Actors Who Sadly Passed Away On Set

Did you know that there are a number of actors who sadly passed away on set? So many of us follow the lives and careers of actors, it's sort of hard not to. The great actors of the past and present really set the tone for so much of our popular culture — through their work, their personal lives, their appearances, and more, actors have an allure that is hard to come by. But what happens when an actor passes away while doing the work that they love? What on-set deaths have become legends and tragedies?

The causes of on-set deaths have really varied over the years. Sometimes, actors have passed away from a medical condition or a freak heart attack. Other deaths aren't so easy to wrap your head around — just wait until you hear the story of how Vic Morrow died while on the set of a "Twilight Zone" movie. Freak accidents and tragic circumstances surround a lot of these deaths, and it's not hard to understand why given the dangerous situations that film sets and stunt work can put actors in. 

So if you're a movie buff or just curious (we don't blame you), wonder no more. Here are the actors who have sadly passed away on set.

Tyrone Power suffered a massive heart attack while on set

Tyrone Power was your true 1940s and 1950s heartthrob. He was dashing and had that old-school charisma, and, as you probably guessed, he starred in a number of movies in the first half of the 20th century. But his life was cut short when he tragically died at just 44 years old while filming the movie "Solomon and Sheba." 

As noted by The New York Times at the time of his death in 1958, Power was filming a scene while on set and suffered a major heart attack. The sequence — a dueling scene between Power and fellow actor George Sanders — was preceded by Power complaining that his left arm and stomach were in pain. The crew continued to roll, however, before Power had a heart attack. He was taken to the hospital, but died within the hour. 

To make matters worse, his wife was pregnant at the time. The strangest part? Power's father, Frederick Tyrone Power, had previously died on a Hollywood set in 1931.

Actor and martial artist Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee's son, was fatally injured on the set of The Crow

This one is just plain sad. Actor and martial arts pro Bruce Lee's son, Brandon Lee, died on the set of a film. As noted by, Brandon was filming "The Crow" when he tragically died as the result of film crew negligence. In March 1993, Brandon and fellow cast members were filming a scene in which his character was to be shot from about 20 feet away. 

Here's where things get really sad. As standard film practices have actors' safety in mind, the gun was supposed to be filled with blanks. But that was not the case when Brandon filmed the scene. He was shot on set by a .44 bullet that was in the gun and suffered intense abdominal injuries. The bullet "lodged in his spine," eliminating any hope that he would survive. He was taken to the hospital, but died due to his injuries, blood loss, and heart failure. The death was an absolute tragedy. Brandon was 28 years old.

Eric Fleming died while on set in a canoe accident

The 1950s and 1960s were stellar decades for Westerns. An iconic genre of film, Westerns brought some of the most famous actors into the spotlight, and Eric Fleming was one of them. Fleming was the star of the hit television show "Rawhide," and while he was known for his presence on television shows, he expanded his career into feature films. However, things ultimately did not pan out well. 

As noted by The New York Times at the time of his death in 1966, Fleming was on location in Lima, Peru filming "High Jungle" when he was fatally wounded in a tragic accident. The 41-year-old was filming a scene in the Huallaga River, located in the Andes, when the canoe he was in took on water. The canoe sank, and while his co-star — Nico Minardos — managed to escape, Fleming was caught in the current. Despite being "an excellent swimmer and scuba diver," Fleming was no match for the "swift flowing" river. He drowned, and, despite search efforts, his body was never found.

Roy Kinnear suffered injuries on set that ultimately resulted in his death

There are some actors whose comedic timing, jovial laugh, and warm expressions just capture the hearts of viewers; Roy Kinnear, a beloved British actor, was one such star. Known for his roles in films like "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" and "The Three Musketeers," Kinnear was a treasure, making his death that much more of a tragedy. 

As noted by The New York Times in 1988, Kinnear was in Toledo, Spain filming "The Return of the Musketeers." As part of filming, Kinnear was required to ride a horse. While on set, he fell from the horse and was taken to the Ruber International Hospital as a result. Kinnear suffered a fractured pelvis, and, as he was being treated in the hospital for the injury, he endured a massive heart attack and passed away. He was just 54 years old. Filming for "The Return of the Musketeers" was almost complete when Kinnear died, and the film was dedicated to him (via Variety).

Comedian and actor Redd Foxx collapsed on the set of a CBS show

Redd Foxx was not just known as the star of the 1970s show "Sanford and Son," but he was affectionately known by his trademark nickname, the "King of the Party Records." Foxx was a stand-up comedian who got his start in the 1950s. He made his way from the stage to the screen, and he found success in the "Sanford and Son" series and beyond. Unfortunately, as noted by The Washington Post, Foxx suffered a massive heart attack while on the set of his show "The Royal Family" and died. 

Foxx was rehearsing for the show on the Paramount Studios sound stage when he suddenly collapsed. He was rushed to the Queen of Angels Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, but ultimately succumbed to the damage the attack had caused. He was just 68 years old. Jeff Sagansky, the president of CBS Entertainment at the time, confirmed his death to the press.

John Ritter died after filming a hit show for ABC

When beloved actors and comedians pass away, it really seems to affect the psyche of all their adoring fans. Think Robin Williams, John Candy, and John Ritter. Ritter passed away while on the set of his sitcom in 2003. As noted by the Chicago Tribune, Ritter found television success with the show "Three's Company," and unlike some television actors who only make it big one time, Ritter later returned to the small screen with another standout comedy, "8 Simple Rules... for Dating My Teenage Daughter. "

While on the ABC set of "8 Simple Rules," Ritter felt sick and was taken to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. It came to light that Ritter had an undetected heart problem, a tear in his aorta. The condition can hit when you're least expecting it, further explaining the symptoms he developed while filming. He tragically passed away later that day at just 54 years old. 

"It's like there is a big tear in the world's heart," beloved actor Henry Winkler told Entertainment Tonight following Ritter's death.

Vic Morrow died while filming Twilight Zone in 1982

This tragic on-set death really hits hard. As noted by, actor Vic Morrow and two child actors, Renee Shinn Chen and Myca Dinh Le, were killed on set while filming "Twilight Zone: The Movie." It was July of 1982, and Morrow was in California shooting a scene that replicated a war scene out of Vietnam. The scene was set to depict Morrow running away from a helicopter chasing him and the children, and it involved explosions and special effects to simulate a battlefield, as reported by NBC's News Center 4 at the time.  

Due in part to the special effects and explosions during the scene, the helicopter lost control and crashed into Morrow, Chen, and Le, killing them instantly. Morrow was 53, and the child actors were just 6 and 7. 

As you might suspect, things did not go well after the accident. A co-director of the film was taken to court and faced criminal charges, with the prosecution arguing that the crash could have easily been avoided. The film crew also faced allegations of unlawful child acting and recklessness. The director and crew were all acquitted, and the families of the victims settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money.

A freak accident killed Cover Up's Jon-Erik Hexum on set

We're just going to say this now: Don't mess with guns. Even if you're on set and you think that a gun is loaded with blanks, don't go near it. 

CBS star Jon-Erik Hexum died tragically when he was injured by a blank. As noted by Entertainment Weekly, Hexum was on the set of "Cover Up," a show about "international intrigue and fashion photography." After on-set delays, Hexum's patience began to strain, and things went downhill very quickly. When Hexum was told again that delays were going to plague the day, Hexum went over to the prop gun, jokingly held it to the side of his head, and reportedly said, "Can you believe this crap?" 

Hexum pulled the trigger, and, while the gun was loaded with blanks, the force from the blank ammunition fractured his skull. The bone fragment that was blown off lodged into his brain, and Hexum was rushed to the Beverly Hills Medical Center. He was in surgery for five hours, but was later pronounced brain dead as a result of his on-set injuries. He was 26.

A terrifying accident took the life of silent movie actress Martha Mansfield

In 1923, silent film star Martha Mansfield died while on set of "The Warrens of Virginia." As noted by The New York Times, the film was set in the Civil War era, and, as such, Mansfield was decked out in a costume of hoop skirts and ruffles. As The Times reported, her costume was accidentally set on fire by a "smoker's match," and due to the layers of material her costume contained, it just "burst into flames." Mansfield was sitting in her trailer at the time, and she reportedly rushed out to seek help. 

Mansfield's co-star Wilfred Lytell reportedly used his coat in an attempt to stop the flames, but it only allowed her face and neck to go largely unscathed. Mansfield still suffered intense burns over her entire body. Mansfield was taken to the hospital, but, less than a day later, she passed away due to her injuries.

Comedian Tommy Cooper died while on stage

It's one thing to suffer a devastating, if not fatal accident, behind the camera, but what if you found yourself on the stage in front of an entire audience of spectators? That was the circumstance that famed comedian Tommy Cooper found himself in, and on April 15, 1984, the magician-slash-funny man tragically died while performing in front of a live studio audience. As noted by Entertainment Daily, Cooper was at the height of his career, but all of his success came to an end during his performance during "Live From Her Majesty's," a British weekend television program. 

Known for his "mistakes" during his comedic and magical sets, Cooper collapsed on stage, and while his health was rapidly declining, the audience and host at the theater thought that it was all "part of the act." To make matters worse, the theater goers "erupted in laughter assuming it was all part of the joke," meanwhile Cooper was suffering a heart attack. The director eventually butted in, and Cooper was taken off stage. Despite efforts to resuscitate him, Tommy Cooper was declared dead at Westminster Hospital.

Budding actor Ken Steadman died during an on-set accident

Tragic mistakes on movie sets do unfortunately happen. For 27-year-old Ken Steadman, an on-set accident in September 1996 cost the up-and-coming actor his life. As reported by the Los Angeles Times at the time of the accident, Steadman was filming the television show "Sliders" at the time of the accident in question. During filming, Steadman and another unnamed actor were in a dune buggy when the vehicle flipped over on a "dry lake bed." While the buggy had seatbelts present, both Steadman and the other actor opted out of wearing the protective gear. 

The tragic accident took place near Adelanto, and Steadman was quickly taken to the nearby San Bernardino County Medical Center. San Bernardino's Randy Emon from the coroner's office later revealed that Steadman was declared dead soon after. Libby Gill, the spokesperson for MCA/Universal Television Group, revealed that the other actor with Steadman was only treated for "minor injuries" and was later released. 

"Ken Steadman was a young and fabulous actor," manager Susan Ferris said. "He was a very cool guy, very talented."

Oscar-nominated actor Adolph Caesar suffered a heart attack on set

For famed actor Adolph Caesar, a massive heart seizure took his life when he was just 52 years old. As noted by The New York Times on March 7, 1986, Caesar — who was best known for his work in films such as "The Color Purple" — was on set of his then-latest venture, "Tough Guys," starring Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster, at the time. While a New York native, Caesar was in California, and after experiencing the on-set heart seizure, he was quickly transported to the County-University of Southern California Medical Center. Caesar was later declared dead in the medical center's emergency room. 

Caesar was not just known for his on-screen work, but was a prominent theater actor as well. His performance in the film "A Soldier's Story," even earned him an Oscar nomination, to which he was pleasantly surprised. "It's a marvelous chemistry that happens five times in your career if you are lucky — that you and the part and the play work,” he said in 1982. ”I never expected all this attention.”

Steve Irwin tragically died while filming

The Crocodile Hunter. Three words, and we instantly know it's Steve Irwin. Irwin, of course, was the famed television personality, actor, and activist known for his work down under. His popular show featured big crocs and wildlife of all kind, and his bubbly and enthusiastic personality inspired a generation to get engaged with the natural world around them. Irwin — also known for his work in film projects such as "Happy Feet" and "Dr. Dolittle 2," per IMDb – was filming footage of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia for his show, "Ocean's Deadliest," when he suffered a fatal, on-set injury. 

As per The Mirror, Irwin — along with cameraman Justin Lyons and director John Stainton — went out on the reef to capture footage, hoping to record something for his daughter's show "Bindi the Jungle Girl," when Irwin decided to go off in search of stingrays. Even though the original shoot had been canceled thanks to unfavorable weather, the threesome still went out, and in their search came across a bull stingray, nearly eight feet wide and approximately 220 pounds. Tragically, when Irwin went over the ray, the animal attacked Irwin with its sharp tail, stabbing him with "hundreds of strikes in a few seconds." His last words, according to Lyons, were, "I'm dying." Irwin was 44 years old.

Stuntman Dar Robinson died on set after a motorcycle accident

Stunt people do some crazy things on set that are often incredibly dangerous, and sadly, some stunts result in fatal, tragic accidents. Dar Robinson, a stuntman and the recipient of more than 20 stunt records, sadly died after suffering injuries during a motorcycle accident while on the set of the film "Million Dollar Mystery," per The New York Times. At just 39 years old, Robinson was known for his crazy, daredevil performances. In 1980, six years before he died, Robinson fell 900 feet — in a free fall, we should add — from Toronto's Canadian National Tower. A cable stopped him from hitting the floor just 200 feet from the pavement. 

He, of course, turned his attention to the entertainment industry and contributed to projects including ”Sharky's Machine,” ”Turk 182,” and ”Stick." As for his fatal accident on the set of "'Million Dollar Mystery,” The New York Times reported that the circumstances were "sketchy." Roger Armstrong, a spokesman for the DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group, said at the time that "investigative procedures" were taking place due to the accident. Robinson was the only person to sustain injuries in the stunt's performance.