Filmmakers of the high-speed “Fast & Furious” franchise were ordered Friday to pay a $1 million fine after a stuntman broke his skull while filming the ninth installment.
Joe Watts reported falling 25 feet head-first onto the concrete ground during a staged fight scene while filming “F9: The Fast Saga” in July 2019 at Warner Bros. studio in Hertfordshire, UK, reports the BBC.
FF9 Pictures admitted health and safety failings in court and accepted the fine.
The Post reached out to Universal Pictures, which distributed the 2021 film, for comment.
The UK judge presiding over the case said on Friday that Watts, 35, was “fortunate to be alive” after Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecutors detailed how his safety line became detached as he performed a stunt that differed from the one that had been rehearsed several times.
Joe Watts reported falling 25 feet head-first onto the concrete ground during a staged fight scene while filming “F9: The Fast Saga” in July 2019.©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection
Watts was initially supposed to be thrown over a performer’s right shoulder, however, in a last-minute change, the stunt actor was told he would be thrown over the actor’s left shoulder.
The stuntman missed the crash mats that had been set out for him, and he suffered brain damage, the court was told.
The safety line had reportedly not been checked between takes.
District Judge Talwinder Buttar slammed the decision to change the stunt “at the last minute,” stating that the mats should have also been adjusted.
The HSE said the filmmaking team had “no system for double checking that the link (to Watts’ vest) had been properly engaged and tightened.”
District Judge Talwinder Buttar slammed the decision to change the stunt “at the last minute,” stating that the mats should have also been adjusted.Universal
Prosecutors argued that FF9 Pictures, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, “did not extend the crash matting needed to mitigate the consequences of an unintended fall following changes to the set and the sequence of the stunt.”
“Mr. Watts’ injuries were life-changing, and he could have easily been killed,” HSE inspector Roxanne Barker said. “In stunt work, it is not about preventing a fall but minimizing the risk of an injury,”
Prior to the incident, Watts had served as a stuntman for several high-profile projects, including “Game of Thrones,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” and “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.”
“Mr. Watts’ injuries were life-changing, and he could have easily been killed,” inspector Roxanne Barker said. “In stunt work, it is not about preventing a fall but minimizing the risk of an injury,”
“Fast and Furious 9: The Fast Saga” stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and John Cena as well as Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Helen Mirren, Kurt Russell and Charlize Theron.
Initially delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “F9” was the world’s biggest release after movie theaters shut their doors in 2020.
The film opened in June 2021 to lukewarm reviews, with The Post’s Johnny Oleksinski calling it a “laughable parody.”
Nevertheless, moviegoers managed to propel it to a $70 million domestic debut, a pandemic-era record for North America at the time.