Winning the Academy Award isn’t always a launching pad for
The death of an actor can hit the public hard, especially when the actor was a beloved public figure. And while we often take the opportunity to revisit our favorite movies that featured them, it can be especially melancholy if their final film comes out posthumously. Even more difficult is when an actor passes in the midst of filming, leaving the movie scrambling to finish the project. Here are 13 movies that dealt with the death of an actor mid-filming.
1. Plan 9 From Outer Space (Bela Lugosi)
Well known for his role as Dracula, Lugosi had faded by the time he began working with Ed Wood. The eccentric director filmed Lugosi without any particular script and cobbled together the results after the actor’s death into the unfortunate Plan 9 From Outer Space.
2. Something’s Gotta Give (Marilyn Monroe)
Marilyn Monroe was a Hollywood favorite for much of her career, but like many stars she died young of a drug overdose. She was in the midst of filming Something’s Got to Give, which sadly was never completed with her but was fully recast and refilmed as Move Over, Darling.
3. Game of Death (Bruce Lee)
Bruce Lee was in the midst of filming one of his classic kung-fu movies when he passed away. He had shot over 100 minutes of footage, which was later edited together with footage from stand-ins and other Bruce Lee footage to make Game of Death.
4. Brainstorm (Natalie Wood)
When Natalie Wood went boating with family and friends in 1981, she was nearly finished with her latest movie Brainstorm. Unfortunately, the afternoon out turned into a somewhat mysterious drowning death for the young actress, leading to the director of the film quitting. The movie was released two years later with only minor tweaks.
5. Gladiator (Oliver Reed)
Playing one of the lead roles in the iconic movie, Oliver Reed died with only three weeks of shooting left on the project. While the movie could have been fully reshot with a new actor at the expense of the insurance company, director Ridley Scott chose to finish with script alterations and CGI, giving Reed’s character a reasonable conclusion.
6. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Heath Ledger)
Directed by the oddball Terry Gilliam, it’s no surprise that The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus took the most creative approach to completing a movie after the death of an actor. Thanks to the fantastical nature of the film, Gilliam was able to add three new actors to play Ledger’s character in the imaginarium, while keeping Ledger as the “real world” face of the man.
7. Dark Blood (River Phoenix)
After River Phoenix’s death of an overdose, most people thought that Dark Blood was over. Phoenix’s family sued for the right to stop the movie, and the insurance company took the footage (only 65% complete). 20 years later, director George Sluizer found the footage, rewrote the story, and fixed up the sound on the existing footage to release the film in 2012.
8. The Crow (Brandon Lee)
The Lee family is featured twice on this list, an unfortunate honor. Brandon Lee was killed on set shooting for The Crow in an accident involving a prop gun. His costar Sofia Shinas quit after the incident and the project was dropped by Paramount, but later picked up by Miramax who funded the rewrites necessary to complete the film. Despite the difficulties, the movie opened at no. 1 in the US.
9. Mockingjay Part 1 (Philip Seymour Hoffman)
In one of the most popular franchises of the 2010s, Philip Seymour Hoffman played a supporting role as Plutarch. But with only one major scene left for him to film, he was found dead of a drug overdose. In order to continue with the movie, some of his scenes were distributed to other characters, but with the final chapter of the series still forthcoming, audiences have yet to find out how his final scenes will be dealt with.
10. Wagons East (John Candy)
Five months after the death of John Candy his final film was released. The turnaround speed is incredibly impressive as Candy died a few days before filming was complete, and production had to use a stand in and CGI to complete the film.
11. Transformers: The Movie (Orson Welles)
Not Michael Bay’s big budget blockbuster, the original Transformers movie featured Orson Welles as the voice of Unicron. After he died, there were rumors that his role had been taken over by Leonard Nimoy, but director Nelson Shin confirms that the final product is Welles, albeit a Welles digitally enhanced to give a boost to his ailing voice.
12. Fast and the Furious 7 (Paul Walker)
In what some consider ironic and others simply find sad, Paul Walker died of a high speed car accident while filming for The Fast and the Furious 7. While the film has not debuted yet, Universal has confirmed that they’re continuing with the movie and that Walker’s character will be rewritten with an ending that is respectful and logical.
13. The Matrix Reloaded (Aaliyah)
While most of the other movies listed here managed to work around the death of an actor, Aaliyah’s death led to her role being recast with Nona Gaye. She was originally slated to play Zee and had filmed parts of the movie when she was killed in a plane crash. However in some crowd scenes you may still be able to catch a glimpse of her.