Even though death is part of the human condition, it’s still jolting and disheartening when it occurs. Death can be an especially unwelcome shock when an actor passes away in the middle of filming a project. The tragedy undoubtedly affects the other actors in the movie or television show. And, aside from the professional necessities of possibly changing a storyline or removing the deceased actor’s character from some scenes, the directors, producers and crew have to deal with feelings of loss as well. This is especially true if the people behind the scenes knew the actor well or worked with him/her on other projects in the past.
For some actors, their last creative works serve as a beautifully artistic way to memorialize them. Viewers and fans may use their actor’s final television show or movie as inspiration to achieve greatness in their own lives, or as a precautionary tale. The reasons for an actor’s death can help to spark social awareness on certain illnesses and conditions. It can also make the heartbreaking reality of death tangible, encouraging others to make changes for the better. Here are 10 celebrities whose lives ended before they were able to complete the filming of a movie or television program.
10. Natalie Wood
The beautiful actress died in a boating accident in 1981, just before she finished working on the film Brainstorm, alongside Christopher Walken. She is also known for her work in popular films such as Miracle on 34th Street and West Side Story. She starred in the film Gypsy as well, and received Academy Award nominations for her work in Love With the Proper Stranger and Splendor In the Grass. Natalie Wood also won a Golden Globe award for her role in the remake of From Here to Eternity. The cause of her death was reclassified as undetermined in 2012, and was deemed an accident for 31 years.
9. George Reeves
Before he began filming a new season of The Adventures of Superman, George Reeves passed away from a gunshot wound. Some people said that Reeves’ death was a suicide, while some say he was shot accidentally or the victim of murder. Reeves was born in Iowa, but moved to California at a young age with his mother. He acted throughout high school and while studying at Pasadena State Junior College. He was also an amateur heavyweight boxer, until his mother insisted that he stop. She was worried that his movie star good looks would be altered due to his fighting. Reeves’ first movie role was as one of the suitors of Scarlett O’Hara in the classic film, Gone With the Wind.
8. Freddie Prinze
Freddie Prinze was a stand-up comedian and actor. He starred in the popular 1970’s sitcom, Chico and the Man. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and the writers of the show created a plot line that had his character living in Mexico. The show continued for one season after Prinze’s death. Prinze was raised in Washington Heights, New York, where he began studying ballet at a young age. He auditioned for LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, which is the school that inspired the movie Fame. He was accepted into the drama program and continued ballet. In his senior year, he dropped out of school to become a comedian. His son, Freddie Prinze, Jr., has continued in his footsteps and is also a famous actor.
7. Nancy Marchand
Nancy Marchand starred as the mother of Tony Soprano on the hit mafia drama, The Sopranos. In 2000, she passed away from lung cancer, and her death was written into the show’s script. She is also known for her role on the TV show Lou Grant, as Margaret Pynchon. Marchand began her career in theater in 1951, when she starred in The Taming of The Shrew. She received an Obie Award for her work in the play The Balcony, and was nominated for a Tony for her role in Black Comedy/White Lies. Marchand also appeared on an episode of Cheers, playing Hester Crane, Frasier Crane’s mother.
6. Jerry Orbach
Jerry Orbach died of prostate cancer after only acting in two episodes of Law & Order: Trial by Jury. He was a long-time cast member of the original Law & Order series. The show is arguably what he is best known for to younger generations, although the actor, who was 69 when he passed away, had a recurring role on Murder, She Wrote and a supporting role in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Dirty Dancing. Orbach, a New York native, also starred on Broadway. He played El Gallo in the play The Fantastiks and was the first to sing the hit song from the show, Try to Remember.
5. Brandon Lee
While filming the movie The Crow, Brandon Lee was killed in an accidental shooting on set in 1993. The film was released after his death and a stunt double, along with special effects, were used for the last few scenes of the movie. The Crow was Lee’s debut feature film. Brandon was the son or martial arts and film star Bruce Lee, and followed in his father’s footsteps when it came to making action movies. Brandon also had a leading role in the Hong Kong action film Legacy of Rage and was nominated for a Hong Kong Film Award for his work. He also had a cameo in the 1985 movie Crime Killer.
4. Cory Monteith
Cory Monteith is perhaps best known for his role on the Fox hit series Glee. He played the character of Finn, a high school football star who risked alienation from his teammates because he joined the school’s glee club. He passed away in his hotel room in Canada of a drug and alcohol overdose in 2013, shortly before the new season of Glee was about to film. In addition to starring in Glee, Cory also had a starring role in Sisters & Brothers, and was in the film Monte Carlo. Monteith also hosted the 23rd GLAAD Media Awards in 2012 and the Teen Choice Awards in 2010. In 2009, Monteith began dating his on-screen Glee love interest Lea Michele. The two remained a couple until his death.
3. Paul Walker
Paul Walker was a cast member in the hit Fast and Furious movie franchise, and acted in five of the six sequels of Fast and Furious, including Furious 7, which is the franchise’s latest installment. Unfortunately, Paul Walker did not complete the film. He died in a car crash while in the middle of filming Furious 7 in Atlanta. The filming for the movie was put on hold, but the film was recently completed and released. Walker’s brother was featured in the film as an indirect replacement for Paul. Walker’s friend Roger Rodas, who was driving the car, was also killed in the accident. Brick Mansions and Hours, also starred walker and were released after his death.
2. John Ritter
John Ritter, who is still seen in syndication on his hit sitcom Three’s Company as Jack Tripper, also starred in the sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. In 2003, Ritter collapsed on set and died of a heart attack that night. The show was re-titled 8 Simple Rules, and actors James Garner and David Spade were hired as Ritter’s replacements for the show’s final season. Ritter’s sons Jason and Tyler, are also actors. At the time of his death, John Ritter was married to fellow actress Amy Yasbeck. The two appeared together well before they tied the knot in real life on an episode of The Cosby Show, as a couple expecting a baby.
1. Marilyn Monroe
The woman who is still seen by many as the ultimate sex symbol in Hollywood died from a drug overdose in 1962, while filming the movie Something’s Got to Give. The movie was never completed. Monroe, whose birth name was Norma Jeane Mortenson, started her career as a model, which helped to land her a contract with 21st Century-Fox. She had the lead role in the film Don’t Bother to Knock and also starred in Niagara, a film that focused on her seductive nature. She is also famous for portraying bubbly blonde characters in the movies The Seven Year Itch and How to Marry a Millionaire. Monroe is also well-known for her affair with president John F. Kennedy. She was named Film’s Sexiest Woman of All Time in 2009 by TV Guide Network.
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