Celebs Who Saved Other Stars From Dying While Filming

Actors engage in heroics regularly on screen, playing protagonists who pull off death-defying feats to save the lives of other characters. Sometimes they're laughably unbelievable, such as the "Fast & Furious 6" scene in which Dom (Vin Diesel) crashes a speeding convertible into the railing of a bridge, which catapults him into the air so that he can catch Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) — who was thrown from a tank. The pair conveniently land on the windshield of a stopped car.

Actors also save fictional lives as cops, firemen, soldiers, Titanic passengers, Jedi, archeologists — you get the picture. And they often have a damsel in distress to keep alive, such as Kathleen Turner's character in the 1984 film "Romancing the Stone." Speaking of which, Danny DeVito once claimed that he saved co-star Michael Douglas' life while shooting the movie. In a 2018 appearance on "The Talk," DeVito said that he sucked the venom out of Douglas' hand after he got bitten by a snake. "I say, 'Boy, it's a good thing this didn't bite you on the balls man — you would be a dead man,'" DeVito quipped (via People). But on "Good Morning America," Douglas revealed that DeVito did no such thing. "You know why he tells that story? Because of the punchline," he said. However, Douglas did actually get bitten by a snake.

While their heroics didn't result in stories that could be so hilariously told, other celebs have actually performed potentially life-saving acts for their fellow stars.

Oliver Robins' Poltergeist horror story

A series of tragic and mysterious incidents have led many people to believe that the 1982 haunted house horror movie at the center of them, "Poltergeist," is cursed. As noted by Biography, two of the actors who played siblings in the movie died young. Heather O'Rourke was just 12 years old when she died from complications of an intestinal blockage, and Dominique Dunne was 22 when her ex-boyfriend strangled her to death. The murder happened mere months after the movie's theatrical release. 

As for the actor who played the third Freeling sibling, Oliver Robins, he said that his own life was placed in danger while "Poltergeist" was being filmed. In one of its creepiest scenes, his character, Robbie, gets attacked by a possessed clown doll with long, rope-like arms. It wraps one of the appendages around Robbie's neck and drags him underneath his bed. In a 2009 interview with Icons of Fright, Robins said that the arm actually got stuck around his neck while he was underneath the bed, and he credits director Steven Spielberg with saving him from being strangled by it. "It's almost like a car accident. You know how a car accident happens so fast you don't remember but if you don't act something is going to happen? Well, Steven saw that, probably in the video assist, and he pulled me away from it," Robins said. "Who knows what might have happened otherwise." As if clown dolls weren't scary enough already.

Halle Berry's seductive scene gone wrong

James Bond likes his martinis shaken, not stirred, and Halle Berry's preferred way to eat figs likely became diced, not whole after playing Bond girl Jinx in the 2002 movie "Die Another Day." While Bond films feature action sequences such as high-speed car chases in exotic locales and sword fights on planes, Berry said that it was one of the franchise's iconic bedroom scenes that put her life in mortal peril. Jinx was just trying to enjoy a little breakfast in bed with Bond when disaster struck. "I was supposed to be all sexy and, like, trying to seduce him with a fig, and then I end up choking on it," Berry recalled on "The Tonight Show" in 2020. We're guessing the plump, juicy fruit was on the menu because it has a reputation for being a natural aphrodisiac.

According to Berry, Brosnan soon realized that she had bitten off more than she could chew. "He had to get up and do the Heimlich. So not sexy," she recalled. [10:05] "He was there for me. He will always be one of my favorite people in the whole world."

When "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon later asked Brosnan about his grateful co-star's story, he was humble about his heroics. "I vaguely remember it," the actor said. "I might have Heimliched her, I'm not sure." He then downplayed his actions even further, laughingly saying, "I think I just patted her on the back."

Dolly Parton was a child actor's guardian angel

Speaking to ET Canada, country music icon Dolly Parton shared her belief in guardian angels. "I feel like I always have one. ... I always feel protected," she said. She was chatting about her 2020 Netflix holiday movie "Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square," in which she plays a bedazzled celestial being whose goal is to deprogram a cold-hearted capitalist Scrooge played by Christine Baranski. "It was easy and fun for me to play an angel; I'm certainly no angel," Parton quipped. But for one young actor who appeared in the movie, Parton performed an angelic act when the cameras weren't rolling.

Talia Hill, who was 9 years old at the time of filming, told Inside Edition that she was getting a cup of hot cocoa when all of the actors were told that shooting was about to resume. As she was returning to the set, she walked in front of an approaching vehicle. "Somebody grabbed me and pulled me back, and I looked up, and it was Dolly Parton," Talia recalled. After saving Talia from getting hit, Parton jokingly reminded her stunned co-star that she is an angel, after all. (Her character is even named Angel in the film.) "She hugged me and shook me and said, 'I saved your life!'" Hill recalled. "And my mom's going, 'Yes, you did, Dolly Parton. Yes, you did.'" Only Parton could make a true Christmas miracle happen while filming a Christmas movie.

Tom Cruise's action star moves saved Elisabeth Shue

Tom Cruise often insists on doing his own stunts in his action movies, risking life and limb for the sake of his art. But when he saved Elisabeth Shue from possibly meeting a grisly end, the two actors were not leaping from a building or moving vehicle. Instead, they were filming a romantic scene in the 1988 rom-com "Cocktail."

Per The Sun, camera operator Bill Bennett related Shue's near-death experience to members of the Crew Stories Facebook group. Cruise and Shue were riding horseback on a beach, and Bennett was in a helicopter getting aerial shots of the pair. Between takes, the helicopter landed but was not shut off, and the rapidly spinning blade on the tail was almost impossible to see. After Cruise and Shue watched some of the footage Bennett had filmed on a monitor inside the helicopter, Shue began approaching the blade without realizing it. 

She couldn't hear Bennett yelling at her from the chopper, but Cruise quickly realized what was about to happen. "He lunged after her, but only was able grab her legs, tackling her to the ground," Bennett recalled. "He rolled her over, dragging her at the same time." While Shue was angry and confused by her co-star's actions at first, Cruise soon got her to understand that she had come precariously close to perishing. "At that point she turned white," Bennett wrote. "Tom had, in that instant, truly saved her life."

Laurence Fishburne rescued Emilio Estevez from quicksand

Laurence Fishburne was just 14 years old when he joined the cast of Francis Ford Coppola's acclaimed Vietnam War drama "Apocalypse Now." Among the actors he got the opportunity to work with were Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford, and Martin Sheen. While "The Breakfast Club" actor Emilio Estevez was not a member of the cast, his status as Sheen's son also earned him a trip to the Philippines, where the movie was being filmed.

Estevez was the same age as Fishburne, who convinced him to hop in a small boat and do a little exploring during a break from filming. "We started getting too close to the shore, and I said, 'Well, let me jump out. I'll push us offshore,'" Estevez recalled on "The Jennifer Hudson Show." But he regretted his offer when he discovered what the water's deceptive surface was hiding. "It was like quicksand mud," he said. Estevez began sinking into the muck, but Fishburne grabbed his hand and was able to haul him back into the boat. "We were bonded ever since," said Estevez.

Fishburne shared his own thoughts about the incident with Vulture. "I saved his life and he saved mine just by virtue of the fact that we were friends because there were no other 15-year-olds around," he said of his bestie for life. "Having the company of somebody who was my own age and male and from America was also a lifesaver for me."

Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh's scary stunt gone awry

With great stuntwork comes great responsibility; in addition to possessing lightning-fast reflexes and the ability to think fast on their feet, action stars like Jackie Chan have to be prepared to act when things go awry.

And things went epically wrong when the "Rush Hour" star and "Everything Everywhere All at Once" actor Michelle Yeoh worked together on the 1992 film "Supercop." Yeoh told GQ that she had taken a four-year hiatus from making films, and she came back with a bang by agreeing to perform a daring stunt with Chan. It required her to roll from the top of a speeding van onto a convertible with Chan behind the wheel. The car's windshield was supposed to shatter, and Yeoh would then roll forward. But this didn't happen. 

In an outtake, Chan can be seen reaching over and around the intact windshield in a desperate attempt to grab Yeoh, but she slides off the side of the car's hood. "Luckily, he grabbed onto a bit of my shirt," Yeoh recalled. "He saved me, I think. My life. Shhh — but don't tell him that." She explained that her head likely would have hit the pavement if Chan hadn't altered the position of her body. Yeoh told Entertainment Weekly that Chan initially refused to try the stunt again, but she wanted to give it another shot. "So we went up and got it in the next take," she recalled.

Bob Odenkirk's co-stars helped save his life

Rhea Seehorn had to call out for help when her "Better Call Saul" co-star Bob Odenkirk suddenly collapsed while riding an exercise bike. She, Odenkirk, and Patrick Fabian were taking a break from filming an episode of the show's final season in 2021, making use of some studio cubicles that they had transformed into their own personalized breakrooms. Seehorn and Fabian witnessed their co-star's frightening fall. "We ran to catch him because it's a concrete floor and didn't want him to hit his head, and then realized that something much bigger was going on," Seehorn recalled to Variety. "We realized that he was having some kind of cardiac arrest."

In addition to getting help, Seehorn and Fabian yelled at Odenkirk in an attempt to keep him conscious. On "The Howard Stern Show," Odenkirk revealed that the show's health officer shocked him with a defibrillator three times, saying that using the machine more than twice often proves futile. But it got his heart pumping again. The next day, he underwent surgery for plaque buildup in his arteries.

If Seehorn and Fabian hadn't been around, Odenkirk possibly wouldn't have gotten those life-saving jolts quickly enough. "He didn't go to his trailer. If he had, he would be dead, or significantly brain damaged," Seehorn told Variety. While Odenkirk has no recollection of his co-stars coming to his aid, he said, "It will resonate through the rest of my life, and our friendship will too."

The comedian who saved Martin Freeman from a crisp

On "The Graham Norton Show," Martin Freeman revealed that choking is one of his biggest fears, so the "Fargo" star will forever be grateful to late British comedian Andy Smart. The two men appeared together on an episode of the game show "Never Mind the Buzzcocks," and Smart witnessed Freeman living his worst nightmare while inhaling a snack. "I'm a pig and I like eating crisps as quickly as possible," Freeman said. "So I hoovered these crisps down, and they weren't ready to go down." He was holding a beer in one hand and pounding his chest with the other, and he recalled that some of the people present at the time apparently thought he was trying to be funny and simply laughed.

Thankfully, Smart realized what was happening and started performing the Heimlich maneuver on the distressed actor. "It feels very scary when you've got something lodged in your throat," said Freeman. But he confessed that he choked on his favorite snack food again at Andy Serkis' house.

Dwayne Johnson was also one of Graham Norton's guests, and after being informed that crisps are potato chips and not doughnuts, he asked Freeman, "Do you swallow them whole?" Freeman said that he does chew, explaining that the speed of his snacking is the issue. "I'm in such a hurry to get that crispy flavor, to get that hit of cholesterol," he said. "I can't wait for your obituary," Norton quipped.

Tom Cruise rescued Annabelle Wallis during a stunt scene

Tom Cruise once told People that he frets over the well-being of his co-stars when they follow his lead by performing their own stunts. "I am little bit like the mother hen," he said. But sometimes, his concern for his fellow actors doesn't deter him from putting them in harm's way.

When Cruise was filming the 2017 reboot of "The Mummy," he decided that he didn't want to rely on CGI for a plane crash scene, according to his co-star Annabelle Wallis. Instead, Cruise wanted to film it inside a zero-gravity airplane. "Tom had never done anything like that before, the stunt team had never done it," Wallis told People. To create momentary weightlessness like that astronauts experience in space, the plane flew up and down, taking everyone onboard on an extreme rollercoaster ride. This made moving around difficult. "I had to put a parachute pack on me and the pack got stuck," Wallis recalled. 

"There was a thing wrapped tight around my neck and I was like, 'Oh my God! I'm stuck and the gravity is going to return and it's going to choke me.'" Luckily, during the short period of time she was weightless, she was able to alert Cruise and he quickly freed her. "We returned to earth and he'd saved my life," Wallis said. "So I feel very indebted to him." But wait a minute — why again was she in that life-threatening position to begin with?

The 'weird' way Shea Whigham saved Julia Roberts

Sometimes simply standing around on the set of a TV series can be dangerous. "Pretty Woman" star Julia Roberts learned this the hard way while filming "Homecoming." She experienced her brush with death while she and her co-star Shea Whigham were filming one of their very first scenes together outside on a windy day. "All of a sudden, he lunges for me. Scared me so ... I do believe I screamed," Roberts recalled in an interview with JoBlo Celebrity.

What Roberts couldn't see was that a flag was about to fall on her, and we're not talking about a flag of the flappy polyester variety; it was designed to shield the actors from the sun and was encased in a sturdy metal frame. "It started flying toward her head and I didn't really know her at the time and I had to jump in and sort of envelop her, which was really kind of weird," Whigham recalled to Variety

"She was like, 'What the hell?' and then she saw the flag on the ground." Apparently, it would have hit Roberts if Whigham hadn't totally freaked her out. "He did save my life," Roberts said. However, she immediately walked back her assertion just a bit, acknowledging that she can't be absolutely certain that the flag would have killed her. "He at least saved me a trip to the hospital," she stated. As for Whigham, he maintained to JoBlo that he saved Roberts' life.

Jack Hawkins saved a co-star from drowning

British actor Donald Sinden learned just how unforgiving water can be while filming the 1953 war drama "The Cruel Sea," but he wasn't in the ocean when one of his co-stars, "Ben-Hur" actor Jack Hawkins, had to come to his rescue. According to Sinden's 1983 autobiography, "A Touch of the Memoirs," an elaborate set had been constructed to shoot a ship evacuation scene. It included a replica of a Royal Navy ship segment designed to move as if it were sinking. 

A huge tank of water and a pair of wave machines served as the ocean's stand-in. Sinden was concerned because he knew that at least part of the tank was 10 feet deep — and he couldn't swim. However, he assumed that he would be leaping from the fake ship into a shallow area where he wouldn't have to worry about drowning. Instead, he found himself sinking deeper and deeper into the churning water. "From my school days I tried to remember how to do a breaststroke but I couldn't make headway against the wave machines," he writes.

Meanwhile, the other actors who had jumped into the tank all successfully swam to the side and got out of the water. "Thank God, Jack Hawkins heard someone ask, 'Where's Donald?' He dived in again and pulled me out just in time," Sinden recalled. "It transpired that the first assistant thought I had been joking when I said I couldn't swim!"

Jet Li rescued Yifei Liu during a horseback stunt

You know the old saying: Never work with children or animals. But there's a much higher likelihood that working with the latter will put you in serious danger. When Yifei Liu was promoting Disney's live-action remake of "Mulan" in 2020, she revealed that her co-star, martial arts maestro Jet Li, saved her from a speeding steed years earlier when they worked together on the 2008 movie "The Forbidden Kingdom." At the time, Liu was 14 years old.

Speaking to ET, Liu recalled, "It was really fast. Somehow, I couldn't stop the horse. Even though [Li] was going full speed, he was trying to stop my horse, because this was in a very narrow mountain road." Liu had never ridden a galloping horse before, and she said that she simply wasn't strong enough to control the animal. However, she revealed that she wasn't frightened, possibly because she had a seasoned stunt pro coming to her aid. "But he was worried," she said of Li, who has done enough stunts to know just how horribly wrong they can go. 

Per Singtao Daily (via The Hive Asia), he said that he feared for his life after falling from a tower while performing a stunt for the 2005 film "Fearless." Luckily, he was able to help Liu avert disaster. "I made the horse stop. I helped her. So I'm so happy," Li told USA Today.