One of Brazil’s best-loved television actors, Domingos Montagner, has drowned in a river where the crew had been recording scenes for the country’s most popular soap opera.
Montagner played the leading role in Velho Chico, a soap opera named after the Sao Francisco river where he died.
The 54-year-old had gone for a swim with an actress after a day of shooting in the north-eastern state of Sergipe.
She said he was dragged away by the river’s strong currents.
The actress, Camila Pitanga, cried for help but local people failed to act initially as they believed the drowning was a scene in the soap opera.
Authorities said there was little that anyone could have done.
In the soap opera, Montagner played a farmer who often fought off local gunmen. In one of those clashes, he was shot multiple times and appeared to drown in the same Sao Francisco river, but reappeared weeks later.
“They thought they had chosen a safe spot to swim, but that is one of the most dangerous areas in the town of Caninde and usually avoided by locals,” police chief Antonio Francisco Filho told O Globo.
One person, on average, has drowned every year in the town since 2005, reports said.
Four hours after the incident, rescue teams found Montagner’s body underwater, some 300 metres (984ft) from where he drowned.
‘Life imitates art’
Montagner was born in Sao Paulo and had a career in the circus before becoming a television actor, in 2008.
This was his 12th role on TV. His first significant soap opera role was in 2011, and he had his film debut in 2012.
A soap opera affair
- Soap operas, or novelas, are traditionally some of the most-watched TV programmes in Brazil, and are broadcast in dozens of other countries
- The main time slot, at 2100 on Globo TV, is watched, on average, by 50% of the viewing public
- In key moments that number can reach up to 80%
- In 2012 Globo said one of its most successful soap operas was watched by38m people daily
- But viewership has declined in recent years mainly because of paid TV channels and new viewing habits
- Each episode reportedly costs up to 800,000 reais ($242,000; £183,000) to make
- And a 30-second commercial break at a final episode can cost 500,000 reais ($151,000; £114,000)
Montagner had been married for 14 years to actress Luciana Lima, with whom he had three children.
The news of his death has caused commotion in Brazil, where fellow actors and social media users have paid tributes to the actor.
The football team he supported, Corinthians, praised him also for his success as a handball player for the club’s affiliate in the 1980s.
His latest film, Um Namorado Para Minha Mulher (A Boyfriend For My Wife), was released two weeks ago.