When it comes to Hollywood’s biggest actors, there’s no question that they’re dedicated to their art. When actors commit to filming a movie, reports often suggest these stars are willing to sacrifice time, blood, sweat, and tears to make their performance spectacular. So it’s easy to imagine that more often than not, the artistic world is hugely stressful – and, indeed, working in show business has been known to destroy personal lives and break families apart. The huge time commitment, the invasion of a star’s privacy and the constant public scrutiny are likely all contributing factors.
And sadly, the high pressure and risky business has led to some unfortunate tragedies. Many well-known actors have passed on while filming. Take Natalie Wood for example, who passed on while filming the movie “Brainstorm”. Actress and singer Aaliyah died while she was working on a role in the “Matrix” film franchise. The original on-screen Dumbledore, Richard Harris, had been signed on for the entire “Harry Potter” films to play the Hogwarts headmaster but sadly passed on after the first film. “Stand By Me” actor River Phoenix died of a drug overdose while filming the movie “Dark Blood”.
There’s no question that death is a tragic event. But who were the wealthiest actors who passed on while filming? And what do the production companies do when their star actor can no longer finish their work on the movie? Does it get scrapped? Here is a short list of five of the world’s biggest actors who were unable to see the final product of their work, and an elucidation on what the production companies did after the fact to try to save their movie. Regardless of meeting an untimely end, these actors’ identities have been immortalized in Hollywood with their names and faces living on forever in the work that is left behind. While we at therichest often make light-hearted commentary on pop culture, this article comes on the heels of the tragic death of an iconic actor and, given it’s subject matter, it’s a perhaps more sombre than your typical celebrity list. With the greatest respect to these iconic stars, here are 5 of the most successful, richest actors who passed away during a project.
5. Bruce Lee – $10 Million
One of the most iconic kung fu artists, and Hollywood icon, Bruce Lee was working on the film, “Game of Death”, when he passed away in 1973. It was rather early in the production process and Lee had only filmed a few scenes. The movie was eventually released with Lee’s scenes spliced together. At the time of his death, Bruce Lee was also working on dubbing for the movie, “Enter the Dragon”. According to Lee’s widow, Linda Lee Caldwell, “Bruce died from cerebral edema caused by hypersensitivity to an ingredient in a prescription medication called Equagesic. This determination was made after an exhaustive, nine-day coroner’s inquest during which the testimony of forensic pathologists from all over the world, who had studied every tissue in Bruce’s body, was heard.” In 1993, Linda would lose another member of her immediate family when a fragment of a real bullet from a prop gun (during the filming of “The Crow”) shot Brandon Lee in the stomach and killed him. He was the oldest son of Bruce and Linda.
4. Heath Ledger – $16 Million
Heath Ledger first made waves in Hollywood as the bad boy that Julia Stiles falls for in “10 Things I Hate About You” as well as the lowly knight in the comedy, “A Knight’s Tale”. Ledger died of an accidental overdose of prescription medications of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine in January of 2008. Before his death, Ledger had just immersed himself in his now-iconic role as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s Batman film, “The Dark Knight”. He was so dedicated to the role that he kept a diary of his descent into the character, which his father just recently revealed. Ledger had just wrapped “The Dark Knight” and was in the process of filming the movie, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” when he died. The mastermind behind the film, Terry Gilliam, was a friend of Heath Ledger and almost scrapped the film when he died. But the filming continued and actors Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell stepped in and took over the role.
3. Paul Walker – $25 Million
This was one of the most shocking deaths of 2013 when Paul Walker died in a fiery car crash on his way home from participating in a charity event in November. The driver of the car was 38-year old Roger Rodas, who was Walker’s financial advisor and a former professional racer. It has just recently been announced that Walker’s entire $25 million estate is going directly to his teenage daughter, Meadow. He was in the middle of filming “Fast & Furious 7” and Universal announced an undetermined hiatus in the production. His brother Cody was asked to become a stand in so that the film could be completed. Many of the film’s costars, including Tyrese Gibson, publicly mourned over his friend at the crash site. Walker’s official cause of death was a combination of traumatic and thermal injuries, and the coroner’s report showed that he died almost immediately after the crash.
2. Marilyn Monroe – $27 Million
Marilyn Monroe’s death has become one of the most iconic conspiracy theories of all time. In August of 1962, Monroe was found dead in her home next to a bottle of sleeping pills. Her death was considered to be a possible murder, but charges were never filed and her death was ruled as a suicide. At the time of her death, she was in the middle of production for the movie, “Something’s Gotta Give”. After she passed, the movie was never completed. But the movie was reconstructed for the documentary, “Marilyn: The Last Days”. For decades after her death, many production companies and individuals have tried to solve the mystery of her death, including BBC and CBS. The world may never know what her last moments were like, but Monroe will forever remain as one of the most iconic actresses of her time.
1. Philip Seymour Hoffman – $35 Million
Hoffman’s death on February 2nd 2014 is still being mourned across the world. On Wednesday evening, Broadway dimmed their lights for the late actor, who died of a drug overdose earlier this week. Best Actor Oscar winner and seasoned theatre actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was working on several projects at the time of his death. One his most-publicised projects was the role of Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee for “The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 1”: The film’s producers have announced that Hoffman had about a week’s worth of filming remaining for the Hunger Games sequel and that any missing parts will be covered by a CGI creation. While that may cause some raised eyebrows, the producers have stated that Hoffman’s work was ‘up to his best craft’ and the completed project would be a ‘good tribute’ to the actor. At the time of publishing investigations into the actor’s death are ongoing, and a number of people have been arrested under suspicion of providing the heroine that was used in Hoffman’s overdose. Hoffman had struggled with drug addiction in the past but reportedly checked into rehab for a time last year, after he relapsed in 2012 following a period of over 20 years of sobriety.
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