John C. McGinley Had A Close Call With A Platoon Helicopter Shot Gone Wrong

There were Vietnam War films before "Platoon," but none of them palpably captured the boots-on-the-ground horror of the conflict like Oliver Stone's film did. Having served in the U.S. Army during the war, it was important to Stone to convey to audiences how confused and ultimately demoralized soldiers felt while risking their lives for a hazily stated objective. To achieve this high level of verisimilitude, Stone thrust his actors into what was essentially a boot camp. Actors playing higher ranking characters (e.g. Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger) were encouraged to put their fresh-faced charges (e.g. soon-to-be-stars like Charlie Sheen and Johnny Depp) through their paces.

Obviously, it worked. Every single performance is wholly, tragically believable. It set a high bar for realism in war movies, and made retired Marine Dale Dye piles of money as Hollywood's go-to military advisor on everything from Brian De Palma's "Casualties of War" to Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan." While Stone's adherence to discipline worked tremendously well in the film's favor, it also nearly got actor John C. McGinley killed.

Following orders can get you killed

The veteran character actor best known as Dr. Perry Cox on "Scrubs" got quite the career boost from "Platoon" as the spineless Sgt. O'Neill. He's one of the film's most loathsome characters, one you might like to see plummet from a helicopter that was, say, 1,000 feet in the air. Well, McGinley almost fulfilled that wish during the shoot.

As he told The Guardian for a "Platoon" oral history:

"I only felt in danger once, when I almost fell out of a helicopter. It was up about 1,000ft. It was supposed to land and we would run out and past the camera. Something was going wrong on the ground, so they wanted to go to a different area. For three weeks, we'd been drilled that the one thing you don't ever let go of is your weapon — so as the helicopter turned, I start to fall out because I was holding it. Francesco Quinn, who played Rhah, grabbed my backpack and pulled me in. If he hadn't done that, I would've fallen out. I got pretty righteous with Oliver after that."

Making movies should never be a dangerous business

Of course, on-set safety is no laughing matter. No one's life should be in danger while making a film, and yet there have been many mishaps over the years, most of which were unavoidable. It's amazing to me that McGinley wasn't strapped in as they made their landing, but this was 1986 and they were shooting on a fairly low budget in the Philippines. Corners could get cut in situations like that. Sadly, they still get cut. And there's not always going to be a Francesco Quinn to save you.