Star Wars firm admits health and safety breaches over Harrison Ford crush injury
Published 26/07/2016 | 11:48
A film production company has admitted health and safety breaches after an incident in which Hollywood star Harrison Ford was crushed by a hydraulic door on the set of the Millennium Falcon spaceship while filming the latest Star Wars movie.
Ford, who was knocked to the ground and pinned down by the heavy door, could have been killed in the incident as he rehearsed during shooting for Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire on June 12, 2014, a court heard.
The then 71-year-old was reprising his role as Han Solo when he was hit by the door, which had been designed to mimic the action of a door on the original set.
Foodles Production (UK) Ltd, which is owned by Disney, admitted two breaches under health and safety law.
Prosecuting at Milton Keynes Magistrates' Court, Andrew Marshall said that Ford had gone through the door with another actor and hit a button,
He started to walk back through the door, believing the set was not live and that it would not close.
But the court heard it was remotely operated by another person, and that as the star passed underneath it he was hit in the pelvic area and pinned to the ground.
Mr Marshall said there was a "risk of death", saying: "It could have killed somebody. The fact that it didn't was because an emergency stop was activated."
The actor was severely injured and left with a broken left leg in the incident, and was airlifted to hospital in Oxford.
Mr Marshall said the circumstances created a risk of death and had the emergency stop button not been pressed the situation could have "eventuated differently".
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the the power of the rapidly closing metal-framed door meant Ford was hit with a power comparable to the weight of a small car.
Ford himself talked about the incident during an appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show before Christmas, referring to the "f****** great hydraulic door".
He said in the original film a door would have been closed with a pulley and a stage hand.
"But now we had lots of money and technology and so they built a f****** great hydraulic door which closed at light speed," he said.
Foodles pleaded guilty to one count under section two of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which related to a breach of duty in relation to employees, and a second under section three, a breach over people not employed by the company.
Two further charges, under Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and one under Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 were both withdrawn as the facts will be incorporated into the two admitted breaches.
The company will be sentenced at Aylesbury Crown Court over the breaches, expected to happen on August 22.
Defending, Angus Withington said that while Foodles pleaded guilty to the two charges, it would contest the level of risk involved.
The HSE welcomed the guilty plea but said it had been a "foreseeable incident".
A spokesman said: "The British film industry has a world-renowned reputation for making exceptional films.
"Managing on-set risks in a sensible and proportionate way for all actors and staff - regardless of their celebrity status - is vital to protecting both on-screen and off-screen talent, as well as protecting the reputation of the industry."
Disney, Foodles' parent company, also owns the Lucasfilm production company which is behind both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones film franchises.
George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to the Walt Disney Co in 2012 for 4.06 billion dollars (£2.7 billion), and the studio charged ahead in developing The Force Awakens with director JJ Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.
A spokeswoman for Foodles Production (UK) Ltd said: "Foodles Ltd has provided full co-operation throughout HSE's investigation into the on-set accident that occurred in June 2014.
"The safety of our cast and crew was always a top priority throughout the production."