Near-death experiences don’t happen that often, but they’ve happened to a surprising amount of celebrities. Here are 15 of those celebrities and the times that they saw the light, but thankfully managed to walk away.
1. George Clooney
Syriana is a film about the tense Middle Eastern oil industry that won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. During the filming of the movie (released in 2005), Clooney suffered a severe back injury during a torture scene. The accident caused a serious tear in his dura mater, the membrane that holds spinal fluid around the brain and spinal cord.
Initially, Clooney didn’t know he had injured himself, but days later he started having migraines. Eventually, Lisa Kudrow encouraged him to see her neurologist. The neurologist noticed the leaking spinal fluid and diagnosed the injury, starting Clooney’s lengthy treatment process. This involved injecting blood directly into his spine to coagulate and stop the leaking. Clooney said the doctors did this 15 times in 15 days, at which point Clooney said he thought he was going to die. Doctors prescribed the actor pain medication, but that only caused intense stomach pain and anxiety.
Later, Clooney admitted that the whole event had him contemplating suicide, but, thankfully, he was able to work through it.
2. Kanye West
In 2002, before his name had the notoriety that it has today, West was involved in a serious car accident after a long night of recording. After leaving the studio around 3 AM, West’s Lexus was cut off and run into oncoming traffic. The collision was so devastating that West’s jaw was fractured and he had to have reconstructive surgery for his face.
The surgery and subsequent recovery left West hospitalized for weeks and, since he had no insurance, he paid out of pocket for everything. Some good came of the accident, however, as it inspired West’s hit song Through the Wire, a rap song about the accident that West recorded while his jaw was still wired shut.
3. Isla Fisher
During the filming of Now You See Me, Isla Fisher was performing a stunt in which she was to attempt an escape from shackles while submerged in a transparent tank of water. The scene called for her to panic and bang on the glass as her character became distressed, so when her chains actually got tangled in her costume and she found herself stuck, the surrounding crew had no idea.
Describing the experience, Fisher explains, “My chain got stuck. I had to really swim to the bottom; I couldn’t get up. Everyone thought I was acting fabulously. I was actually drowning.” Eventually, Fisher was able to detach the chain from her costume and escape without serious injury.
4. Harrison Ford
On March 5th, 2015, Ford, an avid pilot, was flying his World War II-era, single-engine plane. Shortly after takeoff, he began experiencing engine problems. He quickly diverted course back to the airport from which he took off. His engines completely failed before he could make it back to the runway. Ford instead crash landed his plane onto a nearby golf course.
The crash landing left him with what official reports called “serious injuries,” but according to recent accounts, Ford’s recovery is going better than expected. Commenting on the incident, Frank Marshall, a producer for the Indiana Jones films, said “He made an incredible landing, to his credit. He is, after all, Indiana Jones.”
5. Ryan Reynolds
When he was only 17, Ryan Reynolds dabbled in skydiving. During a jump, Reynolds’s main chute malfunctioned and didn’t deploy as he pulled the cord. Frozen with fear, Reynolds plummeted without pulling his reserve shoot.
He described his dilemma in an interview, saying “This might sound odd but when you’re falling like that you just can’t bring yourself to do it,” and added “Physically I cannot release that reserve because I don’t want to find out if it’s going to work or not.” He eventually pulled the chute and landed safely. The incident caused him to have a panic attack, however, and after his instructor died shortly after in a jump gone wrong, Reynolds gave up skydiving for good.
6. Diane Kruger
When Kruger was working on the film Inglorious Basterds, director Quentin Tarantino took one scene a bit too far. Tarantino has been known to exert extreme control over his films, and this one was no exception. During a scene in which Kruger’s character (spoilers) gets strangled, the shot called for a close up of the action.
Tarantino decided to handle the strangling himself; reportedly saying “It’ll either be too much or too little. I know exactly what I need and I think I should just do it.” Turns out what he needed was a bit too much as well. He convinced Kruger to let him strangle her “full on… for just a little bit of time,” which he did, until the actress lost consciousness.
7. Ozzy Osbourne
When Osbourne was 55 years old, back in 2003, he decided to ride an ATV across his estate just outside of London. During the joyride, the rocker crashed the vehicle, which ultimately rolled and ended up on top of him.
The ordeal damaged a vertebra in his neck, cracked his collar bone, and broke eight of his ribs which caused them to pinch crucial blood vessels. He was rushed to nearby Wexham Park Hospital in Slough, just west of London, to undergo emergency surgery from which he’s made a full recovery.
8. Tracy Morgan
In June of 2014, Morgan’s limo was rear-ended by a tractor trailer while Morgan and company were heading down the New Jersey Turnpike. The crash proved fatal for comedy writer and Morgan’s personal friend, James McNair. Morgan suffered a serious brain injury in the crash and is still recovering to this day.
With such a serious injury, the odds of him making a full recovery are unknown. However, he was seen in early 2015 walking with a cane and said that he is “working hard” at his rehabilitation.
9. Drew Barrymore
In 2001, when Drew Barrymore was engaged to Tom Green, the two of them were sleeping in their Los Angeles home when it caught fire. The flames caused $700,000 worth of damage to their home and belongings, leaving Barrymore to claim that they had “lost everything.”
The two of them might have lost more than just their home in the fire if their dog hadn’t woken them up and alerted them to the flames by barking and clawing at the door to their bedroom.
10. Jason Statham
During the filming of The Expendables 3, Statham was driving a three-ton truck when its brakes failed. This sent the truck and the actor careening into the Black Sea, where they promptly sank to a depth of 60 feet. The doors had been removed so that Statham could jump out of the vehicle while it traveled, which never happened.
The removed doors did allow him to quickly escape the vehicle once it sank and, since Statham is an experienced scuba diver and competitive diver, he was able to make it to the surface unharmed. The accident was a freak-occurrence, but Statham joked “I have my suspicions. I think I’d been complaining too much on set, and Sly (Stallone) might have tampered with the brake calipers. I don’t know.”
11. Gerard Butler
Gerard Butler starred in the 2012 film Chasing Mavericks, a biographical drama about Jay Moriarity, a famous surfer. Butler was not a competent surfer when he began working on the movie, but he received training so that he could play the part. During a day of filming, Butler was surfing near the San Mateo County coast. As he waited in the wake, he and the crew saw a wave “30 feet high,” heading their direction.
As Butler was overcome by the wave, it ripped the tether that connected him to the board from his foot. The immense force of the wave pulled Butler down and held him there. Just as he reached the surface, a second wave crashed down on him and plunged him down once again, holding him underwater for over a minute. The incident landed Butler in Stanford Medical Center for a period of time to undergo observation.
12. Anne Hathaway
Hathaway had her near-death experience when she was vacationing with her husband in Hawaii in 2014. While she was swimming in the ocean, the actress was caught in a dangerous riptide that dragged her down and out to sea.
Luckily for her, a surfer was nearby, saw the struggling star, and helped her back to shore. She hurt her foot during the ordeal and was understandably shaken, but she and her husband got over it and were seen hitting the waves the very next day.
13. Travis Barker
The drummer for Blink 182, Travis Barker, barely escaped with his life in 2008 after the plane he was traveling in crashed into the runway lights and collided with a boundary fence. The wreckage came to a halt against an embankment after sliding across South Carolina Highway 302.
Barker and DJ AM (Adam Goldstein) were the only two people who survived the crash, which took the lives of four other passengers. No one on the ground was injured in the accident.
14. Ed Begley, Jr.
One night in February of 1972, Ed Begley Jr. was taking a bus from Los Angeles to Gardena, CA to play poker. After he and a friend got off of the bus, a group of teenage gang members attacked the two of them.
Begely’s friend escaped the attack, but Begely wasn’t so lucky. He was stabbed and beaten until his lungs had collapsed and the attacks didn’t stop until a car passed by and scared off the attackers.
15. Elizabeth Taylor
Between strange luck and her lifetime of health issues, Elizabeth Taylor cheated death several times.
In 1958, she and her husband, Mike Todd, were scheduled to make a flight from California to New York with three others. Before the trip took place, however, Taylor caught a cold and started feeling ill. She still wanted to make the trip but her husband insisted she stay behind if she was feeling poorly. She reluctantly did, and the plane went down during the flight, killing everyone on board.
Again in the late ‘50s, while Taylor was undergoing surgery, she was pronounced dead on the table and even said she “went to that tunnel, saw the white light,” before coming to.