Newsflash: Robert Downey, Jr. did not do any of his own flying as Iron Man in the Avengers movies. He was aided by stuntmen and computers. Actually, none of the actors — male or female — in any action movie do their own flying. They do recite their lines using their own voices, though.
The fact is, only a few actors can simultaneously perform stunts and mug for the cameras masterfully. Actors may even demand not to perform stunts that could seriously harm them. But accidents still happen, some of which make for fun anecdotes that make it to the DVD’s featurettes.
These incidents are far too serious to be turned into juicy home video soundbites.
What Charlize Theron won’t do for a role
To prepare for a role, Charlize Theron will eat a steady diet of potato chips to add pounds, wear hideous wigs, wear painful crooked dentures, and learn how to walk and talk like a trucker — and then win a boatload of awards for it. Despite this commitment to her craft, it’s doubtful that she’d willingly suffer a debilitating injury for a role.
In the 2005 movie Aeon Flux, she played a gun-toting assassin who jumps off towers, for which performing stunts was inevitable. As Aeon, she didn’t have to shave her head or wear hideous overalls, but she did three months of gymnastics training to inhabit the role. While practicing to perform a series of backflips, her hand slipped, causing her to land neck first.
Theron suffered from a herniated disc and had to stop shooting for eight weeks until after her physiotherapy sessions had allowed her to fully recover. She never did.
In the next couple of years, she suffered from pains caused by the two damaged vertebrae, for which she underwent spinal surgery. She eventually recovered from the injury and from the box office bomb that was Aeon Flux.
Thor: The Dark Set
You might remember Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif in Thor and Thor: The Dark World. There are only 1,306 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so you probably remember her character. No? This little anecdote might intrigue you enough to seek her out.
In the second Thor movie, Alexander played a warrior and love interest to the titular god of thunder. Needless to say, it was a demanding role that required the actress to be vulnerable and physically strong. As Lady Sif, she was also required to work in unpleasant conditions.
While shooting in a rainy and dark location at 5 AM, Alexander slipped while walking down a metal staircase, causing injuries to her thoracic spine and chipping 11 of her vertebrae. Thor: The Dark World was the last Marvel movie she starred in, probably because she had no further wish of testing fate.
Hearing in one ear, terminated
Linda Hamilton’s character in the Terminator movies, Sarah Connor, is an interminably strong femme fatale. As Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, she was tasked to protect the future leader of the resistance, a role which apparently entailed a lot of participating in scenes where she fires guns.
In one scene, she fired a gun in an elevator without earplugs — not because the director was aiming for authenticity but because she forgot to put the plugs back on after taking a break.
The shots were so loud, intense, and excessive that she fell to the ground from the pain, and suffered from permanent hearing damage in one ear afterward. She didn’t file a lawsuit, but she presumably took extra precaution during shootings for the Terminator sequels.
Quentin Tarantino is so devoted to achieving authenticity in his films that he reportedly filmed scenes using questionable ways. In Kill Bill Volume 2, he had Uma Thurman (aka The Bride) drive an unreliable Karmann Ghia, which was so wobbly and poorly maintained that not even The Bride would use it to go and whack Mr. Bill.
Thurman asked that a stunt person drive it instead, but the testy Tarantino insisted that she do it — and at 40 mph, which was risky on an uneven sand road — so he could capture the actress’s hair perfectly blowing in the wind.
QT’s insistence to have Thurman drive the rickety car ended up, as predicted, with the vehicle crashing into a tree. This gave the actress a concussion and a permanently damaged neck and knee.
The director/filmmaker also deployed objectionable means in many of his other films, but that is a topic for another blog.
No one should have to suffer injuries in the workplace — not Uma Thurman, not Charlize Theron, and certainly not you. Consult personal attorneys Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams for workplace-related personal injury cases.