With the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman occurring relatively recently and the losses of other great contributors to the arts and entertainment industry, such as L’Wren Scott and Peaches Geldof, we are yet again reminded of the fragility of human life. Though these stars often seem larger-than-life with their incredible movie roles, fashion collections, and magazine columns, they too are subjected to mental and physical illness.
Take Hoffman, for instance. He was considered one of the top actors of his generation, demonstrated by his many film roles and awards, including an Oscar for Best Actor. He was highly regarded in film as well as theatre, and remained humble throughout it all. He was also once married and this resulted in three beautiful children whom he loved very much. However, Hoffman admitted to struggling with addiction as a student at NYU and entered rehab following graduation. His rehabilitation programme was successful and he was extremely dedicated to living a clean life, remaining sober for 23 years. Unfortunately, during a celebratory moment in 2012, Hoffman accepted a drink and that was all it took to lead him down the dark path of addiction yet again. Though he once again went to rehab and appeared to be doing well, Hoffman did not overcome his struggle this time.
Because Hoffman is not the only talented individual the world has lost too soon, this list has been created in order to remember some those that Hollywood lost too soon. They brought such joy and entertainment to their fans and the ones they loved, even if their time was short. It is also meant to serve as a reminder to seek help if you or someone you know is mentally or physically unwell, even if it seems minor. It could save someone’s life or your own.
10 Clark Gable, 59
Clark Gable is probably best remembered for his lead role in the iconic 1939 film Gone with the Wind. It was the role that garnered him the most attention and even a nomination for an Oscar, even though he initially did not even want to take the part. Once on set, he grew into liking the role and his cast mates, notably the African-American actress Hattie McDaniel. His friendship and support for her shone when he refused to attend the premier of Gone with the Wind in Atlanta because McDaniel was barred from attending. After much pleading on her part, Gable eventually conceded and went. Gable was married three times and has two children, though unfortunately his second child, and only son, was born four months after his death. After suffering a heart attack, Gable was hospitalised and died a short time after.
9 Natasha Richardson, 45
Anyone who grew up in the 90s would remember Natasha Richardson as the infinitely chic mom in The Parent Trap. Prior to this, she had acted in shows in London’s West End and Broadway, before exploring film and television roles. Unfortunately her career, family life, and charitable work were all cut short when she sustained a head injury following a fall while skiing at Mont Tremblant. Richardson had not been wearing a helmet but initially seemed fine. She refused medical attention because she was not feeling pain and could think clearly, however a few hours later she developed a fierce headache and was sent to the hospital. The following day, Richardson died in a New York hospital. Because of her charitable nature, she had enlisted as an organ donor and her organs were transplanted to those who needed them.
8 Marilyn Monroe, 36
Marilyn Monroe is still one of the most iconic actresses to ever come out of Hollywood. Her red lips were recently voted the Most Iconic Beauty Trend in a poll conducted by Superdrug and her white dress from The Seven Year Itch is unforgettable. More importantly, she received several Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for various film performances. Monroe became a Hollywood success despite her difficult childhood spent in orphanages and foster care, and endured many instances of abuse. However, this troubled childhood led to difficulties in her personal life, including three failed marriages, numerous affairs, and two miscarriages. Though there are many other theories, it was reported that Marilyn Monroe committed suicide and she was found dead on August 5, 1962. Lee Strasberg stated that she was the best student he had ever had besides Marlon Brando, and that her career had only just begun.
7 Bruce Lee, 32
It will come as no surprise that Bruce Lee was born both in the year and the hour of the Dragon. What might come as a surprise is that Lee was an actor and even a dancer before becoming an expert in martial arts, having starred in approximately 20 movies during his childhood and winning a cha-cha competition in Hong Kong. As a teenager, he was bullied in school by British peers due to his Chinese heritage and it was then that he took up an interest in martial arts. As an adult, Lee returned to his birthplace of America and enrolled in university, taught dance, and then opened his own martial arts school. He loved teaching dearly but felt conflicted about earning money this way since he treated his students like family. Because of this, he returned to acting and Hong Kong, breaking box office records there. Sadly, at some point during his career, Lee injured his back and was prescribed pain killers. Due to an adverse reaction to these pills, cerebral edema occurred and the condition killed him.
6 Brittany Murphy, 32
Most people know Brittany Murphy through her roles in films such as Clueless; Girl, Interrupted; and Sin City, however she also performed voice acting for a character in Happy Feet and allegedly recorded back-up vocals incognito for famous musicians. She credited all of her success to her mom, since her mom agreed to move to L.A with teenaged Murphy so that she could pursue her acting career. Even after Murphy got married, she and her mom still shared a house. There are many rumours regarding how Murphy died since she was found dead in her house in 2009 and one year later her husband was also found dead in that same house. Initial reports claimed that they had both died of the same cause, pneumonia and anemia, with toxic mould found in the house a potential culprit. However, Murphy’s estranged father had toxicology reports done on Murphy that found she had high levels of metallic toxicity in her hair, leading him to believe that she had been murdered. These allegations have greatly upset her mother who claims they are false.
5 Cory Monteith, 31
Cory Monteith was best known for his role on Glee as Finn, the lovable jock-turned-musical-performer. Though his character Finn struggled with relationships and academics, Monteith had teenage struggles that ran far deeper than that, which led to substance abuse at a very young age. He dropped out of school but attended rehab, and eventually got into acting. His unorthodox audition tape got him the attention he merited and he was invited to audition for Glee, an event that would change his life. Monteith got great joy from performing on the show and bonding with his other cast mates, particularly Lea Michele, who became his girlfriend and remained so until he died. Sadly, Monteith could not overcome his battle with addiction and overdosed in his hotel room, which shocked many fans and pained everyone who knew him.
4 Heath Ledger, 28
During his short lifetime, Heath Ledger starred in 19 films, many of which were critically acclaimed and garnered him nominations and wins at such awards as the BAFTAs, the Golden Globes, and the Academy Awards. Some of his later roles, notably the Joker in The Dark Knight contributed to Ledger struggling with insomnia, citing that he often felt physically exhausted but that his mind would remain highly active while he was trying to sleep. Ledger kept a journal where he jotted down notes and included photographs to use as inspiration for the Joker. He had a strong desire to create a unique and iconic character and delved deeply into the role, which would have contributed to his sleep deprivation. In order to cope, he began taking a variety of medications to sleep and these medications are ultimately what led to his untimely death.
3 Jean Harlow, 26
Jean Harlow was an actress in the 1930s and though some may not recognise her movies, most would recognise her face. After acting in movies made by Howard Hughes, she moved on to MGM studios where they did their best to refine her image. Once she had signed with MGM, Harlow started making films with another star on this list, Clark Gable. They were viewed as the paramount duo, with their movies raking in huge financial rewards at the box office, and so they starred in movies together frequently. During the filming of a few of her movies though, Harlow was taxed with various illnesses. It is for this reason that when she felt sick before her death, not much was thought of it. It was only after she had difficulty breathing and remaining conscious that she was rushed to the hospital. She fell into a coma just following her admittance and died soon after of cerebral edema, just like Bruce Lee, but due to kidney failure.
2 James Dean, 24
James Dean has only ever starred in three films, a fact that makes his acting unquestionably notable, his popularity incomparable, and his immortality evident. Before the age of 25, Dean was able to assert his place in Hollywood as a serious actor and has remained in the consciousness of many until this day. Along with acting, Dean also had a deep interest in cars and racing, having participated in some races between filming. During the filming of his last movie, his studio banned him from racing due to the dangers associated, but unfortunately Dean missed racing so greatly that he returned to it immediately upon completion of the film. While driving to the location of his first race after filming, Dean was in a high-speed head-on collision. The accident occurred on September 30, 1955 on what is now called California State Route 46, and Dean along with his mechanic who was the passenger, were both pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. Donald Turnupseed, the man driving the other car, was fortunate enough to live and was also ruled as not being responsible for the accident. While James Dean’s one passion brought him to his end, his other passion brought him immortality, a fascinating and heartbreaking paradox.
1 River Phoenix, 23
River Phoenix was the eldest of the Phoenix siblings and he was the first to begin acting in commercials, though all of his siblings were signed to Paramount Pictures soon after. Phoenix had roles in a variety of television shows and movies before he had his break in the 1986 film Stand by Me for which he received great praise. Phoenix admitted that he had really related to his character in that film, but continued to pursue other projects that he later thought he was less suited for, including a comedy that he was disappointed with. Fortunately, he landed a role in Running on Empty and he performed so well that he was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar in 1989 at the age of 18. He was also active in the areas of animal rights and the environment, reaching out to his young fans in the hopes that they would take interest and join him to create a brighter future. He was nicknamed “the vegan James Dean” because of these efforts combined with his early stardom and death. Though it was said he was not a regular drug user, he suffered from seizures due to an overdose outside of the Viper Room while his siblings and friends, including Flea and Johnny Depp, were present. It was a traumatic event for fans and many people in Hollywood including Joaquin Phoenix, who abandoned Hollywood for some time due to the media’s treatment of his brother’s death.