The family of an actress who was gravely injured on the set of director Michael Bay's third "Transformers" movie, "Dark of the Moon," has just settled with Paramount Pictures for $18.5 million. Gabriela Cedillo was driving as an extra on the movie's Chicago set in September 2010 when a metal bracket connecting a stunt car to a wire snapped off, flew through the windshield of her car, and struck Cedillo in the head. The resulting trauma left Cedillo with brain damage and other life-altering injuries.
It's easy to forget the risks that are involved in making big-budget action movies. When pyrotechnics, stunt falls, demolitions, and car crashes are involved, a lot could go wrong despite the precautions taken by cast and crew. Given the literally explosive nature of almost every Bay-directed film, you'd have to imagine the danger would be more pronounced for all involved.
Unfortunately, in the case of the accident that injured Cedillo, insufficient safety measures were taken. According to reports that came out during the lawsuit, the stunt in question had failed the previous day, making it more than likely that members of the crew knew there was a danger of injury or death for the extras. For a film with a nearly $200 million budget, cutting corners on safety would seem to be impossible. But it happened in Cedillo's case.
For stunt professionals in the movie industry, danger is part of their job. They perform death-defying stunts and action sequences knowing full well the risks that are involved. Putting an aspiring actress, who was not a qualified stunt professional, in a hazardous situation was just plain wrong.
On top of that, the $18.5 million paid to Cedillo's family is chump change compared to the $1.1 billion that "Transformers" grossed at the box office. Paramount essentially profited from Cedillo's grievous injuries, and taking nearly two years to settle with the family is unconscionable. While Paramount offered to cover Cedillo's medical expenses, according to Cedillo's lawyers, it also "tried to do everything they could to avoid responsibility."
Clearly it was all worth it, though. Robots fought, audiences were entertained, massive piles of cash were made, and the fourth "Transformers" is already in development with Bay back in the director's chair. What is a little brain damage and a ruined life?
Sarcasm aside, let's hope that the "Transformers" production spends all the dough it made to keep the extras safe and leave the stunts to the professionals.
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