Sci-Fi Roles That Left Actors Shook

Filming a science fiction movie can be dangerous. Just ask Harrison Ford, who was almost crushed by the ramp of the Millennium Falcon on the set of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." If this accident had played out any differently, the world might have lost this veteran "Star Wars" actor, and somehow we don't think Ford would have come back as a Force Ghost.

Understandably, the incident left Ford pretty shook up. But this wasn't the only time that the demands of a sci-fi movie role shocked or downright traumatized an actor. Arguably, sci-fi movies have a long history of upsetting their actors, as we'll explore below. Some of these performers had a brush with death and were never the same again. Others simply cracked under the stress of filming intense scenes. A few were shaken in a totally different sense, due to a shocking life event that forced them to reexamine their priorities. Here we have compiled a bunch of sci-fi moments that left actors thoroughly rattled.

Harrison Ford was nearly crushed by the Millennium Falcon ramp

When Lucasfilm was filming "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," they had a lot more available money and tools compared to when they filmed the original "Star Wars" trilogy. In an interview for The Jonathan Ross Show, Harrison Ford explained, "[In] the original film, the door [to the Millennium Falcon] ... would have been closed with a pulley and a stagehand." But since the 2015 sequel had a much bigger budget, the filmmakers built a fancy hydraulic door that could open and close on its own. According to Ford, one technician grew curious about what a certain button did, so they hit the button to see what would happen. What happened was that the ramp came down, right onto Harrison Ford. As a result, Ford broke his leg and dislocated his ankle.

According to The Guardian, the accident was so serious that Ford was airlifted to a hospital. Once it was clear that Ford would be okay, the incident was investigated, and the company that had built the ship was held accountable for endangering Ford. Prosecutor Andrew Marshall pointed out, "It could have killed somebody. The fact that it didn't was because an emergency stop was activated."

Luckily, Ford was good-humored about the incident. Director J.J. Abrams told The Daily Show that Ford was joking around even when the door was on top of him. Once Ford had recovered, he was back to his regular self and had no problem running across the set, said Abrams.

It was hard for Michael B. Jordan to get out of Killmonger's state of mind

Killmonger from "Black Panther" is considered one of the best MCU villains, but this memorable performance took a toll on actor Michael B. Jordan. Knowing how unique and culturally significant this Marvel villain was, Jordan felt it was crucial that he got the character right. To achieve this, he went the extra mile to get into character. Jordan isolated himself from his loved ones to get into the right mindset, he explained to Oprah Winfrey (via USA Today). "I figured Erik [Killmonger], his childhood growing up was pretty lonely," Jordan said. "He didn't have a lot of people he could talk to about this place called Wakanda that didn't exist."

While this approach enhanced his performance, it also made it difficult for Jordan to adjust when shooting was over. He told The Bill Simmons Podcast (via, "I never was in a character for that long of a period of time [who was] that dark, that lonely, that painful." Jordan hoped he could return to normal, but Killmonger was still inside him: The actor was so accustomed to being alone for the role that he had difficulty breaking the habit. "I shut out love, I didn't want love," he told Oprah. "I wanted to be in this lonely place as long as I could." Jordan only managed to break from this pattern after attending sessions of therapy, which he said were a huge help.

Charlize Theron was almost paralyzed doing a stunt for Aeon Flux

Charlize Theron has filmed multiple action films, but has seriously damaged her body in the process. Theron was filming a scene for "Aeon Flux" when she lost her balance in the middle of a back handspring and landed on her neck. This damaged her vertebrae and brought her within a hair's breadth of paralysis. "We had to shut down [production] for six, seven weeks," she told People, "because if I had any other, smaller accident, like ... if I slipped and fell, it would have compressed my spinal cord. [Then I'd be] paralyzed."

The actress shared with that this was an eye-opening experience for her. "It definitely woke me up," she said. Theron spent eight years dealing with the side effects of the accident, which caused nerve damage that led to periodic spasms and chronic pain. She later underwent an operation that successfully resolved her neck problems.

In the same interview, Theron explained that the accident didn't deter her from doing her own stunts. "I'm not interested in doing stupid things, but I am interested in learning new things," said Theron. She is still willing to do some stunts, so long as all the safety precautions are taken. For instance, she says she did 95% of her own stunts for an action-packed scene from "Atomic Blonde." Thankfully, this experience was accident-free. "When you prepare," said Theron, "you avoid injuries."

Emily Blunt almost killed Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow

Of course, not every actor gets shaken because they almost died. While filming "Edge Tomorrow," Emily Blunt was more concerned that she might have gotten her co-star killed.

Common sense says that you should probably place an experienced action-movie star like Tom Cruise behind the wheel of a car that's about to make a sharp, violent turn. However, the scene called for Emily Blunt's character to be driving, so Cruise was stuck in the passenger seat. In an interview with Conan O'Brien, Blunt recounted the fateful accident. According to Blunt, she was preparing to make the turn when Cruise began murmuring under his breath ("Brake, brake, brake") and grew increasingly panicked ("Oh God, oh God!"). His instincts were spot-on, as it turned out, because Blunt turned too late and rammed the vehicle into a tree. Thankfully, both of them were fine when the dust cleared.

Blunt confessed in the same interview that she felt a need to compete with Cruise, who is known for doing all his own stunts. "You kind of want to do your own stunts as well," she admitted, "because you don't want him to be the only one showing off." Maybe that was why she ignored Cruise's advice. Laughing, Blunt said, "When I first heard him say 'Brake,' in my head I went, 'Oh shut up.' You know, as if I thought I knew more about stunt driving than Tom Cruise." (For the record, she didn't.)

Natalie Portman got scared for real while filming Annihilation

If you thought the scene with the mutant bear from "Annihilation" was freaky, just think about how bad it was for the actors. The film's biggest scare was just as terrifying behind the scenes.

Director Alex Garland wanted to capture the performers' genuine reactions on camera, so he kept the lead actresses in the dark about the design of the rotting, misshapen monster. For Natalie Portman, the first time she saw the creature was when she was filming the scene. She told Collider that it gave her quite a scare. Portman certainly knew that a monster was supposed to lumber into the room, but she didn't know quite what to expect. While she assumed that the filmmakers would use some kind of practical effect as a placeholder until they could add the CGI in post-production, the last thing she suspected was an animatronic model of a mutant bear head. Although the bear we see in the final film is CGI, the VFX team created a physical version of the bear's head for the crew to interact with. When Natalie Portman and her co-stars got their first glimpse of that disturbing snout, they screamed — a perfectly reasonable reaction.

Unfortunately, the filmmakers couldn't even use the take, according to Portman. Her genuine reaction — that is, freaking out — wouldn't have been in character for a hardened soldier, she told Collider.

Will Smith was shaken by the failure of After Earth

Since his film debut in 1992, Will Smith managed to maintain a string of movies that were commercially successful for more than 15 years. From "Independence Day" to "I Am Legend," it seemed like Smith could never fail. Then along came "After Earth," which bombed at the box office and ruined his winning streak.

Smith shared his reaction to this failure (via The Guardian) while he was promoting the movie "Focus" (his follow-up to "After Earth"). "I was like, oh, wow — I'm still alive," said Smith. "I still am me, even though the movie didn't open at number one. Wait, I can still get hired on another movie!" Since the budget of "After Earth" was $130 million, it needed to be a huge financial success in order to make a profit, but it didn't even make back half its budget domestically. However, Smith said that he needed to remind himself that his self-worth did not depend on the box office. He added, "It is a huge relief for me to not care whether or not 'Focus' is #1 or #10 at the box office."

For Smith, the process of creating a film with a bunch of other passionate actors and filmmakers was satisfying enough. The actor also announced that he would try taking his career in a different direction: "I think I'm going to start moving out of [blockbusters like 'After Earth'] and finding more danger in my artistic choices."

Dylan O'Brien from The Maze Runner considered quitting

Dylan O'Brien was filming a scene for "The Maze Runner: The Death Cure" when he got hit by a vehicle in an accident that proved near-fatal. The actor told People that his memories of the incident were pretty hazy, though he added, "The weird thing I learned is that your body is more aware of what happened to you even if you are not, in a way." His interview suggests that, while recovering, he considered never acting again: "I absolutely went through a period of not knowing what my future was going to be."

O'Brien returned to finish the movie several months later, but the actor was never the same after this role. Although he described it as "the worst experience of my life" in his interview with People, he also added that this earth-shaking event provided an opportunity for personal growth and reflection. O'Brien shared with The Big Ticket that the accident made him reevaluate his priorities; he decided to reconnect with friends that he hadn't seen for years because he had been busy with his acting career. Still, O'Brien can never quite shake the trauma of the accident. "Even to this day, if I'm on set and I'm doing a stunt, if I'm in a rig ... I am slightly irritable," he said. "There is a degree of anxiety in me that I don't think there's ever not going to be."

Lydia Wilson cried the first time she wore prosthetics in Star Trek

While stunt work can often be terrifying, sometimes even makeup can be stressful for an actor. It certainly was for Lydia Wilson, who needed to wear a lot of prosthetic makeup to play Kalara in "Star Trek Beyond."

In an interview with HeyUGuys, Wilson recalled the first time she shot in full costume. At the end of the day, when her claustrophobic makeup came off, she was exhausted. "I just cried for 40 minutes," she said. "Because I'd been inside this pink mask and I was tired." Wilson told Interview magazine that she came home humbled and weighed down by imposter syndrome. She felt that if she couldn't even handle a single day in makeup, then she could hardly call herself an actress.

However, Wilson assured Interview that this moment brought out some positive growth in her. "The weird thing was I was elated by it," she said. "It wasn't despair. It was this weird ecstasy." The next day, she visited the film set even though it was her day off, because she wanted to show that she wasn't going to let this incident discourage her. Wilson told herself, "You have to go back to set and back to work and get back on your horse immediately." Of course, it certainly helped that she got some encouragement from her co-star Chris Pine. Wilson told HeyUGuys, "[Pine] gave me a sip of his scotch and said, 'This is totally normal. You're okay.'"

Jessica Alba became disillusioned after Fantastic Four

One eye-opening moment on the set of "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" changed how Jessica Alba viewed Hollywood and almost made her quit acting altogether. When Alba was filming her character's death scene, director Tim Story wasn't satisfied. According to Alba in an interview with Elle (via Access), Story told her, "It looks too real. It looks too painful. Can you be prettier when you cry?" He added that the actress didn't need to shed any actual tears, since these could always be digitally inserted in post-production. Alba was incredulous that a director could be so superficial, and this moment shook her faith in Hollywood.

Following this incident, Alba started to doubt herself. According to Elle, she began wondering, "Are my instincts and my emotions not good enough? Do people hate them so much that they don't want me to be a real person?" Ultimately, she decided that the movie industry didn't matter as much to her anymore. Alba didn't quit acting, but now she spends less time in the spotlight. She still takes the occasional movie role, but she's more selective about what kind of parts she takes now that — as co-founder of The Honest Company — acting isn't her only source of income. Alba shared that it was a relief not to be under so much public scrutiny anymore: "I'm just so happy I'm not in that headspace anymore because it's ... exhausting."

Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio were stressed out in The Abyss

Filming "The Abyss" was intense, especially for co-stars Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. The intensive shooting schedule, combined with director James Cameron's push for making the effects as realistic as possible, put a lot of strain on the actors, while the crew worked 70-hour weeks and sometimes at night. So it's no wonder that, after a particularly stressful day, Harris found himself crying in his car.

In the movie, Harris' character inhales oxygenated fluorocarbon so he can breathe on the ocean floor. For authenticity, Cameron filled the actor's helmet with actual liquid. However, it was only water, so Harris needed to hold his breath for these shots. That proved especially difficult for him in the scenes where he was dragged underwater because the water went up his nose.

Harris shared a particularly upsetting story with Entertainment Weekly. For the scene where Harris slaps Mastrantonio, trying to revive her character, nobody bothered to tell Harris he could stop after the camera was done rolling. "They were going to let me just keep slapping her around!" he said. The experience was even worse for Mastrantonio. According to Harris, she declared, "We are not animals!" and left the set, refusing to come back until the next day. According to the James Cameron biography "The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron," the crew had to make do with a sandbag in place of the actress until then.

Linda Hamilton got permanent hearing damage during Terminator 2

"The Abyss" isn't the only James Cameron movie that challenged its actors physically and emotionally. "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" contains another sci-fi movie role that shook an actor to their core.

In a 2009 interview with Blockbuster, Linda Hamilton shared that she recalled one day on the set when she had felt extremely disoriented: "I spent [the day] being shot at the whole time, running around on broken glass, throwing myself every which way." Hamilton recalls feeling too overwhelmed to even follow Cameron's instructions, causing one crew member to conclude that the intense shooting conditions had left her shell-shocked.

To make matters worse, Hamilton made a mistake in another scene that gave her a permanent hearing loss. During a scene that involved deafening gunfire, Hamilton forgot to wear her ear plugs. "I fell to my knees in pain. I thought I'd been shot. That was how bad it was," she told Blockbuster. Despite the pain, Hamilton realized that nobody had noticed her plight or stopped the filming, so she got back on her feet as if nothing was wrong. "That was the professional thing to do," she said. Actually, it probably would have been more professional to make sure she was really okay before continuing. After all, her health was important, and Hamilton would have been no good to the film crew if she was seriously injured. Still, Linda Hamilton deserves credit for being a real trooper.