The production company behind the Fast and Furious franchise, FF9 Pictures, has been slapped with a $1 million fine following a tragic accident while filming Fast and Furious 9. The penalty comes after stuntman Joe Watts suffered severe brain damage and a broken skull at Warner Brothers’ studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, in July 2019.
The stunt, intended to be a tense action sequence for the blockbuster Fast and Furious film, took a devastating turn when Watts fell 25 feet head-first onto the concrete ground. According to BBC News, the incident occurred during a balcony fight scene where Watts, performing a rehearsed stunt, had his safety line detach as he was thrown over the shoulder of another performer.
The repercussions of this mishap were severe, leaving Watts with life-changing injuries. District judge Talwinder Buttar, presiding over the case at Luton Magistrates’ Court, emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating that Watts was “fortunate to be alive.” The court learned that the Fast and Furious stunt had changed, swapping from the rehearsed right shoulder throw to the left.
No Proper Inspection
As a result, the safety line that had successfully worked during the first Fast and Furious take detached from Watts’s vest on the second take, leading to the horrifying fall. The wire was not inspected between takes. Judge Buttar criticized the decision to modify the stunt “at the last minute” and expressed astonishment that the matting was not adjusted to align with the altered routine from rehearsals.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought forth the prosecution, revealing that FF9 lacked a system for double-checking the proper engagement and tightening of the safety link. The HSE also said the Fast and Furious production company failed to extend the crash matting to mitigate the consequences of an unintended fall following changes to the set and stunt sequence.
Joe Watts As A Stuntman
Roxanne Barker, an HSE inspector, emphasized the severity of Watts’s Fast and Furious injuries, describing them as “life-changing” and pointing out that he could easily have been killed in the incident. Barker also stressed the importance of minimizing injuries in stunt work instead of merely preventing them. “In stunt work, it is not about preventing a fall but minimizing the risk of an injury,” she said.
Watts has worked on several high-profile projects such as Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Johnny English Strikes Again, and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Fast and Furious 9, also known as F9: The Fast Saga, is directed by Justin Lin, who co-wrote the script with Daniel Casey, based on a story by Casey, Lin, and Alfredo Botello.
It is the ninth main installment and 10th overall in the Fast and Furious franchise. The movie stars Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, alongside Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Michelle Rodriguez, John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang, Jordana Brewster, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell, Helen Mirren, and Charlize Theron
Another Blockbuster Film
Fast and Furious 9 follows Dom and his crew as they take on an infamous international terrorist who is also Dom and Mia’s estranged brother. The film features incredible set pieces and wall-to-wall action, with the franchise hurtling further over the top than ever. The movie earned approximately $726.5 million at the global box office.