Working on a movie is a tough gig for everyone on set, and for the most part, things should run smoothly without the danger of someone getting seriously hurt. Of course, accidents do happen on set, and there are times when a major tragedy can strike when people least expect it to.
The Back to the Future franchise is regarded as one of the best in history, and while fans have loved what the movies brought to the table for years, there are some scary stories that have surfaced over time about things that took place behind the scenes. In one particular instance, Michael J. Fox nearly lost his life while filming a scene in the third installment in the franchise.
Let’s take a closer look at the scene in question and hear all about what happened and how Michael J. Fox was able to escape the situation with his life!
The Scene In Question
During the third Back to the Future film, we see that Marty has made his way back to the Wild West and needs to figure out a way to get back to his own time. This leads him on a wild adventure that comes to a head when he confronts an ancestor of our least favorite bully, Bif Tannen.
Things were a lot different in the Wild West, and Marty, thanks to being clever and having the gift of hindsight, does a decent enough job of surviving the obstacles that are thrown in his way. However, Mad Dog Tannen is able to make a serious move, Marty finds himself facing the gallows and the literal end of his rope.
Of course, fans knew that Marty was going to figure out a way to escape the situation, but they certainly noticed that Michael J. Fox was delivering an incredible performance with the hanging scene. It was unbelievably convincing, and while Fox is a good actor, he really seemed to tap into a place that few actors could ever dream of.
Unfortunately, this place just so happened to be reality, as the actor was hardly having to put on a performance for the cameras.
What Actually Happened
In his autobiography, Michael J. Fox would touch on what was actually going on during the filming of the now-infamous hanging scene from Back to the Future III. Mind you, the accident that happened occurred after several different takes that had all proven to be successful without Fox encountering any real danger.
Fox would write, “I swung unconscious at the end of the rope for several seconds before Bob Zemeckis, fan of me though he was, realized even I wasn’t that good of an actor.”
Thankfully, his struggles were noticed and he was eventually rescued from what was a close call. As we mentioned before, accidents and tragedies have happened on set before, but it would have been a massive headline had Fox taken any serious damage, or worse, from this incident.
According to WhatCulture, shooting wrapped up for the rest of the day, and Fox was given time to recover from what must have been a traumatizing experience. Getting some bumps and bruises is one thing, but literally confronting the end while making a movie is pure insanity. Thankfully, there have been far more safety measures put into place as the years have gone on, though this does not always guarantee that people performing stunts will be free of injuries or mishaps.
This Wasn’t The Only Incident In The Franchise
The Back to the Future franchise may not be the most action-packed franchise in history, but the incident with Fox is proof that anything can happen on set. The hoverboard scene in Back to the Future II is one that has been talked about for years, but it should be noted that filming this scene nearly cost someone their life.
During the filming of the scene, a number of changes were made prior to shooting, and stuntwoman Cheryl Wheeler wasn’t entirely comfortable with what she about to do. An in-depth look at this scary mishap was detailed by Gizmodo, which offers a full look at everything that went into the situation. Turns out, she was right about things potentially going wrong.
In We Don’t Need No Roads, author Caseen Gaines writes, “She was spinning like a figure skater, parallel to the ground like Superman in midflight. She hit the pillar dead‑on, but because she was covered in shin guards, knee guards, elbow pads, and other well-concealed braces hidden within her costume, she felt fine. A little disoriented, perhaps, but fine.”
Michael J. Fox nearly lost his life while making movie magic, as did Cheryl Wheeler. Their dangerous work all went into making the Back to the Future franchise a classic and one that can serve as a warning about the hazards of stunt work.