== 30 Dangerous Movie Stunts That Took Serious Expertise ==
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Ever since the days of Buster Keaton, filmmakers have sought ever-more-ingenious ways to take audiences’ breaths away with increasingly elaborate stunt work. We love “special effects,” especially when there’s an element of danger for those performing them

Movie stunts take an incredible amount of work, logistics and safety precautions to properly execute — not to mention a ton of nail-biting from nervous insurance underwriters (we’re looking at you, Tom Cruise Yet no matter how much time and preparation goes into planning a big-time movie stunt, things can still go horribly, tragically wrong

Fortunately, most of the time, the professional daredevils are able to dust themselves off and make ready for the next death-defying stunt. And some, notably Jackie Chan and the aforementioned Cruise, have managed to defy both age and the odds by doing many of their own dangerous stunts

Here are 30 of the most dangerous movie stunts ever captured

== 30. Melting the Wicked Witch of the West ==
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**Movie: The Wizard of Oz” **Release Date: **Aug. 25, 1939 **Actor: **Margaret Hamilton
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Actress Margaret Hamilton was a huge fan of “The Wizard of Oz” books and signed on to play the Wicked Witch of the West, partly as she was in dire need of work of any kind during the Depression. But what Hamilton didn’t sign up for were the third-degree burns she endured during a smoke-and-sparks effect meant to show the witch vanishing

Reportedly, as pyrotechnics poofed around Hamilton, the trap door on which she was standing failed to drop her out of sight, so crew members hurried to extinguish the actress’s witch costume. Didn’t they know water, not fire, was far more dangerous to this witch?
== 29. Oddjob’s Fatal Electrocution ==
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**Movie: Goldfinger” **Release Date Jan. 9, 1965 **Actor: **Harold Sakata
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Oddjob was the ultimate lackey, carrying out asssinationon behalf of his leash-holder, the villainous Auric Goldfinger. Oddjob’s weapon du jour was a flying bowler hat that was so nasty it could take the heads off of statues — to say nothing of slicing through a human neck. Watch out, James Bond!
But 007 got the better of Oddjob in the end, tossing a live wire at the henchman and toasting him to death. Actor Harold Sakata received some severe burns when the pyrotechnics meant to simulate Oddjob’s fatal electrocution torched his sleeve and injured his hand. The bowler hat was fine

== 28. Tom Cruise Running Down the Side of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa ==
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**Movie “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” **Release Date Dec. 15, 2011 **Actor Tom Cruise
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building, standing over 2,700 feet above the ground — over a half-mile into the sky! So, it made perfect sense to have the world’s biggest movie star perform his own stunt, basically running vertically down the side of the building. Tom Cruise is nothing if not extremely brave, and there was absolutely no faking it when the “Mission Impossible” star, in a harness, made like Spider-Man high above the United Arab Emirates’ most famous city

The story goes that the film’s original underwriter said no way, so Cruise (who also produced the film) promptly fired the insurer and did the gravity-defying moves anyway. Cruise lived to tell the tale and has continued escaping death in even more dangerous stunts, as we shall see

== 27. Flipping the Joker’s Truck Over ==
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**Movie “The Dark Knight” **Release Date: **July 18, 2008 **Actor: **Heath Ledger **Stunt Performer: **Jim Wilkey
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Imagine living in downtown Chicago in 2007 and hearing the loudest crash ever in the middle of the night! Then, you look out your window to see a truck turned upside-down. Chi-town doubled for Gotham City in the first two of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and the crew really did flip a truck over as part of a sequence in which the Joker (Heath Ledger) chases down Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), thinking he’s really Batman. Lo and behold, the real Batman (Christian Bale) attaches the Joker’s big rig with super cables to the street, causing it to cartwheel upon itself


Stuntman Jim Wilkey was at the helm of the somersaulting lorrie and had one chance to get it right. Thankfully, Wilkey escaped without a scratch, and the uncheated truck flip appears in one continuous take in the final film

== 26. Tom Cruise Attaching Himself to the Side of an Airplane ==
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**Movie: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” **Release Date: **July 31, 2015 **Actor: **Tom Cruise
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Out to one-up himself after rappelling down the Burj Khalifa tower for “Ghost Protocol,” Tom Cruise thought, “Why not attach myself to an airplane as it takes off?”
This he did in the opening of his next Mission Impossible adventure, “Rogue Nation.” Cruise was 52 years old when he was attached to the side of an Airbus A400M as it took to the skies over England. While his character, Ethan Hunt, is seen with his eyes wide in alarm during said takeoff, Cruise was actually wearing special contact lenses, as it’s all but impossible to keep one’s eyes open at those speeds

== 25. Steamboat Bill Jr.’s Famous Tornado Scene ==
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**Movie “Steamboat Bill Jr.” **Release Date May 20, 1928 **Actor: **Buster Keaton
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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“The Great Stoneface” never blinked while tempting the odds during Hollywood’s Golden Age. So, it was in 1928, when Buster Keaton came up with the mathematically precise — though extremely dangerous — notion of dropping a house facade in such a way that its second-floor window would safely land around him

Nearly a century after Keaton and crew pulled this off, it’s still hard to watch as Keaton, facing the camera, casually scratches his neck as the wall behind him falls. A mistake of an inch or two in either direction, and Keaton would have been history

== 24. Zoe Bell Hanging Onto the Hood of a Car ==
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**Movie: Death Proof” **Release Date July 21, 2007 **Actor: **Zoe Bell
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Quentin Tarantino and fellow auteur Robert Rodriguez put their heads together for the 2007 “double feature” called “Grindhouse,” a 1970s-era throwback that even featured fake trailers in between Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” and Tarantino’s “Death Proof.”

Tarantino's half of the bill starred Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, a homicidal movie car driver with an appetite for crashing into unsuspecting victims. New Zealand stuntwoman Zoe Bell, who had previously worked on Tarantino’sBill,” plays herself in a scene where she gets her adrenaline up by riding the hood of her friends’ car — which becomes a nightmare as Stuntman Mike tries to run them all off the road at high speed

That’s really Bell hanging on for dear life during the “gag” (industry speak for movie stunts), and it must have been hard to “act” scared at 70 mph

== 23. Jackie Chan Walking Across Hot Coals ==
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**Movie: The Legend of Drunken Master” **Release Date: **Feb. 3, 1994 **Actor: **Jackie Chan
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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The axiom goes that you must suffer for your art, but one Chan Kong-sang—better known to us as “Jackie” Chan — has taken the pain to a whole other level. Chan has infamously broken nearly every bone in his body, and true Chan fans know to stick around during the closing credits of his films to watch outtakes of the kung-fu master injuring himself time and again in that movie’s stunts gone wrong

Chan actually crawled across hot coals — were no fakes available? — for a gag in “The Legend of Drunken Master.” Not content with how it “looked,” Chan got back down again on all fours to do the scene yet again

As we said, you’re not an artist unless you’re suffering

== 22. 007 Performing an Aerial Car Stunt ==
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**Movie: The Man With the Golden Gun” **Release Date: **Dec. 20, 1974 **Actor: **Roger Moore **Stunt Performer Loren “Bumps” Willert
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Widely considered to be the absoluteof James Bond’s onscreen adventures, 1974’s “The Man With the Golden Gun,” nonetheless, contains an aerial car stunt that would make even Bo and Luke Duke green with envy. At a key moment, Roger Moore’s 007 boosts an AMC Hornet from a car show to chase down the villainous Scaramanga (Christopher Lee). But ariver separates Bond from baddie Lee, requiring him to not only jump the Hornet over the river, but twist it in midair

This 360-degree feat was accomplished by stunt driver Loren “Bumps” Willert, who was so dedicated that he agreed to recreate the trick for an appreciative crowd not long after filming wrapped

== 21. Steve-O Slingshotted in a Porta Potty ==
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**Movie:3D” **Release Date: **Oct. 15, 2010 **Actor: **Steve-O
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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File this under the extremely— as if you’d expect anything else from a series called.” Those crazy guys already had a TV series and two previous films of stomach-churning tricks under their belt, so naturally, they had to up the ante for their third big-screen outing — this time in 3D. In the film’s most notorious segment, Steve-O was strapped into a porta potty and slingshotted several stories up into the air

Decorum dictates we describe nothing further, but if you haven’t had lunch yet today, you can watch the entire nonsense here. (3D glasses are optional but
*highly* discouraged.)
== 20. Jackie Chan Hanging From a Clock Face and Letting Go ==
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**Movie: Project A” **Release Date Dec. 22, 1983 **Actor: **Jackie Chan
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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In 1923, Harold Lloyd famously dangled from a huge clock face in “Safety Last!” although it was partly accomplished with trick photography. Sixty years later, Jackie Chan (him again) swore off the cheated angles and decided to not only pay homage to the silent screen legend, but to also one-up him by hanging from a clock face several-hundred feet in the air. And then falling from it

Though Chan landed on his head and damaged his spine, he continued doing his own stunts until 2012 — at which point his body let loose a huge sigh of thanks

== 19. Jumping From Chicago’s Willis Tower ==
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**Movie: Transformers: Dark of the Moon” **Release Date June 28, 2011 **Actor: **Tyrese Gibson **Stunt Performer: **J.T. Holmes
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Ever heard of “wingsuiting”? It’s an extreme sport that is kind of like skydiving, only done with a special costume that allows the wearer to “fly,” for a little while anyway. Wingsuiting is usually performed thousands of feet above the ground, allowing ample time to both enjoy the ride and pull the chute

This was far from the case with the third “Transformers” flick, which requires some seriously gnarly daredevils to jump from Chicago’s Willis Tower, which isn’t even 2,000-feet tall. After only a few brief seconds of freefall, the stunt performers had to pull cord — literally — lest they crash down on South Wacker Drive

== 18. Indiana Jones Being Dragged Behind a Truck ==
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**Movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” **Release Date: **June 12, 1981 **Actor: **Harrison Ford **Stunt Performer: **Terry Leonard
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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As kids, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas gorged themselves on Saturday matinee serials of heroic derring-do, so when it came time to make their own larger-than-life adventure, they fashioned something very similar. But the two billionaires — who were then mere multimillionaires — wanted the stunts to be as realistic as possible, as to induce the same gasps they experienced watching the serials in days of yore

Accordingly, a key “Raiders” scene sees Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) dragged behind a truck driving away with the Ark of the Covenant. That’s really Ford being towed in several shots (he reportedly bruised several ribs), but the diciest moments of the stunt were handled by veteran stuntman Terry Leonard. And in a fun in-joke, in the very next scene Leonard can be seen playing the truck’sdriver, whom Indy promptly tosses into the dust

== 17. Ben-Hur’s Chariot Race ==
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**Movie: Ben-Hur” **Release Date Nov. 18, 1959 **Actor: **Charlton Heston **Stunt Performer: **Joe Canutt
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Television was kickingin the 1950s, so filmmakers lured the public back to the multiplex by promising bigger, louder epics filmed in widescreen and employing the latest sound technology. One of those epics was “Ben-Hur,” whose climax features a truly heartstopping chariot race around Rome’s Circus Maximus

Charlton Heston’s hero has to jump over a fallen chariot, and stuntman Joe Canutt can be seen in the final print actually toppling forward in the seat as the chariot lands. It’s such a thrilling stunt that for years false rumors swirled that Canutt was actuallyin the crash, and the fatal footage was left in the film

== 16. Billy Score’s Free Fall From a 220-Foot Building ==
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**Movie: Sharky’s Machine” **Release Date Dec. 18, 1981 **Actor: **Henry Silva **Stunt Performer: **Dar Robinson
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Dar Robinson was one of the greatest movie stuntmen ever, and for years, he was called upon to make the impossible possible on film. His most impressive on-camera trick was free falling 220 feet from a building in Burt Reynolds’ 1981 “Sharky’s Machine.” Doubling for Henry Silva, who played bad-guy Billy Score, was peanuts for Robinson, who had already free-fallen off Toronto’s CN Tower, at 1,170 feet — twice


Reynolds was so impressed with Robinson’s moxie that he cast the stuntman in a speaking role in his subsequent film, “Stick.” Since he was the flick’s main villain, it made sense for Robinson to take yet another tumble, this time firing his gun at Reynolds during another fatal plunge from many stories up

== 15. Tom Cruise Hanging From and Piloting a Helicopter ==
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**Movie: Mission Impossible: Fallout” **Release Date July 27, 2018 **Actor: **Tom Cruise
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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What does one do after running face-first down the world’s tallest building and then attaching himself to a plane as it takes off? Why, fly his own helicopter for his next trick, of course

The most recent “Mission Impossible,” which bowed in 2018, saw Tom Cruise not only hanging from a helicopter, but actually piloting it during the climax. Several cameras and various angles were used to show it was, in fact, Cruise and not a double (nor ain the pilot’s seat

== 14. Bane’s Plane Hijack ==
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**Movie: The Dark Knight Rises” **Release Date July 20, 2012 **Actor/Stunt Performer: **Unknown (but rumored to be Matthew McConaughey)
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Director Christopher Nolan is fond of a challenge, so when it came time to cap his Batman trilogy, the British filmmaker opened the 2012 threequel with a midair plane-to-plane hijack that was accomplished practically in the skies above Scotland. As Bane’s (Tom Hardy) goons come to his rescue, the pilots of Bane’s getaway plane latch onto the CIA’s rison plane, causing it to tilt vertically. No CGI here!
While Nolan spent several days performing this specific stunt using two different planes, when it came time tothe plane, Nolan replaced the real one with a prop version that the stuntman still had to drop down to in order to capture the destruction. There’s only one quick shot of the bad-guy pilot, who resembles none other than Matthew McConaughey. Although that almost certainly wasn’t the affable Texan at the controls, it does raise some eyebrows that he was cast as the lead in Nolan’s subsequent flick, “Interstellar.”
== 13. Hooper Jumping Over a 325-Foot Gorge ==
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**Movie “Hooper” **Release Date: **July 14, 1978 **Actor: **Burt Reynolds **Stunt Performer: **Buddy Joe Hooker
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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“Hooper” was a love letter to stuntmen, so little wonder this rather typical slice of late-’70s Burt Reynolds entertainment would be rife with car crashes and vehicular feats of flying galore. The flick climaxes with a souped-up Pontiac Trans Am — and when we say souped up, we mean with rocket engines — jumping over a 325-foot gorge with Hooper behind the wheel

Naturally, the moustachioed star sat out the actualleapfrog, which was accomplished thanks to the fearlessness of stunt driver Buddy Joe Hooker

== 12. Jamie Lee Curtis Being Rescued From a Limo ==
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**Movie: True Lies” **Release Date July 15, 1994 **Actor: **Jamie Lee Curtis
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Before Michael Bay foisted a new Transformers movie on us every other year, James Cameron was the king of blowing stuff up real good, including Florida’s Old Causeway Bridge, which took some serious explosive hammering in “True Lies.”
Not to be outdone by pyrotechnics, co-star Jamie Lee Curtis agreed to perform the scene where she is rescued from a limo about to speed off a bridge. Just as husband Harry (Arnold Schwarzenegger) grabs her from a helicopter, the limo careens into the drink, and that’s the real Curtis screaming as she hangs onto Arnie for dear life

== 11. Jackie Chan Sliding Down a Vertical Pole and Crashing Through a Glass Panel ==
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**Movie: Police Story” **Release Date: **Dec. 14, 1985 **Actor: **Jackie Chan
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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It was 1985, and Jackie Chan was still several years away from tossing in the towel on performing his own stunts. Good thing for his fans, who came salivating to theaters to check out “Police Story,” in which Chan smacks down aof underworld goons with his kung-fu chops

During one particularly harrowing chase scene, Chan slides down a tall vertical pole, with electric lights shooting sparks all around him. Chan “lands” by crashing through a glass panel into a mall kiosk, but he gets right back up and keeps the action going. Chan actually did the scene not once, not twice, but thrice!
== 10. Maverick’s Fighter Jet Going Into a Flat Spin ==
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**Movie: Top Gun” **Release Date May 16, 1986 **Actor: **Tom Cruise **Stunt Performer Art Scholl
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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“Kick the tires, and light the fires!”
Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards) were cocky young pilots at the Top Gun school near San Diego, which made them perfect candidates for the Navy’s most elite flight school. Alas, in the film’s darkest moment, Maverick’s fighter jet goes into a flat spin, forcing him and Goose to eject before it crashes. Goose dies in the accident, and it nearly ends Maverick’s flying career

In an eerie coincidence, stunt pilot Art Scholl, while filming a similar flat spin for the “Top Gun” cameras, lost control of his plane, which plunged into the Pacific. Neither the plane nor Scholl’s body was ever recovered

== 9. Explosion at the Ognyanovo Reservoir ==
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**Movie: The Expendables 2” **Release Date Aug. 15, 2012 **Stunt Performer: **Kun Liu
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Filming movie stunts is dangerous at the best of times. It’s a risky line of work for even the most seasoned stunt performer, and sometimes, through no fault of their own, they pay the ultimate price

This happened to stuntman Kun Liu on the Bulgarian set of “The Expendables 2” when an explosive device apparently misfired, killing Liu and injuring another stuntman. The film was dedicated to Liu’s memory

== 8. Accidental Firing of aBullet at Brandon Lee’s Chest ==
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**Movie “The Crow” **Release Date May 11, 1994 **Actor: **Brandon Lee
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Martial arts legend Bruce Lee died suddenly in 1973 at 32, just as he was breaking internationally. Twenty years later, his son Brandon Lee was on the verge of the big time when he, too, was taken too soon. The set of the younger Lee’s otherworldly tale “The Crow” — about a murdered guitar player who returns from the dead to avenge himself — was plagued with spooky happenings, including a crew member accidentally being electrocuted and another disgruntled crewman driving his car into the set

On March 31, 1993, a fairly routine stunt went horribly, tragically wrong when abullet — a round without gunpowder — became lodged in a prop gun (the arms master reportedly had been sent home). When the gun was fired by actor Michael Massee, the gunpowder “blank” ejected thebullet into Lee’s chest, and he died a short time later at just 28 years old. Stunt doubles and clever editing helped Lee “complete” his performance, but we’ll never know what might have been

== 7. Batmobile Exploding During Climactic Chase ==
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**Movie “The Dark Knight” **Release Date: **July 18, 2008 **Crew member: **Conway Wickliffe

== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Stunt coordinator and camera operator Conway Wickliffe lost his life while working on the Batman adventure “The Dark Knight” in Surrey, England, in September 2007. Wickliffe and crewmates were testing out an effect meant to simulate the Batmobile exploding for the climactic chase through the streets of Gotham City (the truck flip from earlier was from the same sequence). According to reports, Wickliffe was leaning out a production car window holding a camera, when the vehicle he was riding lost control and smashed into a tree

An inquest ruled Wickliffe’s death an accident; however, misfortune continued to follow the project: Joker actor Heath Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose before the film hit theaters the following summer. Like Brandon Lee, hewas just 28

== 6. Xander Cage Paragliding Near the Palacky Bridge ==
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**Movie “xXx” **Release Date: **Aug. 9, 2002 **Actor: **Vin Diesel **Stunt Performer: **Harry O'Connor
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Despite what its name might imply, the Vin Diesel action vehicle “xXx” was actually a high-budget action movie

A veteran stuntman on the film’sin the Czech Republic by the name of Harry O’Connor was enjoying a second career as a movie daredevil following life as a Navy SEAL. As tough as O’Connor was, though, he died performing a paragliding stunt by accidentally running into a pillar of the Palacky Bridge

== 5. ‘Deadpool 2’s’ Motorcycle Stunt ==
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**Movie “Deadpool 2” **Release Date May 17, 2018 **Actor: **Zazie Beetz **Stunt Performer: **Joi SJ Harris
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Movies based on comic books are almost required to be outlandish, especially when the protagonist is the outrageous, foul-mouthed Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds). Thus hopes were high to one-up the excitement for the sequel, but carelessness and bad luck on a motorcycle stunt resulted in the death of stuntwoman Joi JS Harris on Aug. 15, 2017. Harris was doubling for actress Zazie Beetz for the scene, and Canadian authorities later blamed studio 20th Century Fox for not ensuring Harris’s safety on the Vancouver set


“Deadpool 2” was dedicated to Harris

== 4. The Train Scene That Never Was ==
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**Movie: Midnight Rider” **Release Date: **Never completed **Actor: **William Hurt **Crew Member: **Sarah Jones
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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A cardinal rule of filming is getting permission toon location. This ensures that a live set is safe for filming. Alas, the producers of abandoned Gregg Allman biopic “Midnight Rider” never secured approval to film on a bridge crossing over Georgia’s Altamaha River, but nonetheless set up there one fateful day in February 2014. As William Hurt, as Allman, lay down on a hospital bed on the tracks toa dream sequence, a train barrelled into view. The actors and crew scurried to leave, but the train struck the hospital bed, parts of which hit camera assistant Sarah Jones and pushed her into the train’s path

Director Randall Miller received two years inand assistant director Hillary Schwartz got a decade of probation for Jones’s death. The film was never finished

== 3. Speed Boat Jumping a Ramp in ‘Gone Fishin’’ ==
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**Movie: Gone Fishin’” **Release Date: **May 30, 1997 **Actors: **Joe Pesci and Danny Glover **Stunt Performer: **Janet Wilder
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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Even comedies bank on big stunts, but laughter isn’t enough to stave off on-set disaster. Catastrophe visited the set of “Gone Fishin which reunited Joe Pesci and Danny Glover from the “Lethal Weapon” franchise. During shooting a water-based chase near Naples, Florida, in December 1995, a speedboat that was supposed to jump a ramp slid off the launch and plowed into several other boats. Stuntwoman Janet Wilder, who was manning another production boat with her stuntman husband Scott, wasin the incident, and four others were injured

Wilder’s father, Glenn R. Wilder, was also injured but survived. He would work in movie stunts for another 24 years before dying in 2017 at age 83

== 2. Ewing’s Horse-Dragging Scene ==
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**Movie: Comes a Horseman” **Release Date: **Oct. 25, 1978 **Actor: **Jason Robards **Stunt Performer: **Jim Sheppard
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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There’s a reason the term “horsepower” exists. In August 1977, Oscar-winner Jason Robards was cast as the villainous Ewing in the Western “Comes a Horseman.” One particular scene called for Robards’ baddie character to get dragged off-camera by his horse, likely to his death. Robards’ stunt double, Jim Sheppard, suited up in cowboy attire for the dragging stunt. But when director Alan J. Pakula called action, the horse veered off the prescribed course, and Sheppard’s head struck a post at high speed

The scene was included in the final version of the film, though the moment Sheppard received the fatalwas thankfully cut

== 1. ‘Twilight Zone’s’ Helicopter Chase Scene ==
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**Movie: Twilight Zone: The Movie” **Release Date: **June 24, 1983 **Actor Vic Morrow
== The Story Behind the Stunt ==
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John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller all loved Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” show, so when they had some pull in Hollywood, the foursome decided to adapt the old show as an anthology film. Landis’s segment, “Time Out,” featured actor Vic Morrow as a man who becomes unstuck in time, landing in various episodes of the past. One of his destinations is the Vietnam War, which was staged at an outdoor set in California. The very last day of filming called for Morrow to be chased by a helicopter for the scene. The chopper was damaged by a special effect and lost control, crashing into Morrow and two child extras. The footage of their deaths was destroyed, and a lengthy legal battle over fault ensued

Over a year after the accident, the anthology film came out in theaters.