The Stupidest Movies People Have Almost Died Making

Here lies John Smith. He nearly gave his life for ‘Waterworld’
The Stupidest Movies People Have Almost Died Making

There is no such thing as art without risk, and so, plenty of people have put their lives on the line to achieve cinematic greatness. Hell, Tom Cruise has died nine times only to always be resurrected by David Miscavige (one more time and his next one is free). We’re sort of fine with that because watching Cruise scale a skyscraper is generally awesome, and it seems unlikely we could stop him even if we wanted to. On the other hand, some people have suffered life-threatening and occasionally career-ending injuries for movies you wouldn’t fish out of the 50-cent barrel at Best Buy. Movies like…


Now 30 years into the future, Waterworld is basically a synonym for celluloid waste. It was the most expensive movie ever made at the time, a $175 million bet that audiences were clamoring to watch Kevin Costner drink his own pee. Believe it or not, that’s not the worst thing he had to do on the set.

During the filming of one scene that required him to be strapped to the mast of a sailboat, violent winds kicked the water up high enough that Costner later said he “nearly died,” and at 40 feet in the air, they had to be targeting him specifically. Unable to safely lower him, the crew could only watch for half an hour, not knowing if their star — and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood at the time — was going to get his ass kicked to death by the sea.

That wasn’t the only accident, either. When part of their sailboat snapped, two actresses, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Tina Majorino, dropped straight into the ocean, and Costner’s stunt double was stranded for hours after his jet ski ran out of fuel. All that money, and they couldn’t keep the jet skis gassed up.

‘Aeon Flux’

The 2005 live-action Aeon Flux is something that fans of the animated series like to pretend never happened, but one person who couldn’t for a long time was its star, Charlize Theron. While performing a stunt that involved a “backflip somersault in platform shoes” — because action heroines really do do everything backwards in high heels — she landed on her neck, which is probably the third-most body part you do not want to land on, and slipped a disc that “went almost into her spinal cord.”

Production was shut down while Theron recovered for six weeks, but that was only the beginning of her troubles. She later revealed that she was “a centimeter away from being completely paralyzed” and spent the next eight years dealing with painful spasms, which is something she and Aeon Flux fans have in common.

‘Pearl Harbor’

Pearl Harbor is what happened when we let Michael Bay answer the question, “What if we did Titanic but with more explosions?” It was even filmed on the set of Titanic, but it was four years too late to recapture that lightning-in-a-ship-in-a-bottle. There’s a reason Josh Hartnett has been reduced to Quibis while Leonardo DiCaprio keeps dumping supermodels the instant they’re old enough to rent a car.

Obviously, Pearl Harbor involved a lot of flying, and a stunt pilot experienced the worst few hundred yards of his life for that 24-percent Rotten Tomatoes score. After crashing into a coconut tree, he plunged upside-down into the ground, miraculously walking away with only a broken wrist and some scrapes, though the plane was completely totaled. It could have been a lot worse — it was the same kind of plane that killed a pilot during the filming of an equally forgettable Pearl Harbor movie. No word on if they’ve stopped using that goddamn plane.

‘The Dirt’

The Dirt, written by the guy who gave pickup artists literary legitimacy, should have been unadapatable. Hell, it should have been unpublishable, if only because Mötley Crüe would have gone Almost Famous on it if they had even three remaining brain cells between them. It outs its subjects as rapists, domestic abusers and manslaughterers, and those aren’t the gross parts. Still, someone was intent on bringing it to the Netflix screen, so we got a thoroughly watered-down version of Tommy Lee’s violent tendencies and Ramsay Snow’s admirable attempt at an American accent.

But as much as we suffered, one of the production’s grips got it so much worse. As he was handing a metal pipe to another crew member, it made contact with a power line, resulting in second- and third-degree burns to over 50 percent of his body and eventually the amputation of his foot. He ended up suing the production for $1.8 million, but justice seems unlikely, as Mötley Crüe’s net worth is roughly the contents of Vince Neil’s sock drawer.

‘Super Mario Bros.’

Raise your hand if you’ve been personally victimized by Dennis Hopper’s portrayal of King Koopa. If you were born in the 1980s, your hand is up so high you’re getting a cramp because you’re a lot older than you think you are, bud. It turns out that when you render the Super Nintendo world in a crisp three dimensions, it becomes a “fucking nightmare,” and no one agreed harder than the film’s star, Bob Hoskins, because that’s a direct quote about his experience making Super Mario Bros. He actually didn’t even know it was a video game when he signed on. He later recalled his son showing him the game and thinking to himself, “I used to play King Lear.”

Consequently, Hoskins and co-Mario Brother John Leguizamo spent much of the production blitzed out of their minds, which resulted in at least one case of Hoskins getting seriously injured. When a drunk Leguizamo got behind the wheel of the Plumbermobile, his erratic driving caused a door to close on Hoskins’ hand, breaking his finger. But that was far from the worst injury he suffered. In his own words, he was “stabbed four times, electrocuted (and) nearly drowned.” 

It may very well have been the ghost of Shakespeare’s punishment for not doing his research before he accepted the role, but Hoskins was hands-down the best thing about the movie, so that famine-profiteering old asshole can go back to haunting Broadway or whatever. You’re always King Lear to us, Bobby. (Okay, you’re always Eddie Valiant, but that’s basically the same thing.)

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