An actor narrowly escaped death after slashing his throat on stage with a real knife, instead of a blunt stage-prop blade.

Daniel Hoevels slumped to the floor with blood pouring from his neck during a performance at Vienna’s Burgtheater.

The real-life drama happened last weekend during a performance of Friedrich Schiller’s play Mary Stuart,…

Mr Hoevels’s character was supposed to commit suicide and the actor used what he thought was a blunt prop weapon.

The audience is said to have applauded what they thought was a stunning special effect, and only realised something was wrong when the actor staggered off stage to receive treatment.


I hate when that happens.


  1. #1 Aaron Golas
    December 11, 2008


    A good actor is intimate with and ultimately responsible for his props. So either Hoevels was exceedingly careless, or someone went out of their way to swap his prop with a sharpened double. Honestly, I’d much rather believe the latter.

  2. #2 Stacy S
    December 11, 2008

    That’s scary!!

  3. #3 Art
    December 11, 2008

    Tragic. Sorry the guy got hurt.

    On the other hand my twisted little brain brings up:

    Is this a good example of ‘method’ acting?

    And the director called to the troupe announcing: ‘Once more, with feeling’.

    There is a claim that ‘Blood in real life never looks right. It looks so much more real on stage. Everything is more real on stage’.

  4. #4 Dave
    December 11, 2008

    Want to bet some producer somewhere is going to use this as a murder mystery idea?

  5. #5 Hal in Howell MI
    December 11, 2008

    Actually it already has been used in a mystery. Caroline Graham’s Death of a Hollow Man, part of the Midsomer Murders series from the BBC. In Salieri’s suicide scene in the play Amadeus, the actor cuts his own throat with a straight razor that was supposed to be blunted. Life imitates art.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    December 11, 2008

    Dave: I’m 99 percent sure there was a Colombo almost exactly like this.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    December 11, 2008

    Hal: We crossed in the intertubes. Excellent example.

  8. #8 lylebot
    December 11, 2008

    Something similar recently happened on the set of the Showtime show Dexter:

    When actor Jimmy Smits plunged a prop knife into stuntman Jeff Chase on the set of Dexter, he probably thought the double deserved an Emmy for his performance. Unfortunately, Chase’s reaction wasn’t acting–Smits almost skewered the stuntman with a real knife, reports the UK’s Daily Star.


    What I don’t get is why there are real knives on hand that are (apparently) indistinguishable from the prop knives.

  9. #9 Lurkbot
    December 11, 2008

    More recently, it was used on Monk. Do they get Monk in Austria? Does this guy have an understudy who wants his part?

  10. #10 The Ridger
    December 11, 2008

    Life imitates art – again. Look for Hoevels’s enemies, Detective.

  11. #11 Romeo Vitelli
    December 12, 2008

    This reminds me of a line from one of Terry Pratchett’s books when a character says that actors need fake knives in their performances because they can’t be trusted with real ones.

  12. #12 the real me
    December 12, 2008

    “A good actor is intimate with and ultimately responsible for his props.”
    That said by someone who has never appeared on a live stage, no doubt…
    When it comes to props, we depend on our propmasters, as we have better things to do. The prop (yes, it is a comforting notion to be on intimate terms with them…ahem..) is just a tool –one we grasp for in times of 1) rehearsing lines in our heads as we speak them 2) re-rehearsing the next line we are about to speak 3) allowing for the intimate glances at our co-leads, and guaging their moments within ourinteractions 4) fer fucks sake: if it really happened a good actor has alot more on their minds than the prop, lads, not least of which is that little composite sketch of memory that is reserved for ” I trust my prop guy; the stage is not wet; the lights are right in this scene( unlike the last performance when that ditz of a new gaffer fucked them up), etc.

    But it does make for good unearned PR…

  13. #13 Aaron Golas
    December 12, 2008

    That said by someone who has never appeared on a live stage, no doubt…

    Oh, how wrong you are, my friend.

    Maybe it’s a quirk of how I was trained. Even though the propmasters manage the props, we actors were usually the last ones using them, so it was our responsibility to do a sweep before the performance to make sure everything found its way back home to the prop table from the night before. But sure, you’re not going to give it a second thought if the prop guy hands you an unfamiliar teacup for a scene.

    But I’ve also done some stage combat. Potentially dangerous props, like crate hooks or knives (even blunted ones), merit a different level of respect. Once it’s in our hands onstage, we’re the ones responsible for the safety of ourselves and our fellow actors, which means we need to know what the prop is capable of.

    As soon as that knife hit Hoevels’ hand, it should have registered as “NOT MY KNIFE” automatically, and he should have been accordingly more careful. (Unless, of course, someone went out of their way to see to it that the sharpened knife was hard to distinguish from the blunted prop.) Maybe treating the knife more gingerly would have made for a less impressive scene, but it’s better to live to see the next performance than to “leave it all on stage,” as it were. You don’t do your fellow cast and crew any favors by getting yourself hurt.