Anothony Hopkins Hypothermia on The Edge
The production of Lee Tamahori’s The Edge was notoriously plagued with problems, from a trouble with the title – it was initially called ‘Bookworm’ – to disinterest from almost all the major stars to whom they offered the central roles. After an anxious casting process, Tamahori eventually managed to secure Alex Baldwin for the role of photographer Robert Green and Anthony Hopkins for billionaire Charles Morse, but almost fired Baldwin when the actor turned up on set far to heavy to play the youthful character and sporting an enormous beard.
But the worst was yet to come, the production perpetually beleaguered by the harsh conditions and environments through which it was forced to endure.
As a result of some neck problems, Hopkins was taking pain medication during production in Alberta, Canada. During one of the scenes, he fell into a freezing cold river and didn’t initially realise the drop in temperature as a result of the medicine. All of a sudden, the symptoms of hypothermia set in and Hopkins was rushed to hospital to be treated. “I was suffering from hypothermia from being in the lake. I didn’t want my body temperature to drop and I started replying in my mind the journey on the road, two days before, as I was driving up to Canada to make the film. I slipped back into the minutes of that day. To lose contact, to lose one’s mind in that way is a horrible feeling.”
Ultimately, The Edge was released to moderate critical and commercial success. The production would later be chronicled in detail in producer Art Linson’s novel What Just Happened?
George Clooney Spinal Injury on Syriana
George Clooney revealed that he considered killing himself after suffering a spinal injury on the set of Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana. The actor said that the injury left him in so much agony that he considered suicide. The Ocean’s 11 star said of the incident, “I was at a point where I thought, ‘I can’t exist like this. I can’t actually live.’”
The injury was sustained after Clooney cracked his head open during the filming of a torture scene, although according to the actor, it took doctors weeks to figure out what had actually happened to him. Relief only came after Lisa Kudrow, of all people, referred Clooney on to her neurologist brother, who noticed fluid leaking from Clooney’s spine and realised that the condition was far more serious that anyone had previously thought.
The injury turned out to be a torn dura mater, a membrane that covers the spinal cord. Common symptoms include relentless headaches that result in spinal fluid leaks. The damage to Clooney’s spine was so severe that he started blowing spinal fluid out his nose, which by all accounts is a development that renders the subject in unbearable agony. In an effort to anaesthetise himself, the actor started drinking heavily, but it wasn’t enough to quell the enormous pain.
Clooney spent three weeks in a hospital bed with an IV in his arm pondering drastic action …’but I never thought I’d get there.” Clooney confessed. “See, I was in a place where I was trying to figure out how to survive.” The actor underwent surgery, which he says has helped, although Clooney still getsheadaches related to his spine even now.
Viggo Mortensen’s many injuries during the LOTR filming
The production of The Lord of the Rings was badgered by injuries, cast and crew alike. The process of putting together the enormous amount of chain mail required for the trilogy was so long and arduous that two crew members had their fingerprints worn down in the process. Sean Astin, who played Samwise Gamgee, impaled his foot on a piece of glass underwater while filming a climactic scene toward the end of Fellowship.
But no actor arguably suffered more than Viggo Mortensen, who decided to join the actors playing the nine black riders on one of their regular surfing trips. Mortensen wiped out and got hit in the face with his surfboard, explaining why there are a conspicuous number of profile shots during the fight in the Balin’s Tomb. “Viggo, being the cool guy that he is, said that he fell down the stairs or trod on a frog or something like that,” fellow cast member Dominic Monaghan said of the incident. “And we got away with it,”
On another occasion, Mortensen had a tooth knocked out during a battle sequence. During his lunch break, he headed to the dentist, got the tooth fixed and resumed working on the film later that day. During the filming of the scene in The Two Towers when Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli come across the pile of Uruk-hai, Mortensen broke his toe when he kicked an orc helmet in anger. The take ultimately made it into the finished film, which explains why Aragorn falls to his knees and screams. “Normally, an actor would yell ‘Ow!’ if they hurt themselves,” said Peter Jackson of the incident. “Viggo turned a broken toe into a performances.”
Ellen Burstyn spinal injury on The Exorcist
Rumours regarding satanic influence on the set of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist have been circulating for decades. Friedkin himself asked technical advisor Rev. Thomas Bermingham to exorcise the set, so as to reassure the cast and crew. Prominent Christian evangelist Billy Graham that there was an actual demon living in the celluloid reels of the movie.
The production of the film was particularly frenzied and distressing. Friedkin used extreme methods to get authentic reactions out of his cast, including maintaining freezing temperatures on set and firing guns suddenly to unnerve the actors.
In the sequence in which she is violently thrown away her possessed daughter, Ellen Burstyn received a permanent spinal injury. Attached to a harness, which would jerk her away from the bed, Burstyn was wrenched too violently during one take, fell on her coccyx and began screaming in agony – the same scream that ultimately made the final cut.
“When Regan knocks me on the floor, I landed on my back and [director William Friedkin] said, “Cut, take two.” And I said, “Billy, he’s pulling me too hard,” because I had a wire pulling me to the floor.” Burstyn commented on the injury. “But then I’m not sure he didn’t cancel that behind my back because the guy smashed me into the floor.”
Linda Blair, who played Burstyn’s demonically possessed daughter Regan, was also injured on set when a piece of the rig that was holding her broke as she was thrown about on bed, a result of crew members yanking to violently off camera.
Ben Stiller bitten by a ferret on Along Come Polly
No love was lost between Ben Stiller and the ferret that played a pivotal role in Along Came Polly. Pet ferrets are illegal in New York City as well as the state of California, but that didn’t bother Polly writer/director John Hamburg, who wrote one of the furry fiends into his screenplay in a predominant role as the eponymous Polly’s animal friend.
The ferret in question was called Rudolpho, who is the constant butt of jokes in the film, the creature banging into doors and walls, almost being used as toilet paper and being forgotten by his owner on her way to the airport. Then one day on set, perhaps out of calculated retribution or perhaps because he was an animal, Rudolpho lashed out and bit Stiller.
“He did this crazy turnaround thing and literally attached himself to my chin,” Stiller commented on his fiery ferret feud, “and then he didn’t let go. He was holding my chin. It was completely surreal. This ferret was on my chin.”
Stiller’s negative comments regarding the creature sparked outrage amongst the world’s ferret enthusiasts, who were perhaps eagerly awaiting the first film since 1982’s fantasy film The Beastmaster to feature the species significantly.
In a show of support for her wounded co-star, Jennifer Aniston joined the outcry against ferrets. “It’s not the warmest, cuddliest animal,” Aniston commented. “It’s just a big rat at the end of the day.”
Despite the public dispute between Stiller and Rodolpho the ferret didn’t stop Along Came Polly from featuring in Ferret Magazine, although the movie star’s ill-feeling towards his zoological co-star were kept to a happy minimum.
Jackie Chan’s Everything
Jackie Chan’s commitment to performing his own stunts is legendary in the world of action cinema. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that Chan’s body has suffered some wear and tear over the years. Over the course of his long career, Chan has damaged his spine, dislocated his pelvis, had countless injuries to his face and head, among others – the results of nunchaku wielding ninjas, comical blows to the head and skirmishes with folded up chairs.
The actor’s injuries are well-chronicled and enthused over, even by the actor himself who not only has a personal blog detailing his various on-set ailments but sometimes uses them as a marketing aid, such as for his film Raising Dragon, where a poster was made highlighting all of the actor’s body damage.
While shooting Armour of God in Yugoslavia, Chan took part in a stunt where he had to jump from a castle wall to a tree below. Having succeeded, Chan’s inner perfectionist motivated him to attempt the stunt again in order to get a better take. This time he missed and slammed his head against the jagged rocks that surrounded the tree in question. The impact was so great that a piece of the actor’s skull drove up into his brain, forcing blood to pour from his ears.
Astonishingly, Chan made a full recovery being rushed to the hospital to undergo brain surgery. He now has a permanent hole in his head, with nothing but a plastic plug to cover it up. The injury did nothing to dissuade Chan from performing his own stunts, something he continues to do today, almost twenty years later.