In some cases, creating masterpieces involves happy accidents. And in others, the accidents aren't so happy.
If personal safety were a consideration for receiving an award, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences would never give the golden statuette to these Oscar-winning films.
The Titanic disaster
In creating Titanic, director James Cameron wanted to evoke the authentic dread of drowning in a luxury liner. To achieve this, he and his co-producers spent millions of dollars to simulate the demise of the ‘unsinkable ship’ and hired stunt performers who were willing to fall off a make-believe Titanic.
After several days of shooting the sinking scene, a number of stuntmen suffered from broken bones, cracked ribs, and ruptured organs. None of them filed a lawsuit against the boss.
Moreover, Kate Winslet came down with pneumonia after shooting the Atlantic scenes and almost drowned on-set -- twice -- while shooting scenes where her character was escaping...from drowning.
If a single film had a $200M budget to sink a boat, surely its special effects wizards could have performed some greenscreen trickery to eliminate the need for such dangerous stunts? Nevertheless, Cameron and company went on to scoop up a boatful of Oscars, including one for visual effects.
The accursed Exorcist actors
Linda Blair is widely known for her portrayal of Regan McNeil in The Exorcist, but only horror film nerds know of the physical injuries she suffered while filming.
The film won Oscars for adapted screenplay and sound mixing, and was widely believed to be cursed. However, Blair’s serious back injury was certainly not the work of any demonic possession, but of haphazardly constructed rigs and poorly executed effects.
Ellen Burstyn, who played Regan’s mother, also suffered a permanent spinal injury in a particularly intense sequence involving a possessed Regan hurling her to the ground. The rig attached to Burstyn’s back was meant to intensify her fall, but when it was pulled too hard, she hit the floor at a higher velocity than was intended, causing her to howl in genuine pain.
Burstyn could have sued the filmmakers for residual injury or an injury with long-lasting effects, but instead of suing, she agreed to appear in the horrific sequel. And so did Blair!
Neither of the lead stars brought suit, but one viewer of the original release in 1973 accused the film’s producers for using subliminal messages that caused him to faint and break his jaw. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Wicked burns on the set of The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz was recognized by the Academy for its theme song ‘Over the Rainbow’ and its musical score. But what few people have heard is that the feel-good film was riddled with production mishaps and makeup screw-ups.
In the scene where the Wicked Witch of the West exits from Munchkinland, actress Margaret Hamilton suffered second-degree burns on her face and third-degree burns on her hand when a trapdoor adorned with pyrotechnics malfunctioned, shooting flames right at her.
Even The Tin Man wasn’t spared. Originally cast in the role of the aluminum-covered human, Buddy Ebsen had to be recast after suffering a severe allergic reaction to his makeup, which was made of aluminum powder.
Hamilton reportedly didn’t sue and even came back to finish her scenes weeks after recovering from her burns. But after Oz, she never again appeared in any films involving pyrotechnics or matchsticks. Ebsen, too, didn’t have the heart to sue despite suffering from a collapsed lung and breathing difficulties.
It’s really not necessary to put your life at risk to be brilliant at your job. But if doing so results in personal injuries such as the ones suffered by these famous actors, call the personal injury lawyers at Buckingham, LaGrandeur & Williams. We’ll give you the star treatment.