Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee’s son, was accidentally killed on the set of The Crow when a prop gun was loaded improperly, causing dummy bullets to fire with the same force as live ammunition. He was only 28 years old when he died. Why would this ever happen?
On March 31, 1993, Lee was filming a scene in The Crow where his character is shot and killed by thugs. In the scene, Lee’s character walks into his apartment and discovers his fiancée being beaten and raped, and a thug played by actor Michael Massee is to fire a Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum revolver at Lee’s character as he walks into the room.
In the film shoot preceding the fatal scene, the prop gun, which is a real revolver, was loaded with improperly-made dummy rounds, cartridges from which the special-effects crew had removed the powder charges so in close-ups the revolver would show normal-looking ammunitions.
However, the crew neglected to remove the primers from the cartridges. At some point before the fatal event, one of the rounds had been fired; although there was no powder charges, the energy from the ignited primer was enough to separate the bullet from the casing and push it part-way into the gun barrel, where it got stuck (a condition known as a squib load).
For the fatal scene, which called for the revolver to be fired at Lee from a distance of 12–15 ft, the dummy cartridges were replaced with blank rounds, which contained a powder charge and the primer, but no solid bullet, allowing the gun to be fired with sound and flash effects without the risk of an actual projectile.
However, the gun was not properly checked and cleared before the blank round was fired, and the dummy bullet previously lodged in the barrel was then propelled forward by the blank and shot out the muzzle with almost the same force as if the round were live, striking Lee in the abdomen.