When death takes you by surprise you’d better be famous. Otherwise, nobody, except for your loved ones, would notice you’ve gone. Yes, it’s an unbearable thought, but it’s the truth. All over the world, the unimaginable is happening on a daily basis to people who are supposedly too young to die. Or too beautiful or too healthy, for that matter. However, we want to talk to you about people who were too famous to die. Emblematic Hollywood performers left this world while already in retirement. Others died after long careers working until their very last breath. And there is this third group of actors and actresses whose careers were cut tragically short.
You are about to see pictures of some of Hollywood’s most beloved sons and daughters in their last artistic transformation. Unfortunately, someone’s last film doesn’t necessarily represent their greatest professional achievement. Yet, last movies have this special, sentimental value for us, the audience, and we certainly appreciate the flavor of fatality they contain. We give you a fine collection of pictures of 15 great performers’ last appearance on screen. From Oscar winners and classic golden age stars to modern cult movie icons, we invite you to enter the gallery of the Dead Actors’ Society.
15. Gene Wilder Dies 13 Years After His Last Appearance In Will And Grace
In 2003, one of the most iconic comedic actors declared he was quitting the movie business. Instead, he focused on writing novels, stories, and painting. When asked by Time Out New York Magazine whether he would act again, this is how he responded, “I’m tired of watching the bombing, shooting, killing, swearing and 3-D. I get 52 movies a year sent to me, and maybe there are three good ones. That’s why I went into writing.”
Wilder died at the age of 83 in August 2016 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
His last on-screen appearance was in 2003, on NBC’s popular show Will and Grace as Mr. Stein, Will Truman’s boss. For his performance, he won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor on a Comedy Series. But with this Wilder’s screen career ended.
14. Heath Ledger Fatally ODs While Filming The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
Heath Ledger was definitely one of the most charismatic and full of potential young actors in Hollywood. But as any other great talent, he, too, had a dark side of which nobody suspected. A 2015 documentary about his final days revealed some chilling details about the circumstances surrounding his death. The makers of the documentary claimed that the actor’s transformation as Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) pushed him into an ocean of depression and drugs that finally led to his fatal end. However, he was able to get his sh*t together for one last screen appearance. One-third of the way through filming The Imaginarium, Ledger died of an overdose, which caused the production to be suspended for some time. Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell were then hired to play his character in various incarnations. The film grossed more than $60 million in its worldwide release.
13. Philip Seymour Hoffman Is A German Spy In His Last Film
On February 2, 2014, 46-year-old Hoffman was found in his New York apartment with a needle in his arm. The official cause of death: drug intoxication, including heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and amphetamines. It remained unclear though if the overdose was intentional or accidental. The actor was no amateur heroin user. Actually, he fought his heroin addiction off and on throughout his life. Two years prior to the fatal OD, the Oscar and Tony winning actor appeared in his last film. In A Most Wanted Man (2012), he plays a German espionage agent, Bachmann, chasing a Chechen Muslim refugee who entered Hamburg illegally. Some critics say this is Hoffman’s superb swan song, while others claim the thriller is full of genre clichés and lacks suspense. Although the film is indeed quite a bore, Hoffman’s performance is very convincing – his character is heavy with fatigue, unkempt and never far from a glass of whisky.
12. James Gandolfini Leaves A Heap Of Unfinished Projects When He Suddenly Dies At 51
The actor who played the infamous Italian-American crime boss Tony Soprano died of a heart attack in Rome in June 2013. He was expected in Sicily a few days later to receive an award at the Taormina Film Festival. In his last film, The Drop, he played Cousin Marv alongside Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. The movie itself was directed by the guy who made Bullhead, Michaël R. Roskam. The plot follows lonely bartender Bob (Tom Hardy) through a secret scheme of funnelling cash to local outlaws in the underworld of Brooklyn bars. Bob works under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv (Gandolfini).
Meanwhile, Gandolfini was engaged in another project, the TV miniseries The Night Of. He was set to star in it, but after his death, the series moved forward in his honor, and Robert De Niro was set to replace Gandolfini. A year later, however, John Turturro replaced De Niro because of scheduling conflicts. Gandolfini retained a posthumous executive producer credit.
11. Brittany Murphy Was Difficult To Work With During Her Final Movie Abandoned (2010)
This haunting picture of the young actress was taken on the set of what would be her last movie. In Abandoned, Murphy plays a woman whose husband has disappeared without a trace and she is determined to find him, which would eventually be at the expense of her own life and sanity. The rumor had it that the 32-year-old actress was very difficult to work with, to which director Michael Feifer responded, “My experience with Brittany was really one of my best experience with an actress.” His words are not to be trusted though, because it is a given fact Murphy was fired in November 2009, just a month before her death. Ten different types of medication were found on her bedside table. Her husband, British director Simon Monjack, insisted she didn’t die of a drug overdose. “She wanted a baby,” he said to the police. “Her dream was to have a child next year, and we even talked how she or he would look.”
10. Paul Walker Dies In A Horrific Car Crash Before Furious 7 Was Completed
The 40-year-old Paul Walker, mostly known for his role as Brian O’Conner in The Fast and The Furious franchise, died in September 2016 when the car he was in crashed and exploded in Santa Clarita, California. The driver was also killed. At the time of the accident, Walker had been attending a charity event. Because of Walker’s death, the seventh instalment was delayed so script writers can make appropriate changes, and his brothers, Caleb and Cody, ended up standing in to finish Paul’s scenes. Upon release, the film was a critical and commercial success, and grossed $397.6 million worldwide during its opening weekend. The song “See You Again”, which appeared on the movie’s soundtrack, was a tribute to Walker. He was survived by a daughter, who turned 16 this year.
9. Adrienne Shelly Is Killed By An Illegal Immigrant
The petite, sweet looking actress Adrienne Shelly had a bright future ahead of her. She had just played a supporting role in Waitress (2007) along with having played a part in its writing and direction. The star of the movie is Keri Russell, who plays a pregnant, unhappily married waitress trapped in a small town in the deep south. She falls in love with her gynaecologist, who, however, hesitates to leave his practice and his wife for her. The director, Adrienne Shelly, never lived to see her movie be released and receive great reviews at Sundance Film Festival the same year as she was murdered by a construction worker, who turned out to be an illegal immigrant from Ecuador. The man confessed to having killed Shelly and said he mad it look as if she had hanged herself. In Shelly’s honor, her husband established a foundation, which awards scholarships and production grants to artists.
8. Before His Death, Robin Williams Lends His Voice For Dennis The Dog
The legendary comic actor died on August 11, 2014, after an apparent suicide. He hanged himself in his California home, and various reasons behind his suicide had been circling around for over a year before his widow Susan came forward with the truth. She said it was not depression that killed Williams. It was a debilitating brain disease called Lewy body dementia that took hold of the actor and led him to suicide.
Before his death, Williams lent his voice to the main character’s dog Dennis in the British sci-fi comedy Absolutely Anything. It’s about a guy who is granted powers by aliens enabling him to do anything. Reportedly, Williams completed his scenes only three weeks before his tragic ending. However, his final appearance on-screen in flesh was in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014).
7. River Phoenix’s Last Role Is Of A Young Widower In Dark Blood (1992)
The guy was an Academy Award nominee and a very promising young actor when he died at the age of only 23 from a drug overdose. On October 31, 1993, Phoenix drank a “speedball” of heroin and cocaine dissolved into a drink and then took some Valium. Long before the tragic night, friends and colleagues were worried about the actor’s fall. There was no way they wouldn’t notice the greying of his complexion and the changes of his otherwise hippie-ish nature. They tried to warn him about his addiction, but, obviously, he wouldn’t listen.
The last movie in which he starred, Dark Blood, was left unfinished as the actor died in the middle of shooting. “The film follows Boy (Phoenix), a young widower who retreats to the desert after his wife’s death of radiation following nuclear tests near their home.” Actually, that was the only film in Phoenix’s career where he played a villain.
6. A Firearms Accident Results In Brandon Lee’s Death While Filming The Crow (1994)
A brutally murdered man comes back to life to avenge his and his fiancée’s murder. That’s the plot in one sentence of the last movie in which the son of the iconic Bruce Lee starred. Many rumors float around Brandon Lee’s death which occurred while filming The Crow. Some suggest he was killed by the very same Chinese Mafia that is said to be responsible for the death of his father in 1973.
Others speculate that Brandon Lee was murdered by representatives of organized crime tied to Hong Kong movie industry, who were enraged when Lee refused to work for them. The truth, however, is far more trivial. The actor was killed in a tragic accident, the result of negligence and budget cuts. The scene was the death of Lee’s character. Actor Michael Massee was supposed to shoot at Lee with a revolver that was loaded with blanks. Unfortunately, when a fragment of a fake bullet got lodged in the barrel, Lee was hit in his side, and was fatally wounded.
5. John Belushi Stars One Last Time In Comedy Neighbors (1981)
He became a comedy sensation on Saturday Night Live. Afterwards, he made comedy classics like Animal House and The Blues Brothers. On March 5, 1982, his trainer found him dead in his room at the Chateau Marmont Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. The actor was 33. The cause of death: drug intoxication combining cocaine and heroin, a.k.a. “speedball”. Belushi’s last appearance was in Neighbors, where he played an unsuccessful, middle-class guy with a wife and a teenage daughter, whose life changes when a young couple moves next door. Belushi’s character, Earl, realizes his neighbours have given him the most of pleasure and excitement he’s had in years, and in the closing scene, he joins them, leaving his family and suburban life behind.
In a book that came in 1984, John Belushi was portrayed as a man out of control, whose life was totally ruled by drugs. His widow, Judy, attacked the book, saying that John wasn’t just a junkie. She argued that “drugs could be fun,” and that she and John had a lot of ups along with the downs.
4. Five Movies Starring Anton Yelchin Are Released After His Death
In 2008, he was ranked #12 on “The 25 Hottest Actors Under 25” list. Ten years later, he had already accomplished an incredible amount of work for a man his age. All in all, the young actor had a promising future ahead of him, both in the film industry and in the hearts of the fans. Until a most ridiculous incident took his life. In the evening of June 19, 2016, Yelchin parked his Jeep Grand Cherokee outside his L.A. home. The “vehicle rolled backward on the steep driveway, pinning him against a brick pillar and security fence.”
At the time of his death, Yelchin had wrapped on several projects which were released after his death – Star Track Beyond, We Don’t Belong Here, Porto, Rememory. Lastly, he starred in the mainstream thriller Thoroughbred, which was released in January 2017.
3. Natasha Richardson’s Last On-Screen Appearance Was In A Teen Comedy
She came from the glorious Redgrave family (her mother was actress Vanessa Redgrave), and was married to Liam Neeson. She herself is a Tony Award winner, and is to be remembered for many notable films. On March 19, 2009, Natasha Richardson was taking a beginner skiing lesson at a resort about 80 miles from Montreal when she hit her head badly. Two days later, she died from an epidural hematoma in a hospital in Quebec.
Her last on-screen film appearance was as Mrs. Kingsly in the 2008 British-French-American teen comedy Wild Child. Her heroine is the headmistress of Abbey Mount.
In 2010, the movie The Wildest Dream was posthumously released. It is partly a biography of the British climber George Mallory told through letters. Because Natasha Richardson recorded voice-over as Ruth Mallory (she was reading some of the letters), this is considered her last film.
2. The Shootist (1976) Is Legend John Wayne’s Last Movie
John Wayne was (and still is!) beloved for his Westerns, the most popular of which are The Searchers, The Quiet Man, Rio Bravo, The Longest Day, and True Grit, for which he won an Academy Award. All in all, Wayne was among the top office box draws for 30 years in a row! The legendary actor died of stomach cancer in 1979, although he had enrolled in a quite promising cancer vaccine study. Fulfilling his final wish, his tombstone reads “Ugly, strong, and dignified” in Spanish. His death is largely attributed to his cigarette smoking. However, many believe that he developed cancer as a result of playing in The Conqueror. The movie was filmed in the proximity of a nuclear testing facility, which may have caused the cancer. His last film was The Shootist. He played JB Brooks, “a dying gunfighter, who spends his last days looking for a way to die with the least of pain but the maximum of dignity.”
1. The Misfits (1961) Is The Beefy Swan Song Of Marilyn Monroe
Actually, the movie happened to be the last for two huge Hollywood stars. Both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable made their final appearance in this 1961 melancholy drama that vibrates with immense sadness and disappointment with life. The drama is written by Arthur Miller and directed by John Huston. Monroe plays Roslyn, who travels to Reno to finalize her divorce. There she falls for an ageing cowboy, Gay (Clark Gable), and decides to stay for some time in the town where she also meets Gay’s friend, the rodeo rider Clift. The most emblematic scene is when they rope some misfit mustangs, which are roaming the Nevada desert. The movie is a commercial failure. A year after its release, Monroe ODs on barbiturates and dies. Her screen partner, Gable, dies of a coronary just after filming.
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