Fast & Furious makers fined after stuntman suffers brain damage on F9 set


The makers of the Fast & Furious films have been fined £800,000 after a stuntman fell 25ft (7m) and suffered brain damage on the set of the ninth film in the franchise.

Joe Watts, who also suffered a broken skull, was performing a stunt in July 2019 at Warner Brothers’ studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, when the incident happened.

During a staged fight scene for F9: The Fast Saga on a balcony, he plunged 25ft headfirst on to the concrete ground after his safety line detached, as he was thrown over the shoulder of another performer.

The company which makes the films, FF9 Pictures, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, was ordered to pay £800,000 after admitting to health and safety failings at Luton Magistrates’ Court.

The court was told Mr Watts was thrown over the right shoulder of another performer during rehearsals, but during filming it was changed to the left.

His safety line, which operated correctly during the first take, detached from his vest on the next take and he fell to the ground, missing the crash mats.

The wire was not checked between takes.

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Sentencing, district judge Talwinder Buttar criticised the decision to make changes to the stunt “at the last minute”, saying Mr Watts is “fortunate to be alive”.

She added it is “astonishing” that the mats were not adjusted, despite the change in the routine from rehearsals.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought the prosecution, saying FF9 had “no system for double checking that the link had been properly engaged and tightened”.

Cena (R) was doing promo for the next instalment in the Fast And Furious franchise. Pic: 2021 Universal Studios
Vin Diesel and John Cena in F9. Pic: Universal Studios

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HSE said the company “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 is a prominent stunt actor, having worked on projects such as Game Of Thrones and the Star Wars films.

HSE inspector Roxanne Barker said: “Mr Watts’ injuries were life-changing and he could have easily been killed.

“In stunt work, it is not about preventing a fall but minimising the risk of an injury.”

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