Their last picture show
When you think about it, its amazing any film ever actually gets finished. Theres so much work involved from so many people, and so many things that can go wrong. The ultimate thing-going-wrong, of course, is someone involved in the production dying particularly a lead actor.
Over the decades, many directors have found themselves in the unfortunate position of having to figure out how to finish a film when a principal cast member has sadly died. Here are 20 stars who died mid-way through making a movie, and what happened to the films afterwards
Bela Lugosi (1882 1956)
What happened: Lugosi was one of the most recognisable stars of early horror movies. But by the mid-1950s, his career had stalled, and hed become addicted to painkillers after having morphine prescribed for pains in his legs. Despite hospitalisation to deal with his addiction, he was still pretty frail when he started working again. He was working on a film with director Ed Wood in 1956 when he died of a heart attack, aged 73.
Did the show go on? Sort of. No one knows what Wood was intending to do with the footage hed shot with Lugosi before he died but it ended up edited in Plan 9 From Outer Space. Since there was so little usable footage of Lugosi, the much taller Tom Mason ended up stepping in, holding a cape in front of his face in a largely futile attempt to hide his identity.
Martha Mansfield (1899 1923)
What happened: When actress Martha Mansfield was in a car leaving the set of The Warrens Of Virginia, someone struck a match, and her elaborate Civil War costume caught fire. Her chauffeur attempted to put out the flames, and Mansfield was rushed to hospital, but she didnt survive her injuries.
Did the show go on? Yeah. The studio reviewed the footage shed shot, edited her role down a bit, and continued the film regardless.
Tyrone Power (1914 1958)
What happened: The swashbuckling Tyrone Power was set to swash more buckles in the historical epic Solomon And Sheba. He was on location in Madrid when he was taken ill and died of a heart attack at just 44 years old.
Did the show go on? Yes, though Powers role was recast, with Yul Brynner stepping in to play Solomon.
Aaliyah (1979 2001)
What happened: Aaliyah had more or less finished filming her second movie, Queen Of The Damned, when she travelled to the Bahamas to film a music video for her song "Rock The Boat". Finishing early, Aaliyah and her entourage boarded a private plane to fly home but it crashed, killing all nine of the people on board.
Did the show go on? Queen Of The Damned was largely complete, so no stand-in was needed but Aaliyahs brother, Rashad, was brought in to re-record some of her dialogue.
Natalie Wood (1938 1981)
What happened: Partway through making Brainstorm, Wood was on a weekend trip with her husband when she tragically drowned. The exact circumstances of her death are unknown, though following an investigation a verdict of accidental death was recorded.
Did the show go on? Not immediately. The set was shut down and the studio, MGM, considered scrapping the project. Eventually, though, things got back on track. The ending was rewritten, a stand-in was hired to replace Wood in the few scenes left outstanding, and the film was released.
Following his ordeal trying to get the film finished, director Douglas Trumbull decided to quit the movie business though he has since directed several shorts, and also worked on the special effects for The Tree Of Life.
Jean Harlow (1911 1937)
What happened: A star of the early talkie movies, Jean Harlow suffered from bad health in general, and her illnesses delayed production on several movies. When she fell ill on the set of Saratoga, her doctor initially thought she just had a case of the flu. Unfortunately, by the time anyone realised there was something more serious going on, she was in the late stages of kidney disease, and died in hospital aged just 26.
Did the show go on? Yup three stand-ins were used, and some scenes were rewritten, but the movie hit cinemas within two months of Harlows untimely demise.
John Candy (1950 1994)
What happened: After a few years of avoiding comedy movies, John Candy was moving back into the genre and filming Western parody Wagons East! in Mexico when he suffered a fatal heart attack, aged just 43.
Did the show go on? Most of Candys scenes were already in the can, and director Peter Markle hired a body double to get the last few shots. Unfortunately, the finished movie was generally reviled by audiences and critics alike, so wasnt a particularly fitting tribute to the late actor.
His death also meant an adaptation of A Confederacy Of Dunces was shelved.
Paul Mantz (1903 1965)
What happened: A keen pilot from a young age, Paul Mantz found his way into Hollywood as a stunt pilot. Unfortunately, thats the way he died, too. Filming The Flight Of The Phoenix, Mantz was piloting a specially made craft and crashed into a hillock during the second take of a scene. He was killed instantly.
Did the show go on? Another stunt double was found to replace Mantz; a different plane also had to be built to finish the necessary shots.
Roy Kinnear (1934 1988)
What happened: Character actor Roy Kinnear had a sprawling resume he seems to have been in pretty much every TV show going in the '80s. He also appeared in a trilogy of films based on The Three Musketeers, culminating in 1989s The Return Of The Musketeers. Sadly, while filming on location in Madrid, he fell off a horse, and despite being rushed to hospital, died from his injuries.
Did the show go on? Kinnears remaining scenes were shot using a body double, with a voiceover artist dubbing over his lines.
Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967 2014)
What happened:Widely regarded as one of the greatest actors of his generator, Philip Seymour Hoffmans CV boasted all kinds of high profile roles. The film he was making at the time of his death, though, must be one of the most visible he was reprising his role as Plutarch Heavensbee in Hunger Games sequel Mockingjay Part 2 when he died of combined drug intoxication.
Did the show go on? Yes there was no way the wheels were coming off the Hunger Games juggernaut. In fairness, hed completed most of his filming, so it just took a bit of rewriting to work around his absence.
Vic Morrow (1929 1982)
What happened: Vic Morrow is probably better known for his TV work than his film roles, and his last role was TV-related: he was filming for Twilight Zone: The Movie when a stunt went wrong and a helicopter crashed. Morrow was killed instantly, as were two children featuring in the scene with him, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen.
The accident was a truly horrible one, and the ensuing trial which saw director John Landis accused of involuntary manslaughter dragged on for nine months. (All defendants were eventually acquitted.)
Did the show go on? The movie was an anthology, so it went ahead more or less as planned, including the segment starring Morrow. But his death cast a pall over the movie, and the incident led to a tightening up of safety regulations on film sets from then on.
Clark Gable (1901 1960)
What happened: One of Hollywoods most iconic leading men, Clark Gable had just finished filming on The Misfits when he had a heart attack. Technically, he wasnt working on the film when it happened, so this is a bit of a cheat, but it is thought that the ordeal of working on the film, plus the physical demands hed put on himself in preparing for the role, contributed to his death.
Did the show go on? Yup the film was already finished, so no stand-ins were needed. Not particularly well received at the time, The Misfits has gained more appreciation over the years, and has the dubious honour of being the final film of not one but two screen legends
Marilyn Monroe (1926 1962)
What happened: Yup, The Misfits is also the final finished film Marilyn Monroe ever appeared in, too. At the time of her death in 1962, Monroe had been working on a film titled Somethings Got To Give, a remake of My Favorite Wife (1940). But shed become erratic and difficult to work with, and was frequently ill, so partway through the movie the studio fired her. Production ground to a halt, and before anything could be resolved, Monroe died of barbiturate poisoning. She was just 36 years old.
Did the show go on? Nope. Somethings Got To Give was never finished, though some of the surviving footage has since resurfaced in documentaries.
Bruce Lee (1940 1973)
What happened: A star in Hong Kong, martial arts superstar Bruce Lee fought through discrimination and bureaucracy to break into Hollywood. Hed just finished work on Enter The Dragon and was partway through filming Game Of Death when he died unexpectedly of a cerebral edema.
Did the show go on? Sort of. Game Of Death was finished and released, but it only contained around 15 minutes of footage of Lee; the rest was bodged together using lookalikes.
Brandon Lee (1965 1993)
What happened: In one of the most horrifying on set accidents ever, Brandon Lee was filming a scene for The Crow when he was accidentally shot. A mistake over which kind of dummy cartridges should be loaded into the gun for a scene where Lees character is shot at meant he got shot for real. He was taken to hospital, but despite surgery, his injuries were too severe.
Did the show go on? Yes. There were eight days left on the filming schedule, so two different stand-ins were used to fill in for Lee to get the film finished.
Paul Walker (1973 2013)
What happened: While shooting Fast & Furious 7, Paul Walker was leaving a fundraising event for the charity Reach Out Worldwide when the car he was travelling in crashed into a lamppost. Both Walker and the cars driver, his friend Roger Rodas, were killed almost immediately.
Did the show go on? Yes, though it took a while for the cast and crew to get over the shock of Walkers death. Production was put on hold, the films ending was rewritten, and Walkers brothers were brought in as body doubles for the rest of the shoot. Weta Digital were also brought in to digitally add Walkers face in to some scenes.
Heath Ledger (1979 2008)
What happened: Throughout the filming of The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger had suffered from insomnia, and on the shoot of The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus he, along with several of his co-stars, caught some kind of respiratory infection. According to the toxicology report, he died of an overdose of various interacting prescription medicines, many of them sleeping pills.
Did the show go on? The film was put on hold, but director Terry Gilliam wanted to preserve Ledgers final performance, so after deciding against using CGI to complete his scenes, a rewrite gave his character the ability to transform his looks. The role was eventually played by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law as well as Ledger.
River Phoenix (1970 1993)
What happened: Teen idol River Phoenix had several projects in the pipeline at the time of his death he was due to appear in Interview With The Vampire, Milk, and possibly The Basketball Diaries - but the film he had almost finished when he died of a drug overdose was Dark Blood. Hed been shooting in Utah, but was back in Los Angeles and out at The Viper Room with his girlfriend, brother and sister when he died.
Did the show go on? Eventually. Dark Blood was basically abandoned following Phoenixs death, but in 2011 director George Sluizer decided to try to finish it. It was released with a couple of scenes missing in 2012.
Oliver Reed (1938 1999)
What happened: Veteran actor Oliver Reeds career had had its ups and downs, but in 1999 he had a key role in Ridley Scotts Gladiator. Unfortunately, while on location in Malta, Reed suffered a fatal heart attack in, fittingly for the legendary boozer, a bar.
Did the show go on? Yes, although changes had to be made. Reeds characters fate was altered, and over $3 million was spent creating a digital body double to complete his scenes.
James Dean (1931 1955)
What happened:Warner Bros banned James Dean from taking part in any auto racing events while he was working on films with them, which meant he couldnt drive his new Porsche Spyder until filming had wrapped on Giant. Eager to get back to it, though, Dean was driving to a race when he was involved in an accident. Accounts of exactly what happened differ, but Deans Spyder crashed head on into another car, and he was killed more or less instantly.
Did the show go on? Due to the studios racing ban, Dean had finished filming, but there was some post-production work left another actor was brought in to dub over some of his lines, and the film was finished.