July 02, 2012 at 05:37 PM EDT

Dan Bradley (The Bourne Legacy, The Bourne Supremacy, Spider-Man 2, Independence Day)

While doing stunts for a small 1992 movie called Boris and Natasha, Bradley got trapped during a botched car explosion. “I spent a month in a burn ward,” he says. “I lost more skin than you’re supposed to. I wound up doing the whole skin grafts and all that fun stuff. I was driving a car, and it [was rigged to explode] into many different pieces. There were some problems with the effects rig, and when I hit the button, it was a tremendous explosion; it felt like someone just kicked you in the chest. And then within seconds, the fire was just on me. It was supposed to stay beyond this barrier that had been constructed, but the barrier failed almost instantly. I drove for like 10 seconds and hit my mark and turned the corner. And it took about 8 seconds to get out because of the debris that kept me from easily getting out. I wasn’t pinned for that long, but I was in there long enough for it to burn through a four-layer Kevlar full-immersion fire suit. I grabbed the thing that was pinning my legs, and as I pulled on it I could feel my hands burning. Then I suddenly felt on my wrists and forearms this searing pain, and then it didn’t hurt at all anymore. I was like, ‘Okay, that’s third degree.’ I knew instantly that I had suffered a really serious burn. Then I basically dove for the door and my feet popped loose, and I was able to scramble away.”

It was the kind of accident that might make you reconsider your career. “It messed with my head when I was in the hospital wondering if I ever wanted to do this again,” says Bradley. “By the time I was out, I really missed it. I didn’t work for, like, 10 months. [Because of the accident] I’ve become more involved in dealing with the way things are rigged. I didn’t just accept a rig from another department. I was kind of insistent to the point where I now have a little bit of a reputation for being very demanding. I’m very proud of my safety record. I learned from [the accident], and I’m very insistent on keeping people safe and have pioneered techniques and technologies to make things exciting, but make them safer.”

NEXT: The Dark Knight Rises‘ Tom Struthers gets knocked off a horse by a shotgun blast

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