In a recent turn of events, the makers of the action-packed movie Fast & Furious 9, known as FF9 Pictures Limited, faced a heavy penalty. The company, a branch of Universal Pictures, was fined over $1 million. This decision followed a tragic incident on set that caused severe injuries to stuntman Joe Watts.
Joe Watts, a seasoned stunt performer with credits in movies like Solo: A Star Wars Story and Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, faced a life-altering ordeal in 2019. During a stunt for F9, something went terribly wrong, and he fell 25 feet onto concrete. This accident left him with a traumatic brain injury and a fractured skull, changing his life forever.
What makes this incident even more heart-wrenching is that it could have been prevented. Investigations revealed a critical oversight: the line on Watts’ stunt vest had detached. This failure, coupled with other lapses like the lack of recent harness inspections and inadequate safety matting, led to the unfortunate event.
The U.K.’s Health and Safety Executive, who pursued the case, highlighted these shortcomings. They pointed out that FF9 Pictures had not fully considered the risk of equipment failure, a crucial aspect of stunt safety. The aftermath of this oversight is not just a financial loss for the company but a devastating impact on Watts’ life.
The Luton Magistrates Court, near London, heard the case. There, District Judge Talwinder Buttar imposed the hefty fine of £800,000 (equivalent to $1 million) on FF9. The company was also ordered to cover $18,600 in costs. Judge Buttar remarked on Watts’ fortune in surviving such a severe accident.
Sadly, Joe Watts’ career as a stuntman is over due to his injuries. He’s now suing FF9 Pictures for $1.2 million for personal injury. His lawsuit poignantly states that his ability to work has been permanently impaired.
This incident serves as a sobering reminder of the risks stunt performers face and the paramount importance of safety measures in film production. It’s a wake-up call for the industry, emphasizing that ensuring the safety of its daredevil heroes is as crucial as the thrilling action sequences they bring to life.
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