FF9 Pictures, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures responsible for shooting Fast & Furious 9: The Fast Saga, has been fined £800,000 (~$1 million) after a stuntman broke his skull and suffered brain damage during filming.
The incident happened at Warner Brothers’ studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, in July 2019, when Joe Watts was filming a staged fight scene. The scene was filmed on a balcony and during a rehearsal, Watts was thrown over another performer’s right shoulder and kept safe by a safety line on his vest. However, the stunt changed during filming and Watts was thrown over the other individual’s left shoulder. The safety line detached and he fell 25 feet (8 meters) over the balcony, missing the crash mats and landing head-first on the concrete.
A Judge at Luton Magistrates Court revealed that the wire was not checked between takes and said it was “astonishing” the crash mats were not adjusted for filming. He said Watts was “fortunate to be alive” after the incident.
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The prosecution against FF9 Pictures was brought by the Health and Safety Executive. It noted the production company “did not extend the crash matting needed to mitigate the consequences of an unintended fall following changes to the set and the sequence of the stunt.” It also said that FF9 Pictures had “no system for double checking that the link had been properly engaged and tightened”.
BBC reports that FF9 Pictures admitted to health and safety failings in court late last week. Prior to the fall, Watts had worked on a number of films and TV shows, including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Johnny English Strikes Again, and Game of Thrones.
HSE inspector Roxanne Barker added that “Mr Watts’ injuries were life-changing and he could have easily been killed. In stunt work, it is not about preventing a fall but minimizing the risk of an injury.”