Freak accidents can happen at any time, but seem to take on another level of disbelief when they happen on a film set. These guys are supposed to know what they’re doing, but even on big budget productions small mistakes can have deadly consequences.
Vanishing stunt pilot in Top Gun
In 1985 when the filming for Top Gun was in full flow, a well-known pilot, Art Scholl, was called in to capture some spinning scenery footage. Scholl was considered a safe pair of hands; he was an experienced stunt pilot, with his own aviation school and a degree in Aeronautics from California State University.
The accident happened when he went into an upside-down spin, the plane was seen to plunge through the cloud cover by other pilots and then disappear. Scholl’s last words were “I’ve really got a problem”, before his plane crashed and vanished without trace. Small pieces of debris have been discovered, but the plane and Scholl’s body still remain missing.
A burning witch in The Wizard of Oz
Special effects techniques were at a fledgling stage during the 1930’s, and movies actors were taking risks on a regular basis. The set of The Wizard of Oz was no different, as Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch, received second degree burns to her face and third degree burns to her hand when a trap door open too late.
Although she ended up spending six weeks in hospital recovering, Hamilton refused to sue the studio for fear of never working again. However, when she did return to finish her scenes, Hamilton refused to work with pyrotechnics.
Helicopter spins out of control in Twilight Zone: The Movie
In 1982, a fatal helicopter crash killed two children and an adult on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. The actors had been standing underneath the chopper when a stunt took place, but were fatally injured when it went wrong. The incident, which resulted in director John Landis being prosecuted for manslaughter, also led to tighter regulations around the treatment of child actors.
Landis was eventually acquitted, but at his trial during 1986 and 1987, the judge made reference to the 1920 film Way Down East, where a child star was injured after being floated down an icy river on a raft. He scathingly pointed out that 75 years later, film makers should be more interested in the safety of their cast than getting the ideal shot.
Stuntman has fatal collision in XXX
If you actually managed to watch the whole thing or are a Vin Diesel fan for some reason then some of you may remember XXX with it’s plenty of dangerous stunts that required split second timing. Disaster struck when the crew were filming in Prague during the spring of 2002, a stuntman hit a column under Palackeho Bridge while he was being dragged behind a speedboat in paragliding gear.
The first take had gone completely to plan, but the director, Rob Cohen, decided he wasn’t happy with the material so he asked for the stunt to be repeated. On the second pass, the stuntman became trapped in his harness and hit the bridge head on, dying instantly.