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Sunday, November 28, 2021

On the set: death of Bruce Lee’s son and child actors, injuries to Bachchan, others

A cinematographer has died after actor Alec Baldwin misfired a prop gun while shooting a film. A look at some of the serious accidents that have happened on set over the years, causing death and injury.

Written by Ektaa Malik | New Delhi |
Updated: October 24, 2021 8:17:39 am
Clockwise from top left: The Crow; Khakhee; Kill Bill; Amitabh Bachchan in Coolie; Indian 2; and The Dark Knight.

In a freak accident, Golden Globe winning actor Alec Baldwin misfired a prop gun during the shooting of the Western film Rust, fatally wounding the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, and injuring the director Joel Souza. Baldwin, who is also the producer of the film, being shot in New Mexico, is currently being questioned by police.

Over the years, there have been many serious accidents on the sets of films, both in India and abroad. Some of the major ones:


Twilight Zone: The Movie (1982): The film during whose shooting the actor Vic Morrow died, along with two child actors. They were shooting a scene at Indian Dunes, California, in which a low-flying helicopter was chasing Morrow and the two children. The helicopter spun out of control and landed on the three actors, killing them instantly. The accident led to litigation against the filmmakers for nearly a decade and brought about new safety guidelines for film sets.

Rocky IV (1985): While shooting for the climactic fight between Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the latter punched Stallone so hard that he landed in an ICU for nine days. In an effort “to keep it real”, Stallone had asked Lundgren to “really connect” and “just go out there and try to clock me”. Lundgren threw an uppercut that pushed Stallone’s heart to his ribcage. Stallone also got hurt in an accident on the shoot of the The Expendables (2010).

Alec Baldwin speaks on the phone in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in Santa Fe, N.M., after he was questioned about a shooting on the set of the film “Rust” on the outskirts of Santa Fe, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. (Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)

Top Gun (1986): Art Scholl, an ace stunt pilot, died while shooting for this early Tom Cruise film. He was flying a Pitts S-2 camera plane, which failed to maintain altitude and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Scholl was attempting a spin. The aircraft is yet to be recovered. Scholl’s work includes The Right Stuff, The Great Waldo Pepper, Blue Thunder and Iron Eagle. Top Gun’s end credits close with the line, “The film is dedicated to the memory of Art Scholl.”

The Crow (1993): Bruce Lee’s son Brandon Lee died during this shooting. The scene required him to be shot by bullets as he entered a room, but the dummy rounds were improperly made. A .44 calibre bullet hit Brandon Lee in the abdomen and lodged in his spine. He died in hospital after six hours of surgery. A month-long investigation concluded that the death was caused by negligence of the film crew.

Kill Bill (2003): Actor Uma Thurman suffered a concussion and injured her knees when she drove a rickety convertible on a highway during an action sequence. Apparently the route hadn’t been tested by the crew, and it contained an unseen curve.

The Dark Knight (2008): Stunt artiste Conway Wickliffe died during the test run of a scene. Wickliffe, who had earlier worked on Batman Begins, Casino Royale and Die Another Day, was leaning out of a car, holding a camera, to rehearse an action sequence where the Joker, played by Heath Ledger, blasts the Batmobile with a rocket launcher. Wickilffe’s car crashed into a tree; the driver survived. the crash, The film is dedicated to Wickliffe and Ledger, who died later that year.

A distraught Alec Baldwin lingers in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in Santa Fe, N.M. (Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)

Indian films

Coolie (1983): Amitabh Bachchan was grievously injured during the shooting in 1982. During a fight sequence with the actor Puneet Issar, Bachchan mistimed a jump and was seriously wounded in the abdomen. He was flown to a Mumbai hospital from the Bangalore University campus, where the shooting was taking place. Bachchan received blood from 200 donors, and prayers from thousands more, and recovered. The film became a huge success; the director, Manmohan Desai, even changed parts of it to accommodate Bachchan’s accident.

Sword of Tipu Sultan (1989): Actor Sanjay Khan suffered massive burns when a huge fire broke out on the sets of the TV show at Premier Studios in Mysuru. The fire was later found to have been caused by the lack of safety measures and loose wiring, and the absence of fireproof materials contributed to the fire getting out of control. The fire killed 62 people. Khan had to undergo 72 surgeries and spend more than a year in hospital.

Khakhee (2004): Actor Aishwarya Rai was injured during the shoot of this cop drama, directed by Rajkumar Santoshi. A jeep went out of control, hit Rai and threw her into a bush. The jeep was supposed to have halted 20 feet away. Rai fractured her left foot.

Indian 2: The shoot of the Kamal Haasan film, currently in the post-production stage, witnessed a freak accident that led to the death of three technicians on set and injuries nine others. Lead actors Kamal Haasan and Kajal Aggarwal, and director Shankar, narrowly escaped injury as a massive crane fell on the set. The three dead were assistant directors on the film, which was being shot at EVP Film City, near Chennai.

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