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Fatal Method Acting
"I think the worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of charades; especially if your teammates are bad guessers. Actually it's probably during a game of fake-heart-attacks-followed-by-naps."

A performer dies suddenly while on the job.

If the audience doesn't realize what's going on, it's a Real Life example of All Part of the Show. Can be a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment if (s)he had acted such a scene in character or a comedian's routine involved jokes about their own death.

Most of these and more can be found on the Snopes.com listing: Died Onstage

See also Snuff Film for the mostly fictional cases where this is done deliberately. Compare Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon, which involves (so-far) entirely fictional examples of actors being murdered through the replacement of a harmless prop with a real deadly weapon.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

Medical:

    Live-Action TV 
  • Happened when British comedian Tommy Cooper had a heart attack on live TV in 1984. He was declared dead on arrival at hospital shortly afterward, although going by the video recording on Youtube it (thankfully) seems like he died pretty much within seconds. Since part of Cooper's stage routine involved frequent minor technical mishaps, the audience continued to laugh even as Cooper collapsed, assuming it was just another gag.
  • Yet another heart attack victim: Redd Foxx on the set of The Royle Family. His best known role was on Sanford and Son, which had a Running Gag about his character faking heart attacks; and the working title for the show he was filming had been "Chest Pains". Holy "Funny Aneurysm" Moment, Batman! Due to his role as Fred Sanford, the rest of the cast thought he was just faking it until it was too late.
  • John Ritter was rehearsing on the set of 8 Simple Rules when he collapsed with a previously unknown heart problem. He died later that day.
  • J.I. Rodale, author and publisher of Prevention magazine, died during a taping of The Dick Cavett Show. Cavett's next guest, journalist Pete Hamill, heard a snore-like sound from Rodale and tipped Cavett and the staff to check on him. Rodale had suffered a fatal heart attack while sitting on Cavett's couch. The episode never aired. Ironically enough, Rodale made several quips during that very interview that he had "never felt better" and "planned to live to 100". He was 72. Legend has it that Cavett said "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?" after Rodale's snore, but both Cavett and Hamill later denied this.
  • Italian soccer coach Francesco Scoglio died of a heart attack while on a TV talk show in 2005.
  • Dutch actor Coen van Vrijberge-De Koning, from Flodder was attending a party with actors and producers from the series, to celebrate it's 5th season. He and his fellow collegues were dressed as the characters from the show, and as Coen jumped on top of the Pink Chevrolet the series is well known for, he suffered a major heart attack and died on the spot.
  • During the early 60s, the British TV series Armchair Theatre was broadcast live on Sunday night; during a play about survivors from a nuclear attack hiding in the London Underground one of the lead characters had a heart attack live on screen; the programme went to commercial while he was stretchered off; the play resumed with the rest of the cast not mentioning the character again, as though he had never existed.

    Music 
  • Mark Sandman, the lead singer and bassist of the cult alternative rock band Morphine died in 1999 of a heart attack in the middle of a sold out show in Rome, Italy.
  • Folk singer Tiny Tim collapsed during a live performance of "Tip Toe Through The Tulips" in 1996. He lost consciousness and died shortly afterward.
  • Country Dick Montana, lead singer of the alt-country band The Beat Farmers died of a heart attack near the beginning of a performance in British Columbia in 1995.
  • Famed actor and baritone Nelson Eddy died of a stroke while performing in Miami in 1967.
  • Fejez (real name Paolo Panigada), member of the Italian band "Elio e le storie tese", died of a brain hemorrhage while performing on stage in December 1998.
  • Devon Clifford, drummer for the Canadian indie rock band You Say Party! We Say Die!, collapsed on stage during a gig in Vancouver in 2010 and died two days later in a hospital. After his death, the band changed their name to You Say Party, then split up the next year (they've since reunited with a new drummer).
  • War percussionist Papa Dee Allen suffered a fatal heart attack in 1988 during the band's performance of "Gypsy Man"; the band retired the song from its set list in his memory.
  • Blues singer/guitarist Johnny "Guitar" Watson died of a heart attack in the middle of an intense guitar solo while on stage in Japan. His last words were the title of one of his earlier songs: "Ain't that a bitch..."
  • Operatic baritone Leonard Warren died from a cerebral hemorrhage during a performance of Verdi's La forza del destino. His final aria started with the words "Morir, tremenda cosa (to die, a momentous thing)".
    • More trouble with Verdi: Conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli suffered a fatal heart attack while conducting a performance of Aida in 2001.
  • French virtuoso organist and composer Louis Vierne gave the performance of his life one evening at Notre Dame de Paris - then collapsed and died of a massive stroke while preparing stops for his encore. He purportedly told his assistant before beginning the concert: "I think that I'll die tonight."
  • Famed African pop singer Miriam Makeba had a heart attack and died while performing at a concert in Italy in 2008.
  • Conductor Felix Mottl died of a heart attack in 1911 while conducting Tristan and Isolde.
  • Delayed example: Jackie Wilson, who collapsed during a concert from a heart attack. He suffered a severe blow to the head and fell into a coma, from which he never recovered and died eight years later. He was singing his big hit, "Lonely Teardrops," when he suffered the heart attack. Specifically, the line "My heart is crying, crying..."
  • Tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh died of a heart attack onstage in Los Angeles in 1987 in the middle of playing the standard "Out of Nowhere", allegedly right after he finished taking a solo.
  • Not actually performing, but still technically on the job: pianist Vince Guaraldi (creator of the legendary jazz scores in the early Peanuts animated specials) suffered a fatal heart attack in 1976 while resting in-between concert sets.
  • Mike Scaccia, guitarist for the metal bands Ministry and Rigor Mortis, died after collapsing onstage during a concert three days before Christmas in 2012. Although it was initially reported that he had suffered a fatal seizure from the venue's strobe lights, the coroner listed his cause of death as a heart attack.
  • British psychedelic musician, scenester and journalist Mick Farren collapsed with a heart attack during a reunion show by his band the Deviants, and died soon afterwards.
  • Michael Been - the singer for the American alternative band The Call - died of a heart attack while working as sound technician for his son's band, indie rock group Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. This took place at the same festival as the suicide of Charles Haddon (see below).

    Radio 
  • Theater critic and writer Alexander Woollcott died in 1943 of a heart attack while participating in a live radio current events talk show.
  • Veteran New York DJ Jack Spector had a fatal heart attack during a live show in 1994 (the station staff noticed a long stretch of dead air after a song and found him dead on the floor).

    Sports 
  • One NHL hockey player has died as a result of injuries on the ice. In 1968, Bill Masterton of the Minnesota North Stars fell backwards and hit his head on the ice after being checked. Before he lost consciousness he was heard to whisper "Never again. Never again." Masterton died two days later without regaining consciousness. He was not wearing a helmet; it would be 11 more years before the NHL made helmets mandatory. The Bill Masterton Trophy is now given to players who exhibit "perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey."
  • British Professional Wrestling disappeared from television networks and nearly vanished altogether after a wrestler named King Kong Kirk suffered a fatal heart attack in the ring.
  • Similarly, a young woman died in-ring due to unknown causes, but she'd mentioned to her opponent prior to going to the ring that she had a terrible headache. Her death actually got 3 people arrested for manslaughter until authorities realized she had no injuries from the match.
  • Pro wrestler "Iron" Mike DiBiase had a heart attack during a match in June 1969. Despite an attempt from his friend Harley Race to perform CPR, DiBiase died shortly thereafter. His death was later used to explain the gimmick of his son, "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase: the family's life insurance payout was what kick-started Ted's wealth.
  • The Beautiful Game had quite a few cases.
  • Loyola Marymount University basketball star Hank Gathers collapsed and died of heart failure during a West Coast Conference tournament game in 1990. Gathers had collapsed during a game earlier in the season and was diagnosed with an abnormal heartbeat. He didn't respond well to medication and LMU's notorious fast-paced offense (which averaged 122 points a game) probably didn't help matters. In a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, the 11th-seeded Lions went on to the NCAA Tournament where they advanced to the Elite 8 before losing to eventual champs UNLV.
  • Pair skater Sergei Grinkov suffered a fatal heart attack on November 20, 1995 while he and his wife Ekaterina Gordeeva were practicing for the 1995-1996 Stars on Ice tour.
  • Chuck Hughes, a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, suffered a fatal heart attack near the end of a game between the Lions and the Chicago Bears on October 24, 1971. He remains the only NFL player to die during a game.
  • John McSherry, a veteran umpire for Major League Baseball, had a fatal heart attack only a few pitches into the opening game of the 1996 baseball season. He collapsed shortly after signaling for the second base umpire to cover him at home base. Despite his long career as a Major League umpire, his death is perhaps best known for it resulting in one of many of then-Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott's series of insensitive comments.
  • 1967 Formula One World Driver's Champion Denny Hulme succumbed to a heart attack while taking part in the 1992 Bathurst 1000 Touring Car race. Fortunately, he was able to get his car off the track and out of the way of the other drivers.
  • Steeplechase jockey Frank Hayes, riding a horse named Sweet Kiss, died of a heart attack during a steeplechase race at Belmont Park on June 4, 1923. Hayes and Sweet Kiss won anyway, making Hayes the only dead jockey to ever win a horse race. See this contemporary account.
  • During the 2013 German VLN Endurance Racing Championship, Wolf Silvester died of what was apparently a heart attack, either before or after losing control of his car.

    Theatre 
  • Actor/comedian Dick Shawn died of a heart attack onstage. It took time for anyone to realize he was dead, as the audience thought it was part of his act (one of the routines of the show in question featured Shawn as a politician spouting such cliches as "If elected, I will not lay down on the job"; the audience assumed that his collapse was a callback to this routine), and Shawn told the stage crews at his shows that he was liable to do anything, including falling flat on his face, and they were not to react under any circumstances.
  • Beloved British comedian Eric Morecambe also had a heart attack during a stage performance in 1984, and died the following day. In that stage show, ironically enough, he joked about the death of Tommy Cooper (whose death recounted above happened a month prior) and how he'd "hate to die like that".
  • Sid James is rumored to haunt a dressing room at the Sunderland Empire Theatre after he had a heart attack and died onstage while performing there in 1976. The rest of the cast thought he was messing around when he failed to deliver his next line, and ad-libbed to cover. Then, when the truth was discovered, the initial request "Is there a doctor in the house" was met with a round of laughter. Incidentally, Les Dawson once used the haunted dressing room and then refused to ever play the venue again.
  • Irene Ryan (best known as "Granny" on The Beverly Hillbillies) died several days after suffering a stroke onstage during a performance of Pippin on Broadway.
  • Older Than Steam: 17th-century playwright/actor Jean Baptiste Poquelin aka Molière, who suffered of pulmonar tuberculosis, collapsed during a last show and died after he was taken home. He was, of course, playing the title character in Le Malade Imaginaire (literally, The Imaginary Invalid; commonly, The Hypochondriac).
    • Thanks to a recurring misconception, there are people who still think that Molière died on the theater scene before the end of the show, instead of dying at home a few hours later.
  • Beloved Danish film and theater actor Dirch Passer passed away from a heart attack during a rehearsal. According to stories, he asked for someone to turn up the dim lights, shortly before he collapsed on the scene.
  • Comedian Harry "Parkyakarkus" Parke — the father of comedians Albert Brooks and Bob Einstein, aka Super Dave Osborne — had a heart attack and slumped into Milton Berle's lap while on stage for the 1958 Friar's Club Roast of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. An attempt to restart his heart after he was carried offstage was unsuccessful.
  • Swedish comedian and actor Lasse Eriksson died on stage on March 3rd 2011. At the end of his last performance he collapsed and was brought to the nearest hospital, less than a mile away, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
  • The baritone Frederick Baker, known by the stage name of Frederick Frederici, died of a heart attack during a production of Faust at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne, Australia in 1888. His ghost reputedly haunts the theatre.

    Western Animation 
  • George O'Hanlon, who voiced George Jetson in all incarnations of The Jetsons, died of a stroke in the recording studio right after recording some of his lines for The Movie in 1990. Likewise, Mel Blanc (Mr. Spacely) recorded his lines in the hospital, in what turned out to be his last VA role before his death. Neither of the two had completed their work, so Jeff Bergman picked up the slack.

Accidental:

    Film 
  • Long running television actor Vic Morrow and two child actors named My-Ca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (both working illegally, without proper work permits and at 2AM, far later than the times allowed for child actors), were killed when a stunt helicopter crashed near them during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie. This led to nearly a decade's worth of lawsuits, changes in the law about child actors doing stunts, and fewer helicopter scenes in movies thereafter until CGI made it possible to put them in digitally. Director John Landis was acquitted of manslaughter charges but his career went into decline after this.
  • Brandon Lee was fatally injured on the set of The Crow in an accident involving dummy bullets. Unlike the Vic Morrow example, director Alex Proyas destroyed the footage immediately.
  • Actor Kevin Smith (no relation), best known for playing Ares on Xena: Warrior Princess, died just after wrapping filming on Warriors of Virtue 2 when he fell from a prop tower on a nearby set.
  • Conway Wickliffe, a special effects technician working on The Dark Knight, crashed the Batmobile while preparing a stunt.
  • During the production of You Only Live Twice, John Jordan lost a foot in a helicopter accident. Years later, he was Second Unit Director of Catch-22, and refused a safety harness while filming in an airplane. He was subsequently sucked out of the plane when the door opened and fell to his death.
  • Top Gun is dedicated to Art Scholl, a stunt pilot who died in a plane crash during the filming of the flat spin scene. Scholl's Last Words, as his Pitts Special spun past its safe recovery altitude, were, "There's a problem - there's a real problem here."
  • During a production shoot on location in the Philippines for the Chuck Norris film Braddock Missing In Action III, a Philippine Air Force helicopter hired by the Cannon Film Group crashed into Manila Bay killing four Filipino soldiers and wounding five other people, including a member of the film crew.
  • In Delta Force 2 The Colombian Connection, five people (including a cameraman and one of the actors) were killed in a helicopter accident and two others were injured when the engine failed.
  • Famous stunt pilot Paul Mantz was killed in the filming of The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) when he misjudged the rate of descent and crashed into a small hillock.
  • The 1928 production Noah's Ark, directed by Michael Curtiz, had three stuntmen drowning in the scene of the flood (plus the main actress getting pneumonia, one of the actors breaking two ribs, and an extra needing a leg amputation).
  • In October 2011, stuntman Kun Liu died while filming a stunt for The Expendables 2 in Bulgaria.
  • On August 2, 1920, during the filming of the silent film The Skywayman, stunt pilots Ormer Locklear and Milton "Skeets" Elliott were flying a biplane during a nighttime shoot. At the end of the scene, they were supposed to make it look like they crashed the plane. The sky was lit with several floodlights. Locklear had instructed that, because he would not be able to see the ground at night, the floodlights had to be turned off as they approached the ground so he would know to pull up. For some reason, this instruction was ignored. Locklear and Elliott died when the plane hit the ground going at full throttle.
  • Angela Basset's stunt double fell to her death on the set of the 1995 film Vampire in Brooklyn.
  • H.B. Halicki was crushed by a telephone pole felled by a broken cable during the filming of an unfinished sequel to the original Gone in Sixty Seconds.
  • In xXx, a hang gliding stuntman was killed when he crashed into the side of a bridge instead of going under it. The footage, up to the point where he disappears behind one of the bridge columns, was used in the final film. The director points it out in the commentary.
  • Roy Kinnear died after accidentally falling from his horse on the set of The Return of the Musketeers.
  • A stuntman died during the filming of The Right Stuff. He was in the scene where Chuck Yeager bails out of the a crashing F-104 prototype. There are conflicting reports on it, but his helmet filled with smoke, which either knocked him out, and prevented him from opening the chute, or screwed up his sense of when to open it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Steve Irwin was filming his own documentary, Ocean's Deadliest, when he was fatally stabbed in the chest by a stingray spine while snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. Irwin was completely unaware of the stingray's presence. The episode being filmed wasn't about stingrays. And stingrays aren't even all that dangerous. They're usually quite docile unless you step on one.
  • Stuntman Tip Tipping was killed when his parachute failed to open while he was filming an episode of the British series 999, which was - ironically enough - a show with the premise of reenacting dangerous accidents.
  • Boris Sagal, director of The Omega Man and father of actress Katey Sagal, died like Vic Morrow; he was nearly decapitated when he walked into a helicopter blade during the filming of the miniseries World War III.
  • Game show contestant Michael Lush fell to his death while rehearsing a bungee stunt for The BBC's The Late Late Breakfast Show in 1986, following at least two previous non-fatal accidents involving other contestants. The show was cancelled immediately and nearly ruined the career of presenter Noel Edmonds as a result. His death prompted changes in safety procedures and a total ban on dangerous stunts involving members of the public.
  • Actor Ken Steadman died when he flipped a dune buggy on the set of Sliders.
  • TV actor Jon-Erik Hexum accidentally killed himself with a blank cartridge on the set of the CBS series Cover-Up by firing it into the side of his head. The muzzle pressure generated by the blank proved sufficient to blow a plug of his own skull completely through his brain in much the the same way some nail guns use blank cartridges to drive nails into concrete and steel.
  • A jeep crane driver was killed during the filming of the Kraft Suspense Theatre episode "The Jack Is High".
  • During production of the season 8 premiere of The X-Files, one crew member was killed and six others were injured when a power line struck a scaffolding, sending a 4,800 volt charge through the 15-foot-high structure.

    Music 
  • Les Harvey, guitarist for Scottish rock band Stone the Crows, was electrocuted live on stage in 1972.
    • An accident very like this one -possibly based on it, possibly a coincidence- featured in an educational film for young children about the dangers of electricity in the mid-90s.
  • Trouble T-Roy, a backup dancer for Heavy D and the Boyz died falling off a stage. The classic rap song "TROY" by Pete Rock & CL Smooth is dedicated to him.
  • Curtis Mayfield: equipment falling on him caused severe injuries. He was paralyzed from the neck down though he continued to record. His paralysis, as well as diabetes, eventually caused his death, but it would take 9 years. He still recorded one more album, New World Order, entirely on his back (so that he had enough breath to do vocals).
  • Bill Duffield, the lighting director for Kate Bush's 1979 Tour of Life, died when he fell through the rigging and onto the stage shortly before the tour's first performance in Poole, England. His death deeply affected Bush and is often rumored to be one of the reasons she stopped touring for thirty-five years after the Tour of Life finished.
  • Ty Longley, guitarist for the band Great White was on stage in West Warwick, Rhode Island when pyrotechnics used by the band's crew created a spray of sparks that ignited the foam soundproofing material in the ceiling around the stage. 100 people died in the resulting fire, including Longley.
  • Scott Johnson, the drum technician for the British rock band Radiohead was killed in a stage collapse in Toronto in June 2012. The band was about to start their soundcheck, and the collapse happened only an hour before a sold-out concert was to start.
  • The French baroque composer Jean-Baptiste Lully accidentally stabbed his own foot while beating time on the floor with a heavy stick during a musical performance. The wound became infected and he died from gangrene.

    Radio 
  • Radio traffic reporter Jane Dornackernote  of WNBC in New York City died on October 22, 1986, when her helicopter crashed right in the middle of her traffic report. Her last words were, "The outbound Lincoln Tunnel looks a lot better for you. In New Jersey...Hit the water! Hit the water!" It's likely that she yelled for her pilot to hit the water because six months earlier she had been in a similar helicopter crash while doing a traffic report. That helicopter crashed into the Hackensack River in New Jersey. Both she and her pilot survived and were able to swim to shore. However, in the second crash the helicopter clipped a chain-link fence and flipped over, trapping Dornacker and her pilot underwater in the Hudson River. (Her pilot was seriously injured, but survived.)
  • Radio traffic reporter Bruce Wayne (Bruce F. Talford) of KFI in Los Angeles died on June 4, 1986, shortly after the KFI traffic plane took off from the Fullerton Airport.

    Sports 
  • There are many incidents of athletes dying during competition from either accidents or medical reasons. The Other Wiki lists these here and here (although the latter list also includes athletes who died during their career, but not during competition). Among the more notable accidental deaths:
  • Improvements to safety equipment, race tracks and medical care since the 1980s mean that motor sports are far less dangerous than they once had been, but several notable racers have been killed in recent decades (a full list of drivers who have died in motorsports crashes can be found here):
    • Legendary stock car racer Dale Earnhardt died on February 18, 2001 on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, one of the most televised races in NASCAR history when Sterling Marlin took the air off his spoiler, and caused him to lose control, hooking on the front of Ken Schrader's car and smash headlong into the wall at 155 to 160 MPH and suffering a fatal basilar skull fracture.
    • In 1994 triple Formula One champion Ayrton Senna died on lap seven of the San Marino Grand Prix. His car failed to negotiate a fast left hand corner (possibly through steering failure, although the cause has never been fully determined) and he went straight into a wall. Though what killed him wasn't the force of the crash but the wheel's suspension parts that flew back and hit his crash helmet. He was airlifted to a nearby hospital but didn't survive. That same weekend rookie Roland Ratzenberger died in another high speed accident and Rubens Barrichello was injured in yet another. The FIA ordered redesigns of the track and more developments in car safety. No drivers have been killed during an event since Ayrton Senna.
    • During the last race of the 2011 Indycar season, Dan Wheldon - who had won the Indianapolis 500 that year - was involved in a major accident that flung his car, cockpit first into the catch fence, tearing away the safety hoop and giving Dan unsurvivable head injuries. He died later that day, and the race was cancelled after 12 laps.
    • Moto GP rider Marco Simoncelli died after an incident during the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix just a week after the death of Dan Wheldon. He lost control of his motorcycle and cut back across the track into the path of other riders and was struck in the head, neck and chest resulting in his helmet becoming dislodged. The race was stopped and then cancelled after the extent of Simoncelli's injuries became apparent. He died in the circuit's medical centre after 45 minutes of CPR.
    • The 2013 24 hours of Le Mans broke its streak of nearly thirty years without a fatal crash during the race and sixteen years without a fatal crash during the event as a whole when driver Allan Simonsen lost control of his Aston Martin Vantage GTE and smashed into the Armco barrier driver side first at speeds approaching 105 miles an hour, demolishing the car and suffering a fatal aortal separation. It is likely he would have survived the accident had the spot on the ARMCO he impacted not had a mature, solid tree pressing on its other side.
    • The most notorious accident at the Le Mans 24 hours took place in 1955, when Pierre Levegh's Mercedes-Benz went out of control due to a glancing collision, crashed into a stand full of spectators at high speed, and caught fire, fuelled by the high magnesium content in the bodywork. Levegh and 83 spectators were killed, driving significant safety improvements in motor racing.
    • A week before Allan Simonsen's death, former NASCAR driver Jason Leffler died when his sprint car rolled over several times causing severe blunt force injuries to his neck. He died a few hours later.
    • Top Fuel Funny Car racer Scott Kalitta was killed in 2008 when his car's engine exploded during a qualifying run, preventing his parachutes from deploying and causing his car to crash into a concrete pillar at 300mph.
  • Owen Hart fell to his death in the Kemper Arena during WWE's Over the Edge pay-per-view show in 1999, while preparing for a big stunt entrance that would see him, as his recently-revived Hulk Hogan parody The Blue Blazer, being lowered in from the rafters. He had done so in a rehearsal earlier in the day with no problems, but unlike Sting's harness circa 1997, which had multiple connection points and a full vest that took a good amount of time to remove once he actually landed, Owen's contraption was held with a single release point around his chest that could be (and probably was) triggered simply by breathing too deeply. Regardless, he ended up falling nearly seventy-eight feet while being lowered, where his chest impacted the top rope. He managed to survive until arriving at the hospital, but was soon after pronounced dead from a severed blood vessel near the heart.
    • Morbidly and sadly ironic in that, rumor has it, he was supposed to fall and look like a doofus as part of the work, except from a much shorter and safer height (and falling on the mat, not the top rope). Sadly, to accomplish this, a harness without safety backups had to be used, otherwise the stunt could not be performed properly.
    • This led to a series of disputes and lawsuits between Vince McMahon's company and the Hart family. The latter was divided into two camps, and the bitterness got to the point where one side faxed important case information to Vince, which forced a settlement.
    • DC101 radio show personality Bryan "Flounder" Schlossberg conducted a phone interview with wrestler Jake "The Snake" Roberts shortly afterward. Flounder mentioned Hart's death, with Roberts' reaction showing this was the first time he had heard; Roberts abruptly said goodbye and hung up at that point.
  • Legendary Japanese pro wrestling star Mitsuharu Misawa died in 2009 after an internal decapitation from taking a "typical" backdrop suplex, a common Finishing Move in puroresu. This is part Medical in that Misawa had taken many neck, head and upper shoulder bumps like the one for this move for many years and never got his neck checked out for exams or took an extended leave of absence, leaving his neck in a very weakened state. He had also been complaining about neck pains and numbness since earlier that year and maybe the previous one.
  • Boxing has a high death toll for obvious reasons. One of the more infamous boxing deaths was that of Duk Koo Kim, who collapsed into a coma on his stool moments after getting knocked out by Ray Mancini in 1982. He was taken off in a stretcher and was pronounced brain dead in the hospital soon after. The fight had been nationally televised in America by CBS.
  • The well-documented Golden Knights skydiving collision. Dana Bowman and Jose Aguillon were performing a diamond track maneuver, and flew too close to each other. Aguillon was killed by the impact; Bowman, although having his legs sheared off, survived.
  • On August 16, 1920, Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman was hit in the head by a pitch from the New York Yankees' Carl Mays and died of a massive skull fracture the following day. The ball was very dirty, making it incredibly hard to see and much heavier. This was before the days of batting helmets too.
  • Mike Coolbaugh was the first-base coach for the Tulsa Drillers, a Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. On July 22, 2007, during a game against the Arkansas Travelers (Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels), a foul line-drive hit by the Drillers' Tino Sanchez hit Coolbaugh in the neck, crushing his left vertebral artery and causing a fatal brain bleed. As a direct result of this incident, Major League Baseball now requires all base coaches to wear helmets.
  • American football players who have died of injuries suffered during a game include two players for the American Football League who died of neck injuries during the early 1960's, and Arena Football League player Al Lucas, who also died of a neck injury.
  • Although the X Games has portrayed several incredibly violent-looking wipeouts, only once has such an accident resulted in a death: Caleb Moore died of injuries sustained from a snowmobile stunt wreck at the 2013 Winter Games in Aspen. Made even more gut-wrenching in that he walked away from that wreck.
  • While not as noticeable as human athletes, racehorses, particularly thoroughbreds, have a very high propensity to accidents that lead to their deaths while racing. Current breeding of thoroughbreds has led to animals with incredibly strong muscles, but bones that are rather fragile. Pretty much any broken bone, even a fracture, in any leg of a horse leads to euthanasia. This site in particular has sobering statistics.
  • In ancient Rome, death during chariot races was so routine that it was considered part of the show. The result was that the Catholic Church actually refused to baptize chariot racers and anyone who was associated with chariot races and imposed strict penances for watching a chariot race.

    Theatre 
  • During the Metropolitan Opera's premiere of Leo Janacek's The Makropulos Affair, tenor Richard Versalle suffered a heart attack and fell from a fifteen-foot ladder on-stage, moments after singing the line, "Too bad you can only live so long."
  • British stage magician William Robinson, who performed in Yellowface as Chung Ling Soo, died in 1918 when his "bullet catch" trick failed. A poorly-maintained gun fired the actual bullet as well as the harmless blank charge.
  • Harry Houdini allowed a visitor to punch him in the stomach to demonstrate the strength of his abs; he was exceptionally strong and flexible, part of what made him so successful as a stage magician. He had been suffering from appendicitis already and the blows to his stomach likely ruptured his inflamed appendix. He collapsed on stage several days later from the peritonitis that led to his death shortly after.
    • Another factor was that Houdini didn't allow the guy to punch him: the guy simply walked up, asked Houdini if it was true that he could take punches to the stomach, and then went to town on Houdini. It was assumed (but see below) that if Houdini had time to prepare and flex his abdominal muscles, he might have survived.
    • Science Marches On - it's now thought that the blow wouldn't have actually ruptured the appendix, but that the pain from the appendix would have been misattributed to injury from the blow, without which Houdini might have sought medical treatment.
  • Actor Antony Wheeler accidentally hanged himself while performing Judas' climactic suicide scene in Jesus Christ Superstar.
  • Karl Wallenda, patriarch of the famous Wallenda family of acrobats, fell to his death while walking on a wire between two buildings in Puerto Rico in 1978.
    • Several other Wallendas had died during a performance before Karl's accident. In 1962, a performance of their famed pyramid stunt resulted in an accident which killed three family members and caused life-long injuries to two more. Karl's sister-in-law died from an in-performance fall in Nebraska the next year. Karl's son-in-law died in a rigging-related accident in 1972.
    • Nik Wallenda was forced to have a harness attached despite his wishes during his Niagara Falls wire walk stunt precisely to avoid this because it was recorded live and the network didn't want to risk his death airing on live TV if he failed, although he was successful. In his later Grand Canyon crossing he was allowed to do it sans safety equipment, but the recording had a 10 second delay to give the network time to stop the broadcast if he fell, but again, he was successful.
  • There is a (possibly apocryphal) story of a production of Macbeth in which Duncan's murder was shown onstage. The prop daggers the title character used to stab him were somehow replaced with real daggers and the actor playing Duncan was stabbed to death. Whether this is a true story or just used to remind the cast and crew to be careful with stage weapons is difficult to say, but it certainly fits the particular superstitions about the play.
  • Another possibly apocryphal story involves a woman who decided she wanted to do Lady Macbeth's famous sleepwalking scene with her eyes closed. To do this, during rehearsal, she carefully counted her steps while saying her lines. However, during the show, she either lost count or accidentally took longer steps, and accidentally fell off the edge of the stage.
  • One Uncle John's Bathroom Reader book relates the story of a Passion Play where Longinus' actor grabbed a real spear instead of a prop spear with a retractable blade, a fact which wasn't discovered until after he stabbed the actor playing Jesus, who shouted "Jesus Christ, I've been stabbed!" and was immediately rushed to the hospital.
  • On June 29, 2013, Sarah Guyard-Guillot, a performer in Cirque du Soleil's KA, fell to the underbelly of the stage area during the climactic Wire Fu sequence. Her injuries proved fatal, making her the first Cirque performer to die from an onstage mishap.
  • Wayne Franzen, owner of the Franzen Brothers Circus, was mauled to death by one of his own tigers in Carrolltown, PA in 1997 in front of students from six different schools.

Murder:

    Music 
  • Guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, formerly of Pantera, and three others were shot onstage by a mentally unstable fan while Abbott was performing with his new band Damageplan. The shooter was shot and killed, also onstage, by the police.
  • Trumpeter Lee Morgan was shot on stage by his common-law wife.
  • Brazilian rapper Daniel "MC Daleste" Pellegrine was shot on stage during an open-air concert by an unidentified individual, and died the following day.

Suicide:

    Live-Action TV 
  • A number of suicides have been recorded on TV, either set up deliberately (as in the case of Budd Dwyer; see below) or because a news crew happened to be passing at the time. However the only case of a professional performer doing so seems to have been Christine "Chris" Chubbuck, a talk show host for the Sarasota channel WXLT-TV, who shot herself dead during a live show, Suncoast Digest, on July 15, 1974. She announced her intention in live transmission right before doing it, too; mercifully, nobody seems to have been recording it, and the original footage was given to her family.
  • On January 22, 1987, Pennsylvania state treasurer R. Budd Dwyer called a live press conference the day before his sentencing on bribery charges. After giving a brief speech, he produced a manila envelope, pulled a .357 Magnum revolver out of it, and shot himself in the mouth.
    • A witness against Dwyer later claimed he lied to receive a lighter sentence. Dwyer may have committed suicide so that his family could collect his life insurance and pension. (Dwyer's life insurance policy did not include the usual exclusion for suicide.[1])
  • On September 28, 2012, American news broadcaster Fox News accidentally aired a live suicide at the end of a car chase they were airing.

    Music 
  • Charles Haddon, singer for the British band Où Est Le Swimming Pool, killed himself by jumping off of a television mast immediately after the band's performance at the 2010 Pukkelpop Festival. Apparently he was suffering severe guilt after he injured an audience member while stagediving.
  • In mid 2010, the Irish-Czech indie folk duo The Swell Season were performing a concert at an amphitheater in a vineyard in California. In the middle of the concert, a man killed himself by jumping off from a scaffolding near the amphitheater and landed on the stage, mere inches from singer and pianist Marketa Irglova. In fact, the jumper would have killed her if he had landed just a couple feet closer. Since the accident, the band has only performed a handful of further concerts, partially due to a planned hiatus and partially due to the trauma of this suicide.
  • 19-year-old Kipp Walker of Bend, Oregon, took the stage at a coffee shop's Open Mic Night, performed a song called "Sorry For The Mess", and then fatally stabbed himself in the chest.

    Radio 
  • In 1943 Eduardo Chibas, the losing candidate in a blatantly rigged presidential election in Cuba, took out a pistol and shot himself in the head at the end of a radio speech while live and on air. He died. It was the first ever suicide live on radio.

Near Misses:

    Film 
  • Barely averted by, of all people, Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future III. The safety line keeping the pressure off his neck during the scene where Buford Tannen attempts to hang him only to be saved by Doc shooting the rope failed. He was actually strangling until the crew figured it out and saved his life.
  • Barely averted by Malcolm McDowell during filming of A Clockwork Orange. During a scene where Alex was being drowned by two of his former buddies, the breathing apparatus malfunctioned and McDowell was drowning for real, which no one realized until they stopped that take.
  • James Bond:
    • In The Spy Who Loved Me's ski-parachute jump, a ski hits the stunt man's parachute, which could have prevented it opening properly. The footage was left in the final film.
    • On the set of From Russia with Love, Sean Connery had a Real Life hero moment when he saved co-star Daniela Bianchi from being literally mowed down by a helicopter. It was coming in too steep and heading straight for her, and Connery tackled her out of the way. Clearly the right choice to play Bond.
    • On You Only Live Twice in between takes, a big light fell from the ceiling and almost crushed actress Karin Dor (Helga Brandt). If the cameraman hadn't called her over from where she was standing she would have been killed.
    • Diamonds Are Forever: Closely averted by Lana Wood when the cement block she was tied to in the swimming pool slipped down the sloping floor of the pool and dragged her underneath. Fortunately crew members spotted and rescued her.
    • Another near miss in a James Bond film occurred during the filming of Octopussy. The film required several shots of stunt men climbing about on the outside of a train. During filming, the train went out of the approved area that they were supposed to work in, and one stunt man was dashed against a concrete barrier, breaking both his legs.
  • Pierce Brosnan was clearly also a great choice for Bond, though this time, the heroic life-saving happened after he left the role. In 2009, while filming the Percy Jackson and the Olympians movie, he noticed an empty van starting to roll down a hill toward Uma Thurman and another person. They couldn't hear him when he yelled to warn them of the impending danger, so he ran to catch up with the van, got in and stopped it himself.
    • Also not the first time he saved a co-star from danger; Halle Berry choked on one of the grapes while filming the final scenes of Die Another Day, but Brosnan coolly helped her out via the Heimlich.
  • While shooting the underwater scenes in Alien: Resurrection, Ron Perlman hit his head and almost drowned.
  • Ed Harris almost drowned while making The Abyss. The kicker was that James Cameron knew he'd run out of air and kept rolling anyway, a case of Enforced Method Acting that backfired on him—as soon as Harris got out of the tank, he was understandably pissed and went and decked the director. Both Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, his co-star, have gone on record saying they'll never work with Cameron again.
    • Weirdly enough Cameron himself nearly drowned early on in the shoot, when his diving suit malfunctioned while he was still weighed down at the bottom of the tank during filming. Seemed to happen a lot on that shoot.
  • John Simm did one of his own stunts in the 2002 version of Crime and Punishment and got thrown down a flight of stairs, breaking several ribs and suffering internal bleeding. Initially, he refused to go to the hospital even after he'd developed a high fever, because the fever and the pain "helped him with the performance" and he didn't want to halt the production. Eventually, they managed to drag him to a hospital.
  • During her intense boxing training for Million Dollar Baby, Hilary Swank developed a serious staph infection at the bottom of her foot. She continued on with her training despite this, not telling anyone, until it ruptured and the pain became so severe she checked herself in. It turns out that the infection was that close to reaching her heart, meaning that had she not gotten help when she had, Swank might have been in the hospital for weeks. Director Clint Eastwood had no idea until much later.
  • Robert Helpmann, who played the terrifying Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was driving the character's carriage when it turned onto its side too quickly. As it was happening, Helpmann leaped onto the side of the carriage and jumped off, amazingly unharmed. According to Dick Van Dyke, who witnessed the incident, it was Helpmann's dancer's reflexes that saved him.
  • Almost happened a few times during the production of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. When they filmed the scene where the bridge is detonated a chunk of debris flew not six feet from Clint Eastwood's head and it would have meant his death if it hit him. When Eli Wallach had to lie by train tracks as a train went by he wasn't warned that if he raised his head too high the steps jutting from the cars (which weren't accounted for when figuring out safety concerns) would have taken his head off. On another occasion a crew member put a bottle of acid right beside his drink and he was almost poisoned when he drank from it (he had the sense to spit it out right away). And yet another time when he had his hands bound and was sitting on a horse during the scene where Blondie shoots the rope the horse got too spooked and ran a mile before anyone could stop it.
  • Jackie Chan has broken every bone in his body at least once while doing his own stunts and fight scenes in a thirty-year action movie career filled with some of the most over-the-top action you'll ever see a live actor perform.
    • He came closest to death while filming a stunt for Armour of God. The tree branch he jumped to snapped and he fell fifteen feet. It took eight hours of surgery and a plastic plug to replace the lost skull fragments. Filming stopped for a month to let Jackie recover.
    • A stunt for Rush Hour nearly crushed Jackie's skull between a pair of metal boxes. They slammed together about a quarter of a second after Jackie's head was clear. If he were any slower, he'd have been dead.
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974):
    • During the climactic chase scene, Gunnar Hanson slipped on the wet grass and lost his grip on the chainsaw. It flew into the air while still running, and came down blade first just inches from his head.
    • Another incident occurred when his mask slipped during the nighttime chase scene and because he was blinded he almost sawed Marilyn Burns in half.
    • And both of those pale in comparison to something revealed later - the climactic dinner scene took so long to film (27 hours straight), in such a stifling atmosphere (110 degrees Fahrenheit outside, as the windows were blockaded), that Gunnar Hansen (who was kitted out in his Leatherface costume, and thus getting hit worst by the heat and mugginess) that he thought he was meant to actually KILL Marilyn Burns in that scene. Yikes.
  • Former astronaut Fred Haise was a stunt pilot in the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! During filming, he was involved in the crash of a BT 13. He suffered severe burns to 65 percent of his body and spent three months in the hospital.
  • Barely avoided by John Hurt in The Elephant Man. The prosthetics he was wearing on his head were very heavy, weighing in at about twenty pounds. When he tried to lie down for a nap for a few hours before going on-set, he practically strangled himself due to the weight of his head on his neck. Famously, Hurt was subsequently forced to nap while sitting down, precisely the solution adopted by the real man he was portraying.
  • Meryl Streep was nearly killed while filming The River Wild. The director asked her for one more take of a rafting scene, which Meryl said she couldn't handle; the director pressured her, and eventually Streep agreed. She was swept off the raft and nearly drowned. Once she was out of the water, she confronted her shaking director with, "The next time I say I can't do something, I think we should believe me, don't you?"
  • Infamously, in Doctor Zhivago the woman with the baby that Yuri pulls onto the train tripped and just barely missed getting her legs mangled under the actual, moving train. (That's the take they use in the movie, incidentally.) There is a long standing rumor that the woman did get her legs amputated (thanks to miscommunication in the Making-Of Documentary), but this is false.
  • During the filming of the clown scene of Poltergeist child actor Oliver Robins really was choking as the clown strangled him, Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper thought he was acting but after they saw his face turning purple Spielberg rushed to his aid.
  • Lord of the Rings: While filming a fight scene for The Fellowship of the Ring, Viggo Mortensen was nearly killed when a stuntman accidentally threw a knife straight at his head, due to the swordsman skills he learned he managed to deflect it. He also nearly drowned in The Two Towers when he was caught in an undertow filming the scene where Aragorn is floating down the river.
    • With the former incident, the stuntman who was supposed to do the scene had failed on multiple repeated takes to deflect the thrown dagger, when Viggo asked if he could give it a try. Certainly fortunate for him that he got it right on the first try.
  • During the climactic scene in Inglourious Basterds, the fire raging through the cinema was completely real. Unfortunately, it began to get out of hand, and the two actors in the scene were only wearing a jelly to protect their skin; the rest of the crew had fire suits. Ten seconds after Quentin Tarantino called 'cut' and everyone rushed off, the platform the actors had been standing on collapsed. The heat was so intense (2000 degrees fahrenheit) one of them passed out afterwards.
  • During the filming of The Lone Ranger, Johnny Depp was nearly trampled by a horse during filming.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Barely averted in the Red Dwarf episode Backwards, where Craig Charles nearly drowned during a stunt where he had to walk backwards into a lake.
    • Possibly referenced in Last Human, in which we learn that Lister has a lifelong fear of drowning.
    • Also a runner was struggling for breath while doubling for Caroline Carmen inside a block of ice.
  • Nearly happened to Matthew Fox in the last episode of LOST due to a real knife (if, thankfully, dulled) not being swapped out for a collapsible one. Luckily, Fox was wearing a kevlar pad. Not only had it been suggested he not wear protection, but he was in the process of trying various other forms of protection; none of the others would've saved him.
  • Doctor Who, being such a long runner, has seen some nasty accidents.
    • During the filming of the scene where Ace is trapped in the water tank in "Battlefield", the front of the glass tank cracked and broke. Realizing that the water was about to pour out onto a floor with live electrical cables, Sylvester McCoy yelled "Get her out of there!" and Sophie Aldred was lifted clear just as the water poured out, saving her life.
    • In another Doctor Who example, the story "Revenge of the Cybermen" was being filmed in a cavern. Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith) was to drive a boat in a whirlpool. The boat wouldn't run, and the stuntman jumped in and saved her from drowning.
    • During filming of "The Sea Devils", the ubiquitous 1970s and 80s BBC stunt performer Stuart Fell nearly drowned when he fell over in the surf and his rubber monster costume filled with water.
    • During filming of "Terror of the Autons", a stunt performer playing an Auton was accidentally hit by a car and knocked all the way to the bottom of a BBC Quarry. Since he survived without serious injury and it looked really cool, the sequence was included in the finished episode.
    • Patrick Troughton was nearly crushed to death while familiarising himself with the set before recording of "The Moonbase", when the huge Graviton prop fell off its stand and just missed him.
  • The Brady Bunch episode where they visit Kings Island Amusement Park includes a scene of them on the roller coaster The Racer, which was filmed with a camera mounted onto the ride car. Robert Reed thought that the camera looked unsafe and made them do a test run first. When they did, the camera flew off and would have killed the actors if they had been on the ride.
  • Bob Denver was nearly killed by a live lion used in one episode of Gilligan's Island. Nevertheless, most of the cast considered the episode to be their favorite.
  • An infamous 2006 Vampire Dragster crash very nearly killed Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond. In a slight subversion however, he had already done the required take successfully. It was revealed when they were watching the footage when he returned to the show that he was trying to set an official speed record (which requires running the vehicle in two opposing directions to get the average speed of each run), during which he crashed at 300mph. Had he been taller (something which he gets mocked for frequently on the show), he would have been decapitated.
    • More unsettlingly, the producers had originally planned to have James "Captain Slow" May do the bit with the Vampire Dragster, which almost certainly would have ended in tragedy.
  • During the Breaking Bad episode "A Handful of Nothing", a sudden gust of wind blew the tarp off the RV, including the huge boulder weighing it down. It landed in the exact spot where Aaron Paul (who plays Jesse Pinkman) had been standing just a second before, after he picked the luckiest moment possible to ask the director if he could try saying his lines from another spot.
  • Diminutive British comic performer Charlie Drake ended one live half-hour show by being thrown through a balsa wood door. The panels were held together with light glue so that they would give way on impact. Unfortunately a stagehand, not realising that the door was meant for a stunt, thought the panels looked too flimsy and nailed them in place. As a result, instead of springing to his feet offstage and returning to deliver his Catch Phrase, Drake was knocked unconscious, and his fellow performers could be seen looking worried as the credits rolled.
  • Kristin Chenoweth was struck in the face by a falling light fixture on the set of The Good Wife, and suffered a concussion, skull fracture, broken nose, and neck injuries. If it had fallen directly on top of her head, she would have been killed or rendered vegetative.

    Music 
  • During a concert stunt Alice Cooper almost hanged himself while dangling by an onstage noose. He survived when a roadie cut him down. He also was nearly strangled by his pet snake which he wore around his neck, but that was during a practice (the snake's head had to be cut off to save him).
    • Dannii Minogue also had a similar snake related incident.
  • Barely averted by James Hetfield of Metallica who accidentally walked into a column of phosphorous flame that nearly killed him (He still got a really badly burned hand, and had to just sing for a few concerts) in a 1992 concert in Montreal. Later tours included a stuntman on fire as a homage.
  • Yoshiki of X Japan suffered a broken neck onstage in 1995 during the first run of the Dahlia tour. He was both lucky and unlucky - lucky in that the place where the break occurred did not cause paralysis or death, especially when he was carried offstage improperly by road crew with no neck stabilization at all, unlucky in that how the break healed gave him permanent neck injuries including weakening of the bones in his neck, two split discs in his cervical spine, and further damage which was only aggravated worse when he returned to drumming with the band full time in 2008 - collapsing for real onstage from the pain in a 2008 show and having to have emergency surgery on his neck in 2009. The emergency surgery accidentally stumbled upon a thyroid cancer, which was also treated. So in a way, his near miss likely saved his life from cancer 14 years later.
  • A near-fatal incident happend to hide during a solo performance when he had a pyrotechnics accident onstage due to being drunk. Since being drunk later contributed to his far more private death, this is Harsher in Hindsight.
  • Ol' Dirty Bastard nearly had a pyrotechnic-related accident near the end of his performance at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards. Luckily, Fugees member Pras yanked him out of harm's way at the last minute.
  • Another musician who evaded death onstage was Keith Richards, in a Rolling Stones concert in Sacramento, California, in 1965. Before performing the song "The Last Time", Richards noted his microphone was pointing away from him. To put it in the right direction, he smashed his guitar against the mic, causing it to give him an electric shock, which rendered him unconscious for seven minutes. Luckily Bill Wyman rushed to his aid in time to get the guitar away from his body (the shock had melted away three of its strings).
    • Mick Jagger was assaulted by a drugged-up audience member during a performance at the Altamont Free Concert; the would-be murderer was fatally stabbed by event security before he had a chance to do anything except point a gun at the stage.
  • Ace Frehley of KISS suffered an electric shock on-stage when his guitar's amp malfunctioned. After recovering, he took advantage of the experience to write the song "Shock Me".
  • When shooting the cover art for her 1975 album Adventures in Paradise, singer Minnie Riperton was attacked by a lion. The trainer was on hand to quickly subdue the animal before anyone could suffer any injury, though. The incident was filmed, and appeared when she visited talk shows to promote the album.
  • Meat Loaf has had heart problems most of his life, by his own admission. During one concert he had a heart attack on stage. It took several minutes before the crowd and the rest of the band realised that he was not, in fact, getting really into the act.
  • Black Metal band Mayhem ran into this in their early years. Lead singer Dead would make it a point to slash himself up onstage. Many times he would actually attempt suicide onstage, only to be hospitalized for blood loss. Guitarist Euronymous would try to pass these suicide attempts off as an accident during Dead's artistic self-mutilation. He even joked that "If that idiot hits another artery, we'll have to delay the next album again". Of course, Euronymous knew that Dead was suicidal, and purposely blocked him from receiving treatment so that his self-destructive behavior would establish the band's shocking reputation.
  • In the summer of 2011, there were three highly publicized stage collapses at open-air festivals which nearly cost the lives of the artist performing at the time and, in some cases, killed or injured fans in the first few rows:
    • On July 17, the stage at Bluesfest in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada collapsed 20 minutes into Cheap Trick's set. The stage collapsed away from the audience and the band were able to escape in time, but the band's equipment truck and some of their instruments were destroyed.
    • On August 13, the stage at the Indiana State Fair collapsed just as country music duo Sugarland were taking the stage. The resulting collapse killed 7 people and injured 43. Sugarland, their management, and the state of Indiana have been named as the defendant in several lawsuits by the survivors of the collapse.
    • On August 19, one of the stages at the popular Belgian festival Pukkelpop collapsed during the performance of American indie rock band The Smith Westerns during a severe storm. Once again, the band members were able to escape the stage with seconds to spare, but unfortunately the stage and several other tents collapsed into the audience and killed five people and injured 140. The rest of the festival, which was to include performances by big-name acts which rarely perform in Belgium, was canceled.
  • When The Monkees played the Hollywood Bowl in 1967 Micky Dolenz jumped into a reflecting pool in front of the stage. Mid-air he realized he was still holding his mic, and tossed it away just in time before he could electrocute himself.
  • While performing live during MTV's Spring Break, Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke jumped into the nearby swimming pool and quickly began drowning. Because the band was still playing their instruments nobody realized Yorke's life was in danger and he frantically swam to the nearby ledge. In another twist a live microphone had been left at the poolside, and an MTV VJ realized it was there. Yorke almost touched the live microphone before the VJ smacked it out of his reach and pulled him from the pool.
  • During a Rammstein concert in Berlin, rhythm guitarist Paul Landers was walking across the stage when lead singer Till Lindemann suddenly rushed forward and pulled him back - barely a split second later, a massive column of fire (one of the many pyrotechnic effects used by the band in their live shows) erupted from the stage. Had Lindemann not pulled him back, Landers would have been severely injured, and probably killed outright.
  • If one compares Marilyn Manson's voice from before 2007 and after 2007 (singing and speaking), they notice something happened to it. That something was him breathing in a ton of fire, permanently scarring his throat and vocal cords. Considering some of the breathing problems seen on stage since then, it may have damaged his lungs too. This may be a case of Laser-Guided Karma, as he had fired drummer Sara Lee Lucas with, well, fire, on stage, in Las Vegas, back in 1995, to replace him with Ginger Fish.
  • In 1984, Michael Jackson's hair caught fire as he was filming a commercial for Pepsi. He suffered second-degree burns to his scalp and he had to undergo treatment for his injuries; general consensus is that this was the beginning of the prescription drug dependency problems that ultimately cost him his life in 2009.
  • In 2013 Emmure singer Frankie Palmeri nearly dies of electrocution while on stage in Moscow. Emmure elaborates on what happened here.
  • At a 2009 concert in Alberta, a wind storm caused a stage collapse that gave Country Music singer Billy Currington a concussion, injured his bass player, and killed one spectator.

    Sports 
  • At the WWE Elimination Chamber pay-per-view in 2010, The Undertaker was accidentally lit on fire during his entrance. He wrestled the match anyway, despite the skin on his exposed upper body peeling from the burns. Several stage hands gave him water bottles to douse himself with while he waited in the chamber pods for his turn in the match, and Michael Cole covered for Taker's post-fire sprint to the ring as a rage in the Deadman no one had seen before.
  • Two race drivers are known to have survived basilar skull fractures, the same injury that killed NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt in 2001:
    • In 1989, Formula One driver Philippe Streiff suffered the injury in a testing crash. He has been confined to a wheelchair ever since, however.
    • In 1994, NASCAR driver Ernie Irvan suffered the same injury in a practice crash at Michigan International Speedway. He was given only a 10% chance of surviving the night, but made a full recovery, returning to racing about a year later.
  • On July 25, 2009, Formula One driver Felipe Massa was hit in the face with a 40 kilogram spring while traveling at high speed. His injuries were life threatening, but he made a full recovery and returned to racing the next season.
    • Similarly, fellow Formula One driver Robert Kubica wasn't at the beginning of the 2012 season (and still is out of the races) due to a rally accident in which he got Impaled with Extreme Prejudice with a crash barrier, which caused him mutiple fractures on the right side of his body.
    • Not the first time for Kubica. During the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix he survived an accident eerily similar to that of Ayrton Senna; same sweeping left hand bend, same speed and same concrete barrier but with less run-off area. Though he was knocked unconscious, it is a testament to the safety of current Formula 1 cars that Kubica suffered no lasting injuries and was in fact medically cleared to participate in the very next race at Indianapolis (though his team refused to enter him just to be on the safe side).
    • CART and F1 driver Alex Zanardi lost his legs and nearly 3/4 of his blood volume in a 2001 crash at Eurospeedway Lausitz. He later returned to touring car racing, and still later took up handcycling, winning two gold medals at the 2012 Paralympics, one even being held at the Brands Hatch Circuit in Kent.
    • During the 1966 Formula 1 race at Spa-Francorchamps, Jackie Stewart's car ran off the road, hit a tree and a shed, before coming to rest up-side down. He spent 25 minutes trapped there with fuel leaking all over him, since there were no track marshals nearby to help extract him or put out his car if it caught fire. Eventually, with the help of other racers and using a spectator's toolkit, he was freed and put in the back of a truck. Eventually he was taken to the infield medical center where he spent a few hours on a stretcher not recieving medical help, before being transported to a hospital (oh, and the ambulance got lost on the way to the hospital). This comedy of errors is what prompted the scotsman to become such a major safety advocate.
    • In the 1994 German Grand Prix, Benetton driver Jos Verstappen was horrifyingly set alight along with his car on live TV due to a refuelling accident in the pits. Fortunately his racing suit successfully protected him and he suffered only a minor burn to his nose.
    • In 2007, funny car legend John Force blew a tire right after finishing a run, causing it to swing left into Kenny Bernstein and split in half The front half, with the engine, slid all the way to the dirt overdrive area, while the rear half, with John went headfirst into the wall, badly injuring him.
    • During The 2014 24 Hours of Daytona Memo Gidley, driving a Chevrolet Prototype, slammed into the back of the stalled, nearly stopped Ferrari of Matteo Malucelli at 120 MPH, causing both cars to be utterly destroyed, and breaking Gidley's left arm, left leg, and back (Malucelli got away with a concussion). Considering how little of the prototype was left, after the wreck, it's pretty amazing that that's all he suffered.
  • Jerry "The King" Lawler collapsed from a heart attack at ringside during a WWE Raw event in September 2012, about an hour after he wrestled a match. Luckily the medical staff was able to get him to the hospital in time to save his life.
  • The NHL has had a number of incidents where players have been cut by skate blades, including two players who required emergency surgery because the skate sliced blood vessels in their necks: Clint Malarchuk and Richard Zednik.
  • The UK Premier League football player Fabrice Muamba suffered a near fatal heart attack on the pitch in March 2012, while playing for Bolton Wanderers away against Spurs. He survived despite having had no spontaneous heartbeat for over an hour, but unfortunately had to retire from the sport.
  • Buffalo Bills' tight end Kevin Everett suffered a severe neck injury on what looked to be a routine play during the 2007 season opener. Doctors performed a relatively new procedure on him, right on the field, rapidly cooling the injured area to prevent swelling from causing additional damage. Without the treatment he likely would have died on the field. The treatment was developed by a charity that the Bills' owner Ralph Wilson continued to support with his own money even after the remaining NFL owners had pulled out and directed their money elsewhere. To make the story even weirder, this injury and the Malarchuk and Zednik incidents listed above all occurred in Buffalo.
  • On December 13, 1933, Eddie Shore of the Boston Bruins checked Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Ace Bailey from behind. Bailey fractured his skull when he hit the ice. Although Bailey survived, his career didn't.

Examples In Fiction:

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Masakazu Katsura's early manga Present from Lemon, male lead Lemon's father (enka singer Momojirou Sakaguchi) died of a heart attack on stage when Lemon was a child.
  • In an episode of Slayers, Lina and Co are performing a play when they are attacked by Zangulus and Vrumugun, who adlib lines to make it seem like their attack is part of the play. Lina adlibs some lines that justify them fighting back, starting a battle that blows up the stage, kills Vrumugun (again) and several mooks, and gets them presented an award for best original production (Since nobody had seen the play before, the only people to realize that they had deviated from the script were people working for the theater troupe).
  • Used several times in Detective Conan
    • In one case Conan, the Mouris and Kogoro's Old Master Heihachirou Shirota attend a theater rehearsal in which the troupe's diva, Shouko Ooide, dies while rehearsing. It immediately turns out that she was murdered via having a glass of water that she was supposed to drink on-stage laced with poison. The culprit was the troupe's manager, Hitomi Sasaki, pissed off after the victim stole her boyfriend (and the lead actor) purely to spite her and told her so to her face.
    • Another case involved an ikebana exhibition, where the artist in charge had received more than one threat. The Sympathetic Murderer, Midori, had secretly arranged for the death of the Asshole Victim, Rika, whom she worked for as her manager and aidé: the moment she started with her flower show, the flowers would release a huge dose of poison that would kill both of them, as a part of Midori's Thanatos Gambit to avenge her older sister who was Driven to Suicide when Rika and her sponsor, Shiraki, blacklisted her from ikebana circles. (Oh, and Spaonsor Shiraki is already dead: Midori drugged and then strangled him to death with his own tie few minutes before.)
    • Another case involved the murder of Michiko Oosawa, a young actress who played the role of Venus in an aquarium show. She was supposed to emerge from a huge shell-shaped prop and when it opened during a rehearsal, her lifeless body was released instead. The killer was the lead stagehand, Murakawa, who killed Michiko to avenge his wife and child, whom Michiko ran over with her car two years ago. She was such a bitch that she laughed about it when she accidentally found out about him.
    • In another, a tokusatsu rabid fan is tricked into committing suicide in front of the Kamen Yaiba club he belonged to, and in the middle of a cosplay party they had organized for fun. He was already not well in the head, and then he took a pistol and shot himself in the head thinking it was just a prop. One of the leaders of the club was the culprit, since said rabid fan stole his younger brother's prized memorabilia and caused the poor little boy to get hit by a truck while pursuing the thief.
    • Also pulled by stage magician Motoyasu Tsukumo, who killed his best disciple Yashiro Kinoshita via tampering with his equipment when he was about to perform a dangerous trick in a water tank and transforming said tank in a makeshift Drowning Pit. Twenty years later, he gets his karma back when Yashiro's sister Mako, also one of his pupils, kills him.
    • In one case, all three actors in a play attempt to murder another actor in the play. One attempts to switch a fake rapier with a real rapier, one attempts to put real poison in the cup that is used a pretend poisoned cup for the play, and a third attempts to electrocute another actor. All of this is averted when Conan foils their plans.
  • In Necromancer, one of the clients has their daughter killed repeatedly on stage as part of a play, having Asutsuo resurrect her each time.

    Comicbooks 
  • A comedienne in The Sandman dies onstage, via electrocution by mike.
    • And a stripper who is actually a diminished goddess commits suicide by channeling all her power into one last dance—which makes the audience die of pleasure and then blows up the building.

     Fan Works 
  • In Dirty Sympathy for Klavier's rock concert, one of their acts require him to be covered in chains. He nearly dies in his concert when his lover, Daryan deliberately tangles the chains with the moving platform's winch for his infidelity, causing the chains to tighten around his neck and asphyxiate him.

    Film 
  • Penn & Teller Get Killed is built around teasing this trope, unsurprisingly, as Penn and Teller love doing this in their live stage shows.
  • At the end of Black Swan, The Perfectionist Nina enacts the role of "Dying Swan" by stabbing herself with a shard of mirror and dies after the performance. Or so it seems.
  • The tragic ending of Moulin Rouge! has the heroine die of natural causes (tuberculosis) during a curtain call.
  • Network references this once and uses it once; early on (in a scene likely inspired by Christine Chubbock's suicide mentioned above), Howard Beale announces that he will be committing suicide on air at a later date. He is deterred from this by being given a new show after his on-air rant inspires record ratings. Later, when his ratings sag, his producers arrange for him to be assassinated live on the air.
  • In the sequel to Pet Sematary, the boy's actress mother is accidentally killed on the set of a movie when she's electrocuted by live wires.
  • In The Prestige, Christian Bale accidentally kills Hugh Jackman's wife during a magician stunt.
    • Don't forget that Hugh also kills himself repeatedly using a "teleporter" that creates a clone of him, dumping the original into a tank of water to drown. All while on-stage. He is one sick and twisted son of a bitch.
  • In Pulp Fiction Butch the boxer kills his opponent Floyd in the ring, leaving so quickly he doesn't know Floyd died until his getaway cab driver tells him what she heard on the radio.
  • One gag in This Is Spinal Tap is that all of the band's drummers have died violently. Two of these deaths involved dying on-stage during a live show. Via spontaneous combustion.
    • In a Shout-Out to this, Guitar Hero II features "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" as an encore song - at the conclusion the drummer explodes.
  • The Rocky movies did this twice. In Rocky III as Clubber Lang is beating the crap out of Rocky, his trainer Mickey suffers a fatal heart attack. In Rocky IV, Ivan Drago pummels Apollo Creed so badly that he dies of his injuries; Drago's post-fight indifference to this ("If he dies, he dies") led to Rocky agreeing to fight him in Moscow.
  • Early on in Rush, which prides itself on it's historical accuracy, Francois Cavert's car is seen sitting on the other side of a section of ARMCO that it apparently went through, with his headless body still sitting in the car, before a TV in the pits announces that he was killed, along with naming other drivers that had died in the past few seasons, all of which, including Cevert, were actually killed in real life. Niki Lauda had a near miss later in the film when he became trapped in his burning car and suffered severe burns. A priest actually gave him his last rites as he lay in the hospital.

    Literature 
  • Sort of, in Deep Wizardry: the part of the Silent One in the ritual involves actually letting the giant shark eat you, and Nita did not know this until she had already taken the oath to participate. Eventually averted, when the ritual goes waaayyy far south and the aforementioned shark throws away his own life in battle, satisfying the death requirement.
  • In the Naoya Shiga short story Han's Crime, the judge is tasked with determining whether or not circus knife thrower Han intentionally murdered his wife during a performance.
  • In Remote Man, Jay Laana was killed in a botched stunt on an action movie. The shot of his body falling out of the car made it into the movie.
  • The 87th Precinct mystery Eighty Million Eyes is about a Variety Show host murdered on television.

    Music 
  • The song The Untimely Death of Brad by Five Iron Frenzy about the death of their trumpet player - this being a fictional example as it was inspired by a rumor.
  • Fictional near-example in the Gorillaz music video "El Manana": everyone thought the helicopters attacking Noodle's flying island were All Part of the Show until the real stunt helicopters showed up, by which time Noodle had vanished. Turns out recently that she's Not Quite Dead, but everyone thought she was.
  • Brad Paisley's "Death of a Married Man" is about a guy whose fatal heart attack came during a game of charades, and everyone assumed it was part of the game.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Touched by an Angel episode "Restoration", a silent movie director’s pregnant wife (and the lead actress) dies in a stunt while the camera is rolling. The way the shot took, the wonders of Manipulative Editing allow him to turn the film’s happy ending into a Downer Ending.
  • On the CSI: Miami episode "Show Stopper", an expy of Lady Gaga and Hannah Montana is incinerated onstage during a concert, and later dies from her injuries.
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had an episode entitled 'Snuff', where a snuff film actress was murdered during the performance.
    • Another episode had a comedian who died just after a performance in a nightclub.
  • Not quite sure where this belongs, but on one episode of The Tonight Show Johnny Carson had an effects technician as a guest. The tech had built a guillotine that supposedly looked more realistic than former effects, and Carson demonstrated it. After the gag, Carson remained unresponsive for some time; the other people on set appeared visibly worried that something had gone wrong until they got the hood off and Carson grinned at them.
  • Similar to the above Carson example is illusionist David Copperfield's illusion "The Death Saw", wherein Copperfield is chained to a table and must escape using only a hairpin borrowed from an audience member before the slowly-descending Death Saw cuts him in half. However, The Death Saw malfunctions and begins descending faster than the magician anticipated, causing him to panic visibly until The Death Saw reaches him and the inevitable happens. However, Copperfield appears to revive and the rest of the illusion in which Copperfield remotely controls the severed lower half of his body is played for laughs. See it here.
    • Note that this illusion is extremely convincing when performed live, especially since the audience doesn't know what's going to happen and it's very easy to get caught up in the moment; the bit of cloth flying off the saw is a nice detail. It's only later that one realizes that had Copperfield actually been sawed in half, it wouldn't have been quite so bloodless.
    • Paul Daniels did a hoax of this type on a BBC Halloween special. The big finish was an escape from an iron maiden - except that the maiden appeared to spring shut on him. Awkward silence, the studio audience being asked to leave, roll credits and no "reveal" that he was alright until after the following programme.
  • In the last episode of Oz, Chris Keller exchanged Tobias Beecher's stage knife with a real one for a performance of Macbeth, resulting in Beecher accidentally killing Verne Shillinger.
  • In the Midsomer Murders episode The Axeman Cometh, a singer is killed by an electrified mic stand while on stage. The crowd initially think it's part of the act.
    • In another episode, a theatre actor slices his own throat open when his prop cutthroat razor is sabotaged. It takes a few moments before Barnaby realises the truth.
  • Played with in an episode of Supernatural. A magician survives incredibly dangerous, impossible stunts, but other people have a tendency of dropping dead of the same things that should have killed him.
  • An episode of Dollhouse features attempts on the life of a pop singer, some of which occur onstage. In one case a stunt double is killed in her place.
  • In The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Chuckles the Clown was killed at a parade while dressed as a peanut, when an elephant tried to peel him.
  • In the first season of Las Vegas, Jean-Claude Van Damme makes an appearance and gets killed off in a sabotaged stunt.
  • In a literal example, a method actor visiting Fantasy Island asked for the chance to practice for the role of Dracula. He nearly drained his Love Interest's blood with the vampiric abilities and appetites he received, although Mr. Rourke intervened before the "Fatal" part of this trope could play out.
  • Used in one of the stories told on Beyond Belief: Fact Or Fiction, where during a pro wrestling match, the guy who was booked to lose died during the match. Of course, the history between the two meant that the dead guy, who was always showing up his current opponent looked like he was just deciding to sell like a ragdoll, and since the guy who won thought he was legitimately winning that way, nobody knew he was dead until after the match. Upon finding out that he was only winning because he was fighting a corpse, the narrator then says "even in victory, he was a loser."
  • Mad About You's "Citizen Buchman" has Paul's uncle dying while being interviewed for Paul's movie. The rest of the episode tries to find out the meaning of his Last Words.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? has a game of this. The players play actors in a live stage play that all die as soon as they get on stage leading one player (usually Colin Mocherie) who is still alive to heft the "corpses" around and supply the dialog himself.
  • In the Pushing Daisies episode "Oh Oh Oh . . . It's Magic", a stage magician's act Goes Horribly Wrong and he ends up suffocated inside a block of cement. Subverted when they crack open the block at the morgue and find no body inside . . . then Double Subverted when it turns out the wrong block was sent to the morgue.
  • Lindorfo the clown goes through this in the Chilean Soap Opera "El circo de las Montini". Massive spoilers and tears behind the link.
  • One episode of Monk has an actor die onstage of a knife to the heart. Supposedly, the actress grabbed a real knife instead of the prop knife. In reality, the actor collapsed due to an allergic reaction to the peanut oil on the apple he'd taken a bite from and the "doctor" who ran up to check on him stabbed him for real.
  • Similar to the Monk example, an episode of Psych had an actor in a telenovela die after being stabbed with a real knife that someone had swapped out the prop knife with. Shawn goes undercover to determine the guilty party.
  • One episode of Forever Knight ends with a rock star getting gunned down with her backup dancers by an obsessed fan. In reality, this only applies to the dancers as the singer, too strung out to perform, was replaced by an impostor.
  • Law & Order goes to this well twice. In "Sweeps," a child molester is murdered on live television - a tabloid talk show - by the father of his victim. In "Swept Away: A Very Special Episode," a reality show cast member kills one of his castmates during a heated argument, which of course is captured on videotape.
  • Comes up a couple of times in Jonathan Creek. On one occasion it happens offscreen and is only mentioned briefly; Jonathan's employer, egomaniac and rather dim stage-illusionist Adam Klaus, had some sort of inner-ear infection that messed up his balance and led to him falling off the stage and breaking his leg. The second and most memorable one involved a live python and Adam's new bodyguard... It has to be seen to be believed.

    Theatre 
  • In Pippin, the Players explain how in the finale Pippin is supposed to set himself on fire "for real" so he can have the perfect experience he's been looking for all the show. Pippin understandably objects: "Look, if it's just that if this isn't it... I'm going to have a tough time trying something else."

    Videogames 
  • Done as a plot point in the Ace Attorney series. In the third case of the first game, one actor, Manuel, was accidentally impaled on a fence. This leads into Dee Vasquez's blackmail of Jack Hammer, the person who accidentally pushed Manuel during a fight scene onto the fence. Hammer would then attempt to murder Vasquez, who pushed him off onto the exact same fence five years later.
  • You can set several up in the Hitman games, including replacing a prop gun with a real gun in a play.
  • In the Blackwell Convergence, actor Frank Lyons died inexplicably during a shooting for "Water Under the Bridge". The press assumed it was a heart attack and the film became an instant hit, mostly due to his death being primary publicity. Turns out Lyons was strangled to death by the Countess' ghost (or what is assumed to be her ghost), who was unassumingly guided by one of the Meltzer brothers so the Meltzer Foundation, who funded the film, could profit from the film's success caused by his death.

    Western Animation 
  • Not actually acting, but the example from The Spy Who Loved Me was parodied in the Cold Open of American Dad!'s James Bond-themed episode "Tearjerker", wherein Stan is helping a British agent out of a jam, only to accidentally crush said agent with his snowmobile after they both jump off a cliff and activate their parachutes.
  • In The Boondocks, rapper Gangstalicious (a 50 Cent parody) is shot on stage. Unfortunately, he was performing his hit single "I Got Shot" at the time, and it was forty-five minutes before anyone realized something was wrong.
    • Granddad vs. Stinkmeaner. Everyone was under the impression that this blind old man was a true badass who could not be defeated, so Huey trained Granddad in hand to hand combat and psyched him up for the grand fight against Stinkmeaner. The fight starts, and Huey quickly realizes that Granddad got his ass whupped earlier in the episode purely by fluke. He gives Stinkmeaner a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown and has to be pulled away from him by the audience. A nurse comes up and pronounced that Stinkmeaner was dead. Huey had the foresight to register Granddad with a professional boxing agency a couple hours beforehand so that he wouldn't be held responsible for anything that resulted from the fight.
  • The Simpsons pokes fun at this trope and The Scottish Trope in one fell swoop, when the family meets Sir Ian McKellen and Homer doesn't catch on to the matter at all.
    "Good luck!"
    "It's bad luck to say that too!" (a chunk of the theater sign falls on him)
  • Invoked in Futurama by Calculon, who kills himself with food-coloring poisoning on stage to beat Langdon Cobb at an acting duel, since the only way to out-act Cobb was to do a realistic death scene.
  • In Metalocalypse, Dethklok fans seem to die in droves at every live concert they perform - a sort of Establishing Character Moment for these is when the first of their concerts shown on-screen has their stage airdropped just before showtime, but it detaches its parachutes too soon and crushes a massive group of fans, and then during the first song the band pours a gigantic pot of coffee hot enough to burn off flesh over the surviving fans. And yet nobody ever does anything about this, because they're the most popular band in the world in this series.
    • In fact, the fans have to sign death waivers as a mandatory requirement to seeing their concerts. Death is so common that the band can't legally be held responsible.


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