14 Times Actors' Real-World Injuries Were Written Into Movies

By maks in Entertainment On 12th February 2024

This saying could be extended to, 'The show must go on, or else we'll all lose a significant amount of money.' 

Despite the routine use of stunt doubles in movies, actors do occasionally get injured on set, sometimes due to seemingly simple actions like climbing onto a horse. 

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Such injuries can cause significant disruptions. 

For instance, when Harrison Ford suffered a leg injury on the set of 'The Force Awakens', production had to be paused for two weeks.

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However, when an actor gets injured, the production doesn't necessarily grind to a halt.

The challenge then becomes how to deal with the actor's visible injuries without causing continuity issues in the film.

This often leads to movies incorporating the injury into the storyline. 

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Here are several examples where behind-the-scenes injuries were seamlessly woven into the plot, making for some unexpectedly authentic moments on screen.

Some adaptations felt natural within the story's context, while others were more conspicuously integrated.

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Jan Fedder Falling Overboard In 'Das Boot'

In the gritty 1981 submarine thriller 'Das Boot', actor Jan Fedder, who portrayed the character Pilgrim, wasn't just acting out a dramatic fall overboard during a storm scene.

Fedder was genuinely swept off the deck by the turbulent sea, resulting in broken ribs.

Another actor spontaneously cried out "man overboard," leading director Wolfgang Peterson to mistakenly believe the entire incident was a brilliantly improvised piece of drama.

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Photo: Columbia Pictures

Upon discovering Fedder's actual injuries, Peterson decided to integrate Pilgrim's recuperation into the film's narrative.

Impressively, Fedder showed remarkable dedication by traveling from his hospital bed back to the film set every day to ensure his scenes were completed.

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Brad Pitt's Arm In 'Seven'

Brad Pitt encountered an unexpected mishap while filming 'Seven'.

In a high-tension chase scene where Detective Mills (played by Pitt) pursues the enigmatic serial killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey), Pitt's commitment to realism led to an unfortunate accident where he smashed his arm through a car windshield, severely injuring his hand. The injury was so severe that it required surgical intervention.

To accommodate Pitt's real-life injury, director David Fincher ingeniously altered the storyline, incorporating Mills's injury into the plot.

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Photo: New Line Cinema

Mills is shown falling off a fire escape and sustaining an arm injury, which justified the cast he wore for the remainder of the film.

Fincher faced the additional challenge of filming scenes that were supposed to occur before Pitt's injury without showing his cast, a feat achieved through careful camera work and scene planning.

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Mark Hamill's Facial Reconstruction In 'The Empire Strikes Back'

Mark Hamill's off-set car accident in early 1977, which resulted in a broken nose and facial injuries requiring reconstructive surgery, posed a continuity challenge for the 'Star Wars' saga.

Given the timing - after the filming of 'Star Wars' but before its release - Hamill's altered appearance needed to be addressed in the sequel. '

The Empire Strikes Back' opens with a scene where Luke Skywalker, played by Hamill, is mauled by a Wampa, accounting for his changed appearance.

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Photo: 20th Century Fox

This creative decision served to explain the visible differences in Hamill's facial features between the two films, an approach confirmed by his co-star Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia.

Harrison Ford's Limp In 'The Fugitive'

In the 1992 thriller 'The Fugitive', Harrison Ford's character, Dr. Richard Kimble, is seen limping throughout much of the film.

This limp wasn't just a character trait but a reflection of Ford's real-life injury sustained during filming.

While shooting a scene where Kimble escapes from a train wreck, Ford hurt his leg, damaging ligaments.

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Photo: Warner Bros.

Opting against surgery, which would have sidelined him for weeks, Ford continued filming, incorporating his limp into his character's physical portrayal.

This added a layer of authenticity to Kimble's desperate flight from the law.

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Harrison Ford's Chin Scar In 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'

The notable scar on Harrison Ford's chin, which he acquired in a car accident long before his Hollywood career took off, was cleverly written into the script of 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'.

The film's opening sequence, which features a young Indiana Jones, played by River Phoenix, showcases how Indy acquires the distinctive scar.

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Photo: Paramount Pictures

In his first encounter with a whip, young Indy attempts to use it and ends up accidentally injuring himself, providing a backstory for Ford's real-life scar.

This ingenious narrative choice linked Ford's personal history to his iconic character's lore.

Leonardo DiCaprio's Hand In 'Django Unchained'

Leonardo DiCaprio's commitment to his role in 'Django Unchained' was vividly demonstrated during a tense dinner table scene.

DiCaprio, portraying the villainous Calvin Candie, accidentally shattered a glass with his hand, causing a significant injury.

Unfazed, DiCaprio continued the scene, incorporating his real pain and bleeding into his performance, much to the astonishment of his co-stars and the crew.

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Photo: Columbia Pictures

This take was so powerful that it was used in the final cut of the film, showcasing DiCaprio's dedication to his craft.

The incident earned him a standing ovation from the production team for his intense commitment.

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Halle Berry's Broken Arm In 'Gothika'

The 2003 supernatural thriller 'Gothika' witnessed an on-set accident when Halle Berry and co-star Robert Downey Jr. were filming a scene in a psychiatric ward.

Downey Jr. was supposed to grab Berry's arm in a specific manner but ended up doing so incorrectly, resulting in a broken arm for Berry.

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Photo: Warner Bros.

Despite Downey Jr.'s apology, Berry felt it lacked sincerity, leading to lasting tension between the two actors.

This incident highlights the physical risks actors face even in controlled environments and the importance of precise choreography in action sequences.

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Lionel Barrymore's Arthritis In 'You Can't Take It with You'

Lionel Barrymore's long-standing battle with arthritis and a subsequent hip injury severely limited his mobility, necessitating the use of crutches or a wheelchair.

During the filming of 'You Can't Take It with You', Barrymore's condition was incorporated into his character, Grandpa Vanderhof, who was depicted as having sprained his ankle.

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Photo: Columbia Pictures

Despite this adaptation, Barrymore endured significant pain throughout the production, requiring frequent medication to manage his discomfort, underscoring the physical toll acting can take.

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Tim Meadows's Broken Wrist In 'Mean Girls'

Tim Meadows, who portrayed Principal Duvall in 'Mean Girls', broke his wrist just a week before filming commenced.

The production team decided to include Meadows's injury in the film by attributing Duvall's wrist cast to a flare-up of carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Photo: Paramount Pictures

This narrative addition allowed Meadows to perform without concealing his injury, integrating it seamlessly into the storyline and maintaining continuity over the entirety of the film, which spans a full school year.

Renee Coleman's Bruise In 'A League of Their Own' 

The authenticity of 'A League of Their Own' was enhanced by the real bruises and scrapes the cast acquired while filming, a direct result of playing baseball in period-correct skirts without protective gear.

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Photo: Columbia Pictures

Renee Coleman's noticeable bruise, among other injuries depicted in the film, were genuine, providing a stark illustration of the challenges faced by the women of the All-American Girls Baseball League and adding a layer of realism to the movie's portrayal of 1940s women's baseball.

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Shia LaBeouf's Broken Hand In 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen'

Shia LaBeouf experienced a severe hand injury in a car accident during the filming of 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen', leading to permanent damage.

Despite this setback, LaBeouf returned to the set just two weeks later, driven by a sense of responsibility towards the crew and encouragement from co-star Harrison Ford.

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Photo: Dreamworks Pictures

The intense action sequences that followed made this one of LaBeouf's most challenging filming experiences, further complicated by another injury when a prop struck him near the eye, nearly causing blindness.

Robert Shaw's Limp In 'The Sting'

Robert Shaw's portrayal of Doyle Lonnegan in 'The Sting' included a limp that wasn't originally scripted.

Shaw's knee injury, sustained in a racquetball court accident, was seamlessly integrated into his character's backstory, adding an element of depth to his role as the formidable mob boss.

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Photo: Universal Pictures

This adjustment demonstrated the adaptability required in film productions to accommodate unexpected real-life injuries.

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Burt Lancaster's Limp In 'The Train'

Burt Lancaster's unforeseen knee injury during a leisurely game of golf had a direct impact on his role in 'The Train'.

The script was modified to include his character being shot in the leg, accounting for Lancaster's limp and allowing him to continue filming.

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Photo: United Artists

This incident showcases the lengths to which film productions will go to ensure continuity and actor participation despite physical setbacks.

Tim Allen's Skin Sores In 'The Santa Clause 2'

Tim Allen's portrayal of Santa Claus in 'The Santa Clause' series was physically taxing, particularly due to the prosthetic fat suit that caused painful sores.

To address this issue in the sequel, Allen suggested incorporating a narrative element where Santa undergoes a 'de-Santafication' process, shedding his magical attributes and allowing Allen to perform without the cumbersome suit.

Photo: Buena Vista Pictures

This creative solution not only alleviated Allen's discomfort but also added an interesting plot twist to the sequel.