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Actors Who Hid Injuries And Illnesses To Avoid Losing Their Jobs

From the rigors of physical training required for certain roles to the arduous demands of interviews and publicity, Hollywood actors face pressure on and off the set. But it can create a different type of pressure when an actor gets injured during production, whether it's from a stunt gone wrong or an accident off the set. Actors might worry that if they are required to take time to recover, they'll be fired, replaced, or miss out on a major project. Worse still, if it's a major star that is injured, there's a risk that the production could get shut down entirely, costing the studio millions.

With such pressure, it's understandable that some actors might choose to hide an injury from their studios, producers, and co-stars. In fact, throughout Hollywood history, there have been instances where that's exactly what has happened. Stars big and small have suffered horrifying injuries, illnesses, and conditions that they feared could cost them their job or shut down their film. At least one star even worried it could ruin their career if anyone knew what was wrong.

While no one should have to hide a severe injury or illness, some of Hollywood's most talented stars have done just that. Read on for a list of actors who hid their injuries and illnesses to avoid losing their jobs. 

Carrie-Anne Moss

Sustaining a debilitating injury can be dispiriting no matter how famous an actor is, but Carrie-Anne Moss was just getting started in her movie career when it happened to her. She injured her ankle while filming what would eventually become her star-making role as Trinity in "The Matrix" (via BBC). No doubt sensing that the film had the potential to change the course of her career, Moss decided to keep the injury a secret. She didn't have the celebrity status to ensure that she wouldn't simply be replaced if the producers knew she was hurt. She only revealed the injury after production had wrapped.

But Moss' injury difficulties didn't end there. While filming "The Matrix Revolutions" four years later in Australia, she took the old actor's axiom a bit too literally and broke her leg during the production of a high-wire stunt rehearsal. When interviewed in 2012, Moss discussed the setback with IGN, saying, "I broke my leg on a wire. I broke my leg the first week of training. It was a challenge to overcome right off the bat. I came in really gung-ho and ready to do it and then I got an obstacle given to me in the very beginning. But, I'm all for obstacles to overcome."

Despite both injuries, Moss became a major sci-fi icon in the 21st century, and she returned to the role in 2021 for "The Matrix Resurrections."

Ben Barnes

Like Carrie-Anne Moss, actor Ben Barnes had not yet acted in his breakout role when he suffered a terrible injury. When it happened, he was on the set of what later turned out to be his career-defining TV series. In 2016, he took a starring role in the lavishly produced sci-fi reboot "Westworld," from high-profile producers J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan. Barnes' injury happened before he even stepped onto the set of the show's debut season.

According to a Facebook Q&A (via WestworldWatchers.com), Barnes broke his foot while exiting a taxi at the airport. Funny enough, he was on his way to start filming the HBO series. Fearful he might lose out on his part as a series regular, Barnes never told producers about the injury. He even attempted to play it off as part of his character. Barnes told fans, "I'm sort of hobbling along with this kind of cowboy-ish limp, which I then tried to maintain for the next year just so I could pretend it was a character choice. But really I had a very purple foot ... so walking was the hardest part of shooting this for me."

Thankfully, the foot healed, and Barnes' career began to take off as "Westworld" became the hottest sci-fi show on television. Not only would he return for multiple seasons, but Barnes would later land the part of Jigsaw in Season 2 of "The Punisher," as well as a lead role in "Shadow and Bone."

Jackson Rathbone

Though young actor Jackson Rathbone was never able to parlay his role in "Twilight" into an A-list career, his part in the film still held promise. As the vampire named Jasper in the series, Rathbone's injury occurred ahead of production on "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1." After breaking a bone, Rathbone was so worried he'd lose his spot on the set that he decided it would be better to hide the injury and handle the pain in private, so he wouldn't risk losing his job. 

According to the star himself, appearing by video on the British talk show "OMG! with Peaches Geldof," he filmed his scenes while dealing with a cracked rib. "I've got to tell you a little secret that no one else knows," he said in the video. "I did all my own stunts with a broken rib. I didn't even tell the production company because I was afraid that they were going to not let me do my own stunts and I had to do it. So I just wore a rib splint and went in there, did it ... bit through the pain, if you know what I mean. There you go."

Josh Brolin

Unlike the first few entries on this list, Josh Brolin was already an established star when he suffered an injury while filming a major motion picture, "No Country for Old Men." While he probably wasn't concerned about the effect of the injury on his career, he didn't want to miss his chance to work with renowned directors Joel and Ethan Coen. For Brolin, the fear of being replaced was very real because he snapped his collarbone in a motorcycle accident before shooting on the film began.

"I lied to the Coens and told them it was only a hairline fracture," Brolin told Santa Barbara Independent in 2007. Terrified he might lose the role, he had his doctor lie to the filmmakers about the severity of his injury. "I coached my doctor on what to say to the Coens, which could have gotten his license taken away," he said. Eventually, Brolin was forced to come forward with the truth when the directors noticed something was wrong with his performance. 

In a separate interview with Collider that same year, Brolin said when he came clean, the Cohen Brothers decided to simply work the injury into the film. "I remember Ethan said to me ... 'what shoulder is it?' I said 'it's my right shoulder.' He said, 'Moss gets shot in the right shoulder. We'll be fine.' ... We never had to change anything in the movie."

Cary Elwes

The seminal, 1987 fairytale adventure "The Princess Bride" was a big break for the movie's leading man, Cary Elwes. The brilliant, comic star who played the debonair swashbuckler, Westley, later leveraged his performance into a major movie career. But it almost didn't happen, thanks to an early on-set injury that he had to hide from the film's crew. According to the Independent, Elwes broke his toe while goofing off with co-star André René Roussimoff (Andre the Giant) during the first week of shooting the iconic film.

During a joyride in the wrestler-turned-actor's ATV, the star snapped a joint in his toe. But with the movie being his first starring role, he decided to keep the injury to himself. Still, if you look closely at the finished film, you just might spot a few moments where Elwes' broken toe can be spotted.  "I was limping a bit," Elwes said. "You can see it in some of the scenes — you can see that I was limping into the fire swamp."

Though nobody knew about his toe, there was another injury that made headlines, as Elwes was famously hospitalized during a stunt with co-star Christopher Guest. It happened in a scene where Count Rugen, the evil six-fingered man, bops Westley on the noggin with a sword. Guest mistakenly whacked him a bit too hard, knocking Elwes unconscious. No way to hide that one, unfortunately.

Halle Berry

Some stars hide injuries because they don't want to lose out on a role, or because they're afraid it may hurt their career. But for Halle Berry, hiding her injury was out of concern for the production and everyone else involved. 

While filming the movie "Bruised" — an indie sports drama that she was slated to direct — Berry had the lead role of fictional UFC fighter Jackie Justice, opposite real-life UFC fighter Valentina Shevchenko. With such a physical role, it should surprise no one that Berry sustained an injury during training, bruising her very real ribs. This time, however, Berry didn't just hide the pain because she might lose her job. She hid the pain because she knew that if she couldn't star in the film, the entire production might be shut down. 

"You know, there was a moment when I thought: We can shut this down and I can go heal, or I can keep going and just fight my way through it'," the actor told Sports Illustrated. "And I had to sit there and think. OK, Valentina and I have trained two years for this movie. She may never have another window. If I lose the funding now, I may never get the money again." In the end, Berry opted to play through the pain and get the movie made. "So I thought, I'm not going to tell anybody this happened. Get through the fight. And then tell them." Now that's some serious strength.

Emilia Clarke

When it comes to big hits, there are few bigger than "Game of Thrones," the HBO fantasy series that practically rewrote the rules of fantasy television. Its sprawling, epic story and big-budget effects were the hooks, but it's the stellar, ensemble cast that kept audiences tuning in week after week. At the center of it all was newcomer Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen. The platinum-haired beauty, however, was nearly forced to leave the series after its first incredible year due to some devastating medical issues that the star kept secret in an effort to save her job.

In the book, "Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon," Clarke details her battle with a brain injury so severe she required multiple surgeries to save her life. She reveals that a brain hemorrhage left her hospitalized, undergoing emergency surgery that left her with severe memory loss, even struggling to remember her own name (via Vulture). But miraculously, Clarke was back on the set of the HBO fantasy series within weeks, though it wasn't an easy road back to full strength. In fact, Clarke believed she could suffer a recurrence of her injury at any moment. Still, she kept her condition hidden from producers, despite repeated surgeries and excruciating pain (via Us Weekly).

Suffering the effects of her aneurysm for years, it wasn't until after the conclusion of the series that anyone — cast, crew, or studio — learned about the private battle she fought against her life-threatening condition.

Samantha Morton

British actress Samantha Morton came to mainstream recognition for her role as Agatha in the 2002 Steven Spielberg sci-fi smash, "Minority Report." But as her career began to grow in the years that followed, Morton had a devastating stroke in 2006. Speaking to Observer Music Monthly in 2008 (relayed by The Guardian), Morton revealed that the stroke left her near death. But because she couldn't possibly hide her condition from movie producers, Morton decided to step away from acting altogether while she recovered. She said she stepped away in an effort to protect her career.

When the stroke happened, Morton had been recently cast in a film titled "Transsiberian," but she left the project citing an injury, though the severity of her situation was never fully disclosed. In truth, she'd suffered a stroke after being struck by falling debris in her home, and even after her recovery, she was unable to walk. Knowing how Hollywood often views chronic illness as a black mark, Morton and her friends and family worked hard to ensure that nobody knew the truth about her health in order to keep her future acting prospects alive.

Thankfully, once she was back to full strength, Morton secured roles in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" with Cate Blanchett, and Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York." Whether she would have secured those roles if everyone knew about her stroke is uncertain. Either way, Morton believed that the only way to keep her career afloat was by hiding the truth about her condition.

Kevin Sorbo

On the other end of the spectrum is '90s star Kevin Sorbo, who shot to fame in the title role of "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys." This time, the actor's condition didn't strike early. Instead, it came about in 1997 when he was at the height of his fame, with his hit, syndicated action series thriving. That year, fresh off his first major feature film — the box office bomb "Kull the Conqueror" — Sorbo suffered a stroke.

At first, Sorbo believed the pain he was experiencing was a minor injury. But as time went on, Sorbo began experiencing more serious symptoms, including blurred vision and dizziness. After entering a hospital for treatment, tests revealed an aneurysm in one of his arteries. "Apparently, the aneurysm had been producing blood clots for some time," Sorbo told Brain & Life Magazine in 2011. "I had blockages all down my arm that were making my fingers cold, tingly, and numb." While he initially hoped to keep his condition under wraps for fear of harming the series, he was forced to tell the studio. In response, the studio made accommodations for the star on set while still keeping the information a secret from the prying public.

Today, Sorbo is open about his experience. He said there was a time when it seemed like he might never recover, which is why he kept it to himself. "I felt like I had been transformed overnight from a youthful, carefree jock into someone who needed to grasp the backs of chairs and counters for an arduous five-yard trip to the bathroom."

Kenan Thompson

It's not often that we hear stories of a major celebrity willing to endure an injury for the sake of others, but that's exactly what happened with Kenan Thompson. The former Nickelodeon star remains the longest-running cast member of "Saturday Night Live" as of this writing, with two decades on the sketch comedy show. In 2015, Thompson lived up to his good boy image when he broke his arm in a bicycle accident, but he didn't tell the producers of "SNL" — not because he was afraid he'd lose his job, but because he feared that it would ruin things for everyone else.

As revealed in an interview with the Washington Post in 2019, Thompson broke a bone after taking a tumble on his way to the set. Despite the pain, he didn't want to ruin that week's episode by being admitted to a hospital for treatment. He realized that if he were forced out to recover, much of the week's work for the upcoming episode would be ruined. He told the Post about his thought process, saying, "'I have to go to the hospital, but I don't want it to be a story.' The writers, they work so hard, they spend all night ... You never know how long they've been incubating an idea that they got on the show that week."

Eventually, Thompson found a physician who could set the break subtly. He attended the rehearsals and performed in the live episode, which happened to be hosted by none other than Donald Trump, and nobody was the wiser.

KJ Apa

While we'd never recommend avoiding treatment for an injury, there are some people, particularly those on the more youthful side, who might feel invincible enough that they can tough out anything and be just fine. That may have played a part in the injury to "Riverdale" actor KJ Apa, who plays the lead role of Archie Andrews in the CW teen drama.

Speaking to TV Line in 2017, Apa talked about an incident on-set where he actually broke his hand during a scene where Archie had to punch through some ice. "That was a gnarly day of shooting, I'll tell you that much," the actor said, laughing off the incident. "I wasn't really punching the ice, but I got a little bit too excited. I was punching a foam mat [that was] sitting on the ice ... It was cold, so I didn't really feel it. It wasn't until 20 minutes after that I realized I broke my hand. I didn't tell anyone."

As a fresh-faced male actor, Apa may have been motivated to hide the injury by that invincible feeling many young men have. Or, perhaps being aware that this was his first big Hollywood production, he was concerned he might lose his newest gig. But whatever the case, nobody knew that wholesome Archie could be so reckless!