Death is never an easy thing to deal with, and when someone in Hollywood dies, it becomes a sad day for just about everyone. After all, the general public seems to develop a feeling of closeness to their favorite celebrities, and even though they may not know them in person, they still feel a connection or relationship from seeing them in movies or TV shows or listening to them perform in concert. You can probably think of some celebrity deaths that were utterly shocking and extremely saddening. Just remember Robin Williams or Heath Ledger. Those are two actors that we will never be able to get back, nor replicate. It really does show that life is precious and we need to live each day as if it were our last. These premature deaths also remind us of the extreme pressures and tension in Hollywood. Actors and musicians are expected to live up to a certain hype or expectation, and often times these benchmarks are impossible to humanly achieve. It drives many celebs into a deep depression, risky behavior, or downward spirals.
Keep all of that in mind as we go through our list of 15 Celebs You Forgot Died in Their 20s. While we mourn for celebrities that die in their 80s or 90s, we at least expected it to happen. Actors and musicians who die in their 20s though are totally unexpected and can cause a lot of despair and grief, both for close relatives and fans. Despite the sadness that can come with a celebrity death, we bet there are even some celebs that you forgot had died so young.
15 Brandon Lee
Brandon Lee was the son of famed martial artist Bruce Lee. Like his father, Brandon worked in movies and was a martial arts master. In a twisted turn of events, Brandon was killed on the set of The Crow on March 31, 1993, when he accidentally triggered a small explosive while filming a scene. The simulated gunfire device was lodged into Brandon’s abdomen and he was pronounced dead shortly afterward. Brandon’s family was faced with another tragic death. His father, Bruce Lee, passed away two decades earlier from a sudden cerebral edema and was just 32 years old. Brandon’s marriage to his fiancee Eliza Hutton was set for just a couple of weeks after his premature death. After Brandon’s accident and passing, there was a newfound public interest in gun laws and regulations. The Crow was dedicated to Brandon Lee and ended up being a box office smash, raking in $50 million in America.
14 Josh Ryan Evans
Due to his size, many people forget that Josh Ryan Evans was older than he looked. Even so, the soap opera actor was barely an adult when he died at the age of 20. He was known for his role on Passions and was pronounced dead at a hospital in California due to complications from a pre-existing heart condition. Josh had achondroplasia, in which his physical development and cartilage growth was inhibited. At just over 3 feet tall, he didn’t let his heart condition get him down. He went on to star in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Ally McBeal, and other productions. He was even the first person on Passions to receive a Daytime Emmy nod. What was really creepy was that Josh died on the day that his Passions character’s death was aired on television. His Passions character, Timmy, was supposed to become an angel, but after Josh’s death, that idea was canned.
No, not Selena Gomez, but Selena Quintanilla-Perez. She was a Tex-Mex singer who died when she was just 23 years old. Selena’s life story was documented in the biopic Selena, in which Jennifer Lopez played the leading lady. Selena died on March 31, 1995, when the president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar shot her in the back. It was revealed that Saldivar had been embezzling funds from Selena’s fan club and boutiques, with the sum of the stolen money totaling $60,000. When Selena’s family found out, they approached Saldivar, who quickly obtained a gun and killed Selena. Her death affected not just the Tex-Mex community, but the general public as well. Selena was famous for songs such as “Bidi BidiBomBom” and “Dreaming of You.” In 2017, more than 20 years after her death, Selena will be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
12 Brad Renfro
Actor Brad Renfro was another celebrity who died way too young, at the age of 25. Brad starred in films such as The Client, Sleepers, and Ghost World, and he quickly climbed the Hollywood ladder of success. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol soon preceded over his life, and that ultimately led to his premature death on January 15, 2008. Leading up to his untimely death, Brad had been in and out of handcuffs, mostly for drug possession and driving under the influence of alcohol. He was found dead in his home from an apparent heroin overdose, and the death was deemed accidental. Celebrities from film and music fondly remembered Brad and even Mark Foster from Foster the People had a close connection to the actor. The two were former roommates, and Mark wrote the song “Downtown” in remembrance of Brad. Actor James Franco has Brad’s name tattooed on his right shoulder.
11 River Phoenix
River Phoenix was just 23 years old when he passed away on October 31, 1993. The brother of acclaimed actor Joaquin Phoenix, River was also an esteemed celebrity with loads of promise. In fact, he was Oscar-nominated for his role in the film Running On Empty. On that fated Halloween night, River consumed copious amounts of drugs and chased it back with a helping of alcohol and Valium. It was his final act in what was hinted at in his risky behavior and temperamental mood swings of the previous few months. His early death did not stop River from being remembered as a teen idol and young adult actor with so much potential and promise. He was also a very adamant environmentalist and a proud supporter of PETA. River was good friends with Dan Aykroyd, who saw the red flags of River’s demise and tried to warn the young actor.
10 Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin is another celebrity that a lot of people forget died young. She was only 27 years old when she passed away from substance abuse and drug overdose. Her system was found to have contained alcohol and heroin at the time of her death, and may have been accidental or intentional. After all, she was in a depressed mood that night because two of her friends had stood her up and failed to call her when she didn’t make it to a scheduled meeting. Even so, no one was expecting Janis to die so young, and not like that. She passed away just over 2 weeks before the world lost another rock icon: Jimi Hendrix. It was a dark time for the music world. Janis left behind a legacy of being one of the most iconic female voices in music during the 1960s. Her songs were full of power and emotion, and yet they still portrayed the female experience.
9 Freddie Prinze
Just in his early 20s, Freddie Prinze already had a wife, a $6,000,000 multi-year deal with NBC, and a baby boy named Freddie Prinze Jr. Yet the senior Freddie Prinze was suffering from severe depression, which led to substance abuse, a police charge for driving under the influence, and the dismantlement of his relationship. His wife filed for divorce, which threw Freddie into an even more depressing state of mind. He was visited by his manager Marvin Snyder on January 28, 1977. Snyder was not able to stop Freddie from shooting himself in the head. After being rushed to the hospital and put on life support for a few hours, his family decided to pull the plug, and Freddie died on January 29. There were memoirs and biopics made in remembrance of Freddie Prinze. His son, famous actor Freddie Prinze Jr. was just months old when his dad died.
8 Notorious B.I.G.
Few people forget that Biggie Smalls (also known as Notorious B.I.G.) died at a young age. The rapper was only 24 years old when he was inflicted with four gunshot wounds from a pistol carried by someone in a dark-colored sedan. It took ten years for authorities to publicly release Notorious B.I.G.’s autopsy report because there are still so many loose ends that haven’t been tied up. No one is certain who killed the rapper, and his death is still shrouded in grief and mystery. Many people link his death to that of fellow rapper Tupac Shakur, who also died in his 20s (six months after Notorious B.I.G.’s death.) After his drive-by shooting death, singles and albums from Notorious B.I.G. were released, including the 2-disc Life After Death. It hit Number 1 on the Billboard 200 charts in 1997.
7 Sid Vicious
Born John Simon Ritchie, Sid Vicious was the Sex Pistols’ bassist and he became known for fully embracing the rock and roll lifestyle. Unfortunately, that turned out badly for Sid Vicious, who succumbed to his drug abuse and some extremely erratic behavior. Yet, before all of that happened, Sid Vicious was chosen by a scouting agent to replace the former bassist of the Sex Pistols. Sid actually didn’t even know how to play the bass before joining the band, but he soon picked it up and was able to rock out with the best of them. Sid already had the angst and disheveled appearance of a hard rocker, but things got worse and worse. He got wrapped up in drug and substance abuse, he was arrested and spent several weeks in jail, and he was charged with stabbing Nancy Spungen to death. Sid died on February 1, 1979, from what might have been a deliberate drug overdose. He was 21.
6 Lee Thompson Young
Actor Lee Thompson Young was one of the early Disney Channel stars, becoming the face of the TV series The Famous Jett Jackson. It seemed that Lee always wanted to be famous and share his love of performing with others. When he was a child, he would recite poems, speeches, and stories, and at age 12 he convinced his mom to move the family from Colombia to New York. There, Lee was scouted by a talent agent and he found himself presented with an offer from Disney. By the time Lee was in his late teens, he had been dealing with severe mood swings and instability. He was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, which was considered to be a major factor in his death. Lee was treated with therapy and medication, and he was able to continue acting, even appearing in Rizzoli & Isles. Sadly on August 19, 2013, Lee was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
5 Buddy Holly
Weezer sang about looking just like Buddy Holly, but we wonder how many young kids and teenagers actually know who Buddy Holly is. The rock and roll pioneer died at the tender age of 22 when he was killed in a plane crash on February 3, 1959. That day went down in history as “The Day the Music Died,” and is referenced in various songs and productions. The plane crashed just miles from an airport in Iowa, and the accident was blamed for the pilot, who lacked certain qualifications for navigating an aircraft. Yet in 2015, the plane crash case was revisited, with the National Transportation Safety Board deciding to do further investigations, this time, to see if the aircraft itself was faulty and to blame. Buddy Holly was known for hit singles such as “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day.” Buddy Holly was traveling with Ritchie Valens and JP Richardson on the Winter Dance Party Tour.
4 James Dean
September 30, 1995 is when the world lost James Dean. He was 24 years old and he had starred in a total of three major movie productions, and yet he is still referenced in popular culture to this day. What made James Dean such a pivotal actor and one for the ages? He had those glossy eyes and that slicked-back hair and the acting chops to make it in the big leagues. The “first American teenager” was the star of Rebel Without A Cause, East of Eden, and Giant, and he also excelled at track and field, particularly in the pole vault. Acting scouts first saw James in a Pepsi commercial from 1951, and from then on out, everyone wanted a piece of the James Dean pie. He was killed in a car crash involving his prized possession: a Porsche. James loved to race, and as he was revving up his Porsche, he hit an oncoming Sedan.
3 Anton Yelchin
A freak accident claimed the life of Anton Yelchin, who may be best known for his role of Pavel Chekov in the reboot of the Star Trek franchise. Aged just 27, Anton was caught in a fatal car mishap on June 19, 2016, in California. Anton had left his car running and put into neutral as he walked to the bottom of his inclined driveway to fetch the mail. Seconds later he was pinned between his two-ton Jeep and his mailbox, where responders and police found him at 1 o’clock in the morning. Anton was just starting to make a name for himself in Hollywood, and as a Russian actor, he was seeing great success. He had starred in The Smurfs and a few other films, and this Star Trek reboot was set to be his crown jewel. Star Trek Beyond premiered just a few weeks after Anton’s death, and it was certainly a bittersweet moment for fans, friends, family, and castmates.
Not too long ago the world remembered the 2001 plane crash that occurred on August 25 and took the life of R&B singer Aaliyah. She was way too young to leave this Earth, and at the age of 22 she had already made great accomplishments. As Aaliyah’s plane was taking off from a United States runway, it crashed during that takeoff flight and landed in disarray in the Bahamas. Aaliyah was such a good singer that she was in close contact with Jay Z and Damon Dash (whom she dated). Both men were founding fathers of the recording studio Roc-a-Fella Records. Aaliyah was best known for her hit single “Try Again,” and she had a public persona of being a sweet and sassy girl with the womanly finesse. She was just starting to become a mature adult when she was whisked away from us. To this day R&B fans will still listen to Aaliyah’s soothing vocals and sexy-cool vibe.
1 Jimi Hendrix
A train station in Seattle, Washington is going to be resurrected to honor of the late rock and roll legend Jimi Hendrix. Judkins Park light rail station is not set to open until 2023, but it is already being widely anticipated around town because it is going to be a dedicated memorial to a native Seattle man, Johnny Allen Hendrix. The rest of the world knew him as Jimi Hendrix. Unfortunately, he left this world much too early, and one could only imagine the triumphs and paths that he would have forged if he had lived longer than his short 27 years. For him, it was an accidental drug overdose that caused his early departure. Jimi had a flamboyant and unabashed style that made him a unique public figure. Few people knew that Jimi had trained to be a paratrooper before fully embracing the electric guitar.
Sources: legacy.com, nydailynews.com, abcnews.go.com, forbes.com, rollingstone.com
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