'I Looked Death Right in the Face': Stars Open Up About Their Near-Death Experiences

From shark attacks to emergency plane landings, these stars are grateful to have escaped their brushes with death

01 of 17

Orlando Bloom

Orlando Bloom
Orlando Bloom. Dave Benett/WireImage

The Pirates of the Caribbean alumnus opened up about a 1998 fall that "crushed" his spine in an Instagram post on Aug. 27, 2021, sharing a throwback photo taken just three months after the near-fatal accident.

The image showed a younger Bloom wearing a back brace while riding a bicycle. The actor juxtaposed the shot by including a recent picture of himself — this time wearing a cycling jersey, bike shorts and a helmet — riding down a tree-lined road.

"That's me in my back brace circa 1998 about 3months after I fell 3floors and crushed my spine, narrowly escaping death and paralysis…" he wrote in he caption, adding, "grateful everyday for my limbs that allow me to push my limits and live life on my edge (safer now🙏)."

Bloom previously went into detail about the fall in a 2005 profile with GQ magazine, sharing that he was climbing up to a roof terrace when the drainpipe he was holding onto collapsed.

"Until then, I didn't have a healthy appreciation for life and death — that we're not invincible," he recalled of the accident. "And for four days, I faced the idea of living in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I went to some dark places in my mind. I realized, I'm either going to walk again or I'm not."

"The doctor said he wasn't sure how severe the spinalcord damage was," Bloom continued. "I remember him telling me that, and staring at the ceiling, thinking, I never stared at ceilings before! And I wonder if I'm going to be looking at ceilings for the rest of my life."

02 of 17

Josh Duhamel

Josh Duhamel
Josh Duhamel. David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty

The Shotgun Wedding star almost died while filming in the Domincan Republic, he revealed on an episode of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. During his downtime, Duhamel often went swimming in a "calm, turquoise" cove beneath his hotel room, he told the late night host. But on one occasion, which the star captured on video, the waves were "tumultuous."

"The waves were crashing like 30 feet in the air," he explained. "This rogue wave comes up as I'm videotaping this thing and literally washed me almost over the edge of this cliff."

Luckily, the actor was saved by some "razor-sharp coral" that turned him "into hamburger," he joked, noting that it scraped up his legs but provided some traction as the wave swept over him.

"It was one of the near-death experiences of my life, for sure," he added before showing the video of the waves crashing over him.

03 of 17

David Arquette

David Arquette
Jesse Grant/Getty

In 2018, during his stint in the professional wrestling world, the actor was accidentally stabbed in the neck with a cylindrical light bulb during a so-called "death match" with Nick Gage, he told PEOPLE. "I thought I was dying ... I got out of the ring and I was totally lost. I couldn't see and I couldn't hear."

Arquette was then rushed to a hospital, where he received stitches and surgery. His ordeal, which is chronicled in the documentary You Cannot Kill David Arquette, was ultimately a wake-up call.

"There was a certain carefree, daredevil aspect about the way I lived life previously," he told PEOPLE, "But I didn't want to die."

With the help of therapy and support from his wife Christina McLarty Arquette, to whom he's been wed since 2015 (they have two sons, Charlie, 6, and Gus, 3; he also has 16-year-old Coco with ex-wife Courteney Cox),"I learned to love myself," he added. "I had to stop being self-destructive and making choices that were throwing bombs."

04 of 17

Sharon Stone

Sharon Stone
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic.

The Basic Instincts actress and HIV/AIDS awareness activist has had several brushes with death, which she opened up about to The Sun and on Brett Goldstein's Films To Be Buried With podcast.

"I had my neck cut to a sixteenth of an inch from my jugular vein when I was 14 on a clothesline," she told The Sun of the first experience.

On the podcast, she added that she was once hit by lightning, which she described as "really intense."

"I was at home, we had our own well. I was filling up the iron with water and I had my hand on the faucet. The well got hit by lightning and it came up through the water," she explained.

"I was indoors and I got picked up and thrown across the kitchen and hit the refrigerator. ... It was so crazy," she said, adding that her mom immediately drove her to the hospital.

In 2001, the actress also suffered a massive stroke, which took her years to recover from.

"It's like, 'How am I going to die next time?' Probably something super dramatic and nuts."

05 of 17

Gary Busey

Celebrities Visit SiriusXM - November 21, 2016
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty

Gary Busey's 1988 motorcycle accident nearly killed him — but it also ended up shaping the course of his life forever.

In 1988, the actor, then 44, turned too hard when trying to maneuver around a bus and hit his back brake, sending him over his windshield and onto his helmet-less head.

In an interview with The Guardian, the now-76-year-old recalled how he "passed away after brain surgery and went to the other side" following the incident, and how his time in "the spiritual realm" impacted his mindset.

"I was surrounded by angels. Balls of light floating all around me. And I felt trust, love, protection and happiness like you cannot feel on earth. It's the feeling the angels live in," he said of the experience.

"The truth told me I wasn't finished over here on Earth," he added.

06 of 17

Courteney Cox

Courteney Cox
Steve Granitz/WireImage

The actress and her Friends costar Jennifer Aniston were en route to Mexico to celebrate Aniston's 50th birthday in February 2019 when the private plane they were on was forced to make an emergency landing.

"I'm not afraid of flying at all, my dad was a pilot, but I was really scared because when we were taking off, we heard this really loud bang," Cox told Extra. "I was like, 'Oh, that sounds like we should probably check that tire.'"

She continued, "There was no tire at all, there was no wheel. Luckily, there are two wheels on each side and two in the front."

"I have to say, we were in the air for four hours, burning off fuel and just thought of what it is going to be like when we land," Cox explained. "It was a really smooth landing."

The mother of one added she texted her 14-year-old daughter Coco and boyfriend Johnny McDaid.

"I sent a little text to Coco, 'I love you,' " Cox said. "I didn't say why, and to Johnny. I told him everything that was going on and I FaceTimed him after."

07 of 17

Bethenny Frankel

2018 Only Make Believe Gala
Bruce Glikas/WireImage

The Real Housewives of New York star was hospitalized in December 2018 after experiencing a nearly fatal allergic reaction to fish.

"I have a rare fish allergy. Sunday, I had soup, itched & was unconscious for 15 mins then to ER & ICU for 2 days w BP of 60/40," Frankel tweeted.

"I couldn't talk, see, thought I had a stroke & dying & told if 5 mins later I'd be dead. 911 & EPI saved me. I'll never not carry an #epipen."

Mere weeks later, Frankel came close to another potentially deadly encounter, when she boarded an aircraft and realized the crew was serving fish despite having called ahead to check she would be safe. Despite her protests that it would delay other passengers, the pilot promptly turned the plane around.

08 of 17

Post Malone

Post Malone's "2018 American Music Awards" Hosted By John Terzian And Dre London At Harriet's In West Hollywood
Vivien Killilea/Getty

The rapper's private jet made an emergency landing after its tires blew out on takeoff in August 2018. The flight was scheduled to go from New Jersey to London, but ended up spending five hours circling airports to burn off fuel before safely landing in New Windsor, New York.

"I f---ing hate flying," the star told TMZ after finally getting back on the ground. "We just heard the tire pop. And then, I don't know if it was smoke or whatever, [came in], and we were like 's---. This is not good at all.'"

"I just put everybody in a big group text [to] tell them I love them, just in case," he said about how he handled being in flight after the malfunction. "I just did it all in one. You know, my family and everybody and my friends. This was before anybody knew [about the plane], I was just like, 'Hey, guys, I love you.' I didn't want to f---ing freak people out and then be stuck in the air."

"I'm alive, man, I'm ready to party," Malone added.

09 of 17

Zac Efron

The Cinema Society Hosts A Screening Of "Baywatch" - Arrivals
Dia Dipasupil/Getty

During an appearance on The Graham Norton Show in December 2017, The Greatest Showman actor revealed that things almost got deadly when he decided to work out with his costar, Hugh Jackman, one morning in London.

"I cycled with him in London, but I'm not one to ride a bike early in the morning in traffic so it turned out to be quite dangerous," Efron told host Norton. "I followed Hugh around a few cars and suddenly there was a double-decker bus right in front of me. I slammed on the brakes, went under the front tire and narrowly missed death."

Efron joked that Jackman wasn't that concerned. "Hugh was on the other side of the road and stuck up his thumb and just said, 'You good? Let's go,' " Efron said.

10 of 17

Amy Schumer

2018 Tony Awards - Red Carpet
Steven Ferdman/Patrick McMullan/Getty

Schumer and surfing don't mix. The comedian had a brush with death after she was involved in a surfing accident during a high school-era lesson. "I have a pretty bad scar on my leg from surfing," she told Vanity Fair in April 2016. "Forty-one stitches, three layers. I skegged myself. My whole fin went into my leg, and I had to yank it out. I was by myself."

It was winter, so when she arrived back on the beach (her leg gushing blood), she found only one man who was able to help her, holding her leg closed until the ambulance arrived around 15 minutes later. "I wish I knew who that guy was, because he saved my life, for sure."

After she realized she wasn't going to die, Schumer's trademark sense of humor kicked in as she began to fear the prospect of losing her leg. "Now I'm going to have to go and be a speaker at high schools and, like, motivate people," she imagined. "I was so annoyed about my life. I was just like, Ucchh. And then it was fine."

11 of 17

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio attends a BAFTA screening of 'The Revenant'
Dave J Hogan/Getty

When it comes to things DiCaprio is thankful for, we're guessing Edward Norton ranks pretty high on the list. Why? He saved his life during a scuba diving expedition in the Galapagos Islands when DiCaprio's oxygen tank failed. Norton noticed and shared his tank with the Oscar winner while they swam back to the surface.

The daredevil actor is no stranger to near-death experiences: "If a cat has nine lives, I think I've used a few," DiCaprio told WIRED in December 2015. From a shark attack and skydiving accident to a near plane crash, the adrenaline junkie shared his tales of his extreme adventuring with the outlet.

12 of 17

Liam Hemsworth

Amfar Gala in Hong Kong 2018, China - 26 Mar 2018

Before he was famous, Hemsworth had a brush with death growing up in Australia. "When I was a kid, one time I got my leg rope wrapped around my whole body like a ball, under water," he told Men's Health. "Couldn't get up. I was in waist-deep water, but I almost drowned. You know, I've had a few times."

13 of 17

Tracy Morgan

70th Primetime Emmy Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 17 Sep 2018

Morgan was involved in a car accident that took the life of his friend, James McNair. Morgan suffered a traumatic brain injury during the crash and was in the hospital for months, but has made a miraculous recovery.

He told Oprah Winfrey that the crash changed his outlook on life. "Something's different," he said. "The way I am with people, something's just different. I find myself saying 'I love you' 200 times a day to strangers. I don't care – I don't gotta know you to love you, I love you!"

14 of 17

Amy Purdy

The 33rd Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner, Arrivals, New York, USA - 24 Sep 2018
Gregory Pace/REX/Shutterstock

Paralympian Amy Purdy came close to death in 1999 after contracting meningitis and going into cardiac arrest. "I was on my death bed, and I remember hanging on to these words, 'Don't be scared. You are going to live an amazing life,' and I have," she said of the experience. She truly has – after losing her legs below the knee in 1999, she went on to win a bronze medal (using prosthetics) in the 2014 Winter Paralympics and to compete on Dancing with the Stars.

15 of 17

Gerard Butler

Actor Gerard Butler Discusses His New Film About Navy Attack Submarine Crew At The Pentagon
Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Schumer isn't the only star who had a close call while surfing. On the set of Chasing Mavericks in Northern California, Butler was pulled underwater and dragged across a reef filled with rocks. Thankfully, he was rescued by a safety patrolman and quickly taken to a nearby hospital.

The incident was as serious as it sounded, Butler said: "This was maybe one of the few times that the reports were not exaggerated. It was a pretty close call. [The waves] just took me, and I couldn't get up. It was pretty hairy."

16 of 17

Travis Barker

John Shearer/WireImage

The Blink-182 drummer survived a plane crash that killed four other people in 2008. "I looked Death right in the face," he told Rolling Stone of the crash.

He suffered second and third-degree burns after the accident but recuperated enough to get back in the studio two months later. "I can't wait to get out of here and be home with the babes," he wrote in the weeks after the accident. "The doctors say I'm healing up quickly, and I'm going to be out of here before you know it."

In 2021, he got back on a plane for the first time since the accident, traveling to Mexico with girlfriend Kourtney Kardashian.

17 of 17


2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival - Weekend 1 - Day 3
Kevin Mazur/Getty

Back in 2007, the rapper nearly died after an overdose on prescription drugs. "I had overdosed in 2007, like, right around Christmas in 2007... I pretty much almost died. I pulled through and went home and relapsed less than a month later, and I literally shot back up to the amount of pills I was taking, shot right back up to where I overdosed," he told Access Hollywood. For him, it was a wake-up call. "The biggest problem is admitting that you have a problem," he said. "Nobody wants to admit that they're not in control of something."

Related Articles