It’s not just professional stuntmen who have found their lives at risk on the set of a major TV show or film. Whether facing near-drowning, electrocution or lightning strikes, these 20 actors have all faced the shadow of the Grim Reaper during a particularly traumatic shoot.
20. Diane Kruger – Inglourious Basterds
Diane Kruger found out the hard way that Quentin Tarantino doesn’t know his own strength. The German actress not only ended up unconscious, she very nearly died of asphyxiation after the director strangled her for far longer than scripted while shooting a scene in the 2009 war epic Inglourious Basterds.
19. Uma Thurman Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Had it not been for the quick thinking of Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman would have met a grisly end while filming the first Percy Jackson movie in 2009. The former James Bond heroically jumped to the controls of a driverless vehicle heading straight for the actress, stopping it just before it plowed through her.
18. Gerard Butler – Chasing Mavericks
Gerard Butler nearly suffered a deadly wipe-out while filming 2011 surfing drama Chasing Mavericks. Butler was left trapped beneath the water for close to a minute after a gigantic wave crashed over his head. Nevertheless, the Scotsman lived to tell the tale and even shared footage of the incident on breakfast TV.
17. Isla Fisher – Now You See Me
Isla Fisher’s underwater experience in Now You See Me was even more traumatic than you might have imagined. Playing an escapologist and magician, the actress panicked when she realized that she had become caught up and couldn’t reach the safety button that would have emptied the water tank she was submerged in. Even worse, the crew initially thought that her terrified response was part of the script. Fortunately, she was able to untangle her chains and break free.
16. Chevy Chase – Modern Problems
Chevy Chase sunk into a deep depression following a near-death experience on the set of 1981’s Modern Problems. The comedian almost suffered fatal electrocution when electric lights that his character was wearing short-circuited through his back, neck and arm muscles, causing him to lose consciousness.
15. Johnny Depp – The Lone Ranger
The scathing reviews dished out to The Lone Ranger in 2013 no doubt hurt Johnny Depp even more due to the fact that he had nearly died while filming it. Made up as Tonto, the star was dragged a painful 75 feet by his horse after falling off its back.
14. Kevin Costner – Waterworld
Kevin Costner also nearly lost his life for a critically-panned film – which practically ended his career as a bankable leading man, to boot. During the filming of 1995’s Waterworld, the star almost died when his trimaran was blown adrift while he was tied to its mast.
13. Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
Idris Elba very nearly didn’t live to see the acclaim handed out for his performance in Cary Fukunaga’s war movie Beasts of No Nation. Only the quick reflexes of a nearby crew member saved the actor from falling more than 100 feet down a waterfall after he slipped on a rock during filming.
12. Meryl Streep – The River Wild
Kevin Bacon was the only thing that saved Meryl Streep from drowning after a particularly difficult day’s shoot on The River Wild. The tired actress was thrown out of her raft into icy waters during the shooting of a scene that director Curtis Hanson had pressured her into filming, despite her protests.
11. Tom Cruise – Top Gun
Considering the amount of jaw-dropping stunts Tom Cruise has done, it’s surprising that he’s only had one major near-death experience. Top Gun was the film responsible, when a waterlogged parachute began to drag him under – until an observant crew member came to his rescue.
10. Daniel Radcliffe – Horns
It seems unlikely that many other actors share Daniel Radcliffe’s on-set near-death experience. The Harry Potter star was left bedridden for three days in British Columbia while filming black comedy Horns in 2012, after unknowingly drinking antifreeze.
9. Michael J. Fox – Back to the Future Part III
The Back to the Future trilogy might have ended in a tragic fashion had Robert Zemeckis not spotted Michael J. Fox in dire straits during filming of the third installment. The actor was left hanging from a noose after misplacing his hands and eventually passed out before the director was able to intervene.
8. Dylan O’Brien – The Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Production on young adult movie The Maze Runner: The Death Cure was stopped for several months after its star Dylan O’Brien suffered multiple injuries on set. The young actor was rushed to hospital in Vancouver after being dragged under a car during a stunt gone horribly wrong.
7. Jason Statham – The Expendables 3
Jason Statham no doubt lost one of his nine lives during the filming of 2014’s The Expendables 3. The truck that the star was driving in Varna, Bulgaria suddenly lost its brakes and plowed into the Black Sea, but fortunately action man Statham managed to swim back to safety entirely without injury.
6. Matthew Fox – Lost
A protective vest luckily stopped an on-screen knife attack becoming a real-life one too on Lost. Following a mix-up, Matthew Fox was stabbed with a real knife instead of a retractable one by co-star Terry O’Quinn. Thankfully, he avoided what would likely have been a fatal wound thanks to his padded clothing.
5. Aaron Paul – Breaking Bad
Jesse Pinkman dodged death several times on Breaking Bad, and the man who played him did so too during a first season shoot. Aaron Paul was almost wiped out by a boulder that toppled off the roof of the RV; just moments earlier he had moved out of the line of fire, in order to take a new angle on a shot.
4. Dominic Purcell – Prison Break
2016’s Prison Break reboot very nearly cost Lincoln Burrows – a.k.a. Dominic Purcell – his life. The Aussie actor had to be flown by emergency helicopter to hospital while filming the show in Morocco after an iron bar fell on his head, leaving him with a broken nose and a head full of stitches.
3. Kristin Chenoweth – The Good Wife
You wouldn’t expect the set of legal drama The Good Wife to be such a deadly environment, but fourth season guest star Kristen Chenoweth suffered a broken nose, skull fracture and spinal and rib injuries when a light fixture hit her in the face there and knocked her unconscious. Unsurprisingly, she cut her stint on the show short after the accident.
2. Anthony Hopkins – The Edge
1997 survival drama The Edge saw Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin being stalked by a vicious bear. But it was the film’s freezing cold waters that proved to be far more dangerous for Hopkins when he fell into a river and contracted hypothermia.
1. Jim Caviezel – The Passion of the Christ
Jim Caviezel certainly suffered for his art while portraying Jesus in Mel Gibson’s controversial The Passion of the Christ. The actor suffered hypothermia, pneumonia, lung and skin infections and a separated shoulder, and – most astonishingly of all – was even struck by lightning during the arduous shoot.