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Most people experience a brush with death at some point in their life. Freak occurences, medical emergencies, illness or “almost”-accidents serve to remind us of the fragility of human life. This principle also applies to celebrities. Here are 15 celebrities whose lives were changed by a near-death experience.
In 2002 Kanye West suffered a near fatal car accident while leaving the studio, running head-on into traffic and into another vehicle. The rapper would get his jaw wired shut for facial reconstructive surgery. During his recovery he recorded “Through The Wire” with his jaw still surgically shut. The single would go on to become a major success, garnering a Grammy nomination.
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Actor Gary Busey is known for his unhinged onscreen persona, so much so that many audience members are convinced the actor is as crazy as the characters he portrays. Much of Busey’s eccentric offscreen behavior can be chalked up to a 1988 motorcycle injury that almost ended his life. Decades later, the actor would discover it may have also rendered him brain damaged and weakened his mental “filters.” Loveline’s Dr. Drew Pinsky helped psychiatrist Charles Sophy diagnose and medicate the damage.
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The actor who became famous for his portrayal of Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ nearly died on the set of the film. During the film’s Sermon of Mount scene, the actor was struck by lightning. The crew apparently saw the actor catch fire briefly. Caviezel claims his first thought after it happened was the cosmic question “So you didn’t like that take, huh?”
Johnny Depp & Bruce Robinson
Last year Johnny Depp reported his own brush with death came during a plane ride with The Rum Diary director Bruce Robinson. Their aircraft reportedly had all of its engines shut down. “Bruce and I were looking at each other and I think I said, ‘Is this it?’ It was like this weird extended moment when you’re just floating for a second and you could feel this unpleasant descent.” The actor also said the two burst into laughter at the realization of how they were going to go out. Then, of course, they regained the engines and flew safely for the remainder of the trip. Depp credits the event as strengthening his relationship with Robinson.
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Eminem nearly died from a drug overdose in 2011. In an interview with GQ, the actor described waking up in the hospital: “I came to in the hospital and I didn’t know what the f— happened. Tubes in me… needles in my arms. I didn’t realize I had [overdosed]. I wanted my drugs.” The rapper would use this experience and his subsequent stint in rehab as the fodder for his following albums, Relapse and Recovery.
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50 Cent has had a handful of brushes with death. The first came before he broke it big—he was shot nine times at point blank range with a 9mm in 2000. Bullets hit his hand, arm hips, legs, chest and face. He spent thirteen weeks in the hospital thereafter. Years later he would mine the experience creatively, reenacting the incident on the album and film Get Rich Or Die Tryin. Earlier this year, 50 had his second near-death experience in a car accident that would have proved fatal if he hadn’t been driving in a bullet-proof truck. Instead, the Mack truck that hurtled into the rear of his vehicle was more damaged. The rapper later denied it was a stunt to promote his album, FIVE (Muder By Numbers).
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The former O.C. star revealed in 2006 that she was pronounced dead following a near fatal car crash: “I basically died and then came back. The window went into my head. It was really gross.” The actress continues to suffer from migraines and memory loss as a byproduct of the accident.
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In 1999, bestselling author Stephen King would be hit by a van during an afternoon walk. In the process, King suffered a number of injuries—a collapsed right lung, multiple fractures of his right leg, scalp laceration, a broken hip—and nearly lost a leg. He would implement his experience in a number of his novels, including Lisey’s Story, Duma Key, and an entry of the Dark Tower series. He also described the event in detail in the autobiographical On Writing.
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In 2006, Joaquin Phoenix flipped his car off a Los Angeles canyon road when his brakes failed. Phoenix became trapped inside the vehicle and, despite the fact the car was leaking gas, went to light up a cigarette. A voice stopped him, broke out the back of the car’s window, and pulled him out. Even stranger, his savior turned out to be none other than legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog (Bad Lieutenant: Port Call of New Orleans, Grizzly Man).
A pre-fame Dustin Hoffman was stepping out of his Greenwich Village, NY apartment one day when suddenly it exploded behind him. The blast came from a bomb that was accidentally detonated by a group of left wing radicals, The Weather Underground. It reduced the four story complex to rubble. In an interview with Independent Film Quarterly, Hoffman would credit the blast, in part, for helping him reaffirm his belief in God.
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In 1999 Bad Boys star Martin Lawrence would suffer from a heat stroke while running. The actor intended to step up his regime to lose weight for a movie role, donning several layers of clothing to run 100 degree weather. He ended up collapsing into a coma for three days and had to have breathing assistance via respirator during his hospital stay.
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Sharon Stone suffered from a sudden brain hemorrhage in 2001. Later the actress insisted she felt the sensation of dying and coming back to life. “I was hemorrhaging into my brain for 11 days before they found out what was going on,” adding “Yes, I had a ‘white light’ experience.” The actress is said to have had a newfound outlook on life ever since.
During the filming of Modern Problems in 1981, Chevy Chase suffered near fatal electrocution. It happened while filming a scene where his character dreamed he was an airplane. While wearing a suit of “landing lights,” a current short circuited and arced through the comedian’s arm, back, and neck. The incident is said to have caused the actor a period of deep depression thereafter, coming right on the heels of a divorce.
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During his stint as one of Hollywood’s favorite action heroes, Burt Reynolds experience many near brushes with death while performing his own stunts. One of the most memorable came on the set of Evening Shade in 1991, when baby powder shot from a prop fire extinguisher ignited, setting Reynold’s face on fire. Reynolds claims, “If you see the shot, you say, ‘He’s dead,’ but my eyebrows were singed, and that’s about it.”
Ozzy Osbourne crashed his all-terrain bike outside his Buckinghamshire estate in 2003, injuring the vertebrae in his neck and fracturing eight ribs in the process. Following the almost fatal accident the rocker had to be treated for bleeding lungs and a collapsed collar bone. The footage was caught on tape as it happened during the filming of his family’s reality TV show The Osbournes. Filming, of course, was suspended while Ozzy recovered.