From the Jason Bourne franchise to the James Bond films, a good stunt or action scene will live rent-free in audiences’ heads in the years following a film’s release.
Not all stunts go well, however. In fact, filming, in general, can be a hazardous occupation, whether a production team is creating the next action movie hit or not. On-set accidents, comedic or grave, happen more than audiences may presume. But you might not know that some of these mishaps are caught on camera and sometimes kept in the final cut. Whether it was intentional or not, some of the most iconic releases are littered with footage of on-set accidents that creep their way into the finished film.
Tom Cruise in ‘Mission Impossible: Fallout’ (2018)
Perhaps the most well-known injury kept in a recently finished film is Tom Cruise‘s broken ankle. The Top Gun: Maverick star injured himself while filming a stunt for 2018’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
Cruise is famous for doing a lot of his stunts and, typically, having an actor take the lead during action scenes makes for a compelling viewing experience. However, this particular stunt made those who spotted the mishap recoil more than thrilled them. In situations like these, maybe keeping the actors out of harm’s way would have been better for everyone involved.
Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘Django Unchained’ (2012)
Pulp Fiction director Quentin Tarantino has created more than a few unforgettable characters and collaborated with some of the greatest actors working today. For his 2012 Western Django UnchainedTarantino cast Leonardo DiCaprio (of Titanic and Don’t Look Up fame) as the heartless Calvin Candie. DiCaprio may have gotten too into playing the unfeeling slaveowner, however, as the actor not only sustained a serious wound during filming but integrated the injury into his captivating performance.
During a tense dinner scene with the film’s protagonists, Candie smashes a glass, cutting his hand with the broken shards, but continues to monologue despite his newly-acquired wound. Amazingly, the accident was not faked, with DiCaprio insisting on the scene despite his bleeding hand. The impressive take is in the final film, though many audiences were none the wiser.
That One Stormtrooper in ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ (1977)
The Star Wars films depict thrilling sci-fi adventures, with their heroes facing a fair share of danger in the epic galactic conflicts each film brings to life. The series’ villains are often the ones dealing out the peril, except one now-infamous Imperial grunt. An actor playing a Stormtrooper in Star Wars: A New Hope inadvertently smashed his head against the frame of a sliding door as he entered his scene, making it one of the funniest and quirkiest mishaps to make it to a finished film.
Even the filmmakers acknowledged the comedic nature of the on-camera mishap, drawing attention to the blooper with an accompanying sound effect in the 2004 DVD re-release of George Lucas‘original trilogy, immortalizing the unfortunate Stormtrooper with a hilarious, unmistakable thump.
Viggo Mortensen in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ (2002)
In an irrefutable instance of perfect casting, director Peter Jackson chose Viggo Mortensen to play the heir of Gondor, Aragorn, in his adaptation of JRR Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings. The award-winning film trilogy is full of scenes that would give any fantasy fan chills, but the filming of one particularly moving moment left Mortensen seriously injured.
In filming The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the actor broke his toe while shooting a scene showing Aragorn angrily kicking a helmet. We can see why Jackson included it in the final film; the anguish Mortensen exhibits makes the scene hit that little bit harder. The injury and Mortensen’s resilience solidified his performances in the fantasy trilogy as some of the greatest work of his career.
Brad Pitt in ‘Troy’ (2004)
Wolfgang Petersen‘s Troy follows the assault on the eponymous city by the armies of a united Greece, emphasizing many of the characters and skirmishes that defined the Trojan War. With its colossal battles and a wide array of mighty, mythological heroes, Troy ought to be a delight for fans of Ancient Greece and a must-watch for those who love a grand historical epic.
In the 2004 film, Brad Pitt plays Achilles, the most skilled warrior demigod in all of Greek mythology, who would have been unkillable had it not been for a fatal wound to his vulnerable heel. In what seemed like a very poetic stroke of bad luck, Pitt suffered a rupture to his Achilles’ tendon, the strip of tissue responsible for connecting the calf muscles to one’s heel. Despite extensive physical training, Pitt recalls how “in a bout of stupid irony, [he] tweaked [his] Achilles’ tendon ”while filming the first of his character’s fight scenes (a showdown with the warrior-brute Boagrius), delaying the production by about ten months. Injury aside, Pitt is capable of some great fight scenes, and his showdown with the giant remains a sight to behold.
Martin Sheen in ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979)
Francis Ford Coppola‘s iconic war film Apocalypse Now was notoriously difficult to make. From one of its main cast members suffering a heart attack to technical issues surrounding the film’s audio, to describe the film’s production as “troubled” would be the understatement of the year. Puzzlingly, however, a serious on-set accident involving actor Martin Sheen led to the creation of one of the most iconic movie scenes of all time.
In one of the film’s earlier scenes, Sheen’s Benjamin Willard cut his hand while punching a mirror. Naturally, Coppola and his crew wanted to stop shooting and help the actor with his injury, but Sheen insisted they keep filming. The visceral footage of an injured Sheen remains in the film’s final cut.
Ellen Burstyn in ‘The Exorcist’ (1973)
The filming of The Exorcist sounds like a more terrifying ordeal for its cast than it would ever be to watch. That’s saying a lot, considering the film is considered one of the scariest movies of all time.
Director William Friedkin cast Ellen Burstyn as a mother whose daughter Regan (Linda Blair) becomes possessed by a demonic entity. In an interview with HuffPost Live, Burstyn revealed how an accident during filming permanently injured her spine. A shot required wirework to make it seem like Burstyn was being thrown to the floor by her possessed child, but she was pulled too hard onto the ground. Her pained reaction was hardly acting, and the footage was later used in the final film.
Gianni Russo in ‘The Godfather’ (1972)
Typically, fight scenes are meticulously planned not to compromise the safety of the on-set performers for the spectacle and drama of the feud. The Godfather remains one of the greatest movies of its time. But the movie wasn’t as injury-free as you might think, as filming for the classic gangster movie left actor Gianni Russo quite sore.
In the 1972 film, Sonny Corleone (James Caan) beats down Carlo Rizzi (Russo) for physically abusing Connie Corleone, who is Sonny’s sister and Carlo’s wife. Unfortunately for Russo, Caan decided to throw hands for real. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Russo reports that Caan “got a little aggressive” and improvised much of the altercation. Filming the scene left Russo with a chipped elbow and two broken ribs, leaving director Francis Ford Coppola impressed. Audiences can still see the brutal beatdown in the final cut of Coppola’s film.
Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’ (2014)
Acclaimed actor Jake Gyllenhaal has done it all. From shining in twisted thrillers to playing an MCU villain in Spider-Man: Far From Home. He even checked the box for having a serious on-set accident show up in a finished film, courtesy of an unfortunate wound sustained during the filming of Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler.
In one of the best performances in the last decade, Gyllenhaal plays Lou, an aspiring journalist who becomes increasingly obsessed with filming and photographing violent incidents and selling his grizzly coverage to local television news stations. In an intense scene, Lou violently lashes out at a mirror. Striking the mirror was an intentional part of the scene, but Gyllenhaal accidentally broke the mirror while filming, cutting his hand. The wound required stitches, but the unlucky take remains intact in the finished film.
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