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.

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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."

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vinman63 32 months ago
Now knowing Silla was in many bit parts. I wonder watching an old sitcom if any small creature character could be him.
country46 32 months ago
I learned how to swim the hard way bunch of guys in my neighborhood threw me in the neighborhood pond that's how a lot of us leaned how to swim. I dog paddled my ass off to get to the bank, but I learned to swim the good old days when you made your own toys to play with like old innertubes for sling shots
ActiuFlex 32 months ago
my mother !! The first thing you have to learn to swim hahaha: D
ActiuFlex 32 months ago
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ELEANOR 32 months ago
In Last of the Summer Wine, a long running comedy from Across the Pond, the three-some; Bill Owen as Compo, Peter Sallis as Cleggy, and Michael Bates as Blamire; were filming a canoe scene in a river, a river that looked calm on top but had a strong current underneath. Two of them had NEVER paddled a canoe in their life. Michael Bates urged them on saying it would be fine. After the camera was turned off, the canoe became unbalanced and tipped over. Although there were some hairy moments, all three survived and finished filming.
JulieTV 32 months ago
Loved Felix Silla as Twiki and Cousin Itt! Mr. Silla's near death experience with the raft sounds like what happened to Eric Fleming, Gil Favor from Rawhide. Mr. Fleming drowned while filming a scene in his next movie in 1966.
MichaelFields 32 months ago
My favorite part he did was Twiki, he gave the little robot so much personality, I mean it was Bucks True Friend when he came to the new world
Pacificsun 32 months ago
First you put the ugliest picture you can find of this guy out there for your tease. And then there's no picture of him as part of this story. Can't you provide a little more respect for these character/clever actors. Here are the photos as referenced.
MrsPhilHarris Pacificsun 32 months ago
I admit I thought it was a drawing of him not Harrison Ford.
LoveMETV22 32 months ago
It appears the scene referred to is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom- Raft Jump Scene, the yellow he saw on top of his head was the life raft. I wonder if the distant shots had Felix in them?
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texasluva MrsPhilHarris 32 months ago
When someone flashes 20+ million under your nose then actors jump. Though I agree in his case enough is enough plus the fact of his age and prior injuries. He's made in excess of 225 million total.
MrsPhilHarris texasluva 32 months ago
Can you imagine that? Crazy money.
Michael MrsPhilHarris 32 months ago
He can play his father now, Henry Jones Sr. River Phoenix would be old enough, even too old at fifty, to play middle age Indy. Except he died in 1993.

Karen Allen is only 70, and of course is still as age appropriate as she was in Raiders
MrsPhilHarris Michael 32 months ago
I haven’t heard if Karen Allen is in the new movie.
cperrynaples 32 months ago
Sorta off topic: Anyone see the new Walltons movie? A couple of things bothered me: [1]Weren't you shocked that it was implied that Olivia was pregnant with John-Boy when she got married? [2]Wasn't that scene where John-Boy got that doll for Elizabeth just a little too dark? [3] Finally, why wasn't Michael Learned cast as the elder Elizabeth? It would have been the perfect ending! Also, didn't the future predictions change what happened in the original reunions?
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MrsPhilHarris cperrynaples 32 months ago
Bridget Loves Bernie. I don’t think the show ran for very long.
texasluva LoveMETV22 32 months ago
Wow! I didn't even know there was a CW channel. Even on my Spectrum package. With like over 500 stations a lot can get by you. The on-line though you can watch whatever you wish. On my monitor looks great and then able to Chromecast to my TV. Audio and Video are really good both on-line and TV. Thanks LMTV. Whatever is up your sleeve we like it 👍🏻
LoveMETV22 texasluva 32 months ago
I have Xfinity, Many channels to choose from. They also have a free movies with or without ads which literally have thousands of choices, and a section with networks A-Z with shows but also on demand movies. That along with Crackle, Pluto, The Roku Channel, Tubitv, You tube free and IA there is never a shortage of viewing options.
texasluva 32 months ago
It's not easy being a stuntman. Things can happen not in ones control. There has been many cases of accidents right on the set let alone rafting down a rapid river and turning over. In 2017 stuntman John Bernecker fell over, missing the protective pads underneath by two feet and landing on the concrete head-first. He died two days later from the severe head injuries. This was on the Walking Dead set. He was on a small balcony with another actor and either missed timed his fall or whatever actually happened. It went to the courts and family received 8.6 million.

One of the worst accidents was in the Movie "Twilight Zone The Movie" When actor Vic Morrow and two child actors were struck and killed by a helicopter that had lost control during filming.

List of film and television accidents through the past decades (Since 1910's) Not all deaths.
Moody texasluva 32 months ago
So now you're the Blob?
texasluva Moody 32 months ago
Nope. That's the Yankees after they Supernova 🤣
texasluva 32 months ago
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Pacificsun texasluva 32 months ago
It is relative to society. Risky jobs people assume for the love of what they're doing. Yet somebody walking across the street to the corner grocery can be killed. Thinking about the sheer volume of stunt work involved in most popular filming, it would be interesting to know the percentage of failures to the rate of "normal" accidents across the population.

Stunt people often inherit their interest, and therefore ultimate training from one generation to the next. Everyone would hope production has a safety margin. But people get taken out all the time, poor Sonny Bono (I believe one time a mayor of Palm Strings) dies hitting a tree while skiing.

Any most shocking death hits us the hardest. It is nice being grateful for the entertainment all the talented people bring us through hundreds of viewing hours!!
texasluva Pacificsun 32 months ago
You mean like when Alex Baldwin shot and killed the cinematographer and wounded the director? This happened right on set but whose to check the gun that was never supposed to be loaded?

Putting a 3 foot 11 person that could not swim on a raft without thought?
Pacificsun texasluva 32 months ago
Well please don't toss meatballs in my face, I'm only the messenger. But have been told by enthusiasts, that the person who’s putting their finger on the trigger last, is responsible for verifying the chamber is empty.

If "I" couldn't swim then "I" wouldn't be getting in any raft going down the rapids. But then that's just me.
texasluva Pacificsun 32 months ago
No meatballs intended. Just saying the safety protocols were not sufficiently in place 🙂
Runeshaper 32 months ago
I'm glad he lived! Cousin Itt for the win!
LoveMETV22 32 months ago
Had it been in "todays" standards he most likely wouldn't be performing stunts such as floating down rivers on a raft (especially due to the fact he was not able to swim). According to the bios on him he came to America and toured with Ringling Brothers as a circus performer and was talented as a bareback rider, trapeze artist and tumbler and because of that he landed roles as a stuntman. Maybe the requirements back then were less stringent as that wouldn't likely happen in current day stunt work.
LoveMETV22 32 months ago
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LoveMETV22 stephaniestavr5 32 months ago
I believe the incident remains under investigation. I suppose it could fall under the category of stunts but it was more an unfortunate tragedy than a specialized skill set required for stunt work ie.... Skydiving, Water Scenes and things of that nature. But yes it has been (unfortunately) dangerous on movie sets lately.
Pacificsun stephaniestavr5 32 months ago
My hunch is the assumption could be premature.
birddog 32 months ago
Itt was a fine job you did Felix!! RIP :((
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