10 on-set injuries that made it to the screen

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Injuries are something that can’t be avoided forever, especially for actors who enjoy partaking in their own stunts. That being said, accidents can happen under literally any circumstances, regardless of whether somebody has to walk through fire or blast through a door.

It’s never a good thing when it unfolds, but it has proven to make for sterling cinema on occasion. A key player suffering an injury on set can cause productions to be shut down for days or weeks at a time, but during some of the times when it has happened, the unfortunate take has made a funny habit of sneaking into the final cut.

Whether it’s an insistence on the performer’s part that their sacrifice isn’t for nothing or the fact it’s genuinely the best take available in the editing room, real-life injuries have made it into countless features to add another flourish onto the film’s legacy.

The following ten injuries all made it onto the big screen, with the offending incidents taking place in everything from prestige drama and whimsical fantasy to action-packed blockbusters and sci-fi classics.

10 on-set injuries that made it to the screen:

10. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller, 2014)

Channing Tatum gave the best dramatic performance of his career in director Bennett Miller’s biographical sports drama as wrestler Mark Schultz, showcasing such frenzied commitment to the part that he somehow managed to shatter and cut himself on a prop mirror made out of plastic.

Going full pelt to get into the right headspace as both a performer and the character, Tatum’s overzealous destruction of property made it into the final cut, with Miller breaking it down to The Hollywood Reporter: “He punched that thing with his head three times and shattered it, and put his head through it and through the frame behind the mirror and through the drywall that the mirror was hanging on and left a divot two inches deep.”

It became one of the movie’s defining images, lent that much more weight by the knowledge that Tatum quite literally battered himself into submission in order to put across the intensity of Schultz’s approach to both his life and career.

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9. Troy (Wolfgang Petersen, 2004)

By far the most ironic injury on the list, Brad Pitt fittingly – and painfully – ruptured his Achilles tendon while playing the hero bearing the very same name in Wolfgang Petersen’s blockbuster historical epic.

Taking place during the shooting of a climactic action sequence that finds Greek invaders having made their way to the inner sanctum of the Trojans by way of a certain wooden horse, it turned out that the pain etched on the actor’s face was very real.

Describing it as “stupid irony”, Pitt told CBS that moment was when he knew he was in desperate need of a rest from the intense training and filming schedule, even if it was entirely on-brand for an Achilles injury to almost strike him down.

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8. First Blood (Ted Kotcheff, 1982)

As a veteran action hero who has been putting himself through the physical wringer for going on 50 years on-screen, Sylvester Stallone has suffered from his fair share of injuries as a result.

While Stallone is adamant the punch that almost killed him during the production of Rocky IV made it into the final cut, it hasn’t been confirmed outright. However, the broken rib he endured when leaping into the shrubbery on First Blood most definitely did.

Although he doesn’t perform the entirety of the cliff jump himself, Stallone took over from the stuntmen for the lower third of the fall and ended up breaking a rib on a branch on his way down. It stayed in, and the anguish in his face was completely legitimate.

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7. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)

Darryl Hannah’s Pris wasn’t supposed to smash through a car window while running away from William Sanderson’s J.F. Sebastian in Blade Runner, nor was she in any mood to inform the gathered crew just how badly she was injured.

Carrying on with the scene as if it was part of her performance, only she was aware that not only was her slip an accident and not improvisation, but she was in a great deal of pain. Ridley Scott must have liked it, though, seeing as it remained intact when the sci-fi classic arrived in cinemas.

As for Hannah, she’s got the scar to remember Blade Runner by, having chipped her elbow in eight different places when she shattered the glass.

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6. Patriot Games (Phillip Noyce, 1992)

As tends to happen anytime he appears in anything, Sean Bean had been killed by the time the credits began rolling on Patriot Games, but Harrison Ford’s debut as Jack Ryan left him nursing a wound that’s been visible every time he’s appeared on-screen since.

During the final fight between Ford’s CIA analyst and Bean’s terrorist Sean Miller, the latter ends up being clubbed above the eye with a metal hook. Movie magic this is not, with the blood being entirely real after Ford accidentally busted his co-star wide open.

It must have looked better than any stage blood ever could, then, seeing as Phillip Noyce decided the moment that gave Bean that scar above his left eye was the ideal take for the finished film.

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5. The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987)

A beloved fantasy adventure that’s won over multiple generations with its unique and offbeat charms, The Princess Bride also features the very real sight of star Cary Elwes being knocked unconscious. It sounds like a health and safety nightmare, but the actor admitted that it was his idea.

When Christopher Guest’s Count Rugen knocks out Elwes’ Westley ahead of his capture, he recalled in the book As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride that they couldn’t get a convincing take by stopping short of his head, so he told his co-star to do it for real.

Unfortunately, the next thing Elwes remembers is waking up in the hospital and receiving stitches, but at least “that particular take was the one that ended up in the film”. Or, as he put it further: “That’s not acting. That’s an overzealous actor actually losing consciousness.”

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4. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)

There were more than a few notable incidents to occur during the shooting of The Wizard of Oz, with Margaret Hamilton having to half-jokingly explain her decision not to sue after being burned for real when her Wicked Witch of the West disappears in a blaze of fire.

The trapdoor that was supposed to escort her to safety unharmed was delayed momentarily so that it wouldn’t be captured on camera, which ended up causing a second-degree burn to the actor’s face and a third-degree burn to her hand, with the scene being the one present in the fantasy favourite.

Shortly afterwards, Hamilton offered her semi-serious assessment on the mishap: “I won’t sue because I know how this business works, and I would never work again,” she said. “I will return to work on one condition – no more fireworks!”

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3. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Peter Jackson, 2002)

Any self-respecting fan of The Lord of the Rings knows the exact moment Viggo Mortensen shattered two of his toes in The Two Towers, with the moment having entered the folklore of Peter Jackson’s mammoth production.

At first, people were convinced his howls of agony were simply an extra layer being added onto his performance as Aragorn until it was discovered that booting a helmet in fury at the prospect of Merry and Pippin being dead was a direct result of the actor realising he’d done himself some serious harm.

Fortunately, it suits the scene and the character down to a tee, with Mortensen’s broken toes at least serving a purpose after making it into the theatrical cut. Even at that, saving them solely for the Extended Edition probably wouldn’t have been worth the pain.

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2. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)

Improvisation isn’t something that happens too often on a Quentin Tarantino movie, given his precision-engineered dialogue, but Leonardo DiCaprio slicing his hand open and carrying on with the scene proved to be such an integral part of his monologue that it was kept in the final film.

Not only that, but once the actor’s real-life malady had been seen too, the makeup team then made sure Calvin Candie was bloodied and bandaged for all subsequent takes, just on the off-chance DiCaprio managed to go one better without real blood pouring out of his hand.

The star told The Hollywood Reporter that “it was more interesting to watch Quentin’s reaction off-camera than to look at my hand,” although part of it may have been a desire to focus his attention somewhere other than the pain.

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1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie, 2018)

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the injury that shut down Mission: Impossible – Fallout for weeks to allow Tom Cruise to recuperate is that it hasn’t happened more often, given the star and producer’s penchant for risking life and limb in the name of jaw-dropping practical stunts.

Running across rooftops and leaping from building to building is just another day in the life of the daredevil star, but his professionalism and adrenaline were forced to take over when he mistimed one leap and shattered his ankle.

Dragging himself up and hobbling out of the shot, it wasn’t until he’d completed the setup that he revealed the extent of his gruesomely snapped ankle, with Christopher McQuarrie keeping the shot in the movie to offer a reminder that Cruise is ready, willing, and able to suffer in the name of entertaining audiences.

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