The unluckiest things to happen during a movie shoot

Orlando Parfitt
Yahoo UK Movies Features
13 April 2012

Friday 13 is upon us once more; the time of year when superstitious people avoid ladders, fondle four leaf clovers and kick black cats (oh? just us then).

If only more filmmakers followed these bizarre precautions, as down the years a disproportionate number of scarily unlucky things have happened during movie shoots.

[Related feature: The curse of the child star]
[Related feature: Friday 13th superstitions]

Firstly, and most seriously, there have been many, many freak accidents on movie sets - and often these were sadly fatal.

As anyone who read our rather grisly recent account of the ‘Deadliest movie sets in history’ will know, people have been decapitated by helicopters (see ‘Delta Force 2’ and ‘Twilight Zone: The Movie’), killed by rogue flood water (‘Noah’s Ark’) and blown up on a rubber boat (‘The Expendables – Part 2’) during film shoots.

The most infamous accident was on the set of ‘The Crow’, where star Brandon Lee was killed after on-screen nemesis Michael Masse’s gun malfunctioned, firing a proper round. He’s not the only big star to die on-set though. 54-year-old Roy Kinnear fell from a horse while shooting ‘The Return of the Musketeers’, broke his pelvis and then died of a heart attack.

Jim Caviezel, playing Jesus at the time, was lucky to survive 'The Passion of the Christ’ after he was struck by lightning twice on set - once while holding an umbrella. Perhaps the Almighty wasn’t happy with his performance.

According to urban legend, lightning also struck the planes of two separate people connected to ‘The Omen’ during the shoot: producer Mace Neufeld and star Gregory Peck.

The film is considered one of the unluckiest ever. According to a documentary called ‘The Curse of the Omen’, Neufeld’s hotel was also bombed by the IRA, a tiger handler was killed in a freak accident, Rottweilers used in the film turned on their trainers, a special effects coordinator’s girlfriend was beheaded in a car crash a year later and much, much more. The lesson? Don’t mess with God or indeed the Devil.

The chaotic Philippines-based set of ‘Apocalypse Now’ was also plagued by bad luck (along with awful planning, drug-using crew and an out-of-control director of course). Firstly civil war broke out near the set, with the Philippine government forced to take back helicopters they loaned the film to fight rebels. Then a freakish tropical storm (Typhoon Olga) happened, destroying sets, cameras and other equipment. Oh, and star Martin Sheen had a heart attack. What a relief that Marlon Brando turned up raring to go...

But at least ‘Apocalypse Now’ got finished and was eventually released to wide acclaim. Terry Gilliam’s ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ never even saw the light of day; such was the project’s dreadful luck.

This included flash floods, noisy NATO planes and star Jean Rochefort leaving the production with a herniated disc – which cost the production millions in insurance. This caused the film’s delicate soufflé of financing to unravel, and to this day Gilliam’s vision has never arisen. Now that’s unlucky.

If only the same fate had befallen Kevin Costner’s soggy flop ‘Waterworld’. Some would argue the film’s bad luck began when the script was written, but director Kevin Reynolds might point to when the multi-million dollar set literally sank. Fate was trying to tell him something perhaps. According to urban legend (though we’re not sure if this is true), the film’s child star Tina Majorino was also stung by a jellyfish three times during production.

A final entry in the ‘ironic bad luck category’ (if such a thing existed) is duff ancient Greek action flick ‘Troy’. You’d have thought hurricanes and the tragic death of a stunt-man was enough bad luck, but what were the chances that Brad Pitt, who played Achilles, would tear his... Achilles tendon during the shoot? You couldn’t make it up.

Any unlucky movie shoots we’ve left out? Tell us about ‘em below.

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