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Behind-The-Scenes Stories From ‘The Fugitive,’ The Most Unexpectedly Great Action Movie Of The '90s

October 8, 2020 20.8k views15 items

The Fugitive train wreck sequence remains memorable more than 25 years after its release. That's because the film is so well-constructed. It's a taut, tense, 130-minute adventure that pulls you in from the first moment and never lets go. The movie opened on August 6, 1993, and went on to gross almost $184 million domestically, according to Box Office Mojo. Not bad for a picture based on an old TV show that many ticket-buyers at the time were too young to remember.

Making the movie wasn't always easy though. The Fugitive dam jump was costly, there was never a final version of the script, and director Andrew Davis was forced to rush certain aspects of the production to ensure the movie made its release date. Between those and other factors, it's kind of a miracle that the final product turned out as good as it did. Somehow, movie "magic" was on its side, and, against all odds, the challenges it faced were conquered by cast and crew.

The following behind-the-scenes stories from the making of The Fugitive will give you an idea of how demanding it was to make this action classic. 

  • Photo: The Fugitive / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Harrison Ford’s Limp Was Real - He Tore A Ligament While Filming And Didn’t Treat It

    Harrison Ford is a very talented actor who could no doubt convincingly portray an injury on screen. Richard Kimble has a visible limp during some scenes in The Fugitive. This isn't Ford acting though. He hurt himself for real. 

    The actor tore his ACL during the filming of the scene where Kimble escapes into the woods. The injury was severe enough to require surgery. Ford also spent six weeks on crutches. So, when you see Kimble limping, that's Ford taking his own injury and making it work for the character. 

  • Photo: The Fugitive / Warner Bros. Pictures

    The Train Crash Was Filmed With An Actual Train Hitting A Real Bus On An Actual Railroad

    CGI was definitely in existence when The Fugitive was released in August 1993. After all, that was the same summer that gave us the computer-generated dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. It was not, however, commonly used in films outside the fantasy or sci-fi genres. Today, the film's famous train sequence could all be done in CGI. Director Andrew Davis did it by having an actual train hit an actual bus on an actual railroad. 

    Special effects expert Ray Arbogast oversaw the construction of a 200-yard-long stretch of usable railroad track at the Smoky Mountain Railway in North Carolina. Train cars that were scheduled to be retired, including two locomotives, were purchased for the film. This movie train was then put on the track and pushed from behind by another train so it could get above 35 mph. With 16 cameras rolling, it was rammed into an actual bus that had been placed in its path, pushing it over 300 yards upon impact.

    The end result contributed to what became one of the most highly buzzed-about action sequences of the year. 

  • Photo: Cape Fear / Universal Pictures

    Nick Nolte, Kevin Costner, Michael Douglas, And Andy Garcia Were All Considered To Play Dr. Richard Kimble

    As is the case with many movies, The Fugitive went through a list of potential stars before deciding on one. Alec Baldwin was initially offered the role of Dr. Richard Kimble. Warner Bros. executives allegedly weren't sure he could "open" a big, expensive movie, though, so they passed on him. 

    Other actors were also on the list. Nick Nolte was a top contender for Kimble. In his fifties at that point, Nolte turned it down, deeming himself too old for the action-heavy role. Kevin Costner, Michael Douglas, and Andy Garcia were other names floated to portray Kimble.

    Meanwhile, Gene Hackman and Jon Voight were both in contention to play Samuel Gerard before Tommy Lee Jones signed on to co-star.

  • Photo: The Fugitive / Warner Bros. Pictures

    In The Original Script, Deputy Gerard Hires The One-Armed Man To Get Revenge On Kimble For A Botched Operation

    A lot of different writers contributed to The Fugitive's screenplay at different times. It took four years to develop the film, during which time, various scribes were brought in to polish it up or change key story elements. In fact, a total of eight writers produced 14 different drafts of the script.

    In the original draft, for instance, Gerard hires the one-armed man to eliminate Richard Kimble for botching a surgical procedure on his wife and allowing her to expire on the operating table. Director Andrew Davis deemed that idea "screwed up" and ordered it to be altered. He said, "Getting the story to make sense, to make it realistic, that was our biggest concern."