger and made the decision not to die. A co-star said:

We’re doing a stunt and Jason was driving the truck. But the truck doesn’t stop and it goes over the dock, into the Black Sea with Jason driving. He’s in the water, in the truck. Now we are freaking out, everybody’s screaming. He gets out, swims to the top, and the truck is gone. Jason Statham is a true bad, bad dude.

Watch Statham talk about the incident with Jimmy Fallon:

6. Meryl Streep in The River Wild

Meryl Streep may seem it, but she's definitely not invincible. During the filming of The River Wild in the 90s, she almost drowned!

The cast and crew had already been filming 18 hours that day, and Meryl was exhausted. Despite this, director Curtis Hanson asked for one last try at a scene in a raft and although Meryl voiced that she was too tired, they went ahead with it anyway.

As a result, she fell off the raft and almost drowned - only to be saved by her co-star Kevin Bacon and her flimsy life-jacket. The director should have listened, eh?

7. Uma Thurman in Percy Jackson & the Lightening Thief

Unsurprisingly, and because he was James Bond after all, Pierce Brosnan saved a second damsel in distress on the set of Percy Jackson & the Lightening Thief. Whilst Uma Thurman was eating her lunch at the bottom of a hill between takes, a large van came hurtling down towards her. Apparently, some fool had forgotten to put the handbrake on.

Pierce, activating his 007 agility and top speed, raced after the vehicle, slamming on the breaks at the last minute.

What a hero! And for that, he's welcome to sing his atrocious parts in Mamma Mia! any day.

8. Isla Fisher in Now You See Me

Doing a stunt inside a water tank, Isla Fisher almost drowned when filming Now You See Me. Stuck in a large body of water, the actress failed to reach the switch to drain the tank and was trapped for 2 and a half minutes. She spoke of the incident:

My chain got stuck. I had to really swim to the bottom. I couldn’t get up. Everyone thought I was acting fabulously. I was actually drowning. No one realized I was actually struggling.

9. Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger

During the filming of The Lone Ranger, Johnny Depp was almost killed when a horse-stunt went terribly wrong. The actor was riding a pony called Scout when the saddle came loose and he was thrown off, only to get tangled in the reigns. He recalls the moment:

My horse had it in for me. Scout decided to jump over a few obstacles. I was still holding on to the mane like an idiot trying to get back up and at a certain point you have to make a decision, do I go down and hit the deck on my own? Or do I wait for the hoof to split my face in two? I decided to go down and, incredibly, the horse lifted its front legs and he missed me.

By that point, Depp had been dragged for over 25 yards and was incredibly lucky to get away relatively unharmed.



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