As you know, making a movie is a very challenging and sometimes dangerous job when many pieces have to fit together to make the final puzzle.
Unfortunately, there have been several cases of illness, injury, and even death occurring during the production process of various films throughout history – all of them tragic.
While many injuries or untimely deaths involve stuntmen and crew, sometimes it’s the lead actor or actress who dies.
This list discusses actors and actresses who have been the unfortunate victims of fatal accidents while on film sets.
Condolences go out to the family and friends of these creatives, who were gone too soon for their time.
Brandon Lee, The Crow (1994)
Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee and a talented martial artist and famous actor on his own, is well-known today for playing a humorous bad boy in most of the movies he was in.
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Lee started to pick up martial arts at an extremely young age but took up acting in high school.
He later majored in the performing arts in college, taking the combined knowledge of these categories and making them into a career.
With a few acting credits such as Kung Fu: The Movie and Showdown in Little Tokyo under his belt, Lee was signed on to star as Eric in Alex Proyas’ 1994 film The Crow, a story centered on a man who dies and returns to earth to avenge his and his loved one’s deaths.
Tragically, this movie production would lead to the death of Brandon Lee.
The script of The Crow called for Brandon Lee’s character to be shot with a revolver by another character. Since the film involved action and some firearm use, the set has prop guns to use during production.
These should always be checked thoroughly to prevent one-set accidents, especially from live ammunition. However, the crew’s weapon coordinator was sent home before everyone else on one night of filming.
Because of this, a prop firearm was used without asking that crew member beforehand. The actors were using blanks for the prop gun in the film, but no one knew that a dislodged bullet was stuck inside the gun, a dangerous lack of information.
When the actor using the firearm on Lee in the scene shot the blank, the regular bullet came loose and struck Lee, who was sent to the hospital and operated on for hours, but unfortunately was pronounced dead from the bullet wound the next day.
Vic Morrow, Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Vic Morrow was a film actor who grew up in the Bronx in New York City as the son of Jewish/Russian immigrants.
He started his acting resume by being cast as a tough guy in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle.
After being repeatedly cast in the same kind of “bad guy” role, Morrow left his acting studio for a few years to receive an education in directing.
The actor dreamed of being seen as the cinematic hero instead of the roles he kept on getting, which he was later able to accomplish.
Soon, Morrow got his acting wish when he was cast on the 1962 television show Combat!, with Morrow’s character being the head of a group of veterans. The show ran from ‘62 to ‘67.
The series met its conclusion, and Morrow went through personal troubles, resulting in his career turning to mostly TV movies and being cast as mostly the tough guy again, but with some feature films here and there.
Morrow set out to film the 1983 film Twilight Zone: The Movie as a character who is sent back in time to the Vietnam War.
A helicopter chase scene needed to be filmed at around 2:00 in the morning to create the setting the directors visualized. The scene also required the use of timed explosives.
Unfortunately, one of the stunt’s explosions was ill-timed and caused a major blow to the helicopter rotors. The aircraft plummeted, and Morrow was decapitated as a result of the helicopter crash.
Two child actors (seven-year-old Myca Dinh Le and six-year-old Renee Shin-Yi Chen) whom he carried in his arms also died instantly at the scene with him, making it one of the most tragic accidents in Hollywood to date.
Jon-Erik Hexum, Cover up: Golden Opportunity (1984)
Jon-Erik Hexum was a young actor from New Jersey in the United States. He grew up with a natural musical talent, having the coveted ability to play multiple instruments.
His interest in acting began in second grade, but even with his right-brained talents, he did not follow that path with further education when he decided to go to college.
Hexum attended college at Michigan State University, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in 1980.
Although he was majoring in engineering first and switched to philosophy and had no educational intent to pursue acting, Hexum was discovered by Bob LeMond (actor John Travolta’s manager) while on campus and was eventually hired for multiple projects.
Known for roles in works such as 1982’s television series Voyagers! and the 1984 film The Bear, Hexum had a bright acting career ahead.
Jon-Erik was working on 1984’s episode Golden Opportunity for the TV series Cover Up, which unfortunately ended up being his final film when he played with a .44 revolver being used as a prop. Putting the gun to his head, Hexum pulled the trigger.
The gun had a blank cartridge inside as opposed to real bullets, but those can still be extremely dangerous, especially incredibly close to yourself.
Unfortunately, Hexum was brought to the hospital and operated on due to the horrible accident that shattered the actor’s skull.
Hexum was put on life support and taken off of it a week later. As an organ donor, he ended up saving up to five lives after his fatal accident.
Tyrone Power, Solomon and Sheba (1959)
Tyrone Power was an American actor born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to a family of acting legacies.
His grandfather, father, and mother had already paved their way in the performing arts world, mainly through theatrical works. However, despite being from a royal family of entertainment, Tyrone made his way.
Power became passionate about acting at a young age and studied the performing arts while living in Cincinnati.
Even though he grew up to become conventionally attractive and had experience and his parents’ support under his belt, Power had a difficult time finding acting roles in Los Angeles at first.
After only securing a couple of small parts, Tyrone moved on to theatrical gigs. He finally received a screen test at 24 years old, and he was hired pretty soon after as a main character for multiple projects, especially for action movies.
Working on notable films such as Nightmare Alley (1947) and Prince of Foxes (1949), Power found constant work for decades, becoming a force to be reckoned with with many major roles.
His last full film was Witness for the Prosecution, released in 1957.
Tyrone was hired to star as Solomon in director King Vidor’s film Solomon and Sheba. Having filmed half of the movie, Power was working on a dueling scene with fellow actor George Sanders.
During filming this scene, Powers collapsed from a massive heart attack. He was hurried to the hospital but died before making it there.
Roy Kinnear, Return of the Musketeers (1989)
Roy Kinnear was a famous actor from London. Born in 1934, he became attuned to his acting skills while attending the University of Dramatic Arts in the UK after his regular studies were finished.
He started working with on-screen roles in the later half of the 1950s, acting in projects such as 1955’s Oh… Rosalinda!!, and the 1960s’s The Millionaires.
Working on various productions of different mediums (radio, TV shows, etc.), Roy started to pick up steam from then, eventually acting in projects that are still watched over and over again by us today.
Known for his iconic role as the wealthy and pompous Mr. Salt in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), Kinnear brought a boatload of memorable performances on screen, including Algernon in the Beatles film Help! (1965) and the Cheshire Cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972).
Kinnear is also known for his role in the 1989 movie The Return of the Musketeers, a film that unfortunately caused his tragedy. The production took place in Toledo, Spain.
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Kinnear showed concern about having to film his own stunts- a fast horseback riding scene since it was going to be incredibly fast- as he did not have riding skills he was confident enough with.
Alas, the scene was filmed anyway, and Kinnear was thrown from his horse, experiencing injuries from the fall and suffering a heart attack from this tragic accident afterward.
Eric Fleming, High Jungle (1966)
Eric Fleming was an American performer who lived in California during his young life. Running away from home at a very young age to escape a dangerous living situation, Fleming lived in Chicago but moved back to CA after legal trouble.
Fleming moved in with his mother and took his first job with Paramount, doing manual work for the company.
After serving in the US Navy, he landed his first roles on Broadway before transitioning to the big screen, working on productions of My Three Angels and No Time for Sergeants.
After landing a few television roles in the 1950s, Fleming’s notable roles began when he worked on the 1954 movie Conquest of Space, where he played Captain Barney Merritt.
When the television series Rawhide premiered in 1959, Fleming’s big break came. As one of the leading men of the series, Eric Fleming worked on the series for seven seasons, totaling 203 episodes.
After his work on the 1965 film The Glass Bottom Boat, Fleming partially retired in Hawaii.
He was then hired to film High Jungle, a movie being worked on in Peru and focusing on a United States soldier who goes into the jungle to rescue someone being kidnapped and held there.
Fleming hoped that this would be his triumphant return to Hollywood.
Some filming took place in the Huallaga River, where things went wrong. Nico Minardos, an actor on the project, described the waters as incredibly dangerous.
While Fleming and Minardos were filming in a small boat on the rapids, the current took hold and was too strong.
Minardos stayed on the boat, but Fleming, thinking it was the safer option, jumped out into the river, where he drowned. His body was recovered a few days later.
The time of his death is not certain.
Honorable Mention: Steve Irwin, Ocean’s Deadliest (2006)
Steve Irwin was a beloved animal expert born and raised in Down Under.
He was brought up by two animal-loving parents. This resulted in Irwin’s legacy of caring for and educating others about animals.
Irwin became globally recognized for his passion for creatures large and small, scary or not. Even though most of Irwin’s animal work was based in Australia, he became a global icon.
As the head of the Australia Zoo and the host of 1997’s hit TV series The Crocodile Hunter (which he co-hosted with his wife, Terri Irwin), Steve Irwin was a daring and energetic force in both the animal and entertainment industry.
While he mostly worked on nonfiction entertainment pieces, Irwin had a few acting roles in movies such as Happy Feet and Dr. Dolittle 2.
In 2007, Irwin set out to host a TV documentary called Ocean’s Deadliest, which educated the audience on some of the most dangerous creatures of the sea.
While working on the show, Irwin was attacked by a stingray, sadly passing away as a result of the sting emitted.
Irwin’s legacy and care of creatures have been passed down to his children, Robert and Bindi Irwin. They work to educate their audience on animals today, keeping Steve’s positivity and good nature intact.
Of course, some actors who were victims of on-set deaths were not mentioned in this article, but all of them are remembered to this day, and their legacies are recognized.
Actors, crew members, producers, and directors put an excessive amount of work into making a successful film and never expect their final days to be on the set of a film. It is a tragedy when the execution of ideas results in the death of the people who are working so hard.
And even though a number of these actors were in fatal accidents decades ago, tragedies like this still occur today.