The Expendables franchise is centered around bombastic spectacle and paying tribute to the blockbuster action movies and stars of the ’80s and ’90s. The film series, which saw its fourth installment released earlier in 2023, continues to be a fan favorite for viewers that enjoy old-school movie action updated for the modern day. However, like the titular team’s efforts to accomplish their missions, the production’s commitment to practical effects was not without its risks. During the filming of The Expendables 3, an on-set malfunction almost led to a deadly accident. During a chase sequence, one of the film’s stars, Jason Statham, almost gets trapped in an incredibly dangerous situation several meters under the water. Fortunately, Statham proved his mettle as an off-screen action star, surprising even the production crew with his adept skills that helped him survive the almost fatal accident and making him look like a bona fide member of the Expendables.

The accident during the making of The Expendables 3 took place while filming one of the action sequences in the first act. During a mission to Somalia, the Expendables are forced to flee from pursuing henchmen while riding in a flatbed truck driven by Jason Statham’s character, Lee Christmas. Statham was meant to drive the truck up to the edge of the water before coming to a stop as he and his passengers fired back at the antagonists chasing them. Notably, it was Statham himself driving the vehicle, not a stunt driver. This was because, unlike other actors, Statham also had extensive experience behind-the-wheel in action movies, displaying natural talent and proficiency as a stunt driver throughout his career. During one of the run-throughs for the stunt, the brakes on the truck failed, and it plummeted into the ocean with Statham still inside. Statham’s escape was also made more challenging as his gun holster got stuck on the seatbelt, making it an even more arduous task to escape the sinking vehicle. Fortunately, Statham was able to make it out of the truck, leaving cameras and equipment as the only losses of the day.

A behind-the-scenes video from IGN actually shows the accident as it happened, showing the truck tipping over the edge as the crew scrambled to save their star. In the clip, Terry Crews recalls the feelings of shock when it happened, thinking, “I just saw a person die.” However, the terror was short-lived, as Statham surfaced from the water to the relief of the entire crew. Even more impressively, despite the near-death accident that just occurred, Statham changed into a dry set of clothes and returned ready to continue.

While the unexpected nature of the accident would have been dangerous even for a professional stuntperson, Jason Statham was actually uniquely suited to surviving this specific malfunction. Before becoming an actor, Statham was a professional diver with Olympic aspirations. Statham joined the British National Diving School in 1985 before going on to represent the country in international competitions. He went on to represent England in the diving competition at the 1990 Commonwealth Games, held that year in New Zealand. Despite participating in the Olympic trials for the 1988 and 1992 Summer Games, Statham never made it to the highest level of diving competition. Even though Statham’s diving background is more closely related to his other action-packed franchise, The Meg, it ended up being even more integral during The Expendables 3’s filming accident. While he didn’t quite get a pin-drop entrance in the water like usual, Statham’s skills helped him escape the sinking vehicle and make it to the surface without serious injury.

Though simply starring in The Expendables doesn’t require real-world death-defying skills, Statham’s unique combination of talents were certainly vital to his very survival. For all the accidents that could have occurred during the filming of these intense action sequences, it’s almost a relief that this incident happened to the one performer with a background in the two skills most suitable for survival. Just as Statham survived the harrowing incident, so too does his character, Christmas, continue to survive dangerous threat after dangerous threat. In the years since this filming accident, Statham continues to be one of the best action stars in the past few decades, even taking over the helm of The Expendables franchise after Sylvester Stallone’s departure from the series.

The Expendables 3 is available on Prime Video for rent or purchase in the U.S.

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