One of the primary goals of every actor, actress, director, writer, or every single human being on this planet, for that matter, is to leave something that will stay after they pass. We all want our lives to mean something, and one of the ways that we can be assured that it meant something is that we leave something behind that stands the test of time. As human beings, we have this innate sense that we have to find a way to matter. It is unbearable to live, thinking that you could live an entire life and be forgotten for eternity after you die. Yeah, we’re getting pretty grim on the introduction of this piece. But unfortunately, this is the truth. So, let’s brighten things up a little bit. One thing that art provides for the people who are a part of creating it is that it, by itself, is something that could stand the test of time. How many famous actors and actresses have died decades ago but are still remembered because of their works and how they entertained masses and masses of people?
We might not think of it this way that often, but these are the guys and gals who will sort of always be remembered as heroes in their own way. Their image, voice, and talent will probably still be remembered by the time humanity ceases to exist. Now, while this certainly is a reason for actors to do what they do, sometimes they are not able to finish what they started. Yes, we are talking about the unfortunate events that sometimes lead an actor or actress to pass away before they can even complete a project. To honor some of these new-age heroes, we put together a list of 15 heartbreaking times actors passed on during production.
15 Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe is by herself a perfect example of an icon who will remain relevant in the minds of people until we decide that entertainment is not something humanity needs to have anymore. We hope we are not around to see that happen, but that is besides the point.
The reason why Marilyn Monroe is the perfect example of this is because we didn’t even need to give you a set of background info on her. Everyone knows who this woman was. She was (and will always be) the reference when the subject was (and is) women acting or when somebody tries to find a way to describe what it meant to be a beautiful woman in the 20th century.
Unfortunately, this beautiful woman died at the early age of 36. Yes, it seems that the more talented and impactful a person can be in society, the earlier they are taken away from us. Monroe had yet to finish the filming of a comedy named Something’s Got to Give when she overdosed on barbiturates.
14 Paul Walker
No death of an actor or entertainer in these past few decades had as many grown-up men crying as when Paul Walker passed away in 2013. Walker was only 40 years old and was in the middle of filming the seventh installment in The Fast and Furious franchise when his untimely death occurred. The coincidence is almost ridiculous; someone who became famous worldwide because he portrayed a character who was an ace in driving fast through the streets, ended up passing away in an automobile accident.
It was by far one of the saddest moments ever for people who are fans of racing and cinema. To add salt to the wound, Walker was also branching out into a few more acting roles that were entertaining. The only thing we are sure Paul would be thankful for is that his work was not left unfinished, as his brothers helped the crew finish filming Fast and Furious 7.
13 Vic Morrow
We talked about standing the test of time, right? Few TV shows will remain as relevant and as entertaining as The Twilight Zone. Unfortunately, The Twilight Zone also had its own episode of an actor who passed away during production. To make things even worse, Vic Morrow not only died during production, but he was also killed on set back in 1982 during the filming of The Twilight Zone movie. Vic was also not the only victim of the accident that took his life, as a pair of child actors were also killed in the incident.
The accident was cinematic by itself, as Morrow’s character was supposedly being attacked by soldiers during the fated scene when the pyrotechnics malfunctioned, and an explosion caused a helicopter’s tail to break apart and crash. Morrow and the two children had the bad luck of being nearby when it crashed.
12 Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger was by far one of the greatest actors ever to portray the Joker in the Batman franchise. Seriously, the performance this guy put on while wearing the skin of the mad clown was something out of this world. It's no surprise that many people think that the movie with Ledger was by far the greatest Batman movie ever. Unfortunately, that was also the last movie Ledger would ever get to finish.
The Australian actor passed away at the early age of 29. In fact, it was just after he had finished filming The Dark Knight that Ledger started focusing all of his attention on the production of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Then, in a grim January afternoon, Ledger was found unconscious in his bed by his housekeeper. Ledger had died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of several prescription drugs.
11 Steve Irwin
Steve Irwin might not have been an actor by trade, but he certainly had more TV time than a lot of guys in Hollywood would give an arm for. The Crocodile Hunter was a huge hit worldwide. This guy is someone whose work will remain paramount when the subject is conservation and education in concern to animals and how humans should interact with them. This guy spent his entire life trying to show people how animals are not our enemies and that they were majestic. They were beautiful enough that we should focus all of the efforts we could in conserving and helping them prosper along with humanity.
In yet another terrible joke made by destiny, Irwin was killed by an animal during the filming of his show. And if you have ever watched enough of Steve’s shows or followed his career, you could probably agree that he would never hold anything against the stingray that pierced his heart with its barb.
10 Brandon Lee
Brandon Lee may have never reached the level of stardom of his father, Bruce, who was by himself a force to be reckoned with. Seriously, how many people do you know who might not know who Bruce Lee was?
Either way, while Brandon was not as famous as his father, the cause and the way he passed away is something that became quite the legend in the movie and entertainment industries. He was only 28 years old and was working on a movie called The Crow, in which he played the protagonist. The film was supposed to be epic. But somehow, it ended in tragedy because of something many people and specialists merely called negligence.
Brandon died on set during a scene in which his character was supposed to be shot with dummy cartridges. The problem was that the other actor actually fired a live bullet from less than 15 feet away and hit Brandon in the abdomen, an injury that would ultimately cause his death.
9 Domingos Montagner
For this sad episode, we will travel down to Brazil, where one of the most tragic deaths during a production happened. Brazilian actor Domingos Montagner had just finished filming a scene from the soap opera Velho Chico, in which he played the protagonist when he decided to swim with some other members of the cast.
One of the perks of working in a soap opera in Brazil is that sometimes you get to travel and experience some of the most exquisite places in the world, as was this case. Montagner and the crew were filming a scene next to the famous Sao Francisco River. However, these beautiful sceneries can sometimes hide terrible dangers. The Sao Francisco is a beautiful river, but it is also a powerful one. Montagner had the bad luck of being caught by a current and drowned by the sheer power of the river. His body was only found four hours later.
8 John Hamilton
John Hamilton might not actually be a face that many people these days would recognize. But, if you ask your grandpa or grandma, they will undoubtedly remember the man who played Perry White in the old-school series Adventures of Superman.
Hamilton was quite the busy actor and had dozens and dozens of credits to his name. One of the most memorable roles this guy played was the father of Flash Gordon in the timeless Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.
Unlike a lot of the other actors we have on this list, Hamilton was already quite old when he passed away, but it is still memorable and sad because the 71-year-old man passed away because of a heart failure while he was still working in the production of Adventures of Superman.
Some other notable films and series in which Hamilton participated were Seventh Heaven and The Roaring Twenties. Hamilton also appeared in a bunch of commercials and Broadway plays.
7 Andy Whitfield
Here is another more recent case of an actor who died during the production of a series that had a lot of grown men crying their eyes out. Welsh actor Andy Whitfield attained worldwide fame when he portrayed the character of Spartacus in the Starz TV show. If you have not watched the Spartacus season in which Andy played the leading role, you have to give yourself the chance to experience that one. A lot of people complained about the series, that it was too gory and that the story was not that good. But if you watch the first couple of episodes and you like it, it will become one of your favorite shows of all time. It also helps a lot that Whitfield played Spartacus to a fault.
Sadly, Andy passed away before the third season of the show, as he died suffering from a Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The show went on without the star as Liam McIntyre was cast as his replacement.
6 River Phoenix
We talked about some actors dying young by the time they were 29 or 28, but nothing comes close to the tragedy that was the death of River Phoenix. Arguably one of the most influential young actors of his generation, Phoenix was only 23 when he passed away in 1993. He was filming the drama Dark Blood when the inexplicable happened.
His sister, Rain, and his brother, Joaquin, were both present and tried to save their brother as they called 911 and even tried to resuscitate him while being instructed by the emergency workers on the other side of the line. Unfortunately, they were unable to bring their brother back. By the time the paramedics got there, River Phoenix could no longer be resuscitated. The cause of his death was ruled to be drug overdose.
His last project, the drama Dark Blood, would remain unfinished for almost 20 years, as it was just released in 2012.
5 Carrie Fisher
We have mentioned actor deaths that have left a large population of grown men crying, but this is one actress death that left literally everyone balling their eyes out. Few actors and actresses have played a role as legendary as Carrie Fisher got the chance to when she was cast as Princess Leia in Star Wars.
No one needs us telling you that Star Wars is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, movie franchise of all time. This is the kind of story that has influenced the lives of millions and millions of people. Just knowing that makes it easy to deduce that the death of someone who played a character that was dear to so many people’s hearts would have a massive impact on the lives of everyone. What made this even worse was that Fisher had just returned to her old role as Leia when she passed away.
Her death was caused by a cardiac arrest that happened while she was on an airplane, returning to Los Angeles after the European leg of her book tour in 2016.
4 Philip Seymour Hoffman
He may have looked older, but Philip Seymour Hoffman was just 46 years old when he passed away. While he might not have played a legendary role like the last entry on our list, Hoffman was a fantastic actor who did get his chance to play a big part in a juggernaut of a franchise. In fact, it was during the filming of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay that Hoffman passed away in 2014. He still had a week left of filming when he died without finishing his last project.
It seems like a trend on a list like this, but Hoffman is another actor who fell victim and died because of a drug overdose. The 46-year-old actor was found dead in the bathroom of his Manhattan apartment back in February of 2014. It was no secret that Hoffman had faced uphill battles against drug addiction, but it was heroin that ultimately claimed his life.
3 Bill Paxton
While Philip Hoffman looked older than he actually was, the next guy on our list looked a lot younger than he actually was. Bill Paxton was 61 years old when he passed away because of a stroke in Los Angeles earlier this year.
Paxton was one of the most prolific and successful actors of his generation. The amount of films on this guy’s resume is ridiculous. Just so you have an idea, we will mention of few of the blockbuster hits that you might remember this actor by. Going chronologically, he played parts in The Terminator (1984), Weird Science (1985), Aliens (1986), Predator 2 (1990), Tombstone (1993), True Lies (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), Twister (1996), Titanic (1997), U-571 (2000), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), and Nightcrawler (2014).
Yes, and those are just the tip of the iceberg. Paxton also tallied nominations for Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild awards, and Primetime Emmys. He also won one Saturn Award in 1987 and one Screen Actors Guild award in 1996.
2 Glenne Headly
Just like our last actor, Glenne Headly was an actress who liked to keep busy. This mother of one tallied so many screen credits by the time she passed away at 61 years old that even if we tried, we wouldn’t be able to fit all of the movies and TV series she participated in inside a single article. To name a few of her more recent successes, she was part of the cast of the HBO series The Night Of, played a big role in Don Jon, and several other movies.
Headly was also working on a new promising project when she passed away because of complications that followed a pulmonary embolism she suffered in June of 2017. Her last project seems entertaining, as she was working on a half-hour comedy television series named Future Man that was produced by guys like Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The pilot was released on Hulu after Headly passed away. But unfortunately, she never got to finish filming for the production.
1 Adam West
This is one death that is so recent it still hurts when we talk about it. Adam West was a legend. This is one of the few actors who we can confidently say you will not find a person on Earth who has not been touched in any way by West’s work. Passing away at 88 years old, West had quite a lot of time to leave a legacy, and let’s just say it was one hell of a legacy this guy left behind.
He worked on everything. From films to television series, from video games to voiceover work, West did everything an actor could do. And we can confidently say that he did it as well as anyone could do. From the hilarious Mayor West from Family Guy to his work as Bruce Wayne in the Batman series of the 1960’s, West is someone who we will never forget.
His passing was also very sad as he fought a fierce, but brief battle with leukemia. A battle he unfortunately lost in June 2017.