Hollywood is a superstitious place. There is a lot of history embedded in it, and there’s an enormous fascination with Tinseltown from people all around the world. Stories get passed on, myths get extended and curses, when they spring up, get sensationalized. Perhaps it’s a legacy from the historic superstitions of the theater. There are some serious traditions in the theatrical world, such as those surrounding Macbeth, or, er, the Scottish play. There’s long been a fear that if you speak the name Macbeth on stage, or even in the theater, that the play/performance will be jinxed. Some say this goes back to an agreement that Shakespeare made with an actual coven of witches, others say that it’s grown over time as bad things happen on set. Whatever the reasons, people believe it, or, even if they don’t believe it, they adhere to the rules of the superstition. Hollywood is more of the same.
Really, when you think about it, curses have been around forever and likely every culture in the world has incorporated them into their belief systems in one way or another. It probably shouldn’t come as surprise that Hollywood and the American movie industry would have them too. Some of these curses have largely been forgotten over time, but they were all, at one point, discussed with some seriousness. These are the most famous curses that have befallen movie sets, families, people and events in Hollywood. Curses are often used as explanations for tragedies that seem to follow these collections of people, places or things. No one is confirming the validity of any of them; we’re simply passing along the rumors that have been passed along to us.
Regardless if you believe these things or not, the curses on this list are incredibly interesting, albeit terribly sad, groups of events that seem to stretch the boundaries of coincidence. Here are 15 incredible Hollywood curses that people still believe.
15. Curse Of The Dark Knight
The whispers of curses on the set of The Dark Knight trilogy didn’t really start until the death of the actor who portrayed the Joker, Heath Ledger. Rumors of his troubled mental state, connected to that of the Joker character he played, made it seem like the movie poisoned him. Then Christian Bale got into trouble with the law (domestic abuse charges) and Morgan Freeman was in a car accident. There was also the crewmember who died while filming a scene for The Dark Knight. Whenever multiple incidents pile up during one film (or a franchise), we’re bound to hear people talking curses.
14. The Curse Of Billy Bob Thornton
This curse is really one part bad luck and two parts “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” but it is said to be a curse nevertheless. The legend says that once you act in a movie with Billy Bob Thornton, your odds of dying go up. That may sound weird since everyone has a 100% chance of dying, but I guess your odds of a more immediate death go up. Some of Thornton’s past colleagues include: Patrick Swayze, Bernie Mac, Jim Varney, Peter Boyle, J.T. Walsh, John Ritter, Warren Zevon and Heath Ledger. Now there’s also the car accidents of Shia LaBeouf and Morgan Freeman, which some people also link to Thornton. This actually might not be the curse OF Billy Bob Thornton but the curse ON Billy Bob Thornton. Seems to me, this poor guy has lost a lot of close friends.
13. The Oscar Curse
They say that in some cases, an actor or actress who wins the Academy Award for acting is cursed and will unable to find success afterward. This may seem likely to happen with the sheer number of actors in Hollywood, but we’re talking curses here, so shush. Here are some stars who struck gold but then were struck by the Oscar Curse: Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball), Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire), Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite), Mercedes Reuhl (The Fisher King), Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock), Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck), F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), Geena Davis (The Accidental Tourist) and Adrien Brody (The Pianist).
12. Three Men and a Baby And A Curse
In the apartment where Three Men and a Baby was filmed, there is said to have been a major tragedy that took place before filming. Apparently, a nine-year old boy committed suicide with a shotgun and haunted the apartment. The craziest part? You can actually see his ghost in the movie, hiding behind the curtains. The boy was also said to have caused a fire in the apartment, angry about the film’s intrusion in his home. Well, this one has turned out to be really false. The apartment was actually a soundstage. The ghost behind the curtain? That’s a cardboard cutout of Ted Danson from a deleted scene. Though it doesn’t answer the question. Why does the Ted Danson cardboard cut-out look so much like a nine-year old boy?
11. The Curse Of The Centerfold
The Curse of the Centerfold revolves around the idea that an unnatural number of women who once graced the center pages of Playboy meet an untimely death (or their careers die soon after). Is there a connection between these women that people aren’t seeing, or is there some deep curse attached to those sacred middle pages? Here are some of the beauties that bared it all before they died: Marilyn Monroe (overdose in ’62), Jayne Mansfield (career slipped and she died in a car accident in ’67), Sharon Tate (murdered in 1969), Claudia Jennings (died in car accident in 1979), Dorothy Stratten (murdered in 1980), Elisa Bridges (overdose in 2002) and Anna Nicole Smith (overdose in 2007). Other misfortunes include: Danielle Lloyd (stripped of Miss Britain title) and Kirsten Imrie (debilitating drug addiction).
10. The Curse Of The Passion of the Christ
After the happenings during the filming of Mel Gibson‘s The Passion of the Christ, many believed that the film was cursed. There were several mishaps and little accidents while filming some of the more physical scenes, but it was while shooting the Sermon on the Mount scene that got most of the attention. During this scene, both Jim Caviezel (Jesus) and Jan Michelini (assistant director) were struck by lightning. These lightning strikes didn’t happen at the same time either, but were two separate incidents. Was it a sign from God or Mother Nature? We’ll let you be the judge.
9. The Curse Of The Conqueror
Believe it or not, the choice to cast John Wayne as Mongolian leader Genghis Khan, was not the worst decision made as part of the 1956 film, The Conqueror. Nope, the stupidest decision was probably filming it Snow Canyon, downwind from the nuclear test site in the Yucca Flats. Because of this absolutely terrible location, 91 members of the 200-person crew developed some form of cancer. Is this a curse or just common sense? Well there were other things, too. There was a flash flood which nearly killed everyone on set. And the lead actress, Susan Hayward, was attacked and nearly killed by a panther. You hear that? A panther. Now that’s a curse if I’ve ever seen one.
8. The Lee Family Curse
Take your pick, Triads or the Chinese Mafia. Either one of these may have been responsible for the deaths of Bruce Lee and his son, Brandon Lee, if you believe in the Lee family curse. You have to admit. The coincidental elements here are pretty interesting. The story goes that either the Chinese Mafia was mad at Bruce Lee for giving away ancient martial arts secrets to Hollywood so they had him and his son killed, or the Triads were angry that Bruce Lee wouldn’t act in their movies so they had him and his son killed. After filming the Game of Death in 1973, Bruce Lee goes to sleep and is unable to be revived, dying from an edema (swelling of the brain) that was caused by a reaction to a drug he took for a headache. Then in 1993, Brandon Lee dies while on set filming The Crow, getting shot by a gun that was supposed to fire blanks. This detail is interesting because in Bruce’s last movie, The Game of Death, his character is shot by a gun that was supposed to fire blanks. Was this just a coincidence or a symbolic message? During the time of Brandon’s death, there was another movie being filmed, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. Both The Crow and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story were said to have been hit with some bad luck, having several accidents, even deaths, occur on set. Was this all because of the Lee Family Curse?
7. The Curse Of James Dean’s “Little Bastard”
Though many of the stories have since been disputed, the curse of James Dean’s car, the “Little Bastard,” has remained one of the more popular myths in American pop culture. Rumor has it that the car that James Dean was killed in 1955, continued to wreak havoc on other people throughout its life. After Dean’s accident, some of the parts were said to have been put into other cars, thus leading to more wreckage. First, Dr. McHenry, driving a car with the “Little Bastard’s” engine, was killed in his first race with the enhanced car. In the same race, another car with Dean’s drivetrain rolled over, injuring the driver. Later it was said that the garage that stored the “Little Bastard” had a fire that burnt only around the car, scorching the tires and some paint but nothing else. The car was said to have disappeared into thin air at some point not long after that. Curse or a marketing strategy?
6. The Exorcist Curse
When the cast and crew were filming the 1973 horror film, The Exorcist, tales of curses began to circulate because of some of the events that happened on set. There was the near death of one of the actors’ children after they were hit by a motorcycle, injuries to cast members, including Linda Blair, all of the interior sets (except for Regan’s bedroom) were destroyed by a fire and needed to be rebuilt, and Jack MacGowran (Burke Dennings) died before the film’s release. All of these incidents, as well as the film’s disturbing content led to the stories of this curse being passed around.
5. Curse Of Atuk
Mordecai Richler’s 1963 novel, The Incomparable Atuk, has been in development hell since the 70s. The film has been rumored to get going on several different occasions, but something always halts it, not the least of which is the stars attached to star in it keep dying. This curse was first put on John Belushi, who had the script and was considering it when he died in 1982. After that, the script was passed to Sam Kinison when he, too, died in 1992. Then it went to John Candy, who was interested in the lead role until he died in 1994. Finally, the script was said to have been something that comedian Chris Farley was interested in up to the time he died in 1997. Four comedians all interested in one script resulting in four, seemingly related deaths.
4. The Curse Of Rosemary’s Baby
By far the most disturbing of the curses on the list, the Curse of Rosemary’s Baby is scary, whether it’s true or not. Five months after the release of Rosemary’s Baby, the film’s composer, Krzysztof Komeda, was playfully pushed off an escarpment, an accident that resulted in a brain hematoma which would kill him; note that this is the same way that Rosemary’s friend, Hutch, dies in the film. Then there is the tragic death of the Roman Polanski‘s wife, Sharon Tate. In 1969, after buying a home from a music producer who refused to record Charles Manson’s music, Polanski’s family members (his wife and unborn child) were murdered by Manson’s followers. The curse, insensitively, claims that Polanski made a deal with the devil as Rosemary’s husband had done in the film.
3. Curse Of Poltergeist
In between the release of Poltergeist (1982) and Poltergeist III, a series of tragedies befell the cast of the films. Often attributed to the fact that the first two Poltergeist films used real skeletons rather than fake ones because the real ones were cheaper, the curse of Poltergeist is said to have led to the deaths of Dominique Dunn (Dana in Poltergeist) on November 4, 1982, Julian Beck (Henry Kane in Poltergeist II) on September 14, 1985, Willy Sampson (Taylor the Medicine Man in Poltergeist III) on June 3, 1987 and Heather O’Rourke (Carol Anne in all three Poltergeist films) on February 1, 1988. Even though these four cast members died of much different things (murder, stomach cancer, kidney failure and acute bowel obstruction), they are forever linked. There is also the very eerie poster from Poltergeist that appeared to predict the time of O’Rourke’s death.
2. The Superman Curse
When George Reeves, the man who played Superman in Superman and the Mole Men in 1951 and the television series The Adventures of Superman was found dead in his home, rumors started to fly. Reeves’ death was ruled a suicide, but, since his fingerprints were not on the gun and there was some affair going on behind the scenes, people believed he was murdered and the legend of the Superman Curse was born. Reeves had been typecast as Superman and struggled to find any acting work outside of that character. People started looking back at Kirk Alyn who played Superman in the 1940s and was never able to find work afterward because he, too, was typecast. Bud Collyer voiced a Superman cartoon in the 1940s and was fine, but when he returned to voice the character in the 60s, he died soon after. Lee Quiqley, who played Superman as a baby in Superman (1978), died at the age of 14. Finally, Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in 1995 and died in several years later. These all may seem random, but their association with Superman draws the attention of the curse believers.
1. The Omen Curse
Several seemingly cursed events surround the 1976 film, The Omen. Some of the stranger ones are as follows. Gregory Peck and producer Mace Neufeld were taking two separate planes to England and planned to have dinner together that night at a restaurant. During the flights, both of their planes were hit by lightning and the restaurant they were to dine in was bombed by the IRA. A stuntman was also killed after working on The Omen, a plane used by the studio crashed and killed its occupants and the studio’s zookeeper was eaten by lions. The weirdest one, which might also be the most far-fetched, comes from John Richardson, the special effects artist, who was nearly killed in a car crash (his passenger did die) after working on The Omen. While driving in the Netherlands, Richardson was involved in the serious accident. Upon getting out from his car, he noticed a sign marker on the side of the road that indicated the town of Ommen was 66.6 KM away.
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