On This Day: Brandon Lee Killed While Filming ‘The Crow’
Fifteen years ago today, while filming the adaptation of James O’Barr’s comic The Crow, the film crew filmed a scene in which Brandon Lee’s character walked into his apartment and discovered his girlfriend being raped by thugs. Actor Michael Massee, who played one of the film’s villains, was supposed to fire a gun at Lee as he walked into his apartment with groceries.
Because the movie’s second unit team were running behind schedule, it was decided that dummy cartridges (cartridges that outwardly appear to be functional, but contain no gunpowder) would be made from real cartridges. A cartridge with only a primer and a bullet was fired in the pistol prior to the scene. It caused a squib load, in which the primer provided enough force to push the bullet out of the cartridge and into the barrel of the revolver, where it became stuck.
The malfunction went unnoticed by the crew, and the same gun was used again later to shoot the death scene, having been re-loaded with blanks. Nevertheless, the squib load was still lodged in the barrel, and was propelled by the blank cartridge’s explosion out of the barrel and into Lee’s body. Although the bullet was traveling much slower than a normally fired bullet would be, the bullet’s large size and the extremely short firing distance made it powerful enough to fatally wound Lee.
When the blank was fired, the bullet shot out and hit Lee in the abdomen. He fell down instantly and the director shouted "Cut!", but Lee did not respond. The cast and crew filming rushed to him and noticed he was wounded. He was immediately rushed to the hospital where the doctors tried to revive him. It was too late however, and he was pronounced dead at 1:03 PM.