Use Caution at Casting Calls & On Set

July 20, 2012

This week Halle Berry suffered a head injury while shooting a fight sequence for her new film, The Hive. After taking a nasty fall, Berry hit her head on concrete and then began to vomit—a sure sign of concussion. Fortunately, she’s been released from the hospital and is reportedly doing fine. But this story brings starkly to mind the occupational hazards of acting. Make no mistake, the movie business can be a dangerous place. We’ve read stories about actors who perform their own stunts like Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Harrison Ford, and Jason Statham. And with all the preparation and support on set, it’s pretty rare that anything too tragic seems to happen. But, there are many stories attesting to the fact that, at times, things really do go wrong and someone gets hurt. Just last week, singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth was hit in the head by scaffolding on the Brooklyn set of The Good Wife, and had to be rushed to the hospital. She’s been released and is reported to be recovering at home. And also consider, Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Hough, Kristin Stewart, Justin Timberlake, and Nicole Kidman have all incurred injury on set. In fact, Shia Labeouf spent hours in surgery after a car wreck crushed his hand on the set of Transformers 2. He considers himself lucky to have 80 percent use of two injured fingers.

Heck, you can even get hurt during an audition. Camera operators are like sailors with their foreboding stories of sea travels. One camera operator describes pairs of children required to “really fight” using the toy weapons to be advertised. Turns out the camera operator was the one hit with a broken toy ax blade to the thigh! The prop nailed him with such force he ended up getting five stitches. In truth, anyone and everyone in that room was at risk.

So when you go into the audition room or venture on set, stay alert and keep your thinking cap on. Make a decision as to how much you’re willing to risk or what boundaries you’re going to require. Are you the actor who must perform all his or her own stunts to feel authentic and in the moment? Or are you comforted by the director’s “Cut!” and content to allow a stunt double to complete the precarious action? Whatever your decision, remember you still won’t be immune to the occasional occupational flukes. How can anyone ever be considered completely safe when you hear stories like Gerard Butler’s suspender snapping and hitting Hilary Swank in the face on the set of the romantic comedy P.S. I Love You? She needed three stitches on her forehead!
 So fellow thespians, take heed: With all the requirements for intense drama, heavy action, boundless creativity, and increasing realism, the acting field can a dangerous business.