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.
1. MARGARET HAMILTON IN THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)
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.
2. CHANNING TATUM IN THE EAGLE (2011) AND FOXCATCHER (2014)
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.”
3. VIGGO MORTENSEN AND ORLANDO BLOOM IN THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (2002)
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.
4. LEONARDO DICAPRIO IN DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)
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.
5. LINDA HAMILTON IN TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991)
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.
6. BRUCE WILLIS IN DIE HARD (1988)
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.
7. GEORGE CLOONEY IN SYRIANA (2005)
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.
8. HARRISON FORD IN STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)
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.”
9. JOEL EDGERTON AND TOM HARDY IN WARRIOR (2011)
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.”
10. JACKIE CHAN IN SEVERAL FILMS
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.
11. JAIMIE ALEXANDER IN THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)
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.
12. TOM HANKS IN CAST AWAY (2000)
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.
13. MICHAEL J. FOX IN BACK TO THE FUTURE PART III (1990)
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.”
14. CHARLIZE THERON IN AEON FLUX (2005)
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.
15. HALLE BERRY IN DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002), GOTHIKA (2003), CATWOMAN (2004), CLOUD ATLAS (2012), AND THE CALL (2013)
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.”
16. SYLVESTER STALLONE IN THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)
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.
17. NICOLE KIDMAN IN MOULIN ROUGE! (2001)
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.
18. DANIEL CRAIG IN
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
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.