When you watch a movie or a TV series, you get emotionally invested in the characters, and as a result, you probably end up getting emotionally invested in the lives of the actors as well. Even if an actor is portraying a character that’s nothing like their self in real life, watching someone bare their soul on-screen will make you feel for them nonetheless, which may help explain why we become so invested with the personal and romantic lives of many celebrities in the first place.
Research has actually shown that creative people already have a higher likelihood to engage in affairs. Now add money and fame to the mix and it’s no wonder that Hollywood romances are infamously volatile.
For this list, we’re looking beyond relationships that ended for the obvious reasons of infidelity and financial strife. Instead, these actors’ romances were put through the wringer often as a result of the untimely loss of a loved one. What makes it even more heartbreaking is that many of these couples had been faithfully committed to each other for years, even decades, setting them apart from the majority of short-lived celebrity romances.
Here are 15 Actor Romances That Ended For Tragic Reasons.
15. Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Syme
One of the most notable bachelors in Hollywood today, Keanu Reeves was actually in a serious relationship with fellow actress Jennifer Syme back in 2000. The couple was even expecting a child together, but in a tragic turn of events, the baby was stillborn eight months into Syme’s pregnancy. This no doubt put an undue amount of stress on the couple’s relationship, which eventually resulted in them breaking up.
As if this wasn’t already heartbreaking enough, just over a year later, Syme also passed away after the vehicle she was driving struck a number of parked cars before rolling over and throwing the actress from the vehicle. Syme was reportedly taking medicine at the time to deal with depression, which may have played a role in the accident. Reeves took time away from filming the Matrix sequels in order to deal with yet another horrific loss.
14. Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson
While Liam Neeson has no doubt left his mark on the acting world, his wife Natasha Richardson was actually a member of the iconic Redgrave family — an acting dynasty that dates back five generations to the 1800s. When Richardson suddenly passed away in 2009, the lights were dimmed in both London and New York’s theater districts as a tribute to the beloved stage and screen actress.
The couple met in 1993 during a Broadway production and were married the following year. They would go on to have two sons together in the mid-90s, and both Neeson and Richardson were no strangers to political activism and philanthropy.
However, Richardson suffered a serious head injury while skiing in 2009, resulting in an epidural hematoma. Despite being flown to New York for treatment, Richardson passed away two days after the accident, bringing a tragic end to the couple’s 14-year marriage.
13. Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams
Two of the most critically acclaimed actors of their time, Heath Ledger and Michele Williams met on the set of Brokeback Mountain and began dating in 2004. Shortly thereafter, Willams gave birth to their daughter and the new family made a home for themselves in Brooklyn, New York.
However, it was reported in September of 2007 that the two had separated and that Ledger’s reliance on prescription medication may have played a role in their break up.
After the actor’s untimely death a year later, Williams said in an interview that Ledger had had sleeping problems as long as she knew him and that he resorted to medication to fight his insomnia. Unfortunately, with a combination of six different substances — which were prescribed to combat sleeplessness, anxiety, and other health issues — Ledger’s death was deemed an accidental overdose as a result of his medication abuse.
12. Lea Michele and Cory Monteith
Yet another young star brought down by drug addiction, actor Cory Monteith reportedly had substance issues since he was a young teen. Despite having a rocky adolescence, Monteith achieved widespread fame for his role as Finn Hudson on the hit series Glee.
During that time, Monteith struck up a relationship with Lea Michele, who played his on-screen love interest. Michele even stayed with Monteith when his drug addiction began to affect his work on the show, resulting in an on-set intervention and Monteith being written out of a number of episodes.
Despite a stay in rehab, Monteith accidentally overdosed on alcohol and heroin in July 2013. Lea Michele would go on to attend Monteith’s funeral, as well as releasing a number of songs, including “If You Say So”, as a tribute to her deceased boyfriend.
11. Brittany Murphy and Simon Monjack
Known for starring in everything from broad comedies like Clueless to gritty dramas like 8 Mile, actress Brittany Murphy was engaged a number of times before she finally met British screenwriter Simon Monjack. The couple wed in 2007 and moved into a Los Angeles home together along with Murphy’s mother. However, Murphy’s death just two years later marked an untimely end to the couples’ marriage.
Though authorities cited Murphy’s cause of death to be a combination of pneumonia, anemia, and prescription drug intoxication, the fact that Monjack died under similar conditions just five months later lead many to believe that there might be other factors at play. Everything from toxic mold to foul play has been listed as a possible factor.
Although these claims have never been backed up by authorities, the unexpected and bizarre deaths of these two newlyweds is nothing short of tragic.
10. Michelle Dockery and John Dineen
Best known for playing Lady Mary Crawley on the hit British drama Downton Abbey, Michelle Dockery is an English actress who has received acclaim for her powerful performances on both the screen and stage, as well as recently breaking into America with starring roles in Good Behavior and Lawless.
While Dockery prefers to keep her personal life private, the actress reportedly began a relationship with John Dineen, a businessman originally from Ireland, after the two were introduced by fellow Downton Abbey actor Allen Leech in 2013. Sometime in within the next two years the couple became engaged before Dineen was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and eventually passed away in December of 2015.
Though Dockery has said that Dineen’s death is not something she likes to publicly speak about, she has cited her friends and family with helping her through a difficult time, while also being a spokesperson to help fund cancer research.
9. John Ritter and Amy Yasbeck
For those who had loved the comedic actor all the way from Three’s Company to 8 Simple Rules, the news of John Ritter’s untimely death back in 2003 was a devastating shock.
The tragedy struck when Ritter became ill while rehearsing for the hit show, but problems worsened when the doctors misdiagnosed an aortic dissection as a heart attack, resulting in the actor passing away on the operating table.
Ritter was survived by four children and his wife and fellow actor Amy Yasbeck. The two had been together since the late ‘90s, and they had even played each other’s love interests in various movies and TV shows. Yasbeck even gave a blessing for 8 Simply Rules to carry on following the tragic turn of events and she has also been outspoken about the dangers of heart disease ever since.
8. Robin Williams and Susan Schneider
Robin Williams married artist Susan Schneider in 2011 and the two lived together near San Fransisco until the actor’s untimely death in 2014.
The news of Williams’ suicide came as a massive shock and resulted in an outpouring of love and sorrow from around the world. In the following days and weeks, it came to the light that Williams was experiencing a decline in mental health as a result of Lewy body dementia that was originally misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. This condition affects motor skills and can contribute to hallucinations and depression, which was already beginning to take its toll on Williams.
Schneider has said that the disease no doubt contributed to her husband’s death, and following his funeral, Williams’ ashes were scattered into San Francisco Bay near the couple’s home.
7. Pierce Brosnan and Cassandra Harris
After starring alongside Roger Moor in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, Australian actress Cassandra Harris wanted her husband, Pierce Brosnan, to eventually take over the role of 007. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be until four years after her passing that Brosnan would eventually pick up the mantle.
The couple met in the late 1970s and ended up marrying in 1980. Together they had one child, though after Harris’s previous husband passed away, Brosnan actually became the adopted father of her two previous children as well.
Unfortunately, after 11 years of marriage, Harris lost her four-year battle with ovarian cancer and passed away at the age of 43. Since then, Brosnan has been outspoken about his struggle overcoming the grief, which is something he would have to deal with yet again when his adopted daughter succumbed to the same disease in 2013.
6. Patton Oswalt and Michelle McNamara
Although he is best known for being a standup comedian, Patton Oswalt has also enjoyed a successful career as an actor, starring as Spencer in The King of Queens and voicing Remy in Pixar’s Ratatouille.
In 2005, Oswalt wed true crime writer Michelle E. McNamara, and the two would go on to have one daughter together, born in 2009. But in a tragic turn of events, McNamara passed away in her sleep in 2016 as a result of an undiagnosed heart condition coupled with complications from prescription medications.
Since then, Oswalt has been working to complete his late wife’s book about the Golden State Killer, which will be released in February of 2018. Oswalt has also been outspoken about the immense grief that comes with losing a spouse, and he even tackled the difficult subject matter in his latest comedy special, Annihilation, which is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking.
5. Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi
Despite being one of the most predominant sex symbols throughout the 1980s, Patrick Swayze remained faithfully married to his wife and fellow actor Lisa Niemi from 1974 until his death in 2009.
The two met when they were just teenagers, as Neimi was a dance student of Swayze’s mother, and after they married the couple moved together to New York City and later Los Angeles to pursue careers in dance.
The two lived on various ranches together where they bred Arabian horses, and when Swayze was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007, Niemi (who was a licensed pilot) would literally fly her husband to treatment. But after a 20-month battle that was filled with ups-and-downs, Swayze passed away with his family by his side. His ashes were later scattered across the couple’s New Mexico ranch.
4. Christopher and Dana Reeve
As the result of a fateful equestrian accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down, Christopher Reeve would become just as well known for being an activist as he was for playing the Man of Steel.
Three years before the tragic accident, Christopher married fellow actor Dana Charles Reeve in 1992 and together they had a son. Reportedly, during the early stage of his recovery, Reeve was so despondent that he told his wife he was contemplating suicide, but under reassurance from Dana that she would stick with him no matter the outcome, Christopher never broached the subject again.
The two stayed together until Christopher passed away in 2004 due to complications of his paralysis. Dana even continued to be a disability activist after her husband’s death, but in another sad turn of events, she also suffered an untimely death in 2006, due to cancer.
3. Mia Farrow and Woody Allen
Though both Woody Allen and Mia Farrow had been involved in previous high-profile marriages, the relationship between the two seemed like a match made in heaven, which resulted in Allen adopting two of Farrow’s children, along with Farrow starring in 13 of Allen’s films throughout the course of their relationship.
However, the picture-perfect facade quickly disintegrated when Farrow discovered a number of nude photos of her 21-year-old adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, within Allen’s possession. Allen later admitted to having an affair with Soon-Yi, and a bitter breakup between the two ensued.
On top of that, Allen has also been accused of abuse by another one of Farrow’s adopted daughters, which no doubt made matters that much more horrific for Farrow, who had once considered Allen fit to be the adopted father of her children.
2. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
One of the most prominent actors of the 1960s, Paul Newman married Academy-Award winning actress Joanna Woodward in 1958, and the two would stay together for over the next 50 years.
Newman and Woodward would go on to have three children and, upon starting a family, they decided to move away from the show business of Hollywood and raise their kids in Connecticut. The two were known to be deeply committed to each other, and together they established various nonprofit organizations including the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, which provides free service to children battling cancer and other serious illnesses.
Newman himself would eventually succumb to lung cancer in 2008 and, although he was 83 years old at the time, the loss still marked a tragic end to a long and rewarding romance.
1. Clarke Gable and Carole Lombard
Two of the biggest stars during Hollywood’s Golden Age, Clarke Gable and Carole Lombard struck up a romance in 1936 and ended up tying the knot while Gable was shooting Gone with the Wind.
The couple purchased a 20-acre ranch in California, where they went hunting and raised livestock. Although they attempted to start a family of their own, after multiple trips to the doctor, Lombard found that she was unable to have children. Then, in 1942, Lombard was killed in a plane crash when the aircraft struck a peak in the Nevada mountains.
Gable flew to the site to see his wife’s body, and in the following months, he was physically and emotionally destroyed by Lombard’s death.
Though he would go on to marry twice more, Gable was eventually laid to rest beside Lombard, citing their marriage as the happiest period of his life.
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