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Tragic film set accidents: How safe are our actors?

By Kirsten Kanja | Nov 13th 2021 | 2 min read

Video camera [Courtesy]

Blockbuster movies, especially action films are characterised by gun-toting, trigger-happy stars. Some are playing the roles ‘good guys’, and as audiences, we celebrate as they shoot the ‘bad guys’ to save the day.

However, it takes just a split second for everything to go horribly wrong on the set of our favourite movies and productions.

When American actor and film producer Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins using a prop gun on a movie set on October 22, it was a shocking moment for the film industry.

Following the accident, there were concerns about the standards of safety on the set that day, and in general on movie sets.

But this was not the first time something tragic had happened on a film set.

“Accidents on movie and television sets, like stuntmen being injured during action sequences or actors getting killed when props malfunction, have occurred with some regularity over the last several decades. There have been at least 194 serious television- and film-set accidents in the United States from 1990 to 2014, and at least 43 deaths,” the New York Times reported last month.

Brandon Lee, the son of superstar actor Bruce Lee met his tragic death in 1993 on the set of movie The Crow. The 28-year-old was killed when a co-star fired a prop gun that was intended to fire blank cartridges.

And John-Erik Hexum, an actor and model died aged 26 years after accidentally shooting himself in the head while on the set of the television series “Cover Up” in 1984.

“Hexum started joking around on the set of a television show after being frustrated by delays in filming. He loaded a revolver with a blank, spun the chamber, put the gun to his temple and fired. Unlike Lee, he was not killed by a projectile, but rather the force of the blast which was strong enough to fracture his skull,” BBC reported.

An armourer told BBC that there are some on-set rules that if followed, would prevent such accidents that have occurred after the use of blanks and props.

“You never point a gun, even if it is not a firing gun, at anyone. I’m at a loss how this could have happened and how it could have done that much damage,” on-set weapon specialist Mike Tristano said. 

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