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Culture Re-View: When Mick Jagger got shot on a film set

Culture Re-View: When Mick Jagger got shot on a film set

Mick Jagger has always been the ultimate embodiment of a rock star. From his swaggering dance moves, his sexually-driven lyrics to his anarchic personal life, all Jagger needed to add to his repertoire was a good ol’ fashioned shooting.

And so it came to be when Jagger was cast as the lead in Tony Richardson’s film Ned Kelly. The role was an obvious fit for Jagger. Following in the footsteps of Elvis and his Beatles peers, his first opportunity to lead a film as the titular Australian outlaw looked set to establish him further as the bad boy of the music world.

Filming Ned Kelly went far from smoothly. Before production began, some of Kelly’s descendants made their displeasure over Jagger’s casting known. Then, in the early days of shooting, Jagger’s girlfriend Marianne Faithfull — who was cast to play Kelly’s sister Maggie — overdosed on sleeping tablets when Jagger suggested breaking up.

The crew of the film were beset by illnesses throughout production and a fire due to the bad weather destroyed many costumes.

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Then, on this day in 1969, while shooting one of the final scenes of the film, Jagger was accidentally shot in the hand.

WINSLOW TOWNSON/AP2005
Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger sings at Fenway Park in Boston Sunday, Aug. 21, 2005, where the Rolling Stones opened their "A Bigger Bang" world tour. - WINSLOW TOWNSON/AP2005

A prop pistol, loaded with blanks, backfired in the rocker’s hand when he fired it on set. Jagger was quickly rushed to a hospital in nearby Canberra. Doctors removed the large piece of metal from his hand and he was out soon, his arm in a sling under a long fur coat.

It’s a pretty rockstar injury for Jagger’s first film role. Unfortunately though, the film was a stinker. Poorly received by critics, it also made little money back on its decent budget.

While Ned Kelly the film was consigned to the history books, there was some musical history that resulted from the accident. On doctor’s orders, Jagger was told to avoid overstraining his hand where there was still some burned tissue.

Jagger played his guitar in a way to get around his injury. The new approach to strumming the instrument led to him writing the next Rolling Stones hit ‘Brown Sugar’.

“That’s a bit of a mystery, isn’t it? I wrote that song in Australia in the middle of a field. They were really odd circumstances. I was doing this movie, Ned Kelly, and my hand had got really damaged in this action sequence. So stupid. I was trying to rehabilitate my hand and had this new kind of electric guitar, and I was playing in the middle of the outback and wrote this tune,” he told Rolling Stone magazine.