The Conqueror: How This Film Caused Cancer

Noted as one of the worst films of all time, The Conqueror is said to have been the cause of 91 deaths out of the 220 people that appeared on the set of this movie, not including extras.  This movie was filmed in Utah around ten years after nuclear bombs were tested there by the United States Army.  All of the deaths that occurred after this movie was shot were caused by cancer; the radioactivity that was left after nuclear bombs were tested in this area seems to be the root of the problem.

Not only did John Wayne die of cancer many years after shooting this film, but so did his son, who visited him on the set of the movie while shooting. To make matters worse, 60 tons of the dirt from Utah that was used during the filming of this movie was shipped to Hollywood so that filming could be finished there.  Who knows how many people came into contact with this soil in California—simply being unaware of the harmful effects of radioactivity ended the lives of many people.

The fact that radioactivity was the cause of the cancer that killed the people on the set of The Conqueror shows that this movie accident took place decades ago.  This raises the question of whether in today’s time, a movie could be filmed at a location that was potentially harmful to its cast and production members.


After doing some research regarding the laws associated with film location, I found that the information regarding permission to film at certain locations is extensive, and the guidelines to these laws are found widespread across the internet.  Ultimately, it is up to the person filming to get a release form signed so that they can film at a certain location.  For example, if someone wants to film at an army base, that person must contact the authority for that location.

It is likely that if someone knew that an area could potentially harm the production crew and cast members, then that location either might not be chosen, or a release would be signed by those who would be present at that location for filming.  There are various laws governing where someone is allowed to film, and who to contact.  In today’s time, OSHA (Occupational and Safety Health administration) play a huge role in this discussion.   One of the primary roles of OSHA is to make sure that workers are safe on the job, and that no one gets hurt.  If the proper forms were not signed, or an extremely hazardous location was chosen to shoot at, OSHA might have something to say about it.

If anything, the accident occurring during The Conqueror serves as a bench marker for how drastically the regulation of film location has changed.  There have not been any instances of cancer associated with other movies since The Conqueror, so hopefully filmmakers have learned from this incident.



~ by Morgan Kristine on October 6, 2012.

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