Tragedies during production have been all too common, from The Crow to Deadpool 2 to Twilight Zone: The Movie.
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The tragic events on the set of the Western film Rust are sadly familiar to those who closely follow the film industry.

Last week, Alec Baldwin discharged a prop firearm while rehearsing a scene, fatally shooting the film's cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza on the movie's New Mexico set. Reports have since emerged that the production was in disarray before the incident; according to The Los Angeles Times, about a dozen crew members walked off the Rust set in protest of unsafe working conditions and were replaced by non-union workers.

Meanwhile, the police reported that armorer Hannah Gutierrez first checked the prop gun before it was given to assistant director Dave Halls, who allegedly pronounced it a "cold gun," meaning it didn't contain live rounds. Affidavits state that the police were told Halls "did not know live rounds were in the prop gun" before it had been given to Baldwin. A police investigation is still ongoing.

This is far from the first time that such an incident has occurred. In fact, many quickly compared the shooting to the 1993 death of actor Brandon Lee on the set of the action-fantasy film The Crow. Lee was killed at the age of 28 in a similar accident involving a prop gun, one of numerous fatalities on set throughout Hollywood history. Often, these accidents have been the result of negligence and failure to follow proper safety procedures, casting a shadow over many productions.

Here are some notable examples of accidental deaths that have occurred on movie sets over the years.

Vic Morrow, Brandon Lee and Deadpool
Vic Morrow in 'Twilight Zone: The Movie'; Brandon Lee in 'The Crow'; 'Deadpool 2'
| Credit: Everett Collection; Miramax/Courtesy Everett Collection; Joe Lederer/TM & 20th Century Fox Film Corporation/Courtesy Everett Collection

Catch-22 (1970)

Production on Mike Nichols' adaptation of the classic war satire was troubled from the start, with the director staging numerous complicated shots involving vintage B-25 planes. Early in the shoot, one of the planes "lost control on the runway and sent the extras in its path scrambling for safety," according to Mark Harris' recent biography of Nichols. Later, second-unit director John Jordan refused to wear a harness while filming from one of the planes and fell 4,000 feet, plummeting to his death in the Gulf of Mexico.

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

One of the most notorious incidents in movie history occurred on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1982 when actor Vic Morrow and two child performers were killed by a crashing helicopter. Special-effects explosions caused the pilot to lose control of the helicopter, which fell to the ground and killed all three actors instantly. Twilight Zone co-director John Landis and four other crew members were charged with manslaughter, with prosecutors claiming the production violated labor laws, including regulations for child actors' working conditions and hours. All five men were acquitted in 1987. The accident prompted numerous changes to safety regulations on film sets, including new rules regarding helicopter use from the Federal Aviation Administration and additional safety measures from the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild.

Top Gun (1986)

Aerobatic pilot Art Scholl died while filming a stunt on the Tom Cruise blockbuster in 1985, which required him to perform a spin in a plane. Scholl was unable to recover from the spin, and the plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean near Carlsbad, Calif. The official cause of the crash was never determined.

The Crow (1994)

THE CROW, Brandon Lee, 1994, (c) Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection
Brandon Lee in 'The Crow'
| Credit: Everett Collection

As noted, the Rust incident quickly sparked comparisons to the death of Brandon Lee on the set of The Crow in 1993. A bullet was mistakenly left in a gun from an earlier scene, and was fired at Lee in a scene that called for blank rounds, striking the actor and killing him. Reports found that the film's weapons specialist had left the set when the scene was shot, with a prop assistant left responsible for the gun. The shooting was ruled an accident due to negligence and no charges were filed.

After the Rust shooting, Lee's family released a statement on Twitter, saying, "Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on 'Rust.' No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period."

Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)

Sonja Davis, a stunt double for Angela Bassett, was fatally injured while performing a 42-foot fall off of a building on the set of the Eddie Murphy horror-comedy. Davis' mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Paramount and Eddie Murphy Productions, claiming the film's crew failed to provide proper safety equipment for the stunt.

XXX (2002)

Stunt performer Harry O'Connor, who doubled for Vin Diesel on the first XXX film, was killed when he hit a bridge pillar in Prague while filming a paragliding stunt in April 2002.

The Expendables 2 (2012)

THE EXPENDABLES 2 from left: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Terry Crews
'The Expendables 2'
| Credit: Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection

Stuntman Kun Liu was killed and another stunt performer was seriously injured in a staged explosion on the set of The Expendables 2 in 2011. Liu's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit the next year, alleging that the conditions for the stunt were unsafe; their lawsuit claimed second unit director and stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski "recklessly organized, planned, set up, produced, directed, trained, coordinated and otherwise prepared for and implemented the stunt which involved the use of explosives and other similar ultra-hazardous activities in the rubber boat so as to cause an explosion, thereby injuring [Liu] and causing his death." 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

Crew member Ricardo Cornelius died from injuries sustained while working on Resident Evil: The Final Chapter in 2015. During a prep day involving safety checks on the Cape Town set of the film, Cornelius was helping to rotate a Hummer on a turntable during a rehearsal when he slipped and became trapped between the vehicle and a wall.

Suntwoman Olivia Jackson was also severely injured during filming when her motorcycle collided with a camera crane, which required her left arm to be amputated and left her with lasting nerve damage. In 2020, Jackson won a lawsuit against a company involved with the film, with a South African court ruling that the stunt was negligently planned and executed. Jackson claimed that director Paul W.S. Anderson changed the timing of the camera crane's move between rehearsals and filming to secure a more exciting shot.

Deadpool 2 (2018)

DEADPOOL 2
Ryan Reynolds in 'Deadpool 2'
| Credit: Twentieth Century Studios

In August 2017, stuntwoman Joi "SJ" Harris" died in a motorcycle crash during filming on Deadpool 2. It was her first job as a stuntwoman, although she was an experienced motorcycle rider and semi-professional road racer, and several in the stunt community questioned the decision not to use a more experienced stunt performer for the scene. (Sources indicated at the time that Harris was chosen over a veteran stuntwoman because her appearance was a closer match for actress Zazie Beetz.) An investigation found that Harris' motorcycle struck a curb, throwing her from the vehicle and through the plate glass window of a nearby building.

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