Fans were excited when Star Wars: The Force Awakens featured the return of Han Solo, and heartbroken when Harrison Ford's much-loved character died at the hands of his son, Kylo Ren. Behind the scenes, though, Harrison Ford had problems of his own; specifically, a court heart today that a major health and safety breach during filming could have killed him.
The 71-year-old actor walked on to the set of the Millennium Falcon, believing it wasn't live. The hydraulic door to the Falcon, though, was operated by another person, out of sight; as Harrison Ford walked under it, somebody pressed a button, and the door slammed down upon him. Ford described the incident like this:
"Now we had lots of money and technology and so they built a fucking great hydraulic door which closed at light speed and somebody said, ‘Ooh I wonder what this is?’
"And the door came down and hit me on my left hip because I was turned to my right. And then it flung my left leg up and it dislocated my ankle and as it drove me down to the floor, my legs slapped on the ramp up to the Millennium Falcon and broke both bones in my left leg."
Fortunately, someone hit the emergency stop, and the crew rushed to help the wounded actor. Incredibly, the incident caused another injury - J. J. Abrams injured his back helping Ford get clear of the door. Today, a health and safety executive described the door as having the weight of a small car, which gives an idea of how heavy it was.
Production had to stop for two weeks, and when Harrison Ford returned the crew had to shoot the actor from the waist up for a short time while he recovered. J. J. Abrams, meanwhile, had to wear a back brace under his clothes for months. Ironically enough, Abrams told THR that Ford recovered much more quickly than he did; Ford was running around the set before Abrams had even taken the back brace off! "The guy is like a real life superhero," Abrams reflected.
Today, the case has gone to court, where the company responsible - Foodles Production - has pleaded guilty to two breaches under health and safety legislation. Although Foodles is pleading guilty, though, it's contesting the level of risk involved.
The reality is that sometimes things can go badly wrong when you're making a movie or TV series, and this is only the latest example. Here are a few others:
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter Took A Terrible Turn
Filming of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter has included some pretty tragic twists. Stuntwoman Oliva Jackson was left badly injured:
"2 weeks in a coma, brain bleed, brain swelling, severed main artery in the neck, crushed & degloved face, several broken ribs, paralyzed arm, shattered scapula, broken clavicle, broken humerus, broken radius & ulna, with an open wound and a 7.5 piece of bone missing, amputated thumb, torn fingers, 5 nerves torn out of the spinal cord…. not my funnest day on set."
Horrifically, things only got worse when another crew member was crushed beneath an Army-issue Hummer.
Helicopter Collision While Making a Reality TV Show
In 2015, the filming of TV survival show Dropped took a horrific twist. The reality TV series flies celebrities into rough terrain by helicopter, and then films their survival story. Unfortunately, while filming in Argentina two of these helicopters collided, killing all aboard. Ten people died, including three French sports personalities.
Even Back to the Future Wasn't Immune
The hoverboards in Back to the Future 2 are much-loved - but were also very, very dangerous. During one critical scene, four members of the stunt team were attached to a large crane, which swung them back and forth to build up momentum. They'd then be crashed through the window of a clock tower, before a button would be pressed to release them and drop them onto airbags behind the window.
Tests with sandbags didn't go well, though, and live tests went even worse - two people were dropped on to empty airbags, nearly breaking their necks! Worse still, while preparing for filming the crew made subtle changes that affected the weights. It all led to stunt double Cheryl Wheeler not even making it inside the clock tower before she was dropped from 30 feet in the air! She survived, and told about her experience in the book We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy.
Making movies can be a dangerous business, and - if what the court heart today is right - we can be grateful that we didn't lose one of today's biggest Hollywood legends.
What's the worst movie accident you've heard of? Let me know in the comments!