Real-Life Celebrity Heroes
Meet the stars whose real-life heroics make headlines
The good deed: Helping a woman who had passed out on a hike
Minnie John was on vacation with her family at Utah's Arches National Park when she began to feel sick, according to her Facebook post detailing the incident. When she began feeling lightheaded, she told her family members to go on without her as she took a break on a rock.
Holding her head in her hands, John then fainted, only to suddenly awaken to find herself being taken care of by someone with "a familiar voice."
That voice, it turned out, belonged to none other than Modern Family star Bowen, who was passing by with her sister Annie Luetkemeyer, a doctor.
Explaining that Bowen kept asking her questions, John wrote, "I wondered if I might be watching tv," as the duo cleaned up her wounds and gave her electrolytes to help her heal.
The sisters called John's family to let them know what had happened while other hikers traveled to find them about 20 minutes away.
The good deed: Saved a costar from a moving helicopter blade
According to a book written recently by Cocktail aerial camera operator Bill Bennett (via IndieWire), Cruise saved costar Elisabeth Shue from the active tail rotor of a helicopter during a break between scenes. After Shue started running to the back of the helicopter, unaware the rotor was spinning, and Cruise "lunged after her, but only was able to grab her legs, tackling her to the ground … At that point she turned white, and he pulled her back towards the front of the helicopter and they walked away. All of us in the helicopter, we're quite shaken up by the close call, but there was nothing to be said. Tom had, in that instant, truly saved her life," Bennett wrote.
Dr. Mehmet Oz
The good deed: Performing CPR on a man who collapsed at the airport.
Dr. Oz had just landed from a flight at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey in March 2021 when he heard that a man at baggage claim had stopped breathing and collapsed. The TV doc, a surgeon, cleared the man's airway and performed CPR until airport officers arrived with oxygen and a defibrillator.
According to officials, the man started breathing again after several cycles of CPR and was transported to intensive care at a local hospital.
"As a physician and a human being, it's our responsibility to jump in when there's a medical emergency," Oz said in a statement to PEOPLE. "Another critical reminder of how important it is to take the time to learn how to do CPR and use a defibrillator. You could save a life."
The good deed: Saving Halle Berry from choking.
Berry, who played Bond girl Jinx Johnson in 2002's Die Another Day, recently revealed that Brosnan channeled a real-life James Bond moment when he saved her from choking while filming a scene together.
"I was supposed to be all sexy and seduce him with a fig," Berry recalled on Jimmy Fallon's at-home edition of The Tonight Show in April 2020. "And then he had to get up and do the Heimlich. So not sexy."
"You never see that in a James Bond movie," a humored Fallon said.
"You should've seen it," Berry said, joking, "James Bond knows how to Heimlich."
The good deed: Rescuing a man who fell overboard.
Not all incidents involving Leonardo DiCaprio and large boats go as badly as things did in Titanic.
The Academy Award-winning actor was vacationing with his friends and girlfriend Camila Morrone on a rented boat near St. Barts on Dec. 30 when they heard there was an emergency call that a search was on for a man who had drunkenly fallen overboard from a Club Med yacht.
It just so happened that DiCaprio's boat was in the area when the man was spotted and rescued in rough water.
"Leo and his friends and their boat captain decided to join the search and their efforts resulted in helping save a man's life," a source told PEOPLE exclusively. It was reported that the man had been treading water for 11 hours.
The insider added, "The boat crew were happy to try and assist - even more so that they were able to help get the man to safety."
The good deed: Pulling a man to safety after he fell onto New York City subway tracks
On her way home from a vocal lesson, the Billions actress saw two men struggling to lift another from the subway tracks when she sprung into action. "I could see the two men giving up," she says. "They were letting him go."
Errico, a mother of three, knew she had to act quickly, "I came running over. I was like, 'You can't lift him? We got this.' " That's when she grabbed the man from under the arms, counted to three, and hoisted him from the tracks.
Though the man suffered from a broken foot and cuts to his arms, he will reportedly make a full recovery thanks to the trio.
The good deed: Plucking a baby from an overturned car following an accident
Trejo happened to be in the area when two cars collided in the Sylmar neighborhood of Los Angeles on Hubbard Street and Jackman Avenue in August 2019.
Acting fast, the Machete star crawled into the totaled car from one side, but said he was unable to reach the child's car seat.
That's when a bystander, whom Trejo described as a "young woman" in the video, stepped in and undid the buckle, and together they pulled the baby from the vehicle.
While Trejo is being praised for his heroism, he explained to ABC 7, "the only thing that saved that little kid was his car seat, honest to God."
The good deed: Saving a young fan from a crushing crowd
While signing autographs in New York in June 2019, Holland came to the defense of a girl who began suffering from a panic attack due to the aggressive autograph hunters who were shoving their way to the front of the crowd.
The incident was captured on video shared from the girl's Twitter account, in which Holland can be heard saying, "It's okay, I got you," and, "I'm gonna throw all your s- on the floor if you keep pushing that girl." He later did just that, leaving behind the photos, pens and papers of autograph seekers who weren't complying with his request.
In a series of tweets, the girl, only identified from her Twitter account as @NamelessCass, detailed the experience and thanked the star.
"if anyone can just go ahead and tell Tom thank you and I hope to actually meet him and thank him someday it would be much appreciated lmfao," she added.
The good deed: Saving Michael Douglas from a snake bite
On a September 2018 visit to The Talk, DeVito recalled a day of filming Romancing the Stone in Mexico with Douglas in the 1980s.
"There was this guy who had a truck with a cage on it and inside the pickup truck, in the bed of the truck, were snakes," DeVito said.
"But Michael, he's being the hot shot, Mikey D.," he said. "And the guy's got a snake on his arm and all the kids are coming around. And Michael grabs the snake. I'm going, 'Michael, don't touch the snake! That's a snake, man. That snake could bite you, man.' " And it did - right on the hand.
"I always heard the best thing to do is suck the poison out, right away, so I did," DeVito said. "I grabbed his hand and I'm spitting all over the place, and I say, 'Boy, it's a good thing this didn't bite you on the balls man - you would be a dead man.' "
Meryl Streep & Cher
The good deed: Saving a woman from an attacker
The longtime friends were going on an ice cream run in New York City when they encountered an in-progress assault. "We walk down the street and we hear screaming," Cher recalled on The Late Late Show with James Corden. "We come around the corner and this gigantic man is ripping the clothes off of this girl. And Meryl starts screaming, and I start screaming, and we run towards this gigantic man and he turns and starts running towards us. Just out of - I don't know, we split, and he ran through us. We went up to the girl and all of her clothes were torn and she was clutching her bag. So we're putting her together and trying to get her to look a little bit like she hasn't just been ravished, and she looks at us, and she goes, 'Oh, my God, I've been saved by Meryl Streep and Cher!'"
Streep previously mentioned the incident while speaking at the Committee to Protect Journalists awards in 2017. "Someone else was being abused and I just went completely nuts and went after this man. Ask Cher - she was there. And the thug ran away, it was a miracle," she said.
The good deed: Saving a cyclist from muggers
According to London Uber driver Manuel Dias, Cumberbatch and his wife, Sophie Hunter, were riding in his car when they came upon a delivery cyclist being attacked by four men. Dias told The Sun that the Sherlock star jumped out of the car to yell at the attackers before physically engaging with them. "I had hold of one lad and Benedict another. He seemed to know exactly what he was doing. He was very brave. He did most of it, to be honest," Dias said. "They tried to hit him, but he defended himself and pushed them away. He wasn't injured. Then I think they also recognized it was Benedict and ran away … If he hadn't stepped in, the cyclist could have been seriously injured. He asked the rider how he was and when he said, 'I'm okay,' Benedict just hugged him."
Police didn't confirm the names of anyone involved in the incident, but their report states that a delivery person was attacked, no arrests were made and the victim did not go to the hospital. "I did it out of, well, I had to, you know," the actor told The Sun about taking action. Meanwhile, Deliveroo, the company that employs the victim, showed their appreciation for Cumberbatch on Twitter.
Tom Holland (Again)
The good deed: Taking care of a lost dog and finding its owner
Holland really is the friendly neighborhood … actor. "Walking around Kingston and we found this dog who seems to have been stray for the last few days. If it is your dog, please let us know. We're going to take him to the vet to make sure he's all okay," the Spider-Man: Homecoming star said in a video posted to his Instagram Story. He also shared a video of the dog happily sniffing a bag of food as they waited in the vet office. In his last update on the pup, Holland revealed that the vet located a microchip and was able to contact the owners. The dog had been wandering around after getting out of a gate in his family's yard.
The good deed: Jumping off stage to help an audience member who was having a seizure
The doctor-turned-actor was just beginning his May 2018 stand-up show in Phoenix when a woman sitting in the third row reportedly suffered a seizure. According to witnesses, at first Jeong thought the commotion was being caused by a heckler. "He couldn't see what was going on with the lights," audience member Heather Holmberg explained to USA Today. "He was playing with them from the stage for a second, and it was like, 'No, no, no. We need you!' He realized there was an issue, and he came over. It was a moment where time stands still. Someone was having a crisis. There was a hush over the room." The actor assisted the woman until an ambulance arrived, and then he resumed performing.
The good deed: Saving a drowning woman in Costa Rica.
The A Quiet Place actor spent six months in the Central American country after he graduated high school.
"One of the places I went was this amazing beach called Manuel Antonio that I didn't realize had an insane riptide," he explained to Playboy. "While I was swimming there - this is a story I've never told anybody - this Costa Rican girl and an American guy were swimming right next to me, and we were knee-deep. I went underwater for a second, and when I came back up he was screaming at the top of his lungs. Literally in three seconds the girl had been swept 150 yards out."
Fortunately, Krasinski's mother was a lifeguard and had taught him to swim from a very early age. "In that moment, I didn't ask anyone. There was no one to help me. I just went out and tried to save her," he said.
The incident proved to be life altering. "Granted, not everybody needs to have life-or-death experiences, but that changed my entire life. All of a sudden I grew up," he said.
The good deed: He pulled a woman to safety following a car crash
Wilson and pro golfer Bill Haas were both involved in a fatal crash in February 2018, and while the actor walked away from the crash, Haas was injured and the driver of the Ferrari the golfer was traveling in was killed.
Police said the Ferrari was "traveling at a high-rated speed" when its driver lost control and hitting multiple vehicles before smashing into a light pole. The Toyota SUV Wilson was driving was struck by the Ferrari but the actor was not injured. As soon as the Ferrari came to a stop, Wilson spring into action, with a witness at the scene calling the star a hero.
Sean Heirigs told PEOPLE he helped Wilson get an unidentified 50-year-old woman who was trapped in her SUV which had flipped during the collision. The woman's leg was pinned in the twisted vehicle.
"At one point, [Wilson] was like, 'Let's get her out of here, it smells like smoke,'" recalled Heirigs. "You don't know if it's going to blow up or not. So, I reached in through a window to calm her down. Luke went around the back, to the trunk of the car. We pried it open, she was able to unbuckle herself, and Luke started to pull her out from the back. We then both carried her to the curb."
Davey Boy Smith Jr.
The good deed: The former WWE wrestler prevented a suicide
The wrestler (née Harry Smith) recounted his harrowing tale on Facebook. "When driving up 16th Avenue past bowness road in Calgary I saw a girl crying and hanging off the bridge with someone trying to talk to her. I stopped and jumped the barricade and tried talking to the girl," he wrote. "She was crying and an emotional mess and threatening to jump if I got closer. She started to slide and want to go more as I grabbed a hold her. Luckily my years of grappling and self defense I knew how to grab her HARD and how to pull her up from hanging off and jumping." The woman told Smith that she had a gun, but the former athlete didn't back down: "I told her 'Miss your not going to move unless I want you to, I'm an expert grappler and your [sic] not going to shoot me. We will get you help life is a precious thing and I'm here to help to help you.'"
Authorities confirmed Smith's account and that the woman was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. "For me saving someone's life is the greatest accomplishment I've ever made, and meant more than winning any championships in Wrestling," the star wrote in a followup post. "People should never be afraid to ask for help if they need it. And you should never refuse a hand to help somebody in need. Spend time with people that really care about you and love you."
The good deed: The actor comforted a victim who had been slashed in the face by muggers
The former Harry Potter star was walking in west London when thieves slashed a tourist's face and tried to steal his bag. "The victim - a man aged in his 50s - was walking in the road when two people riding a moped snatched his bag before riding off. The victim suffered a cut to the face during the incident," a police statement said of the attack. Radcliffe and other pedestrians came to the aid of the victim. Former police officer David Videcette told The Evening Standard that he witnessed the actor "comforting the tourist," adding, "It was a bit of the surreal moment, I said 'you're Daniel Radcliffe.' and he replied, 'I am.' He was a really nice bloke, a lot of stars wouldn't have stopped to help."
The good deed: The singer consoled a woman after she was hit by a golf ball during a celebrity tournament
At the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in July 2017, a golfer in Timberlake's group accidentally sent a tee shot into the crowd of spectators, striking anunidentified woman. In footage from the incident, the star can be seen walking over to console the woman, helping her to her feet and topping it off with a high five.
The good deed: Keaton used the Heimlich maneuver to save his friend from choking
On a June 2017 Jimmy Kimmel Live appearance, Keaton recalled saving his friend's life. "A very good friend of mine, [director] Dennis Dugan actually, we were hanging out at his house and everyone had gone home after this party," he explained. "And all of a sudden I look at him and he's really red in the face, and then he's kind of getting a shade of blue that was concerning. And he very calmly kinda [pointed at his neck] … And I remember seeing somewhere or someone explaining what the Heimlich maneuver was. So I got behind him and I thought, 'Man, I hope this works.' And I did it really hard, because you're supposed to. And this thing just shot across the room."
According to the actor, he and Dugan didn't even discuss the harrowing incident until the next morning. "About 11:30 he calls me and he goes, 'Hey, man, do you remember last night?' … That's when I went, 'I saved a guy's life last night.' "
The good deed: The actor allegedly chased down and detained a moped thief
According to The Sun, Hardy happened to witness two suspects fleeing after crashing a stolen moped in London. The outlet reported that he pursued one alleged thief on foot, running through gardens and across a building before catching him and patting him down for weapons. In a statement, police confirmed that a member of the public had detained one of the two male teenagers who were arrested on suspicion of theft following a collision, but did not reveal whether Hardy was the good samaritan in question. "Two 16-year-old boys immediately made off from the scene," the statement read, with officials noting that "the rider of the motorcycle was detained by a member of the public."
The good deed: The Zoey 101 alum saved a 4-month-old baby boy from a serious car accident
Underwood witnessed a Port St. Lucie, Florida vehicle fail to stop at a stop sign, swerve across six lanes, and crash into a tree. While his brother called 911, the actor ran over to the car where he found two unconscious adults and an infant in the back seat. "I heard a baby cry and that's when I immediately ran around the other side of the car and looked for the baby," Underwood explained to WPTV.com. According to a press release, "[Underwood] removed the infant boy and placed him next to the officer on scene." Driver Jessica Ruth Hand, who was found with a syringe in her arm, was arrested for child neglect and possession of drug paraphernalia. Passenger John Jacob Rodriguez was arrested for child neglect, possession of controlled substance without prescription, possession of drug paraphernalia and violation of probation warrant. The child was turned over to a family member. "I hope they can get rehabilitated," Underwood told WPTV of Hand and Rodriguez. "I hope they can wake up and want their child back so much, want their life together, that they'll get clean."
The good deed: On a cold London day, the former Sexiest Man Alive brought an injured elderly patient and the paramedic attending to him hot cups of coffee and tea
London's Cycle Response Unit senior paramedic Catherine Maynard was keeping an elderly man who had fallen in the street warm while waiting for an ambulance when the soccer star appeared. "Although I was keeping [the patient] warm it was very cold outside," Maynard said in a London Ambulance Service press release. "All of a sudden, I looked up and saw someone who looked like David Beckham walking past us. He said 'Hello' and got in his car. I said to the man I was treating, 'I think that was David Beckham.' Ten minutes later, he came back with a cup of coffee for me and a tea for the patient." The patient was taken to an urgent care center and treated for minor injuries. After the man was safe in the hands of the medical team, the handsome hero even took the time to take a photo with Maynard. "It was awful cycling around in the cold today and I couldn't believe it when he came back with some hot drinks - I was so chuffed," said Maynard.
The good deed: The royal rushed to the rescue of a woman whose wheelchair was knocked over by a strong gust of wind
Prince Harry was chatting with Anna Pollock, an RAF medic, at the trials for the Invictus Games when a strong gust of wind blew and knocked her over and onto the track. The prince sprang into action, helping right the cyclist - and, in true Harry fashion, he made sure to crack a few jokes to lighten the mood along the way.
The good deed: The actor pulled a man from a burning vehicle following a car accident
Foxx rushed to the rescue when a man crashed his car outside of the star's Hidden Valley, California, home. The driver lost control of his vehicle, skidded off the road and flipped his car, causing it to burst into flames. Thankfully, Foxx was there to call 911 and pull the still-buckled in man out of the burning vehicle. Though the driver suffered burns and was taken to a hospital, he escaped with his life thanks to the quick-acting Foxx.
The good deed: Rescued four men from a mud hole in Oklahoma
While out for a drive, The Voice coach came across a group of men who'd been stranded near the Oklahoma River for two hours. Shelton first attempted to pull them out of the mud hole they'd fallen into by himself; when that failed, the country star successfully used his tractor. "If it wasn't for Blake, I would have been out there for countless hours," rescuee Bryar Blanton told E!. "And yeah I would say he is a hero."
The good deed: Saved her son and nannies from drowning
It was trouble in paradise for Klum, who proved she was much more than a pretty face in a bikini when her oldest son Henry and two nannies were sucked into a riptide on their March 2013 Hawaiian vacation. "Of course, as a mother, I was very scared for my child and everyone else in the water," she said in a statement after her lifeguard-like beach rescue. "We were able to get everyone out safely."
The good deed: Helped woman passed out in the grass
Katniss Everdeen to the rescue! Lawrence put her Hunger Games-earned instincts to the test when she found a young girl collapsed in front of her Santa Monica, California, building during a June 2012 walk. As she went to help the person, another bystander called 911.
The good deed: Saved a woman from oncoming traffic
New York City has become a safer (and hotter) metropolis since Ryan Gosling began patrolling the streets - just ask would-be traffic victim Laurie Penny, a British journalist who looked the wrong way (because Britons drive on the left side of the road) while crossing Sixth Avenue. "I literally, LITERALLY just got saved from a car by Ryan Gosling. That actually just happened," Penny wrote in April 2012, setting off a Twitter frenzy.
The good deed: Carried tycoon Richard Branson's mother out of a fire
The Oscar winner's most noteworthy performance to date may be her heroic deed in August 2011, when she saved the life of the 90-year-old mother of Richard Branson when the British tycoon's $70 million British Virgin Islands home caught fire with 20 people inside. "No I didn't save her life," the modest star claimed. "I carried her down the stairs is the truth of it."
The good deed: Talked a suicidal man off a ledge
In 2010, T.I. talked a suicidal man out of jumping off the top of a 22-story Atlanta building. "Something in my heart just said, 'You need to help,'" the rapper told PEOPLE after hearing about the man on the local radio station. T.I. videotaped a message to the distraught man, saying, "Nothing is that bad. Nothing in life is worth taking your life. I'm here to help you. Please come down to talk to me." The man came down and had a "heart to heart" with the artist.
The good deed: Aided a car accident victim
In January 2012, Zoë Saldana rushed to the aid of an elderly woman who'd been injured in a car accident in Culver City, California. The actress called 911 and stayed with the victim until the ambulance came. "Zoë witnessed the car accident, and was very quick to help," says an onlooker.
Tom Cruise (Again)
The good deed: Rescued five people stranded in the Mediterranean
There is no Mission: Impossible for Ethan Hunt or for Tom Cruise, for that matter. The actor has had a long history of coming to the aid of innocent bystanders, but one of the most notable incidents was in the Mediterranean in 1996, when he ordered the crew of his yacht to pick up five people in a drifting raft who had to abandon their own burning sailboat.
The good deed: Used Twitter to help suicidal followers
Demi Moore used the power of Twitter to save the life of a potential suicide victim - twice. In the first instance, in 2009, she called cops in San Jose, California, to help a 48-year-old woman who Tweeted that she planned to end her life. The second time, in 2010, she and Nia Vardalos separately called local authorities when a young man threatened via Tweet to hang himself.
The good deed: Saved two boys from an Oklahoma wildfire
He's sung about "Standing Outside the Fire," but country star Garth Brooks actually went inside the flames of a raging, 600-acre Oklahoma wildfire in 2000 to save two boys and a neighboring family from the oncoming blaze, ferrying them to safety in his pickup truck. One of his evacuees reportedly told the 14- and 10-year-old brothers afterwards, "You just got saved by Garth Brooks."
The good deed: Rescued a drowning man
While vacationing with his family in Hawaii in 2004, then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger noticed a man 300 or 400 yards offshore struggling not to drown. The Terminator star dove into the waves and pulled the cramping swimmer back to shore with the aid of a boogie board. "I told him to relax a little because he was so out of shape," the former Mr. Universe later recounted at a news conference.
The good deed: Rescued Hurricane Katrina victims
When the activist actor heard about the plight of tens of thousands of stranded New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina struck in September 2005, Sean Penn sprung into action, speeding down to the Crescent City and personally helping rescue an estimated 40 people stuck on roofs amid the floodwaters.
The good deed: Pulled a family out a a burning car
In what would defy the audience's disbelief if it happened on the big screen, a motorcycle-riding Vin Diesel spotted a car crash in front of him in Hollywood in 2002, and then ran over to extricate the family - which included young children - before the car reportedly went up in flames.
The good deed: Broke up a fight
Yep, Ryan Gosling to the rescue again! In August 2011, Boss Gos intervened when a New York tussle over an allegedly stolen street painting threatened to turn violent. Stepping in, he reportedly calmed everyone down and shelled out $20 of his own money to settle the dispute.
The good deed: Towing a family stranded on their broken-down boat safely back home
"I was out jet skiing and I saw a boat drifting with a dad and his three kids, waving their arms frantically," Herjavec, who shared a video of the rescue effort on Lake Joseph in Ontario, Canada, on Instagram, told PEOPLE in August 2021. "My first thought was they must love Shark Tank, but then I realized they were out of gas and stranded."
There was "a sense of urgency" to get the family — which turned out to be former pro hockey player Tom Lawson and his three children Ava, 15, Faith, 14, and Luke, 11 — to safety since the sun was setting, Herjavec explained.
"They were in an unlit aluminum boat not meant to be out at night," the Herjavec Group founder said. "We found a rope, tied it to the jet ski and I towed them back to their lake house."
The good deed: Saving Martin Sheen's son Emilio Estevez from drowning on a movie set
Sheen appeared on Daily Blast Live in June 2021, where he spoke about how Fishburne saved his son Emilio Estevez from drowning. At the time, Estevez was visiting his dad on the set of the 1979 film Apocalypse Now, which Sheen was filming alongside Fishburne.
"We didn't know about it until about 30 years later. Emilio never mentioned it, but yeah it's true," Sheen said. "I think Emilio was about 12 or 13, and Larry was 14."
"They became fast friends and they were out in the boat one day and the boat got stuck, and Emilio got out of the boat to clear the area and he began to sink into the mud," Sheen said, adding Emilio "went under, and Larry very quickly moved and pulled him on board."
The actor said he "called Laurence and said, 'Thank you, I appreciate you saving our son's life.'"