23 Oct The 8 Eeriest Deaths Ever to Strike on a Movie Set
As long as movies have been around, there have always been bizarre accidents and deaths attributed to them. Whether it’s a vicious animal attack, a failing prop or just a freak accident, the movie industry has seen more than its share of gruesome workplace fatalities. In honor of Halloween, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most tragic, stomach-turning deaths ever to strike during the production of a movie. Reader beware: This list is not for the faint of heart.
1. Across the Border (1914)
Kicking off our list is a silent film from the early days of Hollywood. While shooting a scene on the Arkansas River in Colorado, an actress named Grace McHugh was thrown overboard when her boat capsized. As soon as he saw what had happened, cinematographer Owen Carter plunged into the river to help her. Working together, they managed to resist the violent current and reach a sandbar. To their surprise, they soon realized the sandbar that had saved their lives was in fact quicksand. The cast and crew looked on in horror as the two struggled for their lives before being swallowed up by the sand. The film was released with the body of work of McHugh and Carter intact.
2. The Warrens of Virginia (1924)
Next on our list is one of the most tragic and strangest movie-related deaths ever recorded. Actress Martha Mansfield had finished filming a scene in this Civil War love story when she retired to a car with some fellow actors. When someone in the car struck a match to light a cigarette, Mansfield’s costume, which was made up of hoopskirts and ruffles, caught on fire. Mansfield’s co-star managed to contain the flames using his overcoat, and the chauffeur tore the still-burning dress from Martha’s body, but not before the actress suffered major burns. She died in the hospital the next morning.
3. Shark! (1969)
During filming in Mexico, a supposedly-sedated shark bit through protective netting and attacked stuntman Jose Marco, who died from the injury. After the attack, the production company used Marco’s death to promote the film, going as far as changing the title from Caine, after the main character, to Shark! They wanted to draw in younger audiences by making the film sound like a killer animal movie when it was in fact a story about a stranded gunrunner who meets treasure hunters.
4. The Twilight Zone (1982)
In one of the most tragic on-set accidents ever, actor Vic Morrow and child actors Renee Chen and Myca Dinh Le were killed during a Vietnam battle sequence. A pyrotechnic effect caused the rotor of a helicopter to fail and detach from the tail. The low-flying helicopter spun out of control and fell on Morrow and the two children. The helicopter decapitated Morrow and Le while Chen was crushed by the landing skid. A trial led to an acquittal on manslaughter charges for director John Landis and members of the production team.
5. Gone in Sixty Seconds 2 (1989)
Director and stunt car Driver Henry Blight Halicki was killed while filming this 1989 sequel to his famous ’74 movie, Gone in 60 Seconds. During one of the movie’s most famous dramatic stunts scene, a water tower, which was to topple to the ground, unexpectedly severed a telephone pole. The pole fell on Halicki, fatally crushing him. The movie was never released or completed. Denise Halicki, the late director’s wife, later served as the executive producer for the 2000 remake of this film, starring Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie, in order to preserve her husband’s legacy.
6. The Crow (1994)
While filming this dark fantasy action film, Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee) was fatally shot in a freak prop accident. During a scene where Lee’s character discovers his fiancée being attacked, his character is shot at with a .44 magnum. However, a live round was stuck to the barrel of the gun, and Lee was accidentally shot dead in the middle of the scene. There is a rumor that Bruce Lee was convinced that the men in his family had been cursed. Brandon’s death, some believe, was the fulfillment of that curse as he was the last surviving male. The film was released because Brandon had already shot most of it. Since he was doing this film to try and break into the big time, the producers may have felt that releasing it was a good way to honor his legacy.
7. Midnight Rider: the Greg Allman Story (2014)
During the production of this movie, the crew placed a metal bed on a train track to film a dream sequence. In the middle of filming, a fast-approaching train rounded the corner, giving the cast and crew less than one minute to get off the tracks. The train decimated the metal bedframe and shot shrapnel toward the cast and crew, striking camera assistant Sarah Jones. The force of the impact was so great it sent Jones reeling toward the tracks, where the moving train killed her. The accident led to the Safety for Sarah Movement, which seeks to bring greater awareness to safety issues on film and TV productions.
8. Deadpool 2 (to be released in 2018)
The most recent death to take place on a movie set occurred during the filming of Deadpool 2. Joi “S.J.” Harris was an experienced motorcycle rider. However, the stunt she was to perform would be her first. In the scene, she was to drive out of open doors, across a concrete pad and down a ramp built over three stairs before coming to a stop on the stair landing. A source claims she overshot the platform, hit a curb and was thrown from the motorcycle through the glass window of a building.