Movies can be a dangerous business. Stunts, animals, and rabid fans often create the perfect storm for injury and illness, leading to production delays and millions spent on safer work practices. Despite Hollywood's attempts to create a relatively safe work environment (#TimesUp notwithstanding) some safety issues inevitably fall through the cracks, opening the unsuspecting cast and crew up for some incredibly close on-set encounters.
These film props may be iconic, who doesn't love the Batmobile or Wolverine's hack-n-slash claws? They may even have changed Hollywood history as we know it (looking at you, Jurassic Park T-Rex). But these five props were definitely more hassle than they were worth.
Batman's 1960s era gadgets weren't just for show. They actually worked... to a point. That doesn't mean Adam West had a can of actual bat-shark repellent, but it does mean Bruce Wayne's tricked-out Batmobile gadgets were designed to be fully operational. Which was a problem, considering the those iconic designs were all form over function.
The Batmobile sported a myriad of gadgets that really worked as advertised, according to Robin himself, Burt Ward. Meaning there really was a mechanism on the vehicle that released bat-flavored parachutes:
Unfortunately, these extra cool gadgets added a lot of extra weight, which meant some of the functions that make a car actually operate as a car had to be cut. Because the trunk needed to be extended long enough to house fire-shooting tanks (naturally), the frame of the entire vehicle was re-cut to in an attempt to make it lighter and easier to drive. That attempt failed. The Batmobile was still bottom-heavy and very unbalanced, making it impossible to steer. Add to that the janky, unreliable brakes and total lack of a turn signal and you're looking at an incredibly dangerous piece of machinery.
The curved nature of the windshield added another element of danger, reflecting light into the driver's eyes, making it impossible to see where they were going. To combat all of these shortcomings, the crew simply never drove the Batmobile over 25 MPH. They would undercrank the camera to make it appear as though Batman were actually racing to the scene of the crime.
The Batcycle was even worse.
Though the vehicle was smaller and easier to handle, the heroes' fashionable capes were constantly getting caught up in the wheels -- further proving Edna Mode is always right. Robin's sidekick sidecar was also incredibly risky business. The detachable self-propelled pod technically wasn't difficult to steer or stop ... it just lacked those abilities altogether. Stunts like this one were more of a product of luck than anything else.
As noted by Ward on the Batman: The Movie commentary track, when the sidecar was released from the Batcycle, the pod would rarely go where intended -- instead, poor Robin would be sent careening into the bushes. That is, if they timed things right. The bushes were the best case scenario here.
Is that better or worse than being constantly electrocuted?
Dumb, kinda painful things are always happening to Charlie Day's character, Charlie Kelly, on It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. That's his entire shtick. And apparently, dumb, kinda painful things keep happening to Charlie Day in real life, too.
Day went from silly slapstick to genius day-saver when he took on the role of scientific researcher Newton Geiszler in Guillermo del Toro's Godzilla/Gundam mashup, Pacific Rim. Action-packed blockbusters are often quite painful for their stars, especially those who perform their own stunts. All that running and kung-fu eventually takes a toll. But for Day, the worst part of filming the monster movie was his Honey, I Shrunk The Kids-esque headgear.
At first, Day thought he was being gently stabbed by the headpiece ... which still isn't great. He recalled constantly feeling a sharp pain near his ear. But as he wasn't bleeding, he assumed the headgear just had a few sharp edges to it.
His co-star, Burn Gorman, who played Geiszler's lab partner, Hermann Gottlieb, finally realized what was going on. Gorman informed Day that he was not, in fact, being stabbed by the prop, but that a wire had come loose, causing him to be lightly electrocuted for months of filming. Every time the piece lit up, a small jolt of electricity was being sent through Day's helpless body. The actor played off his mistake, saying this explained his "shocked" expression in the film. Let's hope he doesn't need such severe acting inspiration for the sequel.
If given the chance to choose a superpower, who wouldn't want their very own set of Wolverine claws? Well, Hugh Jackman, probably. Thanks to his many, many years as Marvel's arguably most iconic X-Man, Jackman had the chance to get up close and personal with the deadly accessories. A little too up close and personal, if you know what we mean.
While performing choreography for the first film's Statue of Liberty fight, Jackman was supposed to make a stabbing motion at Mystique's stunt double. The stunt double was supposed to move her arm away before it got gored. She didn't and Jackman ended up wounding her seriously enough that the crew called a halt to filming in order to investigate the safety of the claws and choreography. Despite the evident danger of the claws, no lessons were learned, apparently, because Jackman would go on to injure himself on more than one occasion.
Flash forward to the filming the second movie. Jackman had requested a closed-set for a nude scene.
The crew decided to prank him instead and set up a large group of female crew members waving $5 bills behind a corner. Jackman rounded the corner and freaked out (after laughing, of course) and tried to cover himself up only to end up stabbing himself in the thigh. Jackman assured everyone that his "wedding tackle" was OK. Thank goodness.
This was only the first of Jackman's injuries on this shoot. During another stunt performance he became a little over zealous and stabbed himself near the eye. The wound was bad enough to leave a one-inch scar on his already rugged face. Ouch.
When it came to creating the groundbreaking effects in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park, Universal Studios spared no expense. There were computer-generated effects, of course. Along with puppets, costumes, and good old animatronics. The robotic props, it turns out, were quite a challenge to control.
Having a robotic prop of any size means somebody has to maintain and service the machine, this only gets more complicated the larger the prop becomes. Shortly before filming the movie's T-Rex scenes, a crew was assembled to finish securing the dinosaur's skin flaps to the hydraulic arms used to create its movement. Because the prop was so gosh darn big, that meant certain areas were unreachable from the outside. Enter prop master, Alan Scott. Scott volunteered to crawl inside the T-Rex robot and glue the skin flaps into place himself. This was a mistake.
As soon as Scott got himself nestled into the mouth of the machine, he warned the crew not to shut it off for any reason. The hydraulics kept everything held open and if the power were to be shut off, the head would have moved downward, along with all the bells and whistles inside it. The crew followed Scott's orders to the T, but even so death uh, finds a way and the power went out to the whole dang studio. The T-Rex's mouth closed up and dropped nearly all the way to the ground as Scott made himself as small as possible to avoid being crushed to death. The crew was then forced to pry the robotic jaws open so that Scott could make his escape, relatively unharmed. That's chaos theory.
Casting John Wayne as Genghis Khan wasn't even close to the most disastrous decisions made in the production of The Conqueror.
The crew knew they were on dangerous ground when they shot the 12th century epic in the deserts of St. George, Utah in 1954. Incredibly high levels of radiation had been picked up using a Geiger counter. So high, in fact, that legend has it the loud crackle initially caused Wayne to believe the machine was simply broken. He further rationalized that the government had dropped 800 atomic test bombs 100 miles away in Nevada, not Utah.
So, St. George should have been in the clear, right? Well, no. Because wind exists. But using this faulty logic, filming continued in the deadly desert, despite the Geiger counter's ominous warnings.
Even after the Utah filming had concluded, the crew was unable to escape the deadly sand. Legendary producer Howard Hughes, who was well-known for his crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (among other things), was worried reshoots performed in California would not match the original footage taken in Utah. To get around this, he discovered a handy hack: Hughes shipped 60 tons of the deadly, radioactive sand straight to the Hollywood lot. This allowed the actors to reshoot their scenes in the very same sand as the original shoot ... giving them even more contact with the high levels of radiation discovered by the Geiger counter.
It is estimated that roughly half of the residents of St. George became afflicted with cancer thanks to the town's fallout. On top of that, according to a People Magazine article from 1980, 91 out of The Conqueror's 220 cast and crew members contracted cancer in the years following -- that's triple of the normal, non-radioactive rate. Of those afflicted by the disease, 46 had died by the time of the article's publication, including John Wayne himself.
If there's one thing we can be thankful for when it comes to green screens, it's that we won't ever have another movie as deadly as The Conqueror.