10 Famous Movies That Tried to Kill Their Actors

The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies
New Line via Everett Collection

We expect movies to be action packed, dangerous, and violent, but some films are just so hell bent on destruction, they seem to take it out on their actors.

1. The Passion of the Christ

While filming The Passion of the Christ, Jim Caviezel was injured so many times you would think that God himself was trying to halt production of the film. Caviezel suffered cuts, scrapes, backaches, caught pneumonia as well as a lung infection, and dislocated his shoulder carrying the cross. Additionally, director Mel Gibson wanted the film to be as realistic as possible so he ordered two actors to whip Caviezel “overhand as if throwing a baseball,” which resulted in a 14-inch gash on the actor’s back.

Caviezel was even struck by lightning while filming the Sermon on the Mount, “I knew it was going to happen,” he said, “People started screaming and they said I had fire on both sides of my head and a light around me. I had locked eyes with people and it was very eerie because they made a weird sound – the kind of sound people made when they saw the jet plane run into the World Trade Center. It was a sickening feeling.”

2. Syriana

While performing a stunt for Syriana, George Clooney injured his spine so badly he started blowing spinal fluid out of his nose. Clooney was hospitalized and his injury was so serious that he contemplated suicide telling Rolling Stone, “I was at a point where I thought, I can’t exist like this. I can’t actually live.’ I was lying in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm, unable to move, having these headaches where it feels like you’re having a stroke, and for a short three-week period, I started to think, ‘I may have to do something drastic about this.’ You start to think in terms of, you don’t want to leave a mess, so go in the garage, go in the car, start the engine. It seems like the nicest way to do it, but I never thought I’d get there. See, I was in a place where I was trying to figure out how to survive.” Clooney later underwent a successful surgery to reduce his pain.

3. Apocalypse Now

By some accounts, the filming of Apocalypse Now was crazier than the actual Vietnam War. The set was infested with cocaine parties and dead bodies and at one point, Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack. He was able to return to the set a little over a month later, but director Francis Ford Coppola blamed himself and had an epileptic guilt seizure. Coppola later admitted, “We had access to too much money and little by little we went insane.” Dennis Hopper added, “Ask anybody who was out there, we all felt like we fought the war.”

4. A Clockwork Orange

While filming the “Ludovico technique” scene in A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell scratched his cornea and was rendered temporarily blind. “I ended up with scratched corneas — nasty, viciously painful,” McDowell said“It heals up pretty quick but a few days later Stanley says he needs one more, a real close-up. The stand-in wouldn’t do it; he saw what happened to me. So it was back in the chair. It was the last day of the shoot. I was terrified and you can see it in the shot.”

5. Now You See Me

On an episode of Chelsea Lately, Isla Fisher revealed that she almost drowned while shooting an underwater stunt for the film Now You See Me, “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.”

6. Rocky IV

While shooting Rocky IV, Sylvester Stallone taunted Dolph Lundgren and encouraged him to punch him as hard as he could which is sort of the perfect metaphor for the Cold War. “At one point, he hit me so hard on the top of the head I felt my spine compress, he then hit me with an almighty uppercut. That night my chest and heart started to swell, and I had to be helicopter-ambulanced from my hotel to a nearby emergency room.”

Stallone’s heart began to swell up like the Grinch and he was placed in intensive care for eight days. “If it had swollen any more,” Stallone was told by the doctors “I would have died. After that, I was like, ‘Dolph, it’s only a movie, bro’.”

7. Titanic

While filming the sinking of the ship, several extras experienced injuries ranging from a broken ankle to cracked ribs, a fractured cheekbone, and a ruptured spleen. While filming the climax of the movie, Kate Winslet contracted pneumonia and was worried she was going to drown. But the worst was yet to come. During an after party, 80 members of the cast and crew, including director James Cameron, were hospitalized after someone spiked the lobster chowder with PCP.

8. Armour of God

Jackie Chan’s career almost ended while filming a stunt for the movie Armour of God. Chan was supposed to jump up and grab tree branch, but lost his grip and fell 15 feet, smashing his head on a rock and causing blood to pour out of his ears. He was rushed to the hospital where he underwent emergency brain surgery and the actor has a plastic plate in his head to cover the permanent hole in his skull.

9. The Wizard of Oz

Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West, suffered second and third degree burns on her hands and face while filming her exit from Munchkinland. Her character was supposed to “vanish” in a burst of flames and smoke, but the trap door malfunctioned, leaving her exposed to the pyrotechnics. She was hospitalized for six weeks and agreed to return on one condition, “no more fireworks!”

Hamilton wasn’t the only actor maimed by the film. The original Tin Man, Buddy Ebsen, suffered a severe allergic reaction to his aluminum makeup which resulted in a collapsed lung and lifelong respiratory problems. He later wrote in his autobiography, “One night in bed I woke up screaming…. The cramps in my arms advanced into my chest to the muscles that controlled my breathing. If this continued, I wouldn’t even be able to take a breath. I was sure I was dying.”

10. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies

During the filming of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the whole fellowship experienced a range of injuries. Sean Astin stepped on a piece of glass. Viggo Mortensen broke his toes. Orlando Bloom cracked a rib after he fell off his horse. John Rhys-Davies, not be outdone by Legolas, suffered a broken back, a broken arm, and was at one point scalped by a wall.

It wasn’t just humans who were endangered either. Animal handlers involved with filming of The Hobbit trilogy believe that as many as 27 animals were killed during the production of the films. The animals were kept at a farm riddled with “bluffs, sinkholes and other ‘death traps.’” One horse cut open its leg on a fence, several chickens were mauled to death by dogs, and goats and sheep regularly died after contracting worm or falling into sinkholes. And if that’s not sad enough for you, the first animal to be euthanized on set was a miniature horse named Rainbow.

For more behind the scenes info, check out 25 ‘Titanic’ Facts You Never Knew or 21 Wonderful Facts About ‘The Wizard of Oz’.