Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

On-Set Injuries That Ended Up In The Movie

Making movies might seem glamorous to those of us who haven't spent time on a set, but in reality, the daily grind can actually be incredibly difficult. And we're not just talking about the mind-numbing slog of waiting out the downtime between takes, either: People get hurt on movie sets—and not only stunt workers, either. The stars risk injury too, and sometimes when they end up getting hurt, the footage of their accident even makes it into the film's final cut. Whether it was because the production was running behind schedule, the actor was hurt too badly to do another take, or it simply made for great cinema, there have been a number of times in Hollywood history when on-set injuries ended up in a movie. With that in mind, here's a look back at some scenes whose stars didn't have to act when it came time for their characters to end up in pain. 

Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher

Channing Tatum strove for authenticity as wrestler Mark Schultz in Foxcatcher, up to and including the part where when he gets bruised, beat up and battered. Tatum suffered (at least) two injuries on the set of the drama, both of which were caught on film and made it into the movie. While shooting a wrestling scene with co-star Mark Ruffalo, Tatum told Ruffalo to slap him during the grappling "just to get it over with." Ruffalo complied and slapped Tatum so hard that it popped an eardrum. In another scene, the script calls for Tatum to have a mental breakdown in a hotel room. Not in the script: Tatum getting so worked up that he smashed his head against a mirror. That's his real blood.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained

Leonardo DiCaprio plays a demented slave owner in Quentin Tarantino's 2012 Western, and in one incredibly intense scene, he tells Django (Jamie Foxx) he knows about his plan to free his wife. To emphasize a point, DiCaprio slams his fist onto a table—and hits a glass in the process. But he's such a pro that he continued his long monologue while picking pieces of bloody glass from his skin.

Brad Pitt in Troy

While filming the final battle scene for Wolfgang Petersen's 2004 epic Troy, Pitt landed awkwardly, and you can see the pain on his face. He's not faking it. In a moment of supreme irony, Pitt, playing the Greek warrior Achilles, ruptured his Achilles tendon. (His only weakness!) "It's sad, it's stupid, but it's true," Pitt later said. "It's such a dumb headline."

Ed Harris in The Abyss

James Cameron's 1989 waterlogged science-fiction movie The Abyss was extremely difficult to shoot, what with all of the underwater scenes and tiny claustrophobic set pieces filmed in the concrete containment vessel of a decommissioned nuclear power plant. As recounted in Rebecca Keegan's Cameron bio The Futurist, star Ed Harris had to swim all the way down into the movie's titular abyss—a length of about 200 feet—while holding his breath in a helmet full of liquid. Despite wearing protective contact lenses, his eyes were still burned by chlorine. In one take, Harris ran out of air and signaled to his safety diver (usually stationed outside the shot with an oxygen tank) to bring in the air...but that diver got caught in some cables. A backup safety diver hurried to Harris, ripped off his helmet, and shoved in an air regulator so the actor could breathe, but it was upside down, giving Harris a mouthful of water instead of life-giving oxygen. (Harris's regular safety diver finally freed himself of the cables and supplied the Oscar-nominated actor with much-needed air.) That night, Harris said he wept from sheer physical and mental exhaustion.

Harris may have had it rough, but so did the director. While all the principal actors had a safety diver, Cameron didn't. He just hung around in the holding tank wearing an oxygen tank that provided 75 minutes of oxygen (along with about 40 pounds of filmmaking gear). Since directors are extremely busy on set, it was the job of an assistant director to alert Cameron when he had 15 minutes of oxygen left. One day, however, the A.D. forgot to give Cameron his 15-minute warning—and the director realized he had nothing left in the tank when he took a breath while conversing with Abyss co-star Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and no oxygen came out. Cameron was too bogged down by gear to swim to the surface. He used his helmet microphone to tap into the underwater PA system to summon cinematographer Al Giddings, but Giddings, an experienced diver, was almost totally deaf due to an old accident and didn't hear Cameron's call for help. Out of options, Cameron ditched all of his equipment—including his helmet—and made a swim for the surface. When he was just 15 feet from fresh air, a safety diver finally came to the director's rescue...but the air regulator he shoved into Cameron's mouth was broken, and so was the backup. Cameron finally pushed the diver away as hard as he could, swam upward, and climbed out of the tank.

Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz

All the green makeup Hamilton had to wear to portray the Wicked Witch didn't help prevent her from enduring second-degree burns on her face and hands. During the scene in which her character arrives in Munchkinland, Hamilton was supposed to disappear behind a cloud of smoke and pyrotechnics, then fall through a trap door to safety. But the door malfunctioned, leaving her face-to-face with fireworks. Hamilton was away from the set for six weeks to recover from severe burns. Her face healed quickly, but she had to wear gloves instead of makeup on her hands. Upon her return, director Victor Fleming told her they wouldn't need to reshoot the scene, because the one they shot looked perfect.

Diane Kruger in Inglourious Basterds

The scene in which Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) strangles German spy Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) was a pivotal one during filming of Inglourious Basterds. It was so important that director Quentin Tarantino didn't want to leave anything to chance—like trusting Waltz to do it correctly. Those are Tarantino's hands wrapped around Kruger's neck in the final cut. Also in the final cut: Kruger passing out.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

In 2014's Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal plays a criminal-turned photographer who shoots grizzly crime scene photos to sell to news channels. His character is obviously not quite right, and it comes to a point when he unloads his frustrations into a mirror. Gyllenhaal didn't have to smash it as hard as he did, but he did, and it bloodied his hand. The cameras kept rolling, but Gyllenhaal had to be treated at a hospital. In other scenes, he can be seen hiding his injured hand, usually behind his back.

James Franco in Pineapple Express

Why does James Franco's perma-stoned character in Pineapple Express sometimes wear a headband? Because it's covering up three stitches that Franco had to get while filming a scene. When the script called for him to run into a tree, Franco did it with a little too much energy and hurt himself for real.

Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin

This one is a little different, because it was planned out ahead of time and was even suggested by the actor involved. In the famous scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin in which his character gets his incredibly hairy chest waxed, that's Steve Carell's actual hair. He thought it would look more real than using fake hair, and he didn't think it would hurt that much. He was apparently quite wrong, as violent outbursts are just as real as the waxing strips.

Sean Bean in Patriot Games

Throughout his long and distinguished career, Sean Bean has had a tendency to play characters who don't make it out alive. To name just a few examples, Bean "dies" in GoldenEye, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Island, The Hitcher, Game of Thrones...and Patriot Games. Unlike his character, the villainous Sean Miller, Bean escaped this 1992 action thriller alive—but not entirely unscathed. During the climactic wrestle fight on a speedboat, Harrison Ford's Jack Ryan struck Bean's character with a metal hook, making real-life contact during the take. It gave Bean a gash just above his left eyebrow that spilled a lot of very real blood—and the take was used in the final cut of Patriot Games. Bean doesn't really mind the scar it left behind, either: "It's in the right place," he later told a reporter.

Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner

Unlike her replicant Blade Runner character Pris, Daryl Hannah is 100 percent human—and thus susceptible to the type of mishap that left her with a painful lasting reminder of her time on the set. During a scene in which Pris ran away from genetic designer J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson), Hannah slipped and fell onto a car, smashing the window with her elbow. It looks awesome in the movie and it's totally in character for the tough Pris, but it wasn't planned. It's pouring down rain in the scene, and Hannah had slipped on the wet pavement for real, accidentally jamming her elbow through a sheet of real glass. Hannah, ever the consummate pro, didn't break character; only afterward did she discover that she'd chipped her elbow in eight places. She still has a scar.

Gianni Russo in The Godfather

There's a scene in Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 Best Picture winner during which Sonny Corleone (James Caan) finds Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo) and gives him a thorough beatdown with a trashcan lid to make sure Carlo doesn't abuse his wife—and Sonny's sister—Connie (Talia Shire) anymore. Caan got so caught up in the scene with the smacking and the kicking that he cracked two of Russo's ribs and chipped an elbow. Russo is in real pain in the scene, and that verisimilitude is just one of the many reasons The Godfather remains a towering classic of modern cinema.