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9 Film Set Tragedies That Shocked Hollywood

Culture December 1, 2017 By Hugo

Hollywood movie sets have long been places where dangerous stunts and real-life explosions go hand-in-hand, and it's also not unheard of for actors to perform their own stunts and get injured in the process.

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However, if an accident happens there are often round-the-clock medical teams on hand, but in some cases, that still isn't enough to prevent tragedy. Here, we take a look at 9 movie set tragedies that shocked Hollywood.

1. Delta Force 2: The Columbian Connection

Chuck Norris is a man of many talents, but there was little he could have done to prevent a helicopter crash during the filming of Delta Force 2: The Columbian Connection.

Occurring in 1989, the helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff, killing the pilot and four crew members onboard. 

The movie was subsequently dedicated to their passing.

2.  XXX

While it is not unheard of for actors to perform their own stunts, most studios hire body doubles to do them instead, as was the case with Vin Diesel's character in the movie XXX.  

Harry O'Connor, who was assigned the role of Vin's body double, was working on a scene which required him to parasail near the Palacky Bridge in Prague before sliding down the lines of the parasail and onto a submarine below. In a cruel twist of fate, O'Connor performed the stunt well the first time round, but crew members felt he could do a better take.

But a want for such perfectionism led to the body double's death after he hit the bridge on his way down to the submarine. In the end, producers had little choice but to go with the first take.

3. Catch-22

Based on the Joesph Heller novel of the same name, the movie adaptation of Catch-22 involved a tragedy of a different kind when filming. In a fatality that could easily have been prevented, second unit director John Jordan refused to wear a harness when shooting a scene in a vintage airplane. 

Unfortunately for Jordan, his flagrant disregard for his safety saw him get sucked out of the plane before falling to his death.

4. Top Gun

Another aircraft-related death occurred on the set of the famous 1986 movie, Top Gun after Art Scholl, an experienced stunt pilot, was asked to be Tom Cruise's body double and perform a range of stunts inside the plane to make it appear as though Cruise and his co-stars had performed them.

Of course, even the most seasoned of professionals come undone sometimes and unfortunately for Scholl that reality proved fatal as soon after he radioed, "I have a problem; I have a real problem," the plane plummeted into the Pacific. To this day, the cause of the plane's problem, as well as its whereabouts, has yet to be established.

5. The Dark Knight

It goes without saying that this brilliant film has become synonymous with the terrific performance of the late Heath Ledger following his accidental death from a prescription drug overdose, but few know of the death of Conway Wickliffe, a film technician who lost his life during the filming process.

Wickliffe, who was involved in a stunt with the Batmobile, lost control of it after going too fast and was killed when it collided with a tree, leading the director Christopher Nolan to dedicate the movie to both Wickliffe and Ledger.

6. The Twilight Zone: The Movie

The Twilight Zone was quite a trippy experience for viewers, and when it came to filming the movie, producers must have thought a similar thing because of the sheer gruesomeness of the tragedy involving the actor Vic Morrow and two children.

Recording a scene that involved going back in time to the Vietnam War, a series of explosions were arranged by the director. Sadly, one connected with a low-flying helicopter, causing it to decapitate Morrow and one of the children; while the other was crushed.

7. Gone in 60 Seconds 2

There was no sequel to Gone in 60 Seconds, but we included the title anyway because filming for the sequel had taken place before a fatality shut production down.

The death involved the director H.B. Halicki, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when one of the cables holding a massive water tower snapped and crashed into a nearby telephone pole. The quick chain of events culminated in the phone poll falling onto the director's head, killing Halicki instantly and leading to an immediate shutdown in filming- despite many of the scenes being completed.

7. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

While no death took place on the set of Michael Bay's blockbuster movie, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, one extra was left permanently brain damaged after a steel cable holding a car snapped and landed on a vehicle she was sitting in. 

Piercing the windshield, the car connected with extra Gabriella Cedillo's face, and though she survived the ordeal, her life was left in ruins from her subsequent disability, leading Paramount Pictures to shell out $18m to her family in compensation.

8. Bikini Island

When a movie is called 'Bikini Island' chances are there's going to be a lot of cliff diving, and stuntman Jay C. Currin was tasked with doing just that when he jumped from a cliff during filming.

However, he fatally misjudged it, and despite landing on the safety airbag below, his fall was awkward enough to bring him to the nearby rocks which caused an imminent death.

9. Million Dollar Mystery

Like most stuntmen in Hollywood, Dar Robinson was a seasoned pro who'd made a comfortable living performing death-defying stunts on big-budget movies, but after 19 years in the business his luck ran out.

Riding a motorbike during a drive-by scene for the Razzie-nominated movie (yes, it was that bad), Million Dollar Mystery Man, Dar missed his braking point and went flying over the edge of a cliff. His unfortunate demise came soon after he had finished filming stunts for Lethal Weapon, with both movies dedicated to Dar's life.


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