Actors Who Died During Filming

It’s always a tragedy when a well known star dies. Their iconic status is cemented, serving as role models to a generation of aspiring actors and film-goers. Not all of them have the fortune to live long lives, and all the more tragic when a star has yet to fulfil their potential and reach a career peak. Here is a list of film and TV stars who’s death came before filming was finished.

Paul Walker (1973-2013)

Nice guy Paul Walker, star of the Fast and Furious franchise, died during the filming of the 7th instalment. He was leaving a charity event founded by Walker himself, during a Thanksgiving holiday break. He was a passenger of a red 2005 Porsche Carreras GT, driven by friend Roger Rodas. The vehicle crashed into a lamppost and two trees, killing both of them. Filming half-completed, the movie was delayed for script re-writes. Walker’s brothers were used as stand-ins as well as the use of cgi for his face and body.

Bruce Lee (1940-1973)

Taking a break from his directorial debut Game of Death to begin shooting Enter The Dragon. Bruce lee was the most influential and famous Chinese movie star around, in addition to being the best martial artist ever. A month before the release of Enter The Dragon, Lee complained of a headache and took a painkiller known as an Equagesic, and took a nap soon after. Around 7:30 pm a friend of his came round to wake him but was unresponsive. Lee was soon rushed by ambulance to the Queen Elizabeth hospital. He was pronounced dead upon arrival, at the age of 32. His cause of death was a Cerebral Edema.
His unfinished movie Game of Death was completed, using stand-ins for Lee using cut-outs
from cardboard and using past discarded footage.

Brandon Lee (1965-1993)

Son of Bruce lee. With the untimely death of his legendary father, Brandon with a couple of movies under his belt, was steadily making a mark on the Hollywood scene. Movie “the crow” was his latest – and last. He was accidentally shot on set, during one of the stunt scenes set early in the film. The gun used contained a fragment of a real bullet, which struck his abdomen resulting in his death later that day. The movie was completed using stand-ins and cgi. He was buried in Seattle, Washington next to his father.

John Ritter (1948-2003)

John Ritter was an American actor and comedian, who starred in a number of movies, such as Problem Child, Stay Tuned and Sling Blade. He was most famous for his role as Jack Tripper, on the sitcom Three’s Company. He sadly died during the second series of the hit sitcom 8 simple rules, from an aortic dissection caused by a congenital heart defect.

James Dean (1931-1955)

Iconic actor, and teen idol James Dean, breakout star of East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, had just finished working on only his third movie. He was killed in a car accident whilst driving to a racing event with his friends Rolf Wutherich who was his passenger whilst driving his favourite Porsche 550 Spyder “little bastard”. He died just after production had wrapped. His last scene involved his drunk speech, which he initially recorded, went unused, due to him being so intoxicated in the scene and was barely recognisable. Actor Nick Adams was hired to overdub some of his lines during his final speech for him.

Heath Ledger (1979-2008)

From Australian soap Home and Away, to Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain. Ledger showcased a wide range of acting skills, as he honed his talents as the schizophrenic massmurdering clown as the Joker, he posthumously earned a best supporting actor, and deservedly so. His death came during the filming of Terry Gilliam’s fantasy film The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. Completing only half the film. The director chose to continue the film after his death by casting actors Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law, who play fantasy transformations of his character. He was found in his apartment, cause of death: accidental overdose from prescription drug intoxication, and cardiac arrest.

River Phoenix (1970-1993)

Older brother to Joaquín Phoenix. River was a talented up-and coming actor, star of Stand by Me and My Own Private Idaho. An animal rights activist, and spokesperson for PETA. Phoenix’s death sent shockwaves as it was reported he died from a drugs overdose. His death impacted the film Dark Blood which was 3 weeks from finishing. 21 years later the film was finally completed by the director George Sluizer, who provided voice-over narration, during Phoenix’s unfinished and missing scenes.

Oliver Reed (1938-1999)

Renowned for his tv escapades and alcoholism – Reed has starred in dozens of film roles throughout his career. He died from a heart attack, during a break from filming the Oscarwinning film Gladiator. As his work was incomplete, unused footage and cgi, were combined to complete his remaining scenes. The film was dedicated to his memory.

Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962)

Marilyn Monroe was Hollywoods most famous and iconic blonde bombshell. Noted for her numerous relationships, and paparazzi news coverage, she starred in hits such as; Some like it hot and The Seven Year Itch. She was in the middle of filming Something’s Got to Give when she was found dead in her Brentwood, CA home on August 5, 1962. Official cause of death, was overdose of barbiturates, resulting from a probable suicide.

Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)

Versatile, Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, has a fine acting cv. Starring in numerous hollywood and independent productions, and winning the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Truman Capote. He was found dead in a Manhattan hotel room from an acute of overdose. Tragically he had relapsed into addiction, after 25 years of sobriety. He was in the middle of filming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2. The film is set for release in 2015, with his remaining scenes re-written.

Cory Monteith (1982-2013)

Cory Monteith was a break-out star of the hit TV musical comedy Glee. He rose to fame as his role as Finn Hudson, and led to film roles such as Monte Carlo and Sisters & Brothers. He was found dead in a Canadian hotel room, with his cause of death ruled as a lethal combination of heroin and alcohol. He was involved with substance abuse from the age of 12, which eventually led to him entering drug rehabilitation at the age of 19. A tribute episode for Cory, entitled The Quarterback focused on the death of his character, and how his death impacted fellow characters in the show.

Bela Lugosi (1882-1956)

Bela Lugosi was an icon of horror, who played Count Dracula, in film and stage productions of Dracula. He died of a heart attack whilst filming Plan 9 from Outer Space. Director Ed Wood hired his wife’s chiropractor to continue Lugosi’s unfinished scenes, despite baring no resemblance to the departed actor. Lugosi was fittingly buried in his Dracula Cape. Plan 9 from Outer Space became a cult classic despite many critics calling it the worst film of all time.

Marcia Wallace (1942-2013)

Marcia Wallace had a variety of TV and film roles under her belt. However it was her regular role in the Simpsons as Bart’s sarcastic teacher Edna Krabappel, which gained her recognition. She died of complications from cancer, and her character was written out of the show.