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12 Film Sets On Which People Were Actually Killed

Real accidents happen on the sets of big budget movies, but most of them don't cost the cast or crew their lives. Film productions follow a number of regulations to keep performers and crew members safe, but while shooting scenes of manufactured peril, performers sometimes put themselves in situations where the slightest miscalculation can quickly become deadly. Some occurred on nausea-inducing sets; others happened in seemingly commonplace situations.

What are some examples of people dying on movie sets? People have lost their lives on films as early as 1928's Noah's Ark. Here are some of the worst cases where mistakes and misfortune have collided to produce fatal consequences.

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    The 2008 sci-fi thriller Jumper is the story of a young man with the amazing ability to teleport and his adventures escaping the clutches of a group of religious fanatics who inexplicably see this power as evil. The film, directed by Doug Liman (Mr. and Mrs. Smith), contains many action sequences and stunts, but the production's lone fatality occurred during what should be one of the safest activities: striking the set.

    Set dresser David Ritchie was helping to dismantle an artificial wall of sand and rock, when a large chunk collapsed onto him. Ritchie was killed instantly, and another crew member was injured in the freak accident.

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    The delightful and sappy tale of boundless friendship known in America as The Adventures of Milo and Otis is, for many, a fondly remembered 1986 film entirely starring animals. Cat Milo and dog Otis are best friends that help each other out of scrape after scrape, set to adorable frolicking music that fills every heart with glee.

    But there are some things you might not know about the film. First, you might not know that it was a Japanese production known as Koneko Monogatari or The Adventures of Chatran. The narration by Dudley Moore was an afterthought for international release, since he was so inexplicably popular at the time.

    The other, far more disturbing piece of information is an unconfirmed but widely spread rumor. Animal rights activists in the US and Japan protested the film strongly, claiming that the filmmakers knowingly put animals in danger, perhaps even purposely injuring them. One story includes a crew member breaking a kitten's legs in order to get a shot of it stumbling.

    It may be strange to see this film on a list of films where humans died, but the numbers involved here are quite staggering. If the animal societies are to be believed, as many as 30 Milos and Otises died during filming, including over 20 kittens. 

    Even though the film was approved by the American Humane Society, none of its officials were present during filming. They tried to investigate what happened, but could not confirm whether or not it was false. 

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    The Conqueror, 1956's sweeping biopic about Genghis Khan, is often listed among the worst films of all time. Besides the era-approved casting of Caucasian John Wayne as Genghis Khan, the production suffered much worse consequences from another decision.

    The exteriors were shot near St. George, Utah, a barren, secluded area that could double for Southern Asia to the undiscerning eye of the time. Unfortunately, St. George lies downwind of one of the desert locations where the US Military had tested nuclear weapons just two years earlier. Over the next few years, 91 of the 220 cast and crew members contracted some form of cancer. 46 died, including John Wayne. 

    No lawsuits were ever filed, but experts agree that the percentage was high enough to show a clear causal connection between the illnesses and the leftover radiation. Producer Howard Hughes felt so guilty over the incident that he hid all the copies of the film away from the public for nearly 18 years. It is reportedly one of the only things the billionaire recluse would watch over and over in his later years, driving himself further into madness.

    Although no one was ever found culpable, the US government is on record as having assured the filmmakers that the area was safe prior to filming. 

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    W.C. Fields famously advised against working with animals or children. No child performer has ever caused the death of a beloved character actor, but any film where cast and crew work alongside large, powerful animals such as bears, elephants, and horses, carries with it an extra element of danger.

    1989's The Return of the Musketeers, a loose adaptation of Alexandre Dumas's sequel Twenty Years After, featured many swashbuckling action standards including swordplay, gunfire, and horseback riding. During a sequence on horseback, English actor Roy Kinnear, best known for his role as Veruca Salt's father in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factorysuffered a fall while filming a scene.

    The 54-year-old actor sustained a broken pelvis and died in a Spanish hospital of complications the following day. The film's director Richard Lester was so shaken by the accident that he made a very permanent decision. He never made another film again.

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