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19 Times That Actors Have Been Injured On Set

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Sometimes, the show really must go on. They may play larger-than-life characters on screen, but actors are human and sometimes get the short end of the stick when it comes to on-set injuries. Here are 19 times where big stars were in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Fire was a bit of a problem for the makers of The Wizard of Oz and the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West. Margaret Hamilton’s stunt double was badly burned on the legs by pyrotechnics during a skywriting broomstick scene and had to stay in the hospital for a couple of weeks. Hamilton herself was out for a month after being burned on the hands and face in an accident involving a trapdoor in Munchkinland and flames that were triggered too soon.


While filming The Eagle in Scotland, Channing Tatum and other cast members had to wade into freezing waters. Tatum told Details that he suffered an unfortunate penis injury while trying to stabilize his body temperature: “The only way to keep warm was by pouring a mix of boiling water and river water down your suit. We were finally done shooting for the day, and one of the crew guys asks if I want to warm up before I go ... Thing is, he'd forgotten to dilute the kettle water. So he poured scalding water down my suit. And I was trying to pull the suit away from my body to somehow get away from the boiling water, and the more I pulled the suit away, the lower the water went." (You know where he's going with this.)

Tatum’s injury in Foxcatcher was at least by his own hand. Director Bennett Miller told The Hollywood Reporter that the actor really went for it during a particularly tense scene (above) and completely smashed a plastic-covered mirror. “He punched that thing with his head three times and shattered it, and put his head through it and through the frame behind the mirror and through the drywall that the mirror was hanging on and left a divot two inches deep,” Miller said. “When we took the mirror down, there was a hole in the wall. And he actually cut himself, and you see his blood in that scene.”


Several injuries were sustained over the course of making The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but the most talked about mishaps happened during the filming of the second film. In an interview for the special features for the film’s home video release, Peter Jackson talks about the direction he gave Viggo Mortensen in a scene that required him to angrily kick a helmet toward the camera. After four takes Jackson was happy with the actor’s performance but thought if he gave him one more try, it would be perfect. Mortensen kicked the helmet again and broke two toes in the process. The kick and the genuine yell that followed made it into the film.

During a horse riding scene, Orlando Bloom took a tumble and broke a rib when another character landed on top of him, an injury that the other actors never let him live down.


Once cited as one of the best improvised movie moments, Leonardo DiCaprio accidentally cut his hand when he slammed it onto glass during a heated monologue. Instead of seeking immediate medical attention, DiCaprio stayed in character and used the real injury to improve the scene, smearing his blood across the face of an unsuspecting Kerry Washington.


Shotgun blasts are very loud. Actress Linda Hamilton learned that the hard way while filming the 1991 sequel to The Terminator. Between takes, Hamilton neglected to put her earplugs back into her ears, so when Arnold Schwarzenegger let off a round in the elevator, the amplified sound caused the actress permanent hearing loss.


An injury similar to Hamilton's befell Bruce Willis while making the classic action film, Die Hard. Being too close to a firing gun caused “two-thirds partial hearing loss” in Willis’ left ear. In defending her father’s tendency to not be very talkative during press junkets, Rumer Willis said that Bruce still has trouble hearing interview questions.


In 2005, George Clooney told The Guardian that an injury sustained on the set of Syriana made him contemplate suicide because the pain was so great. “There was this scene where I was taped to a chair and getting beaten up. The chair was kicked over and I hit my head,” the actor recalled. He went into detail to explain the injury and hard recovery: “I tore my dura, which is the wrap around my spine that holds in the spinal fluid. But it's not my back; it's my brain. I basically bruised my brain. It's bouncing around my head because it's not supported by the spinal fluid ... Before the surgery it was the most unbearable pain I've ever been through, literally where you'd go, 'Well, you'll have to kill yourself at some point, you can't live like this.'"

Now a decade later, Clooney reportedly still feels the pain from the injury, and in 2014 he visited a hospital in Germany to see a doctor about it. It's also worth noting that Clooney won his first Oscar for his role in Syriana.


Han Solo isn’t as spry as he used to be, but his age was the least of his worries when a part of the Millennium Falcon fell off and landed on his leg while filming the newest installment in the Star Wars saga. “They closed the f***ing door on me!” Harrison Ford told Jimmy Fallon during an appearance on The Tonight Show (above). The actor then used an action figure of himself to hilariously reenact the incident, twisting and breaking the toy’s legs. Director J.J. Abrams told Fallon that he, too, was injured while trying to help, to which Ford sarcastically responded, “Oh, poor guy. What a pity.”


It should come as no surprise that a film about the brutal sport of mixed martial arts led to a couple of injuries. In an interview with E! Online, director Gavin O’Connor revealed that both of the stars had to seek medical attention at some point during production. “Joel [Edgerton] blew out his knee. He tore his ACL,” O’Connor said. “Tommy [Hardy] broke ribs, a finger [and] toes. A lot of black eyes … it was intense. We were trying not to act. That was the goal.”


It would probably be easier to list the films that martial arts legend Jackie Chan was not injured making. Throughout his entire career, Chan has done his own stunts, which has resulted in dozens of broken bones and near-death experiences. In 2013, a Japanese poster made to promote Chan’s film Raising Dragon was an anatomical map to all of Chan’s injuries and the movies in which he sustained them. Translated by Kotaku, the poster includes damaged eyebrow bones; lip lacerations; knocked out teeth; broken fingers, nose, breastbone, and ankles; a dislocated pelvis, shoulders, and cheekbone; and numerous other things that make the fact that he can still move very impressive.


It’s hard out here for an Asgardian, especially when heights are part of the equation. As actress Jaimie Alexander told MTV News (above), she slipped and fell from something “very high” and did some serious damage to her body when she reached the ground. “I herniated a disk in my thoracic spine, dislocated my left shoulder, tore my right rhomboid, and chipped 11 vertebrae,” Alexander revealed. But that wasn’t the end of it: “The next morning I got in a car to go to the hospital, and I sat in the car and compressed my spine a little bit, and went paralyzed in my right leg and my right hand.” After a week in the hospital and a month of therapy, Alexander was back in action.


In an interview with the National Enquirer, Tom Hanks told a story that shows that infections can sometimes be more dangerous than actual injuries. Before leaving the island where Cast Away was filmed, the actor got a small cut. “Something got in there,” Hanks said. “I flew home and, boy, was my leg hurting! The weekend we were home it swelled up really big so I finally went to the doctor, thinking he was going to clean out my knee and give me some antibiotics, but it turned out I had a staph infection that was close to giving me blood poisoning.” According to his doctor, the infection could have been fatal had Hanks waited any longer to have it looked at.


During a hanging scene in the third installment of the Back to the Future series, Michael J. Fox was nearly hanged for real. The actor had agreed to have the rope tied around his neck to make the scene more believable, but something went wrong: he didn’t get his hand into place in time to spare his neck from the noose. “It was a full 30 seconds before anyone noticed,” Fox wrote in his autobiography. “Thankfully Bob Zemeckis, a fan of mine though he was, realized that I wasn’t that good of an actor.”


It’s sad to think that a movie like Aeon Flux could have been the end of Charlize Theron’s career. The actress says that she was nearly paralyzed after attempting a back handspring and landing on her neck 10 days into filming, suffering a herniated disc in her spine. The injury halted production for eight weeks.


Who knew that Halle Berry is basically the female Jackie Chan? According to reports, Berry has had some bad luck when it comes to movie sets and has been injured numerous times. The Los Angeles Times writes that Berry has been “knocked out during The Call, broken her foot on Cloud Atlas, broken her arm on Gothika, injured her eye on Die Another Day, and suffered a head injury on Catwoman.”


During the promo tour for The Expendables 3, Sylvester Stallone joked at a press conference about his accident-plagued career: “I usually grade the quality of the film by the intensity of the injury ... In this one I ended up really taking a fall on my back and ended up having some metal inserted in there so if I'm squeaky then it's not my shoes.” In the years prior, Stallone also injured his neck while making the first film in The Expendables franchise and had to have metal plates inserted, so the more recent back plate surgery was familiar territory.


While rehearsing a dance routine, Nicole Kidman fractured a rib. She later fractured it again when she attempted to wear a corset before the rib was completely healed. “I had this thing that I wanted to get my waist down to 18 inches, which Vivien Leigh had on Gone with the Wind and I was just like, 'tighter, tighter!,'" Kidman said.


During his latest stint as James Bond, Daniel Craig suffered a knee injury at the hands of costar and former WWE wrestler Dave Bautista. In speaking to the press, however, Craig downplayed the seriousness of the injury: “It could have happened to me getting out the shower. It’s one of those injuries. I hit it at the wrong angle and it just went ... Dave Bautista was picking me up and throwing me! So I wasn’t getting out of the shower.”

The actor confessed that it was not his first injury, but he resisted surgery. “My fear was, if I had a proper surgery on it, it would stop filming for a long time. The amazing thing was, it didn’t need it. It slowed me down. I couldn’t run without pounding pain. So I took two weeks off, had the surgery and got back to work.”

19. BRAD PITT IN SE7EN (1995) AND TROY (2004)


Brad Pitt is so cool, his injury was actually written into the script of David Fincher's Se7en. The actor slipped during a chase scene and his arm went through a windshield, severing a tendon. “He wasn’t supposed to break his arm, but that’s what we’ve done,” producer Arnold Kopelson said about the decision to give Pitt’s character a cast following a fight with the villain. For the scenes that came before the fight, Pitt’s real cast was hidden.

Nearly a decade later, in one of the most ironic film injuries in history, Pitt—while playing the Greek hero Achilles in Troy—tore his Achilles tendon and could not shoot for 10 weeks.

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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images
Pop Culture
5 Killer Pieces of Rock History Up for Auction Now (Including Prince’s Guitar)
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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of rock history, now is the time. A whole host of cool music memorabilia from the 20th century is going up for sale through Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles as part of its “Icons and Idols” sale. If you’ve got the dough, you can nab everything from leather chairs from Graceland to a shirt worn by Jimi Hendrix to never-before-available prints that Joni Mitchell signed and gave to her friends. Here are five highlights from the auction:


Elvis’s nunchucks
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Elvis’s karate skills sometimes get a bad rap, but the King earned his first black belt in 1960, and went on to become a seventh-degree black belt before opening his own studio in 1974. You can cherish a piece of his martial arts legacy in the form of his nunchaku. One was broken during his training, but the other is still in ready-to-use shape. (But please don’t use it.) It seems Elvis wasn’t super convinced of his own karate skills, though, because he also supposedly carried a police baton (which you can also buy) for his personal protection.


A blue guitar used by Prince
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Prince’s blue Cloud guitar, estimated to be worth between $60,000 and $80,000, appeared on stage with him in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The custom guitar was made just for Prince by Cloud’s luthier (as in, guitar maker) Andy Beech. The artist first sold it at a 1994 auction to benefit relief efforts for the L.A. area’s devastating Northridge earthquake.


Kurt Cobain wearing a cheerleader outfit in the pages of Rolling Stone
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

The Nirvana frontman wore the bright-yellow cheerleader’s uniform from his alma mater, J.M. Weatherwax High School in Aberdeen, Washington, during a photo shoot for a January 1994 issue of Rolling Stone, released just a few months before his death.


A white glove covered in rhinestones
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

A young Michael Jackson wore this bejeweled right-hand glove on his 1981 Triumph Tour, one of the first of many single gloves he would don over the course of his career. Unlike later incarnations, this one isn’t a custom-made glove with hand-sewn crystals, but a regular glove topped with a layer of rhinestones cut into the shape of the glove and sewn on top.

The auction house is also selling a pair of jeans the star wore to his 2003 birthday party, as well as other clothes he wore for music videos and performances.


A piece of wood in a frame under a picture of The Beatles
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

You can’t walk the halls of Abbey Road Studios, but you can pretend. First sold in 1986, the piece of wood in this frame reportedly came from Studio Two, a recording space that hosted not only The Beatles (pictured), but Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and others.

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Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0
5 Dubious Historical Antidotes for Poison (and What Actually Works)
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An artificial bezoar stone from Goa, India
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

When it comes to their health, humans will believe just about anything. In this extract from the new book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, authors Lydia Kang, MD, and Nate Pedersen discuss some of the more questionable ways people once tried to protect themselves from poison—whether or not the methods actually worked.

Poison is everywhere. Naturally or unnaturally, it can be in the soil (arsenic), in the air (carbon monoxide), in your drinks (lead), and in your food (cyanide). With so much danger around, it’s no wonder humans have obsessed over finding a universal antidote—the one thing that could save us from all toxins. Imagine you’re a medieval prince about to inherit the throne. Chances are, there are a lot of power-hungry wannabes waiting in the wings. A little arsenic or hemlock might be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Just in case, best have an antidote on standby.

For millennia, a certain amount of magical thinking was employed when arming oneself against poison because science was inconveniently slow to catch up. So grab your handy unicorn horn and a bezoar, and let’s take a look.


Bezoars have been used for centuries as antidotes to poisons. A bezoar is solid mass of undigested food, plant fibers, or hair found in the digestive tracts of animals, including deer, porcupines, fish, and, yes, humans. Anyone with a cat is familiar with the less-cool feline version: hairballs.

Bezoars and other stone-like items created by animals often had a good story behind them. Legends told of deer that would eat poisonous snakes and become immune or cry tears that solidified into poison-curing stones. First-century Arabic author al-Birumi claimed bezoars could protect against one poison called “the snot of Satan,” which we hope never ever to encounter. By the 12th century, when Europe became plagued with, uh, plagues, the bezoar crept into pharmacopeias as panaceas and alexipharmics (poison antidotes).

Bezoars were a seductive notion for the rich and royal, who were at risk of assassination. The stones were often enclosed in bejeweled gold for display or worn as amulets. Indian bezoars, in particular, were sought for life-threatening fevers, poisonous bites, bleeding, jaundice, and melancholy. Consumers were also known to scrape off a bit of bezoar and add it to their drinks for heart health and kidney stones. These tonics were sometimes adulterated with toxic mercury or antimony, which caused vomiting and diarrhea, making buyers think they were effective.

But were they? One team of researchers soaked bezoars in an arsenic-laced solution and found that the stones absorbed the arsenic or that the poison was neutralized. Hard to say if it worked well enough to cure a fatal dose. Ambroise Paré, one of the preeminent French physicians of the 16th century, was also a doubter. The king’s cook, who’d been stealing silver, was given the choice between hanging or being Paré’s lab rat. He chose the latter. After the cook consumed poison, Paré looked on as a bezoar was stuffed down his throat. Six hours later, he died wracked with pain. Perhaps he chose ... poorly?


This antidote was named after Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus and Armenia Minor. Born in 134 BCE, he pretty much invented the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by consuming poisons daily to prevent his own assassination. His royal home was stocked with stingray spines, toxic mushrooms, scorpions, mineral poisons, and a poisonous plant–filled garden. He was so unpoisonable that after his son took over his kingdom and he faced execution, he couldn’t even commit suicide by poison! He begged a guard to stab him to death. (It worked.)

Though the king’s actual recipe for the antidote is nowhere to be found, versions began to circulate after his death, and they became synonymous with the king himself. Compounds with lengthy and expensive ingredient lists prevailed, including iris, cardamom, anise, frankincense, myrrh, ginger, and saffron. In the first century, Pliny the Elder snarkily remarked, “The Mithridatic antidote is composed of fifty-four ingredients ... Which of the gods, in the name of Truth, fixed these absurd proportions? ... It is plainly a showy parade of the art, and a colossal boast of science.”

Showy or not, people would take the extensive mix of herbs, pound them together with honey, and eat a nut-sized portion to cure themselves. At least it endowed them with expensive-smelling breath.


An apothecary shop sign in the shape of a unicorn
An ivory pharmacy sign in the shape of a unicorn's head
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Unicorn horns have been considered a part of antidote legend since the mythical beast galloped into literature around 300 BCE. For centuries afterward, real earthly beasts would sacrifice their lives and their horns to slake our thirst for the miraculous, nonexistent animal, including rhinoceroses, narwhals, and oryx. Even fossilized ammonites were used. It was believed that drinking vessels made of such horns might neutralize poisons, and wounds could be cured by holding them close by. In the 16th century, Mary, Queen of Scots reportedly used a unicorn horn to protect her from poisoning. Too bad it didn’t prevent her beheading.


Pearls have long been thought to be powerful antidotes. A beautiful, rare gem created by the homely oyster, a pearl is born out of annoyance (the mollusk secretes iridescent nacre to cover an irritant, like a parasite or grain of sand). Pretty as they are, they’re about as useful as the chalky antacid tablets on your bedside table; both are chiefly made of calcium carbonate. Good for a stomachache after some spicy food, but not exactly miraculous.

Pearl powder has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases, and Ayurvedic physicians used it as an antidote in the Middle Ages. It was also reported to make people immortal. An old Taoist recipe recommended taking a long pearl and soaking it in malt, “serpent’s gall,” honeycomb, and pumice stone. When softened, it would be pulled like taffy and cut into bite-sized pieces to eat, and voilà! You would suddenly no longer need food to stay alive. Cleopatra famously drank down a large and costly pearl dissolved in wine vinegar, though in that case she wasn’t avoiding poison. She didn’t want to lose a bet with Antony—which might have fatally injured her pride.


Albarello vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
A vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Theriac was an herbal concoction created in the first century by Emperor Nero’s physician, Andromachus, who was reported to have Mithridates’s secret notes. It was a mashed formula of about 70 ingredients, including cinnamon, opium, rose, iris, lavender, and acacia in a honey base. In the 12th century, theriac made in Venice was branded as particularly special, and Venetian treacle (derived from a Middle English translation of theriac) became a hot commodity. Its public, dramatic production often attracted curious crowds.

By the 18th century, cheaper golden syrup was substituted for honey. As treacle began to lose its luster as a treatment, its definition as an herbal remedy disappeared from common vernacular. But the sweet syrup remained. Which is why when we think of treacle, we think of treacle tarts, not a fancy means of saving ourselves from a deathly poisoning.


Thankfully, science has brought us a wide range of antidotes for many items we shouldn’t be exposed to in dangerous quantities, if at all. N-acetylcysteine, fondly referred to as NAC by doctors, saves us from acetaminophen overdoses. Ethanol can treat antifreeze poisoning. Atropine, ironically one of the main components of plants in the toxic nightshade family (such as mandrake), can treat poisoning from some dangerous fertilizers and chemical nerve agents used as weapons. For years, poisonings were treated with emetics, though it turns out that plain old carbon—in the form of activated charcoal—can adsorb poisons (the poisons stick to the surface of the charcoal) in the digestive system before they’re dissolved and digested by the body.

As long as the natural world and its humans keep making things to kill us off, we’ll keep developing methods to not die untimely deaths.

We’ll just leave the fancy hairballs off the list.

The cover of the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
Workman Publishing

Excerpt from Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pedersen/Workman Publishing. Used with permission.


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