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Movie scenes that almost killed the stunt double

There are a small number of gutsy Hollywood stars who insist on doing their own stunt work (Tom Cruise has almost been killed multiple times making movies), but most A-listers are happy to hand the really dangerous stuff over to the professionals. Stunt doubles are always in demand in Tinseltown, where a pro can expect to earn a reported average of $70,000 a year. That figure can rise very quickly depending on the situation, however, as in the stunt game higher risk equals higher reward.

The biggest fee ever paid for a single stunt went to Dar Robinson, who was given $150,000 to jump off Toronto's CN Tower in place of Highpoint star Christopher Plummer back in 1979. He nailed the jump twice without any complications, but not every stunt has a happy ending. Near brushes with death are an occupational hazard for Hollywood stunt doubles—and these were some of the most hazardous.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 (2010)

While a lot of CGI work went into bringing Harry Potter's world to life onscreen, Warner Bros. did try to use practical effects whenever possible, especially when it came to broomsticks. That didn't mean the studio was happy to put its star witches and wizards on those broomsticks, however. Stuntman David Holmes doubled for Daniel Radcliffe in a number of scenes, all the way from 2001's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to 2010's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, on which he suffered a life-changing injury.

Holmes was filming a flying stunt when he was yanked from his broom and slammed into a wall before falling to the ground. The accident broke his neck and left him paralyzed at the age of 25. "I remember slipping in and out of consciousness because of the pain levels," Holmes told The Mirror. "I'd broken a bone before, so recognizing that weird feeling across my whole body from my fingertips right down to my toes, I knew I had really done some damage."

The Mirror's interview also carried quotes from Radcliffe himself, who apparently thinks of Holmes as a friend rather than a colleague. "I would hate for people to just see me and Dave and go, 'Oh, there's Daniel Radcliffe with a person in a wheelchair,'" he reportedly said. "Because I would never, even for a moment, want them to assume that Dave was anything except for an incredibly important person in my life."

Back to the Future Part II (1989)

The hoverboard scene is one of the most memorable moments from Back to the Future Part II, though for stunt performer Cheryl Wheeler, it brings back painful memories. Wheeler was almost killed shooting the sequence, in which local meathead Griff and his cronies are tossed through the glass window of a clock tower. One stuntwoman had already quit over the scene, and Wheeler became concerned after a handful of last-minute changes were made to the rig, as explained in Caseen Gaines' book We Don't Need Roads (excerpted by Gizmodo).

"Are you sure all the marks are right from the other day?" Wheeler asked stunt coordinator Walter Scott. "How are you sure everything is exactly the same?" Scott (a veteran in the stunt industry) accused her of getting cold feet and threatened to put a male stunt performer in her clothes for the scene, but being new to the business and wanting to make an impression, she reluctantly agreed.

Instead of crashing through the sugar glass window, Wheeler collided with a stone pillar and was dropped 30 feet onto the concrete below, missing the fall mats entirely. "I was way in the corner, right next to the camera where Cheryl should've been," fellow stunt performer Gary Morgan recalled. "I opened my eyes and I said, 'Where's Cheryl?' and somebody pointed outside. I got up and Cheryl was laying on the concrete and the pool of blood by her head was getting bigger. I thought she was dead."

The Expendables 2 (2012)

Countless henchmen are maimed and killed during the many explosions that take place throughout Sylvester Stallone's Expendables films, though one of them actually claimed a life for real. Stuntman Kun Lieu was fatally injured during the filming of a scene involving an inflatable raft for The Expendables 2 (2012), blown up by a faulty explosion as he drifted on the waters of Bulgaria's Lake Ognyanova. While Lieu's life could not be saved, his partner during the stunt, Nuo Sun, somehow escaped with his.

According to court papers obtained by The Wrap, Sun sustained damage to his "nervous system, neck, head, body [and] arms," which left him in "great mental, physical and nervous pain and suffering." The stunt performer sued Millennium Films and their partners on the grounds of negligence, seeking damages of at least $25,000 as well as the cost of his lengthy hospital treatment and specialist care he would need going forward with his recovery.

The production companies put out a joint statement passing on their condolences and sympathies to the respective families, though Stallone felt the need to address the matter personally while promoting the movie in London. "The stunt team took it very, very hard and shut down for quite a while," the Rambo and Rocky star told reporters in the English capital. "It's happened twice before on films I've been on, and it's never easy."

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

Resident Evil star Milla Jovovich said that it was a "miracle" her double survived an incident that took place on the set of 2016's The Final Chapter, an incident that left the British stuntwoman in a coma. "A terrible accident rocked our set on Saturday the 5th of September," the actress revealed on Facebook. "My incredibly talented stunt double, Olivia Jackson, collided with a camera crane while performing a motorcycle stunt and it put her in the hospital with severe, multiple injuries."

After she regained consciousness, Jackson also took to Facebook to reveal the horrifying extent of the damage. "Two weeks in a coma, brain bleed, brain swelling, severed main artery in the neck, crushed and degloved face, several broken ribs, paralyzed arm, shattered scapula, broken clavicle, broken humerus, broken radius and ulna, with an open wound and a 7.5 piece of bone missing, amputated thumb, torn fingers, five nerves torn out of the spinal cord," she said. "Not my funnest day on set."

In the end one of Jackson's arms had to be amputated and she still has several surgeries to go. The resilient Brit posted a picture of her "twisted upper body" to her Instagram feed in January 2017, claiming that her off-centered neck is the most painful part. "I don't mean to moan, but sometimes I just want to crawl out of my own skin and all the pains in it," she added.

The Avengers (2012)

Jeremy Fitzgerald has performed stunts in hundreds of films and TV shows over the course of his career, creating an impressive showreel along the way. His biggest gig has been doubling for Liam Hemsworth in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, though it was on the set of a movie involving Chris Hemsworth that Fitzgerald almost lost his head—quite literally. He won a Taurus World Stunt Award in the Best High Work category for his contribution to 2011's Predators, but his high work let him down big time when it came to making 2012's The Avengers.

The experienced stuntman narrowly escaped getting decapitated after he botched a 30-foot fall from a building top. Fitzgerald shared a picture of the resulting injury with TMZ and explained how he was supposed to get hit by an arrow (presumably fired by Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye) and then free fall from a ledge. On the way down his foot got caught, and he slammed his head against the building's brick wall, narrowly missing a jagged drain pipe.

In the end, he escaped with his head but was missing a chunk of his scalp. He didn't let that stop him from climbing back up there for more takes, however. "[Jeremy] was fine," a Marvel spokesperson said in reply to TMZ's report. "He slid briefly along the side of the building. He got right back up and did several more takes."

The Hangover Part II (2011)

Australian stuntman Scott McLean was doubling for funnyman Ed Helms in The Hangover Part II when he suffered a critical head injury during a car chase, forcing hospital staff to put him in a medically induced coma. "There was an accident involving a truck and a car on the second unit set of The Hangover Part II near Bangkok, Thailand," Warner Bros. said in a statement via The Hollywood Reporter. "An ambulance immediately took the injured stuntman to the local hospital."

The accident took place during the filming of the scene in which Stu (Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) are being chased by Russian gangsters after stealing their monkey. They swerve through traffic as Stu hangs out of the back passenger window attempting to pull the monkey inside, narrowly missing a truck as it comes around the corner in front of them. The drivers involved got their marks wrong, and McLean's head was hit by the truck.

According to a Daily Mail report, McLean (who had previously performed stunts in the Star Wars and Matrix franchises) was feared dead by his colleagues after the impact, and while he ultimately escaped with his life, his lawyers claim he suffered permanent brain injuries. "There was so much damage," his wife (also a stunt performer) said. "He was a mess. He used to look after me, now it's my turn to look after him for a change."

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Chloë Grace Moretz already had 20 credits to her name when she won the part of foul-mouthed 11-year-old assassin Hit-Girl in 2010's Kick-Ass. "Hit-Girl is that character that really did put me in a different light," Moretz told Rolling Out. "She's the character I would say is my breakout role and put me in the minds of people in this business. It's an amazing role because it's poppy and fun and one of those characters that changed me as an actor, for sure."

None of Moretz's previous roles had been anything near as physically demanding as the Hit-Girl gig, so she put herself through months of intense training and stuntwork to get herself prepared for the part. The stunt coordinators were impressed with how well she adapted and learned the ropes, though they were remiss to let her do the more dangerous scenes despite her willingness. Looking back, she's probably glad the adults talked her down, as one of her stunt doubles suffered a bad injury on set.

"She cracked her head open," Moretz said when asked about the worst thing her double went through while making 2013 sequel Kick-Ass 2. "They used a hydraulic system and they did it too much and it just pulled her an inch too far and she cracked her head on a bar."

Fury (2014)

Using fake weapons in battle scenes is a lot safer than using real ones, though sometimes they can ruin an otherwise perfect shot—remember Hamish's floppy rubber axe during the emotional final charge in Braveheart? That was exactly what David Ayer was trying to avoid in his gritty 2014 WWII flick, Fury. Brad Pitt stars as Sgt Don "Wardaddy" Collier alongside an ensemble cast including Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Jon Bernthal and Michael Peña. The men got to know each other intimately over the course of the shoot, and a large part of that was down to the fistfights they were encouraged to have.

Ayer put the cast through an intensive boot camp and had them partake in heavy sparring as a unique method of bonding before the shoot took place in England, which led to a few flared tempers (LaBeouf admitted that he and Peña butted heads pretty hard at times). While that violence was all staged, there was one moment which wasn't, and it left a stuntman needing an airlift to Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital. The 35-year-old was stabbed with a bayonet during a battle scene, though the nine-inch blade luckily went straight through his shoulder.

"There has been an accident between two professional stuntmen which happened in a rehearsed action sequence," a spokeswoman for the production confirmed, adding that while it was "obviously very unfortunate," the man in question was "laughing and talking" as he was loaded into the helicopter.

Point Break (2015)

1991's Point Break was Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow's fourth outing as director, and while the surfer flick wasn't Oscar-worthy in the same way that her 2008 Iraq war thriller The Hurt Locker was, it became a cult favorite. A young Keanu Reeves starred as football star-turned-FBI agent Johnny Utah alongside the late Patrick Swayze as Bodhi, the ringleader of the gang of surfers Utah is investigating following a string of bank jobs.

Those roles were filled by Australian actor Luke Bracey and Venezuelan Édgar Ramírez in Ericson Core's 2015 remake, which was torn apart by critics but was known for containing some of the most audacious stunts ever attempted. "The danger is off the chart, like, just impossible to even comprehend," BASE jumper Jeb Corliss told Men's Journal while discussing the film's wingsuit scene. "It's probably the most dangerous stunt that has ever been filmed."

It wasn't BASE jumping that led to the worst injury of the shoot, however—it was the killer surf off the coast of Tahiti. Luke Bracey's stunt double Laurie Towner is an experienced big wave surfer who's used to being wiped out in the swell, though he took a bad hit while filming scenes as Utah. "I got myself a broken jaw, some stitches in my lip and eyelid, whiplash to my neck and back and a couple small puncture wounds that went through my neck and into the back of my mouth that apparently just missed an artery," he later recalled.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Extra and background work might be little more than an interesting hobby to most, but for some, it's the first baby steps into an acting career. This was how Gabriela Cedillo felt when she got a job as a passing driver in Michael Bay's third Transformers installment, 2011's Dark of the Moon. Cedillo was asked to take part in a scene involving stunt cars being towed at high speed by flatbed trucks, though when the welding connecting the cars to those trucks failed, she was almost fatally injured.

As she drove her car along a cordoned-off road, the trucks passed her on the opposite side traveling at 50mph. Tragedy struck when one of the brackets attached to a stunt car in tow came loose, smashing through Cedillo's windscreen and hitting her in the head, leaving her with permanent brain damage and paralyzed down one side. She also needed to have her left eye stitched shut, according to details of her lawsuit obtained by the Chicago Tribune.

The stunt (which had an unsuccessful test run just a day before) ended up costing the studios behind the film a small fortune. Cedillo was eventually awarded $18.5 million in damages, though her legal team claimed that DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures did everything they could to avoid paying out. "I think they were well aware of what was going on out there," The Guardian quoted Cedillo's lawyer Todd Smith as saying.

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