15 Celebs Who Suffered Near Fatal Experiences

June 24, 2019

The sad truth is that all of us will die. Our mortality is inevitable. But celebrities? They seem invincible. We hold them on pedestals and intently watch everything they do. Whether they’re loved or scorned, celebs always provide hot topics of conversation. Consequently, when A-listers do face near-death experiences, the world is shocked.

Being famous can be difficult, but there’s nothing like celebs’ near-death experiences to put it all into perspective — they makes that bad mugshot or leaked prom photo seem inconsequential. From broken backs to terrifying encounters with sharks, though, these celebs have been through it all.

And those injuries and almost fatalities tend to impact their work. For instance, a young Kanye West wrote a song about a car crash in which he was severely hurt. It helped propel him to stardom. Moreover, a number of actors and actresses suffered for their art when they were seriously injured on set. Each of them seemed to grow from their traumas, but a few still experience painful side effects from their brushes with death.

1. Ellie Goulding Escaped From A Vehicle After It Fell Through A Frozen Lake

Fortunately, she climbed through a hatch in the roof.

Goulding was traveling through Norway with photographer Conor McDonnell on a belt wagon, which is made to traverse difficult terrain. However, a frozen lake splintered while the pair drove across it, and both Goulding and McDonnell fell through the ice. They narrowly escaped through the roof of the belt wagon. And McDonnell snapped a photo of the incident and shared the experience on Instagram. Apparently, they were in -25 degrees Celsius weather.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio Had A Close Call With A Great White

US Department of State/Wikimedia Commons

Regular divers had never seen anything like it.

DiCaprio claimed to experience his fair share of brushes with death. But “the shark incident” stands out to him the most. When the actor went cage diving in South Africa, a rogue wave pushed chum into his cage. And that cage was the only thing separating him from a school of sharks.

A Great White jumped and landed head-first in the cage.

The shark took several ferocious bites, aiming for (and nearly reaching) DiCaprio’s face. Luckily, he pressed his body against the bottom of the enclosure. In doing so, he narrowly avoiding the creature’s attack. The boat operators said that they had never seen anything like it in their 30 years of diving.

3. Isla Fisher Almost Drowned On The Set Of Now You See Me

Now You See Me

Everyone thought she was just acting really well.

Fisher climbed into a water tank to perform a stunt for Now You See Me, but everything went awry when her release chain got stuck in her clothing. In the movie, though, Fisher’s character is meant to look like she’s struggling. So in real life, her fellow actors didn’t realize the danger of the situation. Fischer escaped the situation with a quick-release switch but ultimately spent three minutes underwater.

4. Emilia Clarke Suffered A Brain Aneurysm And Underwent Multiple Surgeries

Conde Nast Russia/Wikimedia Commons

Many patients with Clarke’s condition face immediate fatality.

While working out, Clarke started to experience severe head pain. She started vomiting, and an ambulance took her to the hospital. Once there, the Game of Thrones actor found out she had a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Doctors warned her they would need to seal off the hemorrhage to prevent another fatal bleed.

Then they discovered another growth in Clarke’s brain.

Several years later, the massive growth had doubled in size. And Clarke had to have a second surgery. Due to complications, though, she suffered from a massive bleed. Consequently, she needed yet another surgery. Clarke said the recovery was very painful and that she “felt like a shell of [herself].”

5. Sarah Silverman Had Epiglottis, Which Restricted Her Breathing

Joan Garvin/Wikimedia Commons

She barely remembered her stay in the hospital.

When Silverman went to the doctor for a sore throat, she had no idea the visit would turn into a week-long stay in the ICU. It turns out she had epiglottis, a condition that causes the throat’s epiglottis to grow inflamed. Hardly any air at all could reach the actress’s lungs.

Silverman went in and out of consciousness during her stay in the hospital and doesn’t recall much about the ordeal. But after her surgery, she had “the paralyzing realization that nothing matters… followed by the motivating revelation that nothing matters.”

6. Anne Hathaway Was Caught In A Riptide

Looking Glass Films/Wikimedia Commons

A local surfer heard Hathaway screaming and rescued her.

While vacationing in Hawaii with her husband, Adam Shulman, Hathaway was caught in a riptide while swimming off the coast of Oahu. A nearby surfer pulled her out of the water, though. Hathaway injured her foot in the debacle, and photos show Shulman helping her bandage it. He dotingly cleaned her wound and applied a bandage.

7. George Clooney Severely Injured His Spine

Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons

He still gets headaches from the injury.

While filming Syriana, George Clooney suffered an intense spinal injury. In the hospital, he couldn’t move his body and got severe headaches. At one point, Clooney even claimed to blow spinal fluid from his nose. The pain got so bad, the actor considered ending his life. He noted, “You start to think in terms of, you don’t want to leave a mess, so go in the garage, go in the car, start the engine. It seems like the nicest way to do it, but I never thought I’d get there. See, I was in a place where I was trying to figure out how to survive.” To this day, Clooney gets headaches because of the injury, although they’re not nearly as intense.

8. Johnny Depp Nearly Died In A Plane Crash

It wasn’t long until the aircraft regained power.

Depp was filming The Rum Diary with Hunter S. Thompson in Puerto Rico. The talent and crew had to reach the set by plane each day. Depp was flying with the film’s director, Brett Robinson, when in mid-flight, the aircraft’s engines stalled. The actor recalled a moment of silence and then felt the plane drop. Thompson and Depp, however, found humor in the situation. And Depp shared, “We burst into hysterical laughter at the idea that this was how we were going to die.” But the plane’s engines restarted, and the crew was able to go on their way.

9. Kanye West Was In A Car Accident In 2002 That Changed His Perspective On Success

He included footage of his medical procedure in the music video for “Through the Wire.”

West’s first majorly popular single told the story of a near-fatal car accident that left his jaw severely damaged. He had to have his mouth wired shut during the healing process. Regardless of the pain, he recorded “Through the Wire” just two weeks later. Footage of doctors removing the wires made it into the music video. West also included a photo of his injuries on his mixtape, Get Well Soon.

The accident changed West’s priorities.

In a 2004 interview, a relatively unknown West said he interpreted the accident as an important message from God. The rapper believed God said,  “I’m about to hand you the world, just know that at any given time I can take it away from you, so always keep me first.”

10. Drew Barrymore Almost Died In A House Fire

Her dog woke up her and saved her life.

Around 3 AM, Barrymore and her husband, Tom Green, were awoken by their dog Flossie barking outside their bedroom. Fire alarms started to ring, and the couple saw smoke creep under the door. Thankfully, the pair evacuated the house and called 911. The fire destroyed their two-story home and all of their belongings, causing about $700,000 in damage. Barrymore and Green largely attribute their survival to Flossie.

11. Charlize Theron Broke Her Back On Set

A poorly performed stunt nearly left Theron paralyzed.

In the 2005 film Aeon Flux, Theron plays a skilled assassin. And the role required her to perform numerous stunts. During one particularly challenging one, Theron landed on her neck and was almost paralyzed. The actress experienced severe pain and neck spasms due to nerve damage from the accident. Theron went through eight years of pain management, but nothing worked.

Fortunately, though, she had a neck fusion that helped her body go “back to normal.” She said the accident made her more cautious about her roles.

12. Gary Busey Was In A Motorcycle Accident

Wikimedia Commons

He wasn’t wearing a helmet and suffered severe head trauma.

In 1988, Busey flipped over the top of his motorcycle after he lost control of the bike. He hit his head on the curb, “[splitting] his skull wide open.” Paramedics took Busey to the hospital for emergency surgery. He said the accident altered his brain “in a way that’s not normal” and gave him a “different way of looking at things and feeling things.”

Busey also overdosed on an illegal substance.

Busey was addicted to the drug for several years after a friend introduced it to him in the late ’70s. He overdosed and lost consciousness. When he came to and left the hospital he had a realization. The actor noted, “I thought, ‘What have I been doing? I’ve been dancing with the devil in a circle that’s very tight and the devil always leads the dance.'”

13. Rachel Bilson Had A Car Accident That Left Her In A Coma

Her boyfriend collided with a truck.

Bilson’s then-boyfriend was driving down the Pacific Coast Highway when he crashed into a truck driving in the opposite direction. Paramedics had to cut the occupants from the car, and Bilson was in a coma for several days.

According to Bilson, the crash helped put her on the right track. She was hanging out with “people [she] probably shouldn’t have been hanging out with” and experimenting with drugs and alcohol at a young age.

14. Elizabeth Taylor Was Pronounced Dead Four Times

20th Century Fox/Cleopatra

She didn’t breathe for five minutes.

Elizabeth Taylor contracted double pneumonia in 1960. Doctors had to perform a tracheotomy to relieve the build up in her bronchial passages. During the surgery, Taylor allegedly died four times; once she completely stopped breathing for five minutes. Taylor recovered, though; and flowers and cards poured into her hospital room. She said of the notes, “I had the chance to read my own obituaries… They were the best reviews I’d ever gotten.”

15. Tracy Morgan Almost Died In A Collision

Alex Erde

He went through months of physical therapy.

When a tractor-trailer rear-ended a limo bus in which Morgan was riding with several close friends, three people in the vehicle were injured. And the fourth one, unfortunately, passed away. Morgan was in a coma for two weeks — he had multiple broken bones and severe head trauma.

After undergoing months of physical and cognitive rehabilitation, Morgan regained some semblance of normalcy but struggled during his first year of recovery. He said one of the most important aspects of getting better was forgiving the truck driver who caused his injuries.