NEW YORK (CBS 2) — It was a 30-foot fall that could have ended in death.
Spider-Man’s heart-stopping plunge to the stage last month stunned a Broadway audience and left the actor critically injured.
For the first time, Spider-Man is speaking about that terrifying stage turn. He recently granted CBS 2’s Dana Tyler an exclusive interview.
Christopher Tierney fearlessly soars from the stage to the sky as the flying superhero Spider-Man on Broadway.
“I was like 30 miles an hour, which is awesome. It’s crazy. It’s so much fun,” Tierney said.
For the 31-year-old dancer and actor, catapulting on high wires in this risky role is a huge rush.
When asked if it’s scary, Tierney told Tyler, “No, I wasn’t scared. These guys, they know safety. The wires have 9,000 pounds of tension strength. I trust them explicitly with my life, absolutely. They don’t mess around.”
But back on Dec. 20, something went terribly wrong during a performance. Spider-Man took a horrific fall.
Tyler: “What happened that night when you fell?
Tierney: “It was just a bit of human error. I’m supposed to jump off the bridge, but it catches me. And I was tethered to my back, but it just wasn’t tethered to the stage and I just went for it, like I do with everything. There was no pulling myself back.”
He jumped and it was a free-fall from there — 30 feet into the pit.
“I was falling and I saw the darkness of the stage. I turned it real quick, so I wouldn’t hit my head, so I crashed on my back,” Tierney said. “The last thing I remembered was going ‘oh, God!’ And that’s it. And then I passed out.”
Initially, the audience thought the plunge was part of the show. Tyler saw what the scene is supposed to look like as Spider-Man jumps from the Brooklyn Bridge. Tierney said he remembers coming to and wanting to get up. Stage crew members kept him still, something he’s grateful for.
“I broke four ribs. I broke three vertebrae, fractured my scapula, fractured my elbow and I fractured the back of my head,” Tierney said.
The audience waited outside the theatre and cheered the injured Tierney as he was put into an ambulance and rushed into surgery at Bellevue Hospital. What he left behind was a lot of questions.
Tyler: “You say it was human error, do you blame anyone?”
Tierney: “The person involved … the people involved … they came and visited. It’s water under the bridge, completely forgiven and forgotten.”
Tyler: “I hear what you’re saying. You suffered a really serious injury but you are a really forgiving. You weren’t pushed too hard?”
Tierney: “No, I’m glad to be working on the show. I mean not glad, overjoyed to be working on the show.”
The hype for the $65 million musical started two years ago, with Tony Award-winning director Julie Taymor and music by Grammy winners Bono and The Edge from U2. The show’s never-before-seen aerial gymnastics were just icing on the cake, but “Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark” has been tangled in a web of money problems, technical glitches and delayed openings. Tierney said his faith in the production never waivered.
“Not a single actor in this show has ever said someone’s gonna die you need to stop,” Tierney said.
His shocking accident shut down the musical for two performances. OSHA and Actors Equity are still investigating. The president of the actors union said: “That Chris is not the first actor, nor the second, but rather the fourth to be injured on Spider-Man is frustrating and maddening and, to some, infuriating. But he also goes to say, “Live theatre, exciting theatre involves risk….Our staff is committed to doing whatever it possibly can to protect our members and to minimize the danger and the risk.”
Spider-Man producers said they have stepped up show safety with overlapping and additional procedures, but Tierney said he never worried.
“I’m meant to be Spider-Man,” he said.
This was a dream job for the dancer who’s been a fan of Spidey since he was 4. Despite his injuries he said the outpouring of support has kept his spirits high.
“My friends in the cast, my mother, my father, my brother, so unbelievable. Everybody. All the visitors, the energy, that love … there, you know, complete strangers. The immediate outpouring of love that happens is so unbelievable,” Tierney said through tears.
Wearing his Spider-Man-adorned brace, Tierney was moved last week to NYU’s Rusk Institute for Physical Therapy. With screws and rods in his back and continued pain in his ribs, he takes careful steps.
“Every day is better, which makes me believe I’ll be back in the show in no time,” Tierney said.
Tierney said he has no illusions. He knows realistically it will take months to heal. But when he does, he said he won’t be afraid to suit up as Spider-Man again and rocket through the theatre.
“I’ll come out and I’ll swing around and then I’ll land on the balcony and I’ll look around and there will be like five or six kids right there and then its a mixture of abject fear and adoration and they’re like oh my God! He landed right here and its Spider-Man!
“They scream and I can’t wait to make ’em scream.”
At his core, Tierney is a dancer. While his feet are in the air a lot, he said he’s grounded about taking the time to heal. He’ll be released on Wednesday and will continue physical therapy.
Spider-Man’s official opening is Feb. 7. While all eyes are the show and it’s safety, Spider-Man remains a sell-out.