Cousin Itt actor Felix Silla almost drowned filming this iconic Eighties movie
20 years after The Addams Family ended, Felix Silla had a stuntman scare filming Temple of Doom.
Actor Felix Silla became famous for stepping into costumes to create iconic TV characters like Cousin Itt on The Addams Family and Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
Of the two characters, Silla preferred the Cousin Itt costume.
"I had a lot of freedom of movement in the Cousin Itt costume," Silla told The Morning News in 1980. "There were a lot of moveable pieces, so I was able to give Itt some personality."
But people are likely less familiar with the stunt work that Silla did, not just before he began acting in TV and movies, but throughout his career.
In 1984, Silla signed on as a stuntman for the Indiana Jones movie Temple of Doom. His decision to do this hit action-adventure film led him to the most dangerous scene he ever shot, nearly drowning while rafting down a river.
As Silla told the story to the Sioux City Journal in 2014, he was finishing a stunt in the raft when it flipped, trapping him underneath.
"The only thing I could see was yellow on top of my head," Silla said.
For a few moments, Silla worried he would drown because he could not swim.
Instead, when he was rescued, Indiana Jones director Steven Spielberg insisted that he not go back in the river, declaring, "Don’t let Felix go in the water anymore. I need him to finish the film."
Silla did help Spielberg finish the film, but he had nightmares for the next six months.
"That was a very close call," Silla said.
Sailing down a river in a flimsy raft for Indiana Jones was a far cry from the shuffling around that Silla did two decades earlier on The Addams Family.
His casting as Cousin Itt came out of nowhere but became a lifesaver as he quested for steady work.
Silla was visiting a studio on a Friday when he was spotted by two men who got excited and exclaimed, "That’s Itt."
The very next Monday, Silla was stepping into the Cousin Itt suit, which originally was made of real human hair, but eventually was switched to synthetic.
Having no idea what the character would become, Silla invented Cousin Itt’s personality as he went along.
While he described his time on Temple of Doom as one of his most nightmarish, his casting on The Addams Family was a dream come true. After The Addams Family, he’d appear in movies, including famously portraying an Ewok in Star Wars: Episode VI.
Throughout his acting career, he always did stunts in movies, too, including E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Poltergeist, Howard the Duck and Batman Returns.
His turn as Cousin Itt sparked that success, and for Silla, it was a no-brainer when he agreed to join The Addams Family without knowing a thing about the character.
"I didn’t know what I was going to do," Silla said. "I had no idea, but I was so happy I got a job."