Many of us go to the movies for the voyeuristic thrill—to see characters navigate their way through explosions, car chases and all sorts of perils. However, real dangers sometimes lurk in the making of these films, even occasionally resulting in injury or death to members of the cast and crew. Let’s explore three on-set accidents that caused the industry to re-think its safety protocols.
Shot in 1993, the film set of The Crow will always be remembered for the tragic death of its lead actor, Brandon Lee—the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee. One scene called for fellow cast member Michael Massee to fire a .44 Magnum gun at Lee’s character. Unfortunately, as The Telegraph explains, the gun contained a stray dummy bullet left in the barrel from filming another scene, two weeks prior. Thinking he was firing blanks, Massee fired a bullet into Lee’s abdomen, resulting in his death. This accident prompted the Hollywood industry to tighten its policies and procedures in the use of firearms on set.
During a location shoot of the 2014 Greg Allman biopic Midnight Rider, assistant camera operator Sarah Jones was killed by an oncoming train in what is perhaps the most widely publicized film accident in memory.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the crew was filming on train tracks in rural Georgia. Then director Randall Miller called for some shots on a trestle spanning the river, even though the production had not gotten prior permission to film in the area.
When a train approached, the crew had only 60 seconds to get out of harm’s way. But it wasn’t enough time for Jones, who died at the scene. Several others were also injured.
Director Miller pleaded guilty to criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter and trespassing, and he served time in prison as a result. The tragedy has generated a heightened focus on production safety, a cause still led by Sarah Jones’ parents.
Twilight Zone: The Movie
In 1982, during filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie, one scene called for an explosion to take place as a helicopter flew over. The helicopter apparently flew too low, and, as the New York Times reported, debris from the blast damaged the chopper’s tail rotor. The resulting crash caused the deaths of actor Vic Morrow and the two child actors he was carrying during the scene, Renee Shinn Chen and My-ca Dinh Lee. The tragedy led to heightened safety protocols in the use of helicopters on movie sets, and it also may have served as an impetus in the development of CGI effects.
While all three of these horrific accidents eventually resulted in improved safety protocols, they remind us of the inherent risks that still exist on many film sets. For every recorded death, others have sustained injuries that require extended medical care.
Before contracting to work on any film set, make certain the production company has a strong insurance policy in place, including workers’ compensation.
And if you’ve been injured in any workplace accident, and need legal representation, call our offices today.