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10 Actors Who Died During Filming

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Any celebrity death is devastating news, but it’s especially difficult when an actor dies in the middle of a film project. In these instances, the deceased leave behind their family, friends, and fans. Filmmakers and cast members must creatively work together to complete these half-finished projects in the actor’s absence, all while grieving the loss of their colleague.


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Even though they don’t live to see the fruits of their labor, many late actors remain an important component of the movie projects they leave behind. Their final films become a very special part of their legacy, giving fans one last look at a career cut short by tragedy.

10/10 Natalie Wood’s Death Remains A Mystery

Natalie Wood made a name for herself as a talented actor in the 1970s. Sadly, her mysterious death is one of the most enduring parts of her legacy. Authorities classified her death as an accidental drowning in 1981, but rumors still abound about what truly happened to Wood.

At the time of her death, Wood was in the middle of filming Brainstorm, a 1980s sci-fi movie. To finish the project, filmmakers enlisted the help of Wood’s sister, Lana Wood, as a stand-in for some missing scenes. Wood’s death is officially a cold case, and fans may never really know what happened to the young actor.

9/10 Brandon Lee’s Death Could Have Been Avoided

As the son of a famous martial artist, Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee had a lot to live up to in his acting career. Sadly, that career was cut short while filming 1994’s The Crow. Lee sustained unexpected injuries during an accidental prop gun shooting.

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Defective blank ammunition made the wounds much more serious than they should have been, and Lee later died during surgery. His death was ultimately the result of negligence, which made it even more shocking. Although he had finished filming most of his scenes, script rewrites and a stunt double were still essential to completing The Crow after his death.

8/10 James Dean’s Fame Skyrocketed After His Death

James Dean’s final film was 1955’s Rebel Without A Cause, and it was a perfect fit for his ‘bad boy’ image. Unfortunately, Dean never lived to see the movie hit the big screen. A month before Rebel Without A Cause‘s premiere, the 24-year-old actor died in a head-on collision with another driver. Strangely, Dean’s death is a big part of what made the actor an early Hollywood legend.

Only one of Dean’s films, East Of Eden, had actually been released at the time of his death. The success of Rebel Without A Cause and his other film, Giant, were bolstered by his untimely demise.

7/10 Oliver Reed Was On The Verge Of A Comeback

Oliver Reed began his acting career in the 1960s and remained part of the Hollywood landscape for three decades. In 1999, the 61-year-old actor earned the role of Proximo in the historical epic film Gladiator. The role was an essential part of the hero’s story and Reed seemed to fit it perfectly.

Sadly, the film that could’ve started the next chapter of his career ended up being Reed’s final acting project. Reed suffered a heart attack during production, and the filmmakers had to rewrite his character’s story after his death.

6/10 Paul Walker’s Final Fast & Furious Movie Relied On CGI

Fast & Furious fans were shocked by Paul Walker’s death in 2013. The actor lost his life in a high-speed car accident while filming Furious 7, the seventh film in the beloved franchise. Because of his shocking demise, the film’s production team had to rely on a variety of tools to complete the project.

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CGI played a major role in completing what would have been Walker’s final scenes, and his brothers served as body doubles where necessary. The filmmakers took the time to make sure these scenes properly honored the actor’s legacy in the franchise, and Furious 7 managed to succeed despite his tragic absence.

5/10 Marilyn Monroe Still Fascinates Fans Today

When Norma Jean Mortenson became Marilyn Monroe, she secured an enduring place among Hollywood royalty. However, the star’s personal life eventually put an end to her wildly successful career. At just 36 years old, the actor suffered an untimely demise.

Sadly, this left the 1962 film Something’s Got To Give mostly unfinished. The incomplete film was abandoned and languished for decades before being rediscovered. Its runtime is a mere thirty-seven minutes, nowhere near the typical length of a feature film. Despite her early death, Marilyn Monroe’s legacy as an icon of the 1950s is alive and well today.

4/10 River Phoenix Died Tragically Young

River Phoenix became a household name in the Stephen King film adaptation of Stand By Me and enjoyed a steady acting career until 1993. However, in the middle of filming Dark Blood, the actor’s life came to a sudden end. Phoenix died outside a popular nightclub when the film was only 80% finished.

That left the Dark Blood director, George Sluizer, with the challenging task of finishing the film without Phoenix. Dark Blood didn’t premier until 2012, almost 20 years after Phoenix’s death.

3/10 Vic Morrow’s Accidental Death Halted The Twilight Zone’s Filming

In the summer of 1982, Vic Morrow was hard at work on the set of The Twilight Zone: The Movie. He was in the middle of filming a Vietnam war scene in which he and two child actors tried to outrun a hostile helicopter. Unfortunately, special effects explosions on the ground disrupted the pilot’s ability to fly and led to a violent crash.

Morrow and the two children died from their injuries, and five members of the production crew faced involuntary manslaughter charges for the incident. When The Twilight Zone: The Movie finally premiered a year later, it included none of the deceased children’s scenes.

2/10 Heath Ledger Died At The Height Of His Popularity

Heath Ledger shot to super-stardom as the Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight, but he never got to experience his new level of fame. The actor was in the middle of filming his next project, The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus when he died.

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Heath Ledger was only 28 years old at the time of his tragic death, and his acting career was truly just beginning. Today, his portrayal of the Joker remains one of the most iconic depictions of the classic Batman villain. For this role, Ledger won a posthumous Oscar in 2009.

1/10 Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Last Project Didn’t Miss A Beat

In 2015, the second installment of the popular The Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay – Part 2, premiered in theaters. Much to the surprise of fans, one actor’s performance fit seamlessly into the film: Philip Seymour Hoffman. The actor died in February 2014, right in the middle of filming, and audiences were unsure of how his absence would translate in the film.

Mockingjay – Part 2, which turned out to be Hoffman’s last project, honored his memory and became a very successful film. Philip Seymour Hoffman reportedly lived with addiction toward the end of his life and tragically died in 2014.

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