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It’s not terribly unusual for an actor or actress to pass away during the filming of a movie or television show, but it’s far more rare for someone to die while on the set. These unfortunate professional actors met their ends while they were performing their art.
The French playwright Molière had been suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis for some time when, in 1673, he collapsed on stage while performing the last play he ever wrote (ironically titled Le Malade imaginaire, or The Imaginary Invalid). He had two fits of severe coughing and hemorrhaging, but insisted on finishing the play — however, he died a few hours later.
Tyrone Power suffered a heart attack in 1958 while filming a fencing scene for Solomon and Sheba, and he died on the way to the hospital. Power was only 44 years old, and his wife had urged him to take it easy, but he pressed on with the filming. Yul Brynner was brought on to take his place but you can still see Power in some scenes from a distance.
In 1982, Vic Morrow was filming a scene for Twilight Zone: The Movie when he and two children were killed by a falling helicopter. They were filming a scene where his character was trying to escape a pursuing U.S. military helicopter, and the huey was damaged by explosions which caused it to crash. Unfortunately Morrow and both children perished in the accident (while the following video isn’t explicitly graphic, it does show the actual accident — viewer discretion advised).
British comedian Tommy Cooper collapsed and died in 1984 while filming a live national television show called Live From Her Majesty’s. As Cooper specialized in physical comedy, his assistant and the audience thought that his collapse was part of his act. The show continued as attempts were made to revive him, but the efforts were unfortunately unsuccessful.
Brandon Lee, the son of famed martial artist Bruce Lee died after a firearms accident on the set of the 1993 film The Crow. As there were only eight days left of filming, most of his scenes were already shot, and for the rest, a stunt double was used. The film was released the following year.
Known as the “Crocodile Hunter,” Steve Irwin was filming an underwater documentary in 2006 titled Ocean’s Deadliest. During some down time, he decided to get some footage for his daughter’s show, Bindi the Jungle Girl. He approached an enormous stingray, who felt threatened and attacked him, and he wound up getting stabbed hundreds of times by the animal’s barb — one of those injuries went directly into his heart. This ultimately killed him, and while the documentary was finished, no mention of Irwin’s death was made.