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Fatal Method Acting

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"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 Attack, 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 Harsher in Hindsight if they had acted such a scene in character or a comedian's routine involved jokes about their own death. For understandable reasons, a production where a near or actual death occurs is often a Troubled Production. Film and television usually go around this with a Fake Shemp.

The audience knowing what is going on isn't unknown. Throughout the Pax Romana period of Ancient Rome, the Romans would use this as a form of execution. The most typical fashion would be for a professional actor to play the role up to the point of death for the character, and then the condemned would be substituted in as a macabre stuntman. More on this here: Roman Killing Theatre.

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

See also:

  • Casualty in the Ring: A Sub-Trope focusing on fighting examples.
  • Deadline News: If the person who bites the dust is a news reporter, then you'll probably be hearing about it here.
  • Died During Production: The creator of the work dies before it's completed.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: The almost entirely fictional examples of actors being murdered through the replacement of a harmless prop with a real deadly weapon.
  • On-Set Injury: When things happen during production that aren't quite fatal but very well could have been. (Anything formerly listed on this page as "Near Misses" should go there.)
  • The Show Must Go On: When the rest of the performers make an effort to continue the production.
  • Snuff Film: The fictional cases where this is done deliberately.
  • Spectator Casualty: If it happens to an audience member.
  • Swan Song: The creator's very last performance.


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Medical Causes:

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Stuntman Frankie Howard contracted a stomach illness during location filming of The Bridge on the River Kwai in Ceylon (after having already almost drowned while filming a scene in which he fell into the river) and had to be flown to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London; sadly, he did not recover.
  • Heath Ledger died of a sleeping pill overdose after finishing his scenes as the Joker for The Dark Knight. The previous film Joker, Jack Nicholson, remarked on hearing about it, "Oh, that's terrible. I warned them." His criticism of the higher-ups who had prescribed said pills to Ledger after he got the role did not go unnoticed; Nicholson may not have known Ledger, but he knew those pills.
  • Oliver Reed died of a heart attack while filming Gladiator. CGI was used to finish his scenes.
  • Actor Henry Daniell, who appears uncredited in My Fair Lady as the Hungarian ambassador, died from a heart attack a few hours after completing the dress ball sequences. He was replaced by Alan Napier.
  • Actor Tyrone Power died of a heart attack after the filming of a duel scene in Solomon and Sheba and was replaced with Yul Brynner, with much of the film being reshot but Power being visible in distant shots.
  • While on location filming Wagons East!, John Candy's obesity didn't sit well with the high altitude and desert heat, and he died of a heart attack shortly after wrapping up a day of shooting. His remaining scenes were filmed with body doubles and special effects.
  • Marty Feldman died of a heart attack brought on by food poisoning while filming Yellowbeard. Ironically, he died the day he was to shoot his death scene.
  • Jay Pickett died suddenly just as he was preparing to film a scene for Treasure Valley. His colleague, Travis Mills, suspected a heart attack was the cause.
  • Ray Liotta died in his sleep from a sudden cardiac arrest halfway through shooting of the film Dangerous Waters in the Dominican Republic.

    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 the 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 and the cameras stayed rolling - even as Cooper collapsed, fell unconscious and began agonal breathing (mistaken for snoring) as his heart stopped - assuming it was just another gag.
  • Redd Foxx died of a heart attack on the set of his sitcom The Royal Family in 1991. 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. Due to his role as Fred Sanford, the rest of the cast thought he was just faking it until it was too late. The show tried to continue without Foxx (with Jackée replacing him), but the series was cancelled shortly thereafter with several post-Foxx episodes unaired.
  • During the late '50s, the British ITV series of one-off plays Armchair Theatre was broadcast live on Sunday night; during a play called Underground about survivors from a nuclear attack hiding in the London Underground one of the actors, Gareth Jones, had a fatal heart attack when he was just about to make an entrance. The play continued with the other actors covering for his failure to appear, and they managed to improvise right up to the end, with some plot discussion with the director during a commercial break. The actors were not told that Jones had actually died until after the play had finished, but were told only that he was too ill to continue. Sadly, no recording of the play survives, so we can't be sure exactly how this was worked around.
  • John Ritter was rehearsing on the set of 8 Simple Rules in September 2003 when he collapsed due to what proved to be an aortic dissection. He died later that day.
  • Jerome Irving Rodale, author and publisher of Prevention magazine, died during a taping of The Dick Cavett Show in June 1971. 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; a transcript of the episode cited in Rodale's 1974 biography says Cavett actually asked Rodale if he was alright upon hearing the sound.
  • Dutch actor Coen van Vrijberghe de Coningh, from Flodder was attending a party with actors and producers from the series, to celebrate its 5th season. He and his fellow colleagues 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.
  • Indian writer/journalist M. N. Vijayan suffered a heart attack in front of a rolling camera while making a speech at Thrissur Press Club. Several reporters rushed to his aid but ultimately could not save his life.
  • Robert Buchel, a participant on TLC's My 600-lb Life, died of a heart attack during filming of his story on November 15, 2017, making him the series' first in-episode fatality. On February 15, 2019, Kelly Mason, due to heart failure, became the second patient to die during production of their episode.
  • Taiwanese-Canadian actor Godfrey Gao collapsed from cardiac arrest while filming a sequence for the Chinese sports-reality show Chase Me in November 2019, and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

  • 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 "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" in 1996. He lost consciousness and died shortly afterward.
  • Scatman John collapsed on stage during the finale of his show on November 26, 1999. Even though he was revived, his health took a turn for the worse and he died of lung cancer at his home on December 3.
  • 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), a 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 setlist 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 Giuseppe Verdi's La forza del destino. His final aria started with the words "Morir, tremenda cosa (to die, a momentous thing)".
  • Conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli suffered a fatal heart attack while conducting a performance of Aida (Verdi) in 2001.
  • In September 2013, Argentinian singer Florencia Fabris, just 38, had a stroke onstage in the middle of Verdi's Requiem and died two days later.
  • 63-year-old character tenor Richard Versalle as legal clerk Vitek in Leos Janacek's Makropulos Casenote , was up on a ladder looking at the records of a hundred-year-old case. Saying Too bad you can only live so long, he promptly had a heart attack, fell from the ladder, and died.
  • French virtuoso organist and composer Louis Vierne gave the performance of his life the evening of June 7, 1937 at Notre Dame de Parisnote  - then collapsed and died of a massive stroke while preparing stops for his encore. He purportedly told his assistant, Maurice Duruflé, before beginning the concert: "I think that I'll die tonight." What is more likely is that his family and friends remember him saying he'd like to die at the Notre Dame organ console.
  • Famed African pop singer Miriam Makeba had a heart attack and died while performing at a concert in Italy in 2008.
  • Soul musician Philippé Wynne, a former lead singer for both The Spinners and Parliament-Funkadelic, suffered a fatal heart attack while performing an encore at a Los Angeles nightclub in 1984.
  • 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, on September 29, 1975. He suffered a severe blow to the head and fell into a coma. Despite some bouts of regaining consciousness, he never fully 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..." When he fell, the audience thought it was All Part of the Show for a minute.
  • 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 afterward.
  • Michael Been - the singer for the American alternative band The Call - died of a heart attack while working as a 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).
  • Gospel pianist Anthony Burger died of a massive heart attack while performing during a Gaither Gospel Cruise.
  • The famed Congolese singer and bandleader Papa Wemba died of a heart attack during a gig in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire in 2016.
  • Italian singer Mango died of a heart attack while performing his most well-known song "Oro". His last words were "excuse me", and then he slumped over his piano.
  • Nick Menza, the former drummer of Megadeth, died of a heart attack during a 2016 concert with his new band OHM, after just three songs played.
  • Blues legend Tommie Johnson died of a heart attack while playing at a house party in Mississippi in 1956.
  • Col. Bruce Hampton, a veteran guitarist who led the 1960s psychedelic band Hampton Grease Band and the 1990s jam band The Aquarium Rescue Unit, died after collapsing while playing guitar at his own 70th birthday tribute concert in 2017. According to other musicians present, they thought for some time that he had dropped to the ground pretending to worship one of the other guitarists.
  • Symphonic electronic musician Alberto "Brainbug" Bertapelle, best known for the 1997 club hit "Nightmare", had a heart attack while playing guitar at a concert in Tavagnacco of Udine, Italy on November 23, 2016. Despite the efforts by a group of nurses in the audience to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
  • On July 1, 1987, guitar virtuoso Philip Charles Lithman, better known as Snakefinger, died of a heart attack at the Posthof Club in Linz, Austria, a night before he and his band, The Vestal Virgins, were scheduled to perform on their European Night tour.
  • Laudir de Oliveira, a Brazilian percussionist and former member of the band Chicago, died of a heart attack during a September 2017 performance in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Drummer Sib Hashian, the original drummer for the classic rock group Boston, died of a heart attack in March 2017 during a concert on a "Legends of Rock" cruise near the Bahamas.
  • Ustad Bijon Chowdhury died in the middle of a live concert performance while playing the Tabla (a percussion instrument used in classical music in the Indian subcontinent), with his hands still on his instrument.
  • Ghanaian percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah, a former member of the prog-rock groups Can and Traffic, died of a cerebral hemorrhage while performing at a Jimmy Cliff concert in Sweden in 1983.
  • Sean Rowley, lead singer for the synthpop band Cause & Effect, died from heart failure brought on by a severe asthma attack during a soundcheck in Minneapolis in November 1992.
  • Folk singer-songwriter David Olney died of a heart attack during his performance at the 30A Songwriter Festival in Florida in January 2020.
  • Gustavo Cerati, lead singer of influential Argentine new wave band Soda Stereo, suffered a massive stroke backstage shortly after finishing a solo concert in Venezuela in 2010. Cerati fell into a coma at the hospital and never woke up from it, dying in September 2014.
  • Months after being recognized by Guinness World Records as having had the longest orchestral career (71 years), 87-year-old Atlanta Symphony Orchestra double bassist Jane Little collapsed during a pops concert in 2016 and died shortly afterwards.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • 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 in late August 1987.
  • 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.
  • Chris Candido died from a blood clot in his leg, resulting from a bad reaction to surgery. He was having surgery as a result of a botch suffered at TNA's 2005 Lockdown event, making this a combination of medical and accidental (although the medical cause was the ultimate cause of death).
  • Lucha Libre wrestler Silver King died of a heart attack in London during a match with Juventud Guerrera on May 11th, 2019.

  • Gilbert Gottfried was rushed to the hospital shortly after recording for a podcast he was part of at the Sirius XM studios. He would die a few hours later.
  • Critic and raconteur Alexander Woollcott suffered a massive heart attack in 1943 while participating in a radio roundtable discussion on Adolf Hitler. He would die shortly after being admitted to a New York City hospital.
  • In October 2022, longtime GenX Radio Suffolk DJ Tim Gough died after suffering from a heart attack while he was presenting his breakfast show from his Lackford home.

  • Legend has it that the famous playwright Molière died on stage, poisoned by the green dye of his costume, which is why superstition will not let any actor wear green onstage. Molière actually died of tuberculosis, and while his last performance was indeed interrupted by his illness, he died in bed a few hours later.
  • 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".
  • British comedian 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.note 
  • 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.
  • Actress Isabel Bonner died onstage of a brain hemorrhage while performing in The Shrike.
  • Beloved Danish film and theater actor Dirch Passer suffered a heart attack at age 54 in 1980, during a performance at the Tivoli's Revue, and passed away a couple of hours later at the local hospital. According to stories, he asked for someone to turn up the dim lights shortly before he collapsed on the scene. Rather tragically, after decades of being known as the hardest-working man in Danish showbiz, often working 2 or 3 theater or movie productions at the same time, he had finally given in and agreed with his then-girlfriend that he would take the summer off and relax.
  • 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 3, 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.
  • The first act of Flotow's Rom Com Opera Martha ends with a confusing crowd scene with everyone dancing and rushing about, bumbling Uncle Tristano included. On February 10, 1897, French bass-baritone Armand Castelmary was playing Tristano at the Metropolitan Opera Housenote  going all out with cute stage business. Just before the curtain fell he put his hand up to his head and looked confused, but nobody thought twice. And at the first curtain call, the audience saw Armand on his knees struggling to hold onto a table — All Part of the Show, right? It was a massive heart attack. The chorus women near him weren't fooled, nor was Armand's friend, tenor Jean de Reszke. He ran to Armand and embraced him, gently laying him on the floor as he died. The audience was not informed and they actually continued the performance, with Armand's cover singer taking his place.
  • They thought it was All Part of the Show too on March 8, 1944 at the San Francisco Opera, when Swedish tenor Aroldo Lindi (who'd already had a heart attack a few months ago) seemed to be doing something a little "different" with the "Vesti la giubba" aria in Pagliacci. His friend, mezzo-soprano Coe Glade, was sitting in the wings when he hit the final note, a resounding B-flat, and held it, and held it... She knew something was wrong, rushed onstage, and caught him as he fell.
  • British tenor Walter Widdop died onstage too, after completing a concert performance. The audience was still applauding.
  • Broadway veteran David Burns died of a heart attack in the middle of a preview performance of 70, Girls, 70, a musical comedy about senior citizens.
  • British comedian Ian Cognito died suddenly during a performance in 2019, ten minutes after making a joke about having a stroke. Tragically, it took five minutes for anyone to realize it wasn't part of the act.
  • British comedian Arthur Lucan, best known for appearing on both stage and screen as his cross-dressing comedy character Old Mother Riley, collapsed and died in the wings of the Tivoli Theatre, Hull, in 1954, just as a variety show he would have performed in was beginning.
  • Joe E. Ross, an actor known for TV shows like Car 54, Where Are You? and Hong Kong Phooey, also performed standup comedy. He died of a heart attack on August 13, 1982, in the middle of performing his act in the clubhouse of the apartment complex where he lived.

    Western Animation 
  • George O'Hanlon, who voiced George Jetson in all incarnations of The Jetsons up to that point, died of a stroke in the recording studio right after recording some of his lines for Jetsons: The Movie in 1990, after having suffered an initial stroke. 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.
  • Brazilian dubber José de Magalhães Graça died from a heart attack in 1989, while recording his lines for Duckworth from DuckTales (1987).

Accidental Causes:

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Long-running television actor Vic Morrow and child actors My-Ca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (both working illegally, without proper work permits and at 2 AM, 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 shot on the set of The Crow in an accident. A B-unit filming close-up scenes had no professional armorer with them and built their own dummy rounds (for a shot of the cartridges in the revolver) by simply pulling the gunpowder from it. The trigger was pulled at some point, and the force generated by the primer exploding shoved the bullet into the barrel. The same gun was later reloaded with blanks and used for the scene of the murder of Lee's character; nobody had checked the gun and the blank fired the bullet into Brandon Lee's chest.
  • 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."
  • Eerily, a little-known fatal accident also occurred during the filming of the classic Top Gun parody Hot Shots! The stunt pilot was flying a Folland Gnat, inverted, mere feet above the ground for footage. The nose dipped down, and it's assumed the pilot intended to gain altitude, but instinctively pulled back on the stick instead of the opposite, causing the jet to plant nose-first into the ground, at ~400 knots. The plane and pilot were basically disintegrated by the tarmac and ensuing explosion. Unlike the Top Gun example, little attention was ever given to this incident.
  • 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). This film directly led to the creation of the Screen Actors Guild to prevent such a thing from happening again.
  • 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 now-lost 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, right in front of a crowd of onlookers (including Locklear's girlfriend). The footage, including the crowd's reaction, was left in the film and was supposedly even featured in the marketing, causing mass outrage (though they at least had the decency to donate 10% of the film's earnings to Locklear and Elliott's families).
  • Sonja Davis, a stuntwoman who worked on a good number of action films in the 90s, was Angela Bassett's stunt double in the 1995 film Vampire in Brooklyn. Sonja fell to her death on the set of that film in a botched stunt, bouncing off an improperly prepared airbag meant to cushion her fall. She slammed into the building and hit the ground, succumbing to her injuries 13 days later.
  • H.B. Halicki, who wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the original Gone in Sixty Seconds, was crushed by a telephone pole felled by a broken cable during the filming of an unfinished sequel to that film.
  • In xXx, stuntman Harry O'Connor was killed while parasailing down the Vltava River when he crashed into a pillar of the Palacky 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 from complications of a broken pelvis 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 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.
  • Stuntman Paolo Rigonu became the first fatality on a James Bond movie when he was killed when the bobsled he was driving overturned while shooting a chase scene in For Your Eyes Only.
  • During filming of a scene in Gone Fishin' where a boat was supposed to jump over a ramp, fly over a hedge of mangroves, land between two other boats, and stop in the water, the boat slid off the side of the ramp, flipped over, and landed on a crowd of crew and extras, killing stuntwoman Janet Peters Wilder, and injuring both her husband Scott Wilder and his father Glenn R. Wilder.
  • Roger Delgado, during the filming of Bell Of Tibet in Turkey, was killed along with two Turkish film technicians while riding in a car that plunged off the road into a ravine. This deeply affected his close friend Jon Pertwee, who was the Third Doctor on Doctor Who at the time of the accident, with Delgado playing his archenemy the Master. Two years later, Pertwee left the role and Tom Baker took over. However, Delgado's untimely demise made it difficult to bring back the Master, and he did not return for several more years until his role was eventually recast to Peter Pratt, with the Master returning as a decrepit husk of his former self.
  • Midnight Rider, an adaptation of Gregg Allman's autobiography, ended up being shelved due to this. After filming a Dream Sequence scene illegally on a train track that involved actor William Hurt lying on a hospital gurney, the cast and crew tried to remove the equipment from the track before an oncoming train approached their filming location when the hospital gurney got stuck on the track. When the train hit the gurney, second camera assistant Sarah Jones was in turn struck by the gurney before being propelled by the recoil into the train's path where she was struck again, dying instantly. Hurt, who was on the gurney before the train hit it, was able to run to safety. Other crew present on the scene suffered injuries, too- hair stylist Joyce Gilliard, for one, broke her left arm. The accident wouldn't have occurred had director Randall Miller listened to others that the scene was too dangerous to film at the location he'd picked, or if he had simply arranged with a railroad company somewhere to film the scene legally at a time when trains weren't running or on a track that wasn't active. Hurt quit the film a month later, while Allman was outraged by the incident and sued the production to stop the film from being completed. An OSHA investigation on the incident led to Miller being charged with manslaughter and the film being canned.
  • Silent film actress Martha Mansfield died from burns sustained on the set of The Warrens of Virginia in 1923. She was burned when a carelessly tossed cigarette ignited her frilly Civil War-era dress.
  • In 1907, the Clarendon Film Company attempted to shoot a Chained to a Railway scene with a local resident, Mr. Zeitz, playing the part of the victim. Thanks to a series of communication errors, Zeitz was run over by the train and killed.
  • While filming Deadpool 2, stuntwoman Joi SJ Harris was killed when she lost control of her motorcycle and crashed into a building.
  • Rob Stewart, creator of the documentaries Sharkwater and Revolution, disappeared on February 4, 2017 while on a deep-sea dive filming for a sequel to Sharkwater at the wreck of the Queen of Nassau. Two days later, his body was found about 300 feet from where he went missing.
  • While filming Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, a crewman was hit by a US Army Hummer and crushed.
  • A stunt performer drowned off the coast of Malibu during the filming of the skydiving sequence in wacky sex comedy Don't Make Waves.
  • Sound director James Emswiller died of a two-story fall during filming of the biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood after suffering a heart attack on set.
  • Suburban Commando: Special Effects Technician Michael Colvin was accidentally killed on the stage of the second unit visual effects shoot when he fell through a trap door while testing it.
  • On September 21, 1978, stuntman AJ Bakunas, doubling for George Kennedy on the set of the film Steel, attempted a record-breaking freefall from the top of the Kincaid Towers in Lexington, Kentucky, but was fatally injured when the airbag ruptured on impact.
  • Thai action film star Mitr Chaibancha fell to his death from a helicopter while filming the climactic scenes in the 1970 film Insee Thong ("Golden Eagle"). What's worse was that the fatal fall was accidentally left in the original theatrical release (later DVD releases thankfully remove the fall).
  • A prop gun misfire by Alec Baldwin on the set of the movie Rust, a result of lax handling of firearms on set, killed director of photography Halyna Hutchins and seriously injured director Joel Souza.
  • During production of Samuel Fuller's 1969 film Caine, stuntman Jose Marco was mauled to death by a great white shark that had broken through the production crew's protective netting. The attack was recorded on camera, and against Fuller's wishes, the studio chose to include the footage in the completed film, re-titling it Shark! in an attempt to cash in on the ensuing controversy. Fuller was so disgusted by this turn of events that he attempted unsuccessfully to have his name removed from the credits.
  • Stuntwoman Heidi Von Beltz was rendered paraplegic after a stunt failed on the set of The Cannonball Run, eventually dying in 2015 at the age of 59 due to health issues bought on by the accident. It didn't help that she was thoroughly Screwed by the Lawyers and received a ridiculously small payout after she sued the production company, leaving her in poverty and pain for the rest of her life.
  • Almost all of the crew of the German Mockumentary Bunkerlow died in a plane crash in 1991. They were filming a satire about a weapon sales trip with a plane when the pilot, distracted by the filming, lost orientation and crashed into a mountain. The only passenger left unharmed was the sound engineer, who had set up his recording equipment in the plane's toilet.

    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 until it stabbed him. The episode being filmed wasn't about stingrays, and Irwin had gone snorkeling during a break in filming to get B-roll footage for his daughter Bindi's show Bindi the Jungle Girl. And stingrays aren't even all that dangerous; they're usually quite docile unless you step on one. Even then, while painful, the sting isn't deadly. It just happened to stab him in the heart, and on top of that Irwin instinctively pulled the stinger out, leading him to bleed to death.
  • 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 Ωmega 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.
  • In 1986, a man named Michael Lush fell to his death while rehearsing a bungee stunt for The BBC's Variety Show The Late Late Breakfast Show, which included an item called "the Whirly Wheel" in which audience members were trained to do a different stunt each week. The death followed at least two potentially fatal screw-ups involving earlier contestants, which had been covered up or Played for Laughs (one woman was injured doing a human cannonball act, and a car jumping act led to one vehicle crashing into a crowd, and a second landing on its roof and leaving the contestant with multiple injuries). The show was cancelled immediately and the scandal nearly ruined presenter Noel Edmonds' career. Lush's death prompted a serious tightening of safety regulations for all stunt sequences on BBC shows 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 in 1984 with a blank cartridge on the set of the CBS series Cover-Up by firing it into the side of his head. He was goofing around with the prop in an attempt to lighten the mood on set, and apparently, he either thought the gun had been unloaded between takes or was simply unaware that blanks were still dangerous when fired at close range. The muzzle pressure generated by the blank proved sufficient to blow a plug of his own skull completely through his brain in much the same way some nail guns use blank cartridges to drive nails into concrete and steel. The show continued the rest of its first season with a new actor playing a new character replacing Hexum's, but was not renewed by the network.
  • A jeep crane driver was killed during the filming of the Kraft Suspense Theatre episode "The Jack Is High".
  • In 1990, magician Joe Burrus attempted to replicate one of Harry Houdini's most dangerous trick: escaping from a coffin while Buried Alivenote . He would be bound in a straitjacket, handcuffed, and chained in a Plexiglas coffin that was buried under dirt and concrete, the intent being to escape from the coffin and emerge from the wet cement. Unfortunately, the dirt and concrete were far too heavy for the coffin, which collapsed, the cement crushing him to death.
  • 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.
  • Brazilian soap opera star Domingos Montagner drowned after he decided to take a swim in a river near where the soap Velho Chico was being shot after a day of filming, but he quickly found himself overcome by the currents. One of his co-stars tried calling for help as he was swept downstream but the locals apparently thought that they were shooting a scene from the soap and did nothing to help.
  • In Phoenix, Arizona on July 27, 2007, two helicopters from stations KTVK and KNXV-TV collided in mid-air over a public park while covering a police pursuit, killing all four: pilot Scott Bowerback and photographer Jim Cox in the KTVK chopper, pilot Craig Smith and photographer Rick Krolak on the KNXV side. Smith's last words were "Oh jeez!" right before the crash.
  • In 2015, during the filming of a French "wilderness survival" Reality Show called Dropped, three contestants - all French Olympic medallists, Florence Arthaud (sailing), Camille Muffat (swimming), and Alexis Vastine (boxing) - and seven crew members were killed when two helicopters taking them to a filming location collided with each other and crashed with no survivors. The show was immediately cancelled with the completed first episode never broadcast.
  • In June 2019, Filipino actor Eddie Garcia was rushed to the hospital after tripping on a cable wire and hitting his head on the pavement while he was shooting a scene for GMA Network's upcoming TV series, Rosang Agimat. Garcia suffered neck and cervical injuries from the fall and died 12 days later. This led the Department of Labor and Employment to investigate whether GMA Network followed OSH standards after it was noted there was no medical team or safety officer during the time of the shooting.
  • New Orleans television reporter Nancy Parker was killed in a plane crash in August 2019 while filming a news segment on pioneering stunt plane pilot Franklin Augustus, who was also killed in the crash.
  • Daredevil and flat-Earth conspiracy theorist "Mad" Mike Hughes was killed in the February 2020 crash of his homemade steam-powered rocket. The launch was being filmed for the Science Channel series Homemade Astronauts. Hughes had been attempting to launch himself in his rocket for years in his attempts to prove his beliefs but had been blocked several times because he refused to test his vehicle or file for permits, and his only two successful launches had proven to be life-threatening: He was seriously injured from the first attempt in 2014 and made a hard landing on the second attempt in 2018.
  • Rawhide star Eric Fleming was accidentally drowned in 1966 while filming High Jungle, an installment of the short-lived ABC anthology series Off to See the Wizard. During a location shoot on the Huallaga River in Peru, the canoe Fleming and co-star Nico Minardos were riding in capsized and overturned. Minardos was able to swim to safety, but Fleming was swept away by the current and drowned. High Jungle was never completed.
  • French mountaineer and extreme sports pioneer Jean-Marc Boivin was known for his high altitude stunts, like being the first person to descend from the summit of Mount Everest by paraglider in 1988. Boivin was killed on February 17, 1990 when he was fatally injured during a BASE jump of Angel Falls in Venezuela, the world's tallest waterfall. He was at the falls to film a segment for the French TV show Ushuaïa, le magazine de l'extrême, and he had made the first ever jump from the highest point of the falls the day before. He made his fatal second jump the next day in a failed rescue attempt of an injured jumper, but hit either a cliff or a tree on the way down and succumbed to his wounds before his rescue team could treat him.

  • R&B singer Johnny Ace (not to be confused with the later wrestler) was taking a break backstage between sets at a concert in Texas on Christmas Day 1954 when he was playing with a revolver, declaring that he knew which chamber was loaded. He pointed it at his head and fired, killing him.
  • Les Harvey, the guitarist for Scottish rock band Stone the Crows, was electrocuted live on stage in 1972. During a soundcheck, he took hold of a microphone; unfortunately, his hand was covered in sweat (which, given its salt content, is a great conductor). A roadie tried to save him by unplugging the amp, but the damage was done. 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.
  • 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. Radiohead spent several years urging for a criminal investigation into Johnson's death and were not happy when proceedings were first delayed and then stalled altogether.
  • 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.
  • Indonesian singer Irma Bule was famous for "wearing" snakes during her performances. In April 2016, Bule danced with a king cobra that had not been defanged and stepped on its tail by accident. The cobra bit her and she died less than an hour later.
  • In 2015, the Romanian metal band Goodbye to Gravity were performing a free concert at the club Colectiv to celebrate the release of their Mantras of War album when the stage pyrotechnics set off a fire. The club's owners had deliberately ignored fire safety regulations, and so the fire spread rapidly. 65 people died, including all members of the band except for lead vocalist Andrei Galut. Colectiv's owners were arrested on various charges following the fire.
  • In July 2017, up-and-coming French singer Barbara Weldens died onstage, after being electrocuted by a faulty piece of equipment she stepped on while performing barefoot in the French village of Gourdon. Making it more tragic was the fact that she had released her first album, to massive critical acclaim in her home country, in February of that year.
  • Will Sinnott, the bassist for the British alternative dance group The Shamen, drowned off the coast of Tenerife in 1991 while on break from filming the band's video for the song "Move Any Mountain". The band completed the video and dedicated it to his memory.
  • R&B singer Aaliyah died in a plane crash while leaving The Bahamas after filming the music video for "Rock the Boat". It becomes a little chilling watching the making-the-video special she filmed with BET; the end where she bids the BET crew farewell and leaves the set was the last time she was seen alive on camera.
  • The Indonesian pop-rock band Seventeen was hosting a concert at a beach in Tanjung Lesung in December 2018, when an unexpected major tsunami from a volcano hit the beach on which they were performing, killing three of the band's four members (the sole survivor was lead vocalist Ifan) and their manager.
  • Young country artist Justin Carter was killed in a music video shoot when a loaded gun in his pocket wound up going off and hitting him next to his eye.
  • On September 1, 2019, Spanish singer Joana Sainz García was killed during a performance with the Super Hollywood Orchestra at a concert in Las Berlanas when the pyrotechnics malfunctioned and hit her. She was later pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • On October 26, 1993, Jesús Javier Hernández Silva aka Oro took a stiff clothesline and landed on his head. He tried to get up but collapsed. He was loaded on a stretcher but died of head injuries on the way to the ambulance.
  • Owen Hart fell to his death in Kemper Arena (now known as Hy-Vee Arena) in Kansas City 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 Hulk Hogan parody character 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. According to rumor, this was because he was supposed to end the stunt by coming off the rig a few feet above the ground and falling on his face (on the mat, not the top rope), in keeping with his character persona of being bumbling and incompetent. However, the riggers failed to recognize that they also needed to ensure it wouldn't release when it wasn't supposed to, and what Hart ended up with was a rig that was so easy to release that it was an accident waiting to happen (Hart's family would later allege that the WWE hired unqualified riggers in order to save on costs rather than pay the higher price for qualified experts who would have known better). 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.
    • 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.
  • On May 28, 2001, during a training session, Dalip Singh (The Great Khali) hit Brian Ong with a move called the flapjack, but Brian suffered a concussion and died. All-Pro Wrestling was found liable because the two did not train with protective padding and Brian had been ordered to continue training by the higher-ups despite having suffered a previous concussion.
  • On May 28, 2005, Daniel Michael Quirk aka Spider was fatally injured after falling out of the ring and landing on concrete.
  • 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 in part medical, as Misawa had taken many neck, head, and upper shoulder bumps like the one for this move for many years and never got his neck examined, 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.
  • On March 21, 2015, in AAA, Rey Mysterio Jr. attempted to set up Perro Aguayo Jr. for his patented 619 maneuver, but Aguayo's neck snapped when it hit the ropes. Konnan tried to revive him, but Aguayo was pronounced dead in the hospital a few hours later.
  • On October 21, 2019, Jesús Alfonso Huerta Escoboza AKA La Parka II (a Legacy Character to the original La Parka) missed a Suicide Dive and landed on the floor head first. He was rushed to the hospital where he was found to be paralyzed. On January 11, 2020, he passed away from complications of his injuries.

  • 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.
  • Part of what made Harry Houdini so successful as a stage magician was that he was exceptionally strong and flexible, particularly being famous for being able to No-Sell punches to the stomach. A visitor at an event once asked him about the rumor, and when told it was true, went to town on him. Problem was, Houdini had been suffering from appendicitis at the time. A common belief around the time was that the punches actually ruptured his appendix because the visitor just started punching with no warning and if he'd had time to prepare and flex his abs he might have survived; it's now instead believed that the punches didn't actually rupture his appendix, but rather when it ruptured on its own sometime later, Houdini misattributed the pain from that as lingering soreness from the punches, and didn't seek medical treatment because he didn't realize how serious it was. In either case, he collapsed on stage several days later from the peritonitis that led to his death shortly after.
  • Actor Anthony Wheeler accidentally hanged himself while performing Judas' climactic suicide scene in Jesus Christ Superstar.
  • Karl Wallenda, the 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 that 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, Karl's great-grandson, successfully completed the Puerto Rico stunt in 2011. His team has considerable safety practices in place to ensure that what happened to the other Wallendas doesn't happen to him during his death-defying stunts. For instance, he 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 an 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.
    • A similar legend is that an actor was killed in unspecified circumstances during the original production of the play (and that this is what led to the supposed curse). However, there's nothing in actual historical records indicating that any incident of this type occurred, suggesting that the story is likely an Urban Legend.
    • A better-documented case was that of Harold Norman, who was playing Macbeth in 1947 in the Oldham Coliseum, Manchester, in a production that used unsafe swords for the fight scenes. In the final duel between Macbeth and Macduff, the actor was accidentally stabbed and died.
  • 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 , 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. A second on-stage death occurred on March 17, 2018, in Tampa, during a performance of the show Volta when aerialist Yann Arnaud fell headfirst to the stage after losing his grip on an aerial strap and died later that day in the hospital.
  • 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.
  • Raphael Schumacher was performing the play Mirages at the Teatro Lux in Pisa when the hanging scenenote  he was performing went wrong and a member of the audience, a medical student, rushed to the stage to attempt to revive him. He died later in hospital after being declared clinically dead.
  • Egyptian lion tamer Shaheen Islam was fatally mauled while giving a presentation for students at a circus show in Alexandria on Dec 2, 2016.
  • On November 29, 2016, Olivier Rochette, Cirque du Soleil technician and son of company co-founder Gilles Ste-Croix, was fatally struck by a telescoping lift during the pre-set of Luzia in San Francisco, leading to that night's performance being cancelled.
  • In 2017, the then-upcoming Attack on Titan stage play was cancelled after one of the acrobats fell 10 meters (about 30 feet) from the fifth to second floor of the theater while inspecting the equipment for wire action sequences and suspended himself in mid-air using the equipment. He suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest and was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital.
  • On Feb. 1, 2005, while loading three Asian elephants onto a trailer following the annual Shrine Circus in Fort Wayne, Indiana, trainer Pierre Spenle fell and was trampled to death by the animals when the security bar he was leaning on suddenly gave way.
  • On July 4, 2019, Circo Orfei animal trainer Ettore Weber was pounced on and torn apart by four tigers during a rehearsal.
  • On August 20, 1994, elephant trainer Allen Campbell was crushed to death and another handler was severely injured when they lost control of one of their elephants during a performance at Circus International in Honolulu, Hawaii. (A publicist was also injured while trying to close a gate to prevent the elephant from escaping the venue.) The elephant subsequently made a break for freedom, briefly getting loose on the streets of Honolulu before she was tracked down and killed by police. The shocking incident and the subsequent revelation that the elephant had snapped after years of horrific abuse (with Campbell himself being among the worst culprits) led to massive public outcry and ultimately a statewide ban on the use of performing animals in circus acts.note 
  • Czech-Canadian stuntman Karel Soucek successfully went over Niagara Falls in a barrel of his own design in July 1984, earning fame for performing the infamously dangerous stunt. Tragedy stuck months later on January 20, 1985, when Soucek attempted to recreate his feat at a stunt show held at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, despite legendary daredevil Evel Knievel begging him not to attempt a stunt he considered to be the most dangerous he'd ever seen. Sadly, Knievel's concerns were founded: Soucek's barrel was to drop 180 feet into a tank of water, but it was released prematurely and hit the rim of the tank instead of the center. Soucek was alive when he was released from the barrel, but he was mortally wounded, and he succumbed to his injuries while the stunt show was still ongoing.

    Theme Parks 
  • During the first incarnation of Halloween Horror Nights (then called "Fright Nights") at Universal Studios Hollywood in 1986, scare actor Paul Rebalde Brooks fell between two tram cars on the backlot tour and was crushed to death. This caused Universal to put the event on hiatus until 1992.
  • In 2009, an actor for the Captain Jack's Pirate Tutorial show outside Pirates of the Caribbean slipped on a puddle onstage and hit his head on a wall. He died from his injuries four days later.
  • In 1974, a young woman named Deborah Stone was performing as a hostess on the Disneyland attraction America Sings! when she was crushed to death in between a wall and one of the attraction's moving stage dividers.


  • Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravičius was murdered in April 2022 while filming his war documentary Mariupolis 2 amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. His widow Hanna Bilobrova completed the documentary using the footage that Kvedaravičius had filmed. A month and a half after his death, the finished film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

  • In 2004, 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.
  • Several Mexican singers who perform in the narcocorrido ("drug ballad") style of Norteno music have met grisly or suspicious ends that often parallel the music that they perform. Among these is Rogelio Contreras, a percussionist for the group Los Kumbiamberos RS, who was kidnapped on-stage by armed assailants in the middle of a 2015 concert and murdered outside of the venue.
  • Christina Grimmie was gunned down at a fan meet-and-greet after a concert in Orlando in 2016.


    Films — Live-Action 
  • Al Mulock, a Canadian actor playing one of the gunmen in Once Upon a Time in the West's opening scene, died of suicide by jumping out his hotel window - in full costume - between takes.

  • 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 stage-diving.
  • During a 2010 outdoor concert by the Irish-Czech indie-folk duo The Swell Season (comprising Once stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova), a man killed himself by jumping off from scaffolding near the amphitheater and landed on the stage, mere inches from Hansard. In fact, the jumper would have killed Hansard if he had landed just a couple of feet closer.
  • 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.

    Web Video 
  • On March 21, 2007, British electrical engineer Kevin Whitrick hanged himself while broadcasting his webcam in a PalTalk chatroom. Some people thought it was a prank until his face turned blue. One chatroom member contacted the police, but it was too late, and he was pronounced dead at 11:15 pm.
  • On November 24, 2013, Japanese live-streamer Rorochan 1999 committed suicide by jumping off her apartment balcony while live-streaming.
  • On August 31, 2020, Ronald "Ronnie" McNutt, a US Army veteran and podcaster from New Albany, Mississippi, shot himself in the head during a Facebook livestream. The original one has since been taken down, but not before others began posting the grisly video on other websites such as TikTok, which prompted a lot of criticism towards websites for not taking the videos down sooner.

Examples In Fiction (beware of spoilers):

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Masakazu Katsura's early manga Present from Lemon, Lemon's father (the 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 Case Closed:
    • In one filler 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.
    • 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 rabid fan of tokusatsu 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, 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.
    • The famous "Shinichi Kudo's New York Case" has a musical in which a famous singer and actor is shot on-stage. The other four actresses in the play are suspects since the victim was The Casanova and three of the women were his lovers while the other was his legal wife, but there's a catch - it might have been a completely unrelated Serial Killer who has been on the run. It turns out one of the actresses was the culprit since she was In Love with Love and wanted the man to be immortalized as his best role before he left the troupe.
    • The Unfriendly Girls Band case also uses this, when the drummer and leader of an all-female rock band are somehow strangled to death on stage without anyone noticing at first. It turns out the killer, the keyboardist of the band, managed to use very resistant wool and a freaking selfie stick placed in a vital position to create a makeshift gallow and strangle her bandmate without even touching her. She did it because she believed the drummer to have driven the original singer of the band to lose her voice and then commit suicide, which was wrong: in reality, the drummer tried to help the singer in a terribly misguided way, the singer died in an Heroic Sacrifice to save a child, and the drummer heavily blamed herself for her friend's death.
  • In Necromancer, one of the clients has their daughter killed repeatedly on stage as part of a play, having Asutsuo resurrect her each time.
  • Attempted in Private Actress, when Shiho and her Evil Counterpart Kana/Satoka are filming a movie scene that involves Shiho's character being thrown out of a window by Satoka's chara. Satoka tries to throw Shiho off for real, but (barely) fails. And in the Grand Finale of the manga Shiho sort-of invokes the trope via basically making Satoka believe that she will go the Murder-Suicide way (again, coinciding with a murder scene they're both filming)... but what she actually does is scaring Satoka into Trauma-Induced Amnesia.
  • The cause of performer Victoria Cindry's death in One Piece was falling off the stage from a great height.
  • In Future GPX Cyber Formula, Bleed Kaga's flashback in Zero shows images of a car explosion, him being restrained by race marshals, and witnessing a racer being burned to death in that car. The last SAGA II CD reveals this in further detail: It was his best friend and rival, Eiji. He and Kaga were involved in a horrific crash years earlier and, while Kaga was trying to rescue Eiji, the car suddenly exploded: Eiji burned to death with his corpse still inside the car and a piece of the debris cuts Kaga's forehead.
    • Hayato Kazami goes through a near-miss variant during the British GP when he makes contact with the Zero Zone, he crashed into his rival Randoll's car and his car goes through the railing and crashes into the ground. Although he ultimately survives, he misses the rest of the racing season because of rehabilitation and retires from the sport for a while.
  • A rather "real" risk in Kaleido Star, which features a stage that is basically an anime version of the Cirque du Soleil:
  • Twenty-odd years before the events in Glass Mask began, the famous actress Chigusa Tsukikage was performing her prized Crimson Goddess play but a stage spotlight snapped and fell on her. She barely survived, but her injuries badly deformed half of her face to the point that she stopped stage-acting since and switched to teaching. It also kickstarted her obsession to find the perfect actress to give her the Crimson Goddess role, which was specifically written for her by her long-gone beloved Ichiren Osaki.
  • In Captain Tsubasa, one of the cliffhangers in the first part's Nankatsu/Musashi game takes place when the ailing Meiwa captain, Misugi, suddenly stops playing and it seems like his ill heart is gonna stop beating. It's even spiced up in the original anime, with Tsubasa being so shaken at the sight that he lets out an anguished Big "NO!". Misugi manages to get an Heroic Second Wind and finish the game, but he must be rushed to the nearest hospital.
  • Very narrowly averted by Angela Carpenter in Carole & Tuesday. After the one-two punch of her Stage Mom letting slip she's a Designer Baby and not her biological daughter, and then dying of a heart attack straight afterwards, she shows up to the Mars Grammys drugged out of her mind, performs an uncharacteristically depressing song, and then collapses on stage from an overdose. She survives but spends multiple episodes recovering.
  • In Zombie Land Saga, Ai Mizuno was just beginning to hit her big break with her idol group, Iron Frill, when a freak lightning bolt incinerated her during a concert in front of thousands of viewers, leaving her charred corpse still posing on-stage. As a zombie, she's quite bitter that people mostly remember her for how she died instead of her actual musical career. It happens again to her and the rest of Franchouhou in Episode 7, but since they're all already dead, they're perfectly fine.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In Dirty Sympathy for Klavier's rock concert, one of their acts requires 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 — Animation 
  • Coco: Miguel's favorite performer Ernesto de la Cruz died in 1942, decades prior to the events of the film, when he was accidentally crushed by a giant prop bell during a stage performance. This is depicted in a Death as Comedy way. This later turns out to be a Karmic Death, since it is revealed he murdered the man who actually wrote his hit songs, took the credit, and bastardized them — the bombastic song he was performing at his death was meant to be a lullaby.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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 1937 Austrian film The Charm of La Bohème revolves around a pair of opera singers whose romance mirrors that of Rodolfo and Mimí in Puccini's opera. In the end, they sing together in one last Bohéme performance, but the sickly heroine really does die in Mimí's death scene, with no one realizing it until after the curtain falls.
  • Days of Tomorrow revolves around Andy Lau's protagonist, an actor engrossed in his art, eventually delivering his ultimate performance by killing himself onscreen. His in-universe character is supposed to commit suicide by jumping off a roof, where he performs the stunt without using any doubles, and in his final scene, he deliberately unhooks the safety cable attached to his collar before taking the plunge (with the credits superimposed on his broken body).
  • At the end of the Mario Lanza film The Great Caruso, the ailing title character collapses just as the curtain falls on his final performance in the Opera Martha. This is followed by a final scene showing mourners laying a wreath in front of his bust, implying that he died on the stage. This is Very Loosely Based on a True Story. The closest Enrico Caruso came to collapsing onstage was at the end of Act I of Pagliacci in December 1920. In agonizing pain a few days after his left kidney was injured in a stage accident, he thought he would pass out, tripped on some steps but did not fall. A few days later he had a massive throat hemorrhage in full view of the horrified audience during the first act of L'Elisir d'Amore. Amid cries for him to stop, he kept singing, but the show was cancelled after Act I. He did three more performances and seemed to recover after several operations, but died in bed in August 1921, in a Naples hotel. This was nearly a year after his last performance (which was La Juive, Christmas 1920, not Martha).note 
    • Ironically, Austrian tenor Josef Mann, who had been set to cover for Caruso during his illness (it was presumed he'd recover), really did die onstage of heart failure at the Berlin State Opera during a performance of Aida (Verdi) September 5, 1921. Those near him onstage thought he had only fainted until he was carried to his dressing room where a doctor pronounced him dead. The audience was informed and left quietly.
  • Joker (2019): Murray Franklin is shot dead by his final guest while the former's show is airing live.
  • 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 Chubbuck'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 Pet Sematary Two, the main character's actress mother is accidentally killed on the set of a movie when she's electrocuted by live wires.
  • In The Prestige, Borden accidentally kills Angier's wife during a magician stunt. Angier also kills himself repeatedly using a "teleporter" that creates a clone of him, dumping the original into a tank of water to drown.
  • 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 Spın̈al 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 its 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.
  • Subverted in Return to Cabin by the Lake. Stanley stages at least two attempted murders on his film set. The first time he makes it look like an accident when one of the lead actresses is electrocuted by a defective stage light falling into a water tank, but she barely survives. The second time around he doesn't even pretend to cover it up and tries to have another actress drowned by weighing her down to the bottom, but Allison saves her by shooting through the tank.
  • Attempted but subverted (maybe) in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Riggan's character is supposed to commit suicide via gunshot to the head. For the premiere, Riggan brings an actual loaded gun onstage and shoots himself with it. He survives, maybe.
  • In The Gallows, the titular play had an ending scene where the lead character would be hanged by a gallows prop. During one performance, the prop suddenly malfunctioned, causing the actor Charlie to be hanged for real while his ghost haunts the school.
  • Shadow of the Vampire: The film depicts the (fictional) events that supposedly transpired during the filming of Nosferatu. The director, F. W. Murnau (played by John Malkovich) explains that the lead actor, Max Schreck, is trying to 'get into the role' by staying in character - and costume - at all times. Unfortunately, he doesn't mention that his 'Schreck' is actually a real vampire and that the deaths on camera would be very real as well.
  • Subverted in Game of Death (1978): Billy Lo shoots the last scene for Fist of Fury and is shot by one of Dr. Land's henchmen. It turns out that he survived and plans for his revenge.
  • Almost happens to Anne Shirley during a performance of an Arthurian drama in Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars when she's swept up in a current during her character's death scene.
  • In Faces of Death IV, stage magician Orendo the Magnificent performs a grand illusion in which he must escape from a straightjacket before a candle burns through a rope and drops a set of Spikes of Doom on his head. Expectedly, he fails, and the foot-operated safety lever fails as well, so the spikes descend and kill him instantaneously.
  • In ¡Three Amigos!, the Amigos appear before the Mexican bandit El Guapo and his gang, believing he's a Mexican entertainer who invited them to perform with him. As they're performing their act, Jefe shoots Lucky Day's arm. Once he inspects their weapons, finding real bullets, Lucky realizes that they are real bandits who will kill them.
  • Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: Sgt. Pepper suffers a heart attack while playing his cornet at the end of the prologue montage, explaining how Mr. Kite came to possess the band's instruments.
  • Charlie Chan at the Opera had such an incident when an escaped lunatic (played by Boris Karloff) kills an Opera actor to take his costume to perform his role to exact his revenge against a female actor in the show. As it happens, the lunatic is an experienced and talented opera performer himself and does his part so well that he traps the woman on stage, who can't escape or call for help, until his character is supposed to fatally stab her as part of the show, but the knife he uses is real. It seems so convincingly All Part of the Show that even Charlie Chan does not realize what is happening until it is too late.
  • Ricky from Nope was a cast member of a sitcom called Gordy's Home when he was a kid. The show was about a family that adopts a chimpanzee named Gordy. The show ended when they shot an episode where they celebrate Gordy's birthday and the chimp goes on a rampage. The actors who play the parents are killed, the actress who plays the daughter, Mary Jo Elliott, is left severely disfigured, and the chimpanzee himself is shot and killed. Ricky is the only cast member to escape physically unharmed.

  • 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.
  • Marion Zimmer-Bradley's circus novel "The Catch Trap" has the patriarch of the Santelli family - an Italo-American circus clan of trapeze artists - dying of a heart attack mid-air during the show. While his death itself is quick, probably a matter of split seconds, the immediate aftermath is heartwrenching.
  • In Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, Arthur Leander dies onstage during a performance of "King Lear."
  • In The Winds of Winter, one of Arya's/"Mercy's" duties as a mummer in Braavos is to check the trick daggers used before each performance and make sure nobody's replaced them with real ones. Apparently, before one performance, someone replaced a trick dagger with a real one and it caused the death of a mummer on-stage.
  • At the end of Tomie de Paola's The Clown of God, Giovanni comes out of retirement and performs his signature juggling routine as a gift to the Christ Child on Christmas Eve, but drops dead from a heart attack during the act's seven-ball climax.
  • In The Cutthroat, Isaac Bell concludes that Jackson Barrett is the man killing women across the country (as well as having been Jack the Ripper) and confronts him on the set of Marion's film adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. During the confrontation, the killer is knocked into a wind machine and cut to pieces.

    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:
    • There's 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.
    • There was also an episode where a fire broke out at a club. Two members of the white supremacist band burned to death, an audience member was trampled, and another was stabbed.
  • Happens in CSI: NY, too:
    • An acting troupe throws a high-class fundraiser centered on Marie Antoinette, in none other than the UN building. The actress playing Marie dies as a prop "guillotine" apparently fatally breaks her neck. Unsurprisingly, the deal turns out to be far more complicated. She was actually poisoned with "infected" candy, after having confronted the acting troupe leader over him supposedly using her name to commit scams... and she did that after her Creepy Child co-actress convinced her to do so...
    • A Formula One racer's car explodes during an exhibition race - with him inside. The car turns out to have been tampered with and the suspects include the victim's wife, his manager, a female rival, and a newbie racer.
  • 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 is asked to leave, roll credits and no "reveal" that he was alright until after the following programme.
    • Criss Angel did something similar with a wood chipper escape stunt that appeared to fail and lead to him being shredded, only for him to emerge in one piece afterward.
  • 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.
  • Midsomer Murders:
    • In the episode The Axeman Cometh, a singer is killed by an electrified mic stand while on stage. The crowd initially thinks it's part of the act.
    • In another episode, a theatre actor playing the part of Salieri in a production of Amadeus slices his own throat open when his prop cutthroat razor is switched for a real one. It takes a few moments before Barnaby realizes the truth. For extra irony, in the play, Salieri survives having his throat cut.
  • 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. It turns out he wasn't the intended target; the director was trying to kill Van Damme's stunt man because he was sleeping with the director's wife. It's because Van Damme insisted on No Stunt Double and went behind the director's back to do so that he died instead of the stunt man.
  • 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: "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 Mochrie) 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.
  • 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.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: In "Icarus", an episode that centers around a Broadway musical of the same name, the actor playing the title character has his flying rig sabotaged so that it gives out mid-scene, causing the actor to fall to his death.
  • 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 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.
  • Trevor, Hillary's boyfriend on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, proposes to her on live television while bungee jumping. Unfortunately, the bungee cord is too long. Splat!
  • In the April 1st, 2000 episode of SMTV Live, the cast did the usual dance leading into the postbag segment. However, Dec became visibly disorientated going through the motions and collapsed apparently dead at the end of the song. The other crew members and stagehands rushed on stage to help him, the show cut to the adverts and it was only revealed to have been an April Fool during the next segment, in which Dec's Small Name, Big Ego alter-ego told us so in a deliberately obnoxious non-apology. The rest of the crew had not been informed and Dec was disciplined and forced to apologize.
  • One victim of the week on Sledge Hammer! was a used car salesman who died while shooting a live commercial for his dealership.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "A Night to Remember", an actress is poisoned and dies onstage during a performance of Elektra. As she keels over during Elektra's death scene, the audience assumes it is part of the show and erupts into rapturous applause. It is only when she does not get up to acknowledge the applause does anyone realize something is wrong.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Danse Diabolique", a ballerina is murdered on stage. As she succumbs to the poison during her death scene, it is only when her partner kneels at her side that he notices that she is really dead.
  • This gag from Just for Laughs temporarily leads the victim to think a cameraman has been accidentally shot dead by one of the actors.
  • Part fiction, part reality: magicians Penn & Teller once performed a bit on New Year's Eve in which they had to escape from being submerged in champagne note  in a twist on an old Houdini bit. Their spin on it would be that the alcohol affected them strongly, being teetotalers, and they would need to be rescued from drowning and taken away by ambulance. Problem: a sizable portion of the audience didn't understand that the catastrophic failure was scripted and reacted accordingly.
  • Takes place in 1000 Ways to Die, of course.
    • In the segment "Coffin to Death", a Japanese rock star gets trapped in a coffin by the lead guitarist who upstages him with a three-minute rock solo, causing him to choke to death on carbon dioxide from dry ice that was meant to be used for theatrics.
    • The segment "Abracadaver", a magician attempts to replicate the infamous "Bullet Catch" trick, one of the most dangerous magic tricks, wherein he would appear to catch a bullet fired from a gun in his teeth. Unfortunately, a piece of his wand fell into the barrel of the prop gun, which was propelled by the fired blank straight into his neck.
    • In "Dumbrella", a sword swallower attempts to swallow an umbrella, only for his throat to accidentally trigger the release, causing the umbrella to open and close off his airway.
  • In the Tales from the Crypt episode "Television Terror", a tabloid news show host and his cameraman are disemboweled and hanged on live television by the ghosts of a serial killer and her victims.
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy appears to fall victim to this at the end of the Pollution episode, where he gets tangled in copper wire on a Conveyor Belt o' Doom and loaded into an automated trash compactor. Afterward, however, as Bill's lab coat is shown plastered to a trash bale, Pat Cashman informs the audience that "no science guys were harmed".
  • A segment on Crackanory had a man on his stag night pass out from excessive drinking and wake up in a hospital with zombies in it. After managing to kill the zombies and escape he found out it was actually an elaborate prank by his friends and he'd just murdered a group of actors who were attacking him in self-defense.
  • While Top Gear (UK) had an actual close call (see the near misses folder for details), they've also had some fictional examples:
    • After Perry McCarthy outed himself as The Stig, he was written out by having The Stig attempt to use nitrous oxide to out-accelerate a Harrier on an aircraft carrier. He wasn't able to stop in time and drove into the sea.
    • While the hosts were testing out some small off-road vehicles, Jeremy was thrown from a hovercraft and quipped "I've been killed. I've most definitely been killed." We then see him lying there with a caption reading "J. Clarkson, 1935-2005".
    • An attempt to combine off-roading with fox hunting ended with Jeremy's vehicle stuck in a gully being swarmed by hunting dogs. We cut back to the studio and Richard says that Jeremy was eaten by the dogs.
    • Another time, they tried to build their own electric car and subject it to a series of tests. One of those was an endurance test where The Stig's environmentalist cousin will drive it around the track until the battery and the generator fuel run out. At some point, the exhaust hose for the generator comes loose and the exhaust fumes asphyxiate The Stig's cousin.
    • Their test of three cars suited for the Albanian Mafia ended with them robbing a bank and trying to make a getaway. During the getaway, James drives his car off a cliff (on purpose) and is killed.
    • During their test of the Renault Twingo, Ross Kemp climbs into the boot (or "trunk" if you're American) to demonstrate the space inside. He stays there the rest of the segment...including when Jeremy tries to jump the car onto the ferry back to England. During the subsequent host segment, he says that Kemp did not survive.
  • In the Married... with Children episode "Dead Men Don't Do Aerobics" Jim Jupiter, the "Healthiest Man in Chicago" has become a fat slob after only one day of hanging with Peggy while smoking and eating junk food. Returning to his daily aerobics show the next day, he suffers a massive heart attack on-screen and collapses dead.
  • Diane on Cheers once put on a performance of Othello with the mentally unbalanced Andy Schroeder as the title character and herself as Desdemona. Unfortunately, Andy still has unrequited feelings for her and tries to kill her during the performance. Luckily, Sam realizes what's going on and rushes to her aid.
  • Probe's "Black Cats Don't Walk Under Ladders (Do They?)": In-Universe, Sabrina Stillwater, a witch, is a guest on the Show Within a Show, The Marty Corrigan Show. She casts a hex on the host while several scientists are there to debunk her "magic". Unfortunately, things go wrong when Marty actually dies from her hex, and Austin tries to figure out who is really behind Marty's death.
  • One skit on Not Necessarily the News has a football player collapse on the field. At first, the play-by-play announcers are worried that he injured his knee since he just recovered from a knee injury, but it soon becomes clear that the player died from a heart attack. The announcers are then relieved that it wasn't his knees.
  • Highlander: A Temporary version due to the show’s premise, but they still count:
    • Richie joins a professional motorcycle racing team despite Duncan warning him it’s not a good idea. He gets into a feud with another rider and gets into it with him on the track without even realizing it. The result is a fiery crash and Richie waking up in the morgue.
    • “The Immortal Cimmoli” is about Danny, a newborn immortal who has no clue about the Game and uses his immortality to do circus acts that would kill a mortal. Despite Duncan warning him he’s attracting attention, Danny heads off to Vegas and gets killed in a more final fashion.
  • In the season 2 finale of Only Murders in the Building, the Sequel Hook shows Oliver's new Broadway show opening, starting with a monologue by Ben Gelroy (Paul Rudd). When he collapses and dies on stage, it takes a while before the audience realizes something's wrong.
  • In one episode of NUMB3RS, one suspect in the case of the week is a man who had been the producer for an extreme stunts reality show called "Thrill Drill", which was cancelled after a stunt gone wrong resulted in a contestant being decapitated. (The producer had lost nearly all of his money and assets in the ensuing legal process, leading the agents to suspect — correctly, as it turns out — that he got involved with the scheme they're investigating in an attempt to regain some of his previous wealth.)

  • 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.
  • Word of God states that David Bowie's song "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, is about the eponymous messianic rocker being fatally torn to pieces on stage by a group of aliens.
  • The French/Italian disco singer Dalida invokes this trope in her song "Mourir sur scène" (To Die On Stage), where she expresses a preference for this kind of death above all other. (Unfortunately, she did not get her wish in Real Life, where she intentionally ODed on barbiturates following many years of depression.) The chorus translates as follows:
    I want to die on stage
    Right in front of the spotlight
    Yes, I want to die on stage
    My heart open, in full color
    To die without any trouble
    The last time I meet the crowd
    I want to die on stage
    Singing until the very end!

    Tabletop Games 
  • All part of the game in Blood Bowl, where character deaths during the matches are a regular occurrence. Whether by falling over, taking a hit, or being fouled, Blood Bowl players will die often and gruesomely. Low armor teams like the wood elves are especially likely to die in a match.

  • Curtains centers around the murder investigation of Jessica Cranshaw, a Hollywood actress who was set to star in the fictional Broadway musical Robbin' Hood and killed during the curtain call at the out-of-town tryouts. The fact that she was terrible in the role and everyone hated her gives the detective plenty of suspects.
  • 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, it's just that if this isn't it... I'm going to have a tough time trying something else."
  • In the B-story of Matilda, the Escapologist and the Acrobat were forced by contract to perform "The Burning Woman, Hurling Through The Air, With Dynamite in Her Hair..." despite the latter being pregnant. The stunt went well until the last moment, when the Escapologist lost his grip on his wife's hand due to using too much fire extinguisher foam, sending her crashing to the ground and breaking nearly every bone in her body. She managed to carry their child to term before dying.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
    • Spirit of Justice, the second case has Trucy Wright being accused of pulling this.
  • Near the end of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Pietro Rossi had taken part of a passion play re-enacting the crucification of Jesus Christ. The Roman Rite of Templar Order planned to invoke this trope had it not been for protagonist Ezio Auditore learning about the plot and sneaking in for the rescue.
  • You can set several up in the Hitman games, including replacing a prop gun with a real gun in a production of Tosca during one level in Blood Money, electrocuting a musician mid-recording in Hitman (2016), or rigging an on-set explosion during an action movie filming.
  • In The Blackwell Convergence, actor Frank Lyons died inexplicably during 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.
  • Early on in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the player can listen to WCTR and hear an example. Jack Howitzer appears on "Entertaining America" to promote his new film and brings a gun with him, which he, being an insane Schwarzenegger expy, begins threatening the host with. He tries to calm host Billy Dexter by saying that it's not loaded, only to immediately and fatally shoot him. On the bright side, Dexter is replaced by Lazlow.
  • In Undertale, the battle against local superstar Mettaton is broadcast live on television — the amount of viewers is an important element to said battle's mechanics, in fact. Once he starts fighting for real, the player can potentially choose to kill him just like against any other opponent, and monsters who had dialogue about Mettaton will comment on it afterward.
  • In AFK Arena, Idre the Grotesque Mage, a non-playable Graveborn boss, was once a stage magician named Gaston attempted a trick where the idea was to make it look like he decapitated himself and then miraculously reattach his head. Unfortunately, he actually decapitated himself by mistake.
  • One mission in Grand Theft Auto V has Michael replacing a new model of cell phone with a similar device doctored by Lester. When the head of the company holds a televised press conference to introduce the new model, it explodes and kills him.
  • One mission in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories has Victor trying to prevent gangsters from killing a rock star during a performance. It should be noted that the rock star is Phil Collins playing himself.
  • The back story for Ridge Racer Type 4 has it that the son of Racing Team Solvalou manager Enki Gilbert was killed the previous year in a racing accident. Shinji Yazaki, the manager of the Pac Racing Club, was involved in the crash and is largely believed responsible.
  • In Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, this shows up in Martin Brown's missions. Specifically, in the last one, the woman playing his victim guns him down with what was supposed to be a fake gun... but it's strongly implied it turns out to be a real one.
  • The first day of Hypnospace Outlaw has fictional 80's rockstar Chowder Man planning on making a triumphant return at Coolfest '99, a concert for the fictional music genre of Coolpunk. The player finds out on the second day, however, that Coolfest '99 was an absolute disaster — Chowder Man's private helicopter crashed into and killed his drummer and best friend, "Kruff" Johnson, along with injuring seven fans who won a contest to ride in the copter with Chowder Man, and Chowder Man himself having his leg severed. The weight of this tragedy was an in-universe Genre-Killer for Coolpunk and forced the completely devastated Chowder Man back into retirement.
  • Saints Row: The Third has a series of DLC missions called Gangstas In Space which has the Boss starring in a sci-fi movie. After putting up with the director's verbal abuse throughout the missions, the Boss' co-star Jenny crashes a spaceship into the director while shooting.
  • Layton Brothers: Mystery Room has a couple of examples show up, with both being more complicated than they initially seem.
    • The victim in the third case is a famous actress who died after being shot onstage by a gun that was swapped with the prop gun. Turns out, the prime suspect (the victim's fiancée) did fire the fatal shot... but he didn't know it would be fatal, as the victim was the one who swapped the guns so she could get back at him for having an affair with another actress.
    • The fifth case has a famous DJ collapse on-air after eating a macaroon, later revealing he was poisoned. Subverted, however, in that the initial on-air collapse was part of a stunt, and that the murderer poisoned him after they had gone to break.
  • The Big Sho' Theater in Paper Mario: The Origami King has several on-stage performances for its Toads to enjoy. These include a Western theater show where the guns have real bullets, a street musical with actual gang warfare, and a Swan Lake performance where the dancers are able to body-check their guest stars. It's almost like someone wants the guests to die. Turns out that's actually the case; the actors are all Paper Macho soldiers on orders from Rubber Band to kill Mario.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • The Simpsons
    • It pokes fun at this trope and The Scottish Trope in one fell swoop during "The Regina Monologues", 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)
    • A near-miss occurs in "Krusty Gets Busted" where it's revealed Krusty the Clown had a heart attack while filming one of his shows. The kids in the audience think he's doing an act and burst into laughter, and the whole thing apparently wound up being considered one of television's funniest bloopers according to reporter Kent Brockman.
    • Similarly, in "Brother's Little Helper", Krusty does a sketch where his bowtie spins when he sees Sideshow Melanie strolling in, but the bowtie spins too fast and almost suffocates him as the audience laughs. After he tears it off, the technician comes onstage and apologizes, saying "I choked...", which pisses off Krusty, who starts strangling him, yelling "YOU choked!? YOU choked!?".
  • Invoked in Futurama by Calculon, who kills himself with food coloring poisoningnote  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 by actually dying. Cobb won anyway. He was revived in a later episode, only to be killed again right after his first moment of true acting ability, as he accidentally pulls a prop rope that brings part of the stage down onto him.
  • 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 (likely more when it actually opens up), 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.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode "Abracadaver", a magician named Al Lusion was disrupted during his act by a little girl who accidentally caused him to fall into an iron maiden. Al comes Back from the Dead as a zombie to exact his revenge and selects Blossom, to whom the little girl bore an uncanny resemblance.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the episode "Sing a Song of Patrick", a radio studio promised to record a song in a newspaper ad. Patrick sent them "I Wrote This", an atrociously bad meandering pile of nonsense that is barely a song at best. So bad, it killed the band at the radio studio to produce a record.
    • In an earlier episode, "Band Geeks," the two flag twirlers in Squidward's marching band apparently die during rehearsal when their twirling sends them airborne like helicopters and they crash into a blimp, causing a massive explosion.
  • In the Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Friendenemies", Marco mentions being a fan of an action star named Mackie Hand, who got killed performing a stunt. Tom eventually brings him back to life.
  • Subverted in the penultimate episode of the fifth season of BoJack Horseman. BoJack and his co-star/girlfriend Gina are filming a scene from his detective show Philbert where Gina's character, Malone, confronts BoJack's, Philbert, about having been the murderer all along, causing Philbert to lash out and choke Malone. However, due to BoJack's Sanity Slippage from his painkiller addiction and his anger at Gina for confronting him on that, he keeps choking her after the director yells cut, without even realizing he's doing it. It's highly implied that BoJack would have killed Gina if Mr. Peanutbutter had not pulled him off of her. This is the incident that pushes BoJack to go into rehab.
  • In The Boondocks episode "The Story of Gangstalicious", the eponymous gangster rapper writes a song titled "I Got Shot" after he got shot during a feud with another rapper. Unfortunately, due to the song's subject, when a performance of it is interrupted by gunmen storming the stage and shooting Gangstalicious again, the audience believes it's All Part of the Show and doesn't call an ambulance until 45 minutes later.
  • Invoked in the The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius episode "Lights! Camera! Danger!". Jimmy wins a screenplay contest and gets to act in a movie with his friends, but the director, Quentin Smithee, changes the script so the actors keep ending up in near-death situations. Their Wire Fu fails and drops them off a rooftop, the rollercoaster track for a love scene is busted, the actors are given robotic top hats that try to kill them during a musical number, and a giant robot snake tries to kill them during a scene at a wizarding school. It turns out that Quentin Smithee is actually Professor Calamitous trying to destroy Jimmy and his friends.
  • Looney Tunes: In "Show Biz Bugs", Daffy Duck, attempting to upstage Bugs Bunny, performs a fatal stunt where he ingests nitroglycerin, gasoline, gunpowder, uranium, and a lit match, thereby blowing himself up.
  • The Mouse And The Monster: The Plot-Triggering Death for the show is the brilliant pianist Flatnoteski's death by heart attack during his last performance. Mad Scientist Doctor Wackenstein was attending said performance, immediately claiming Flatnoteski's brain so he can implant it into his own Frankenstein's Monster. However, the monster would really rather not have someone else's brain inside him and cause a Death of Personality, so he goes on the run with help from a mouse who worked in Wackenstein's lab.
  • In the Powerpuff Girls 1998 episode "Abracadaver" has the titular monster's former self, Al Lusion, suffer this: he was a stage magician who caused a young girl's toy to disappear. Upset, the girl unwittingly pantsed him and his attempt to retrieve his magical items while the audience laughed at him caused him to fall into an Iron Maiden.