A STUNTMAN DIES WHILE FILMING 'EXIT WOUNDS.' A GRIP IS ELECTROCUTED ON THE 'X-FILES' SET. WHEN DID ENTERTAINMENT BECOME SUCH A RISKY BUSINESS?
Chris Lamon lived the Hollywood dream — or at least, the Canadian equivalent. Ever since he was a kid, growing up in Calgary, Lamon knew he wanted to be in show business. At 19, he packed his bags and moved to Toronto, which by the mid-’80s was teeming with made-for-less Hollywood productions. He quickly got crew jobs, but when he found work on the syndicated series Kung Fu: The Legend Continues in 1992, Lamon realized his martial-arts skills could finally get him in front of the camera. So he became a stuntman. During the next eight years, Lamon compiled an eclectic band of credits — including the movie Thomas and the Magic Railroad and the TV series Relic Hunter and Queer as Folk — and though he was asked to do a variety of potentially perilous things, he didn’t believe his life was ever in jeopardy. ”Chris was never scared of his stunts,” says Jennifer Vey, 25, Lamon’s fiancee and a stuntwoman herself. ”So many bits of preparation are taken, we always felt safe. We never went to work thinking we were risking our lives, or that we were going to die. Never. It’s just not supposed to be that way.”
But on the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 18, 2000, as Lamon was performing a stunt on the Toronto set of Exit Wounds, the police thriller starring Steven Seagal and rapper DMX, what wasn’t supposed to happen did. The action called for Lamon to jump and roll away from an upside-down van being dragged down a street by a tow truck. Perhaps there hadn’t been enough rehearsal. Perhaps the tow truck was moving too fast. Perhaps Lamon lost his footing. But when he jumped out of the van, feet first, he inexplicably flipped and landed hard on the back of his head. He was rushed to St. Michael’s Hospital with multiple skull fractures, but the swelling in his brain couldn’t be stopped and he died five days later. Lamon was 35.
Suffice it to say, Vey has no desire to see the completed Exit Wounds, which opened March 16. ”If it was up to me, I would do anything in my power to make it not be released,” she says. ”If I had any power, I would love for them to at least change the name…Exit Wounds.” Her voice shudders with disgust.
”The film industry used to be my social life,” Vey continues. ”My relationship, my career — everything tied into it. Now, it’s simply work. There’s the occasional person who says, ‘Why don’t you hang with us anymore?’ It’s difficult to explain why. I just can’t. Half of me is gone.”
Think of all the death-defying feats you’ve seen on screens large and small. Just this past year, Tom Cruise scaled a treacherous desert cliff in Mission: Impossible 2. Chris O’Donnell dangled from an icy peak in Vertical Limit. Chow Yun-Fat balanced on the tip of a bamboo tree in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Of course these are illusions; most stunts are performed by trained professionals who’ve gone to great lengths to insure that, when the job’s done, they walk away. Sure, bruises, scratches, and cuts are to be expected. Twisted ankles, bad backs, broken bones — these, too, are not unusual, especially if you’re a member of Jackie Chan’s stunt team. But death? It’s just not supposed to be that way.