25 Celebrities Who Have Had Terrifying Near Death Experiences

Paul W. Hewson December 21st 2016 Entertainment
2016 has not been a good year to be a celebrity. From Anton Yelchin to David Bowie to Alan Thicke to Zsa Zsa Gabor, it seemed to generation of famous folk was safe from the icy cold hand of the Grim Reaper (although, no offense to her we kinda actually thought Zsa Zsa was dead already). Time eventually comes for us all, but that doesn’t make the passing of people we admire any easier.

However, with a new year upon us, we decided to take a look at something a little more upbeat. Namely, celebs that almost died. Be it from a disease to a near accident, these 25 famous people looked Death right in the face and said “not today!” Actually, they probably said “who’s your agent?” or some other stereotypically Hollywood thing to say. There’s a reason we’re not famous.

1. Leonardo DiCaprio

Leo DiCaprio may have stared Death right in the face during his Oscar winning performance in the survival drama, "The Revenant", but only because he had some experience. During some time off while filming "Blood Diamond" in South Africa, DiCaprio decided to participate in some shark viewing. Which seemed like a good idea until one of the sharks broke into his safety cage and made it halfway through.

Not long after that, DiCaprio decided that skydiving seemed perfectly safe in comparison. Unfortunately during a jump, both his main and secondary chutes came entangled after opening. Thankfully, he and his partner - he was still new to jumping and was doing a tandem jump with a more experienced skydiver - got the chutes apart and landed safely.

2. Mark Wahlberg

The star of "The Departed" and "Boogie Nights", Mark Whalberg nearly had his career - and his life - come to a premature end on, of all days, September 11, 2001. Apparently scheduled to fly on American Flight 11 that day, Whalberg decided to make a last minute trip to Toronto instead to attend a film festival. Thank goodness he did, too, or we may have never been graced with his legendary performance in "Transformers: Age Of Extinction".

3. Anne Hathaway

While the star of "The Princess Diaries" went through hell and back to film her Oscar winning performance in "Les Miserables", it was on vacation where she nearly met her end. While on a swim during a trip to Hawaii, a riptide grabbed the actress and pulled her out to sea. Thankfully, a nearby surfer saw her being pulled under and rescued her, taking her to shore. She managed to walk away with just a cut foot. She, we guess she limped away, then.

4. Joaquin Phoenix

Considering the young age at which his older brother, River, died from a drug overdose, film fans have kept a close eye of Joaquin over the years. In 2006, however, the younger Phoenix was nearly taken from us - not from illicit substances, however, but from a car accident. The mishap caused Joaquin’s car to flip over, trapping him inside. Surreally, famed German film director and possible crazy person, Werner Herzog, happened to be nearby and rescued the actor from the wreckage.

Considering the bizarre documentaries Herzog has made throughout his career, perhaps Phoenix’s own oddball “mocumentary”, "I’m Still Here", was inspired by his guardian angel.

5. Eminem

Listening to his music and looking at his life story, it’s no surprise that Eminem (aka Marshall Mathers) has had his share of near death experiences. But none were so impactful as his overdose in 2005. Surviving after taking what he says his doctor called “the equivalent of four bags of heroin”, the rapper and "8 Mile" star eventually went sober.

6. Donald Sutherland

“The Hunger Games” star and father of Keifer Sutherland, Donald has been in literally hundreds of movies. That number was nearly cut extremely short when he contracted spinal menengitis on the set of “Kelly’s Heroes” in 1970. While suffering the worst of it, Sutherland described a near-death experience that took place in a blue tunnel that he felt compelled to explore before regaining conciousness. Thankfully, he recovered and is still making movies today.

7. Sean Kingston

A rapper and songwriter known for his concern for the well being of dogs, Sean Kingston needed some rescuing himself after a 2011 jet ski accident left him near death. After crashing into a bridge in Miami, Kingston spent eleven days in the hospital recuperating. Along with the injuries sustained from the accident, Kingston would later be diagnosed with a torn aorta which would require open heart surgery. Don’t worry - he’s OK now.

8. George Clooney

This Academy Award winning native of Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati is no stranger to painful moments in his career. From the tough desert shoot of “Three Kings” to the misery from being associated with “Batman & Robin”, it seems Clooney has been through it all. But, a broken back during the filming of “Syriana”, the film he won an Oscar for, was the worst of the bunch. Clooney has even stated that he contemplated suicide at the time, the pain was so great. Luckily for film fans, this actor and humanitarian pulled through and is still making great work today.

9. Gloria Estefan

She’s not as prominent these days, but in the 1980s and 90s, few female musicians were as popular as Gloria Estefan. This multi-time Grammy winning singer had numerous chat topping hits and helped put Cuban-American culture and music in the mainstream spotlight, That nearly came to an end in 1990 when her tour bus was involved in a horrific accident, requiring Estefan to be airlifted to a nearby hospital. She received emergency spinal surgery and underwent months and months of physical therapy. Through perseverance, though, she made a successful comeback and went on to see even more success than she had before the accident.

10. Kathy Griffin

Cosmetic surgery is so common among celebrities that it’s easy to think that it’s a simple in-and-out of a doctor’s office - no muss, no fuss. But, procedures like that still have risks - sometimes serious ones. Such was the case of comedian Kathy Griffin, who was hospitalized for days after there were complications with an elective liposuction. She managed to pull through, making sure the world gets plenty more New Year’s Eve specials with her and Anderson Cooper.

11. Kanye West

Over the years, there have been incidents that have left us all concerned for this legendary musician’s physical and mental well-being, While these have certainly been cause for alarm, none of them have left us feeling as if he were in mortal danger. This wasn’t the case, though, in 2002, when he was involved in a major car accident. The accident left him in the hospital for weeks, with his jaw wired shut - incidentally inspiring his first single, “Through The Wire.”

12. 50 Cent

Well… yeah. The rapper and actor is famously known for taking nine point-blank gunshots and surviving. The former drug dealer took bullets to the hands, legs, chest and even his face - but still managed to not only live through it, but to build a successful entertainment career from it. Thankfully, his current career is slightly less risky than his previous one.

13. Sylvester Stallone

An accomplished actor and pop culture icon, Sylvester Stallone has rarely let his personal safety get in the way of a performance. In fact, he’s come close to death not once, but twice, during his career. While filming “Rocky IV”, Stallone encouraged his co-star and on-screen rival Dolph Lundgren to hit him legitimately, to increase the realism of the scene. Lundgren obliged - and Sly ended up in the hospital because of it.

Years later, while making “The Expendables”, Stallone was filming a fight scene with WWE’s Stone Cold Steve Austin - a scene that accidentally resulted in him injuring his neck and requiring emergency surgery. Maybe take it easy from now on, Sly, ok?

14. Isla Fisher

The introduction to Isla Fisher’s character in “Now You See Me” involved her seemingly meeting a grisly end in a tank of piranhas during a magic trick. However, her character wasn’t the only one in danger - she, herself, nearly drowned while filming the scene. The crew on hand were unable to determine if Fisher was actually drowning or if it was part of the performance. Spoiler alert: it was the former. Luckily, the crew pulled her out in the nick of time, but it’s no shocker that she wanted nothing to do with the sequel.

15. Orlando Bloom

The star of the “Lord of the Rings” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, Orlando Bloom has a well documented love of extreme sports, such as skiing and skydiving. This may be due to his surviving an accident in his early adult life, in which he fell from a draining pipe he was climbing. The fall from his apartment building left him in traction and rehab for well over a year, but he overcame it and went on to a successful career.

16. Björk

Unfortunately, if you’re a beautiful female singer with a haunting voice, you have to deal with your share of crazy fans. Such was the case of Björk, who had a stalker that attempted to mail her something much worse than just a creepy letter - he sent a bomb. Thankfully, diligent police discovered the explosive before it was delivered to her, averting a potential tragedy. Perhaps the Icelandic siren will stick to email from now on.

17. Martin Sheen

While his son, Charlie, might get the press these days for his extreme behavior and brushes with mortality, Martin had his own near-death moment. The future star of “The West Wing” was filming Francis Ford Coppola’s war epic, “Apocalypse Now,” when he suffered a heart attack. Filmed on location in the Philippines, medical help had to travel a quarter of a mile to get to him and save his life. War is hell indeed.

18. Michael J. Fox

The “Back to the Future” films certainly had their share of action set pieces that were risky to film. But, it was one scene in particular during “Back to the Future Part III” that nearly saw a premature end to both the film series and its star, Michael J. Fox. In the third film, Fox’s character, Marty McFly, was being hung from his neck by a group of outlaws. However, the safety mechanism used to protect Fox malfunctioned, and he was choked by the rope until he passed out. Thankfully, the crew caught on in time and revived him. We bet he wished he could go back in time and not to that stunt! Ha ha ha! Man, we’re hilarious. Anyway…

19. Ed Begley, Jr.

An elder statesman of Hollywood comedy, Ed Begley, Jr. has been in dozens of films - most recently “Pineapple Express” and the new “Ghostbusters” reboot. However, both his career and his life were nearly cut short after suffering an attack at a young age from a gang of teenagers. The thugs jumped him, beating and stabbing him repeatedly. He was taken to the hospital with multiple injuries - including a collapsed lung - and managed to pull through. Which is good, because we couldn’t imagine “Batman Forever” without him.

20. Travis Barker

Music history nearly repeated itself in 2008. Not unlike Buddy Holly and Richie Valens in 1959, Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and techno superstar DJ AM were involved in a plane crash in 2008. Unlike Holly, Valens and The Big Bopper, both Barket and DJ AM survived the crash - although it did take the life of four other passengers. On top of everything, Barker also found himself divorced that same year. However, Barker has kept busy and saw Blink 182 reform in 2015. DJ AM, sadly, passed away from a drug overdose a year after the crash.

21. Nikki Sixx

If there’s a Hall of Fame for rock stars nearly killing themselves from drugs, Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx would be one of the first inductees. In 1987, the bassist - already known for his partying habits - overdosed on heroin. Not only did he overdose - he literally died. He was given a shot of adrenaline and, when that didn’t work, he was pronounced dead. It was only a few hours later when, amazingly, he woke up and actually walked out of the hospital. The man is clearly a mutant.

22. Eric Roberts

“The Dark Knight” actor and brother of Julia Roberts, Eric has had numerous close calls in the “vehicular accident” department. But, it was a car accident in the 1980s that was nearly the end of it all. Describing the ordeal in numerous interviews, Roberts recalls an out-of-body experience, as well as waking up in a hospital, completely paralyzed and only able to remember his name. Thankfully, he got better or else we would have never been graced with his performance in “Best of the Best 2.”

23. Seth MacFarlane

Like his Ted costar, Mark Whalberg, the creator of “Family Guy” also had a seat booked on one of the planes involved in the 9/11 attacks. However, MacFarlane had a much less impressive reason for not being on that flight - he was hung over from the night before and simply overslept. According to later interviews, MacFarlane claims that he didn’t even realize it was his missed flight that was involved until well after the attacks had happened.

24. Roy Horn

Magicians Siegfried & Roy are synonymous with both Las Vegas and tigers. The duo had been using tigers as part of their act for years without incident. However, in 2003, Horn suffered a seizure during a show, prompting one of the tigers to try and pull him to safety. However, this involved the tiger grabbing him by the throat with his teeth, causing significant injury and nearly killing him. Horn insisted the tiger did nothing wrong and the animal was spared (it eventually died years later from natural causes). Horn would eventually recover and the duo would make one more performance in 2009 before retiring the following year.

25. Hugh Hefner

Playboy Magazine founder and famed hedonist Hugh Hefner has lived a very long time, even in spite of some health scares and wild lifestyle. However, there was one incident where Hef nearly bit the big one, and it would have been in the most Hugh Hefner way possible. According to interviews, Hefner was having a romp in bed with four - yes, four - Playmate when a sex toy made its way into his mouth. Due to this, and due to his four companions being understandably distracted, Hefner nearly choked to death. It didn’t come to that, but that would have made a hell of an obituary.

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