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14 Times Real-World Injuries Were Written Into Movies

October 1, 2020 64.4k views14 items

"The show must go on" originated with theater, but it applies to all forms of show business. A more complete version of the saying would be, "The show must go on, or else we'll all lose a bunch of money." Especially when it comes to movies. 

Though movie productions routinely use stunt doubles, actors still have on-set accidents - even from something simple, like getting onto a horse. An actor's injury can completely derail a production. When Harrison Ford broke his leg and dislocated his ankle on the set of The Force Awakens, production was halted for two weeks.

So, if an actor does get injured, even severely, the show usually does goes on. But this creates another problem: The actor is visibly injured, which creates continuity issues. This means that movies often have to write the injury into the story. Here are some behind-the-scenes injuries that were incorporated into the plot of a movie. Some of them made sense organically; others, not so much.

  • Actor Jan Fedder, who plays Pilgrim in the 1981 submarine thriller Das Bootwasn't acting when he fell overboard while filming a storm scene. Fedder was swept off the deck and broke some of his ribs. Another actor saw this and yelled "man overboard," but director Wolfgang Peterson thought it had all been improvised and loved it.

    When he realized Fedder really had been injured, he rewrote the story to show Pilgrim in bed recovering from his fall. Fedder was even willing to travel from his hospital bed to the film set every day to pull it off.

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  • Brad Pitt didn't walk away from Seven unscathed. During the scene in which Detective Mills (Pitt) chases serial killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey), Pitt accidentally put his arm through a car windshield and cut his hand to the bone. Pitt required surgery, and director David Fincher incorporated the injury into the movie by rewriting the chase scene to have Mills fall off a fire escape and break his arm. Mills wears a cast for the rest of the movie.

    But the bigger challenge for Fincher was the fact that many of Mills's pre-injury scenes hadn't been filmed before Pitt hurt his arm. Fincher had to film those scenes without showing Pitt's left arm.

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  • In January 1977, after Mark Hamill had filmed Star Wars but before it had premiered, Hamill lost control of his car and crashed, breaking his nose. The event required reconstructive surgery, which altered his physical appearance. The film premiered in May of that year, making Hamill and his co-stars household names, but also creating a problem for George Lucas: Hamill would look a bit different in the sequel. 

    The Empire Strikes Back opens with a sequence in which Luke is captured and clawed in the face by a Wampa. Some sources questioned whether Lucas wrote this scene specifically to explain Luke's nose job, but it was Carrie Fisher who actually confirmed it.

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  • Harrison Ford limps throughout most of the 1992 thriller The Fugitive, but he wasn't acting. While filming the scene in which his character escapes a burning train wreck and flees into the woods, Ford injured some ligaments in his leg.

    Surgery would have knocked him out of commission for weeks, so Ford gamely filmed the rest of the movie injured.

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