Celebrities to the Rescue: Kate Winslet, Mark Harmon, Vin Diesel, Ryan Gosling and More Make Like Heroes for Real

By Stacy Jenel Smith

April 9, 2012 7 min read

Ryan Gosling's rescue of a British newspaper writer who had unwisely stepped in front of an oncoming taxi got worldwide attention last week. The "Drive" star pulled her to safety and reportedly said, "Watch out!" — a moment that would likely have passed with little notice had it been some regular guy doing the saving. But good for Ryan, just the same. It was his second widely-heralded real-life heroic moment within a year. Last August, he was seen in a viral video, breaking up a street fight while wearing a striped wifebeater that showed off his impressive biceps. The ode someone wrote to his tank top and guns on YouTube is worth the read.

Is there something about playing movie heroes that makes a person act like a hero in real life? Because we now have enough accounts of such exploits to do a study. Last year, Brad Pitt reportedly rescued an extra who'd fallen down and was in danger of being trampled in a zombie mob scene for his "World War Z" movie. That was after his other rescue story, in which he saved someone in danger of drowning in a lake. Robert Downey, Jr. stopped filming of "Iron Man 2" to help an injured extra. Heroic Sean Penn rescued two people trapped in a building after an aftershock in Haiti in 2010. Tom Hanks was jogging on the beach near his Malibu, California home in 2002 when he heard the screams of a drowning man — and wound up rescuing him.

And who could forget brave Kate Winslet, saving the 90-year-old mother of billionaire Richard Branson last August? After the Virgin Islands estate in which they were staying was hit by lightning, Kate made sure her children were outside, then rushed back in, picked up and carried the frail elderly lady out to safety before flames consumed the entire structure. Even Kate herself remarked that it was like a movie scene, but nobody said "Cut." What a woman!

Arnold Schwarzenegger made news in 2004 when he saved a drowning man while vacationing in Maui. The endangered swimmer was in 20 feet of water, and Schwarzenegger reportedly hauled him up onto a boogie board and took him back to shore.

Vin Diesel was riding down the Hollywood Freeway on a motorcycle in 2002 when a car in front of him got into an accident in which it rolled over and burst into flames. The "Fast and the Furious" and "XXX" star screeched to a halt behind it, as the incident was widely reported at the time, ran to the car and pulled the family's children out of the back seat. After everyone was out, the automobile became completely engulfed in flames.

This gives Vin something in common with "NCIS" star Mark Harmon. Harmon rescued two teenagers from a burning car in 1996, using a sledgehammer to break the windows and pulling the boys to safety. The car erupted in flames after crashing through a fence and into a tree near Harmon's home in Brentwood. The former UCLA football star ran from his house to help — and rescued the teens before authorities arrived. Modest Mark declined to comment on the incident, but neighbors and medical personnel agreed the boys owed him their lives.

The year 1996 was not only the year Tom Cruise scored with his first "Mission: Impossible" movie and "Jerry Maguire" — it was also Cruise's banner year for rescuing, with no less than three incidents widely reported in which he starred as a real-life hero.

First, Tom came upon a woman injured in a hit-and-run automobile accident, helped her out, took her to the hospital — and then paid her bill! Then, Tom reportedly saved two little boys who were endangered by the crush of a throng of people — by pulling them out of the crowd himself. And then, while yachting, Tom supposedly saved a group stranded aboard a burning boat, giving them a lift. The latter rescue was later disputed — there was a burning boat, but Tom was not involved in rescue efforts — with some authorities ascribing the erroneous reports to media that were, by then, getting carried away with tales of terrific Tom.

There's no disputing Harrison Ford's rescuing exploits. An accomplished pilot with a particular fondness for his Bell helicopter, Ford has volunteered his services for rescue activities near his Jackson, Wyoming digs through the years. Our favorite story occurred back in the '90s, when a young female hiker named Sarah George was overcome with heat, dehydration and altitude sickness while on a five-hour climb of Table Mountain. Ford flew in to get her. She didn't know that none other than Han Solo was at the controls of the chopper that saved her 'til told by an emergency medical technician. With about a minute to go before landing at Jackson's St. John's Hospital, the ailing George vomited into a hat. Later, she told press, "I can't believe I barfed in Harrison Ford's helicopter!"

The list goes on and on: Pierce Brosnan jumped into a runaway van and put on the brakes during filming of "Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief" in 2009, thereby sparing a nearby group including Uma Thurman from injury. "Lord of the Rings" star Viggo Mortensen saved his co-star Zuleikha Robinson from a runaway horse — by jumping off the back of the animal and grabbing the reins that had slipped from her hands — on the set of his film, "Hidalgo."

In 2004, actor and singer Robert Davi answered a cry for help from his neighbor's kids in Northridge, CA, and wound up rushing into the neighbor's burning house and (with two L.A.P.D. officer friends) fighting the flames until the fire department arrived, saving the house from destruction.

Renee Zellweger became a real-life action hero when she saved a woman who had collapsed when out hiking in California's Runyon Canyon. Renee was walking with her personal trainer when she saw the lady faint and fall down part of the canyon. Instead of waiting for help, Renee risked her own safety and slid down to help the woman while her friend went to get paramedics.

Hooray for Renee! On the other hand, gals, can you imagine a more dreamy rescue than that experienced by Janice Flisfeder at the Toronto Film Festival back in September, 2001?

Ms. Flisfeder collapsed while at a screening of "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing." She later recalled being brought around by a kindly rescuer: "I felt a man stroking my hair and kissing my forehead saying 'It's okay, sweetheart,' and realized it wasn't my husband," the mother of three said. "When I opened my eyes and looked back to him, I just thought, 'Nahh, can't be.'" The man who rushed to her assistance was Matthew McConaughey.

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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