The Dark Knight actor Heath Ledger sadly didn’t live to enjoy the critical acclaim and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor that the role earned him, as he died of an accidental prescription drug overdose six months before The Dark Knight arrived in theaters. The Joker wasn’t Ledger’s final role, however. At the time of his death, Ledger was a little over a month into filming Terry Gilliam’s fantasy film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, in which he played a central role. Following the actor’s death, Gilliam came up with the idea of having Ledger’s character change his appearance, and enlisted the help of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and and Colin Farrell to take over the role in scenes that Ledger hadn’t yet got around to filming. With their help, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was completed and became the final piece of Ledger’s legacy.
Alex Proyas’ vigilante superhero movie The Crow has become a cult classic since its original release in 1994, but the film is notorious for another reason. Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, played the movie’s main character, Eric Draven, a rock star who is brought back from the dead to avenge his own murder and the death of his girlfriend. In a scene where Eric returns home to find his girlfriend being attacked, actor Michael Massee fired a prop gun at Lee, not knowing that the prop crew had accidentally left a fragment of a real bullet inside it. The bullet struck Lee in the abdomen, and despite being rushed to hospital and undergoing six hours of surgery, the wound cost him his life. Lee was just 28 years old.
Paul Walker was a mainstay of the Fast and Furious franchise from the very beginning, and his appearances in the movies spanned over a decade – from his first appearance in The Fast and the Furious to his final portrayal of Brian O’Conner in Furious 7. Two months into production on Furious 7, Walker was killed when the driver of the Porsche he was travelling in crashed the car into a lamp post and two trees at high speed. Following the accident, Universal put production on hold to give the cast and crew time to grieve, and to give director James Wan time to figure out how to rework the film. Furious 7 was eventually completed using Paul Walker’s brothers, Caleb and Cody, as stand-ins for his character, with a combination of camera trickery and CGI used to complete Brian’s story.
John Ritter first made a name for himself as one of the leads on ABC sitcom Three’s Company in the 1970s and 80s, and by the early 2000s had gone from TV bachelor to TV dad in another ABC sitcom, 8 Simple Rules, in which he played strict but affectionate father Paul Hennessy. During filming of the show’s second season, Ritter fell ill due to a heart defect called aortic dissection, which was initially misdiagnosed as a heart attack. Despite efforts to save him, Ritter died in a hospital later that day. His death was written into the show, with the Hennessy family finding out that Paul had collapsed while grocery shopping.
One of the most iconic movie stars of all time, Marilyn Monroe is known for her roles in classic comedies films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Some Like it Hot and The Seven Year Itch. Monroe’s final film was a romantic comedy called Something’s Got to Give, from which she was fired after one month of production, then later rehired with a change of director. Before filming with Monroe could resume, the actress died of a barbiturate overdose. Something’s Got to Give was never completed, though the footage was later pieced together for a documentary called Marilyn: Something’s Got to Give.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Philip Seymour Hoffman was a highly respected actor, who in 2006 won an Oscar for playing the title role in Capote. In more recent years, audiences became familiar with Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, the Head Gamemaker of The Hunger Games. Sadly, after decades of sobriety, Hoffman suffered a relapse into the drug addiction that had plagued him in his younger years, and with just a week of filming left on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 the actor died after taking a mix of heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and benzodiazepines. Director Francis Lawrence decided not to try and complete Hoffman’s performance using CGI, and Plutarch Heavensbee was instead written out of the scenes that Hoffman had yet to shoot.