A Look at the Tragic On-Set Accidents From Hollywood to Bollywood

In light of Alec Baldwin's accidental fatal misfire, here's a list of tragic mishaps from film sets.

5 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Alec Baldwin, Brandon Lee, Amitabh Bachchan and several other actors have been involved in tragic accidents on sets.</p></div>

In a tragic incident that took place during the filming of Joel Souza’s Rust, Alec Baldwin misfired a prop gun on the set, accidentally killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and leaving the director injured.

The incident has brought back in dialogue the multiple freak incidents that transpired on films sets that have claimed lives.

According to Associated Press, there have been 43 fatalities on American film sets since 1990, with around 150 actors or crew members left with life-altering injuries as well. The figure, however, is closer to 37 since 2000.

Several similar accidents have occurred on the sets of Bollywood films too. Aejaz Gulab, general secretary of the Mumbai-based Movie Stunt Artists Association, had said in a statement last year that an elaborate system is in place to ensure the security of stunt people who are often at the forefront of danger. In cases of accidents, the association takes over.

These mishaps, although lower in number, continue to happen. Here's a list of some of the most tragic freak incidents on film sets.

Brandon Lee, On the sets of 'The Crow'

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Bruce Lee's son Brandon Lee.</p></div>

Bruce Lee's son Brandon Lee.

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

Brandon Lee, actor, martial artist and the son of late legend Bruce Lee, died in 1993 in an accident that has tragic echoes to that of Rust. While filming, Brandon was hit by a .44 calibre slug during a death scene. The gun was supposed to be filled with blank rounds. However, the autopsy revealed that a real bullet entered his body near his spine. Turned out that the gun used had earlier fired a round that caused a cartridge to become lodged in the barrel. When blank rounds were fired, the cartridge was thus dislodged and released. He died after an unsuccessful surgery of six hours.

Amitabh Bachchan, On the Sets of 'Coolie'

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Amitabh Bachchan suffered a severe accident on the sets of&nbsp;<em>Coolie.</em></p></div>

Amitabh Bachchan suffered a severe accident on the sets of Coolie.

(Photo Courtesy: Altered by The Quint)

One of the most infamous freak incidents on the sets of Hindi films has to that on the sets of Manmohan Desai’s Coolie in 1982. While shooting an intense fight scene with Puneet Issar, Amitabh Bachchan was accidentally punched and hit the table he was to jump over and was thus grievously injured. He was rushed to a hospital and later flown to Mumbai where the doctors had even announced him 'clinically dead' before being put on a ventilator. The actor had to undergo multiple surgeries and took months to recover to what fans across the country call his ‘rebirth’.


The Sword of Tipu Sultan

In 1988, a massive fire on the sets of the television serial The Sword of Tipu Sultan, triggered by a short circuit, caused large scale death and devastation. Nearly 50 people were killed. Neena Gupta was with her daughter Masaba, one a year old at the time when she had a narrow escape. Sanjay Khan however had to face the brunt of the fire. He was severely burnt in the accident and had to undergo multiple surgeries to recover.

The Twilight Zone: The Movie

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Actor Vic Morrow died in a helicopter crash during the shoot of&nbsp;<em>Twilight Zone: The Movie.</em></p></div>

Actor Vic Morrow died in a helicopter crash during the shoot of Twilight Zone: The Movie.

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

Another on-set tragedy occurred during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1982 when a helicopter crash killed actor Vic Morrow and two child actors. Morrow and one of the child actors were decapitated by the helicopter's rotor blades, and the other child was crushed under the aircraft. The incident led to legal action that lasted for over a decade. Five people, including director John Landis, faced charges of involuntary manslaughter but were eventually acquitted. However, the incident lead to severe changes in safety regulations and protocols that had not previously been in place.

Indian 2

<div class="paragraphs"><p>The mishap on sets of&nbsp;<em>Indian 2.</em></p></div>

The mishap on sets of Indian 2.

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

In 2020, another freak incident took place on the sets of Kamal Haasan-starrer Indian 2, which left three dead, including an assistant director, and 10 injured when a crane with heavy-duty light came crashing down. Haasan and co-actor Kajal Aggarwal escaped being crushed by the crane by a sliver.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, On the Sets of 'Khakee'

Aishwarya Rai was hit by a jeep near Nasik during the shoot of Khakee.The vehicle was supposed to stop a few feet away from the actor but accidentally lost control. The actor survived the accident, and that point since has been called 'Aishwarya Point.'

Jon-Erik Hexum, On sets of 'Cover Up'

In another unfortunate accident involving a prop gun, American actor Jon-Erik Hexum, 26 at the time, had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound during the filming of the TV series Cover Up in 1984. Bored during a break, the actor jokingly pointed a prop gun loaded with blanks to his head and fired, unaware that the weapon still contained gunpowder. The shot fractured his skull, forcing a segment of bone into his brain, eventually claiming his life by haemorrhage.

John Abraham, On the sets of 'Shootout at Wadala'

John Abraham was accidentally shot by Anil Kapoor on the sets of Shootout at Wadala. Kapoor was meant to shoot a blank bullet at John from 15 feet away, but the bullet was fired at a distance of 1.5 metres (4.9 feet). The close range resulted in an impactful shot. The shot wasn’t fatal, but the bullet grazed the side of his neck as he fell down.

Top Gun

Tom Cruise's iconic film Top Gun had claimed the life of stunt pilot Art Scholl, whose plane had plunged into the Pacific Ocean five miles off the coast of Encinitas, California. While performing an inverted, the aircraft was unable to maintain altitude. The debris from the plane was recovered, but Scholl’s body was never found.

Mother India

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Nargis with an injured Sunil Dutt.</p></div>

Nargis with an injured Sunil Dutt.

(Photo Courtesy: Instagram)

One of the most memorable stories of accidents on film sets in Bollywood that eventually had a happy end is when Sunil Dutt saved Nargis from a fire that went out of hand on the sets of Mother India. Dutt suffered a few injuries. The two got married soon after.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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