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Universal Slammed With MASSIVE Penalty After Horrible Accident in One of Its Most Lucrative Film Franchises

universal pictures cash piles fast and furious 9
Credit: Universal Pictures/Canva

Universal Pictures has been slammed with massive penalties following an accident on the set of a film in one of the moviehouse’s most lucrative franchises.

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Credit: Universal

In July 2019, filming for one of Universal’s films had to be halted after an actor suffered serious brain injuries related to a fractured skull he sustained when he fell on set. The actor, a veteran stuntman named Joe Watts, was performing in a scene for Universal’s Fast & Furious 9, also called F9, at London’s Leavesden Studios at the time of the accident.

The Accident in 2019

The accident happened during the rehearsal for a fight scene in the film with actor Vin Diesel’s stand-in. As part of the rehearsal, Watts dropped from a balcony but fell 25 feet onto the concrete below, hitting his head first. The scene had originally been choreographed as stuntman Watts being thrown over the stand-in’s right shoulder, but a last-minute change called for the left shoulder instead.

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Credit: Universal Pictures

Watts’s safety wire became detached from his vest in the change, causing him to miss the crash mats that had been placed underneath him to cushion him in case of a fall.

British Courts Get Involved

In 2022, Watts sued the subsidiary for $1.2 million, and in response, the company finally admitted liability in the accident earlier in 2023. The studio also agreed that Watts is entitled to damages related to the accident and the studio’s negligence.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the United Kingdom, the government agency that claimed that Universal subsidiary FF9 Pictures did not have a “system for double checking that the link had been properly engaged and tightened,” brought the case before the British courts.

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Credit: Universal Pictures

During the case, presiding District Judge Talwinder Buttar questioned the studio’s decision to change the choreographed stunt “at the last minute,” saying that the stuntman was “fortunate to be alive.”

A Massive Penalty is Handed Down

According to Newsbreak, the producers of Fast & Furious 9, FF9 Pictures Limited, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures that operates in the United Kingdom, previously admitted to negligence related to the accident, and on Friday, the subsidiary was hit with a major penalty.

The BBC reports that on November 24, FF9 Pictures Limited, Universal’s subsidiary in Great Britain, was fined £800,000, which is roughly equivalent to $875,000 in United States currency, as of the exchange rate at the time of this publication.

“It’s been almost four years since the accident,” Watts previously said, “and during that time, I’ve worked incredibly hard on my recovery. I know I’ll never get back to performing, which still upsets me, but I’m determined to get my life back on track as best I can. I’m therefore grateful that FF9 Limited has admitted liability.”
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Credit: Universal Pictures

Watts says he’s calling on the film industry to make movie sets safer for those working on them, adding that he “wouldn’t wish what [he] went through on anyone.”
Universal’s Fast & Furious 9 debuted in theaters in June 2021 and grossed over $700 million at the global box office. In May 2023, the tenth film in the franchise was released, and a final installment is slated for a theatrical debut in 2025.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!