13 Actors Who Couldn't Finish Their Roles In Their Last Movies, And The Stories Behind

The red carpets, the awards, the celebrity friendships, and million-dollar paychecks might make many people think that being an actor is one of the cushiest jobs in the world. Meanwhile, some people think that acting is a dangerous job.
Because the actors, who have to play daring adventure, soldier, or fictional hero roles in the movies, might face so many dangerous situations and even death. Then, the producers apply special effects or hire stuntmen to help actors overcome the risks. But special effects or stuntmen sometimes can’t convey the convincing sense of the movie. So, protagonists come and do their work.
Additionally, the last scenes of actors might come from personal reasons. Anyway, these accidents always cause trouble to finish the movie. These incidents impact directly the filmmaking progress. Today, we have compiled a list of celebrities who tragically died while they were filming their last movies and the stories behind them.

#1 James Dean: Giant

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The death of Hollywood actor James Dean occurred on September 30, 1955, near Cholame, California when he was 24 years old.
At the time of his sudden death on September 30, 1955, at age 24, James Dean had starred in only one motion picture released in theaters. He would become a cinema icon due to his shocking demise in a car accident that would make international headlines in news.
The film editor, recruited Dean's former roommate and best friend, a young actor named Nick Adams, to complete the vocal role of Jett Rink (Dean's character)."

#2 Heather O'Rourke: Poltergeist III

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A 1980s classic became known as Hollywood's most "cursed" film following the untimely death of a 12-year-old actress. Heather O'Rourke died on Feb. 1, 1988, at the Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego, California,  as the result of an acute bowel obstruction. 
She was surgery for an obstruction that was congenital. An emergency flight to the hospital from another hospital in the area was taken.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (the studio) informed the director that they were contractually obligated to finish the film. The crew members fought against having to continue filming without O’Rourke. Sherman expressed that it felt disrespectful towards her family and her recent passing. In the end, A body was hired, and the film was finished.

#3 River Pheonix: Dark Blood

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River Phoenix died on Oct. 31, 1993, from "acute multiple drug intoxication involving lethal levels of cocaine and morphine" in West Hollywood, California when he was 23 years old. 
At the time of his death, Phoenix had shot around eighty percent of "Dark Blood," a drama set in the Utah desert co-starring Judy Davis and Jonathan Pryce and directed by George Sluizer, and he had gone back to Los Angeles to film the rest of the interior scenes for the movie when he died that night outside The Viper Room. 
After Phoenix's death, the "Dark Blood" footage was impounded by an insurance company and placed in a vault where it languished for years. Dark Blood was eventually completed and released in 2012.

#4 Chris Farley: Shrek

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Chris Farley was supposed to voice Shrek, but he died on December 18, 1997, at the age of 33 due to an accidental speedball overdose. 
He recorded nearly all of his dialogue as the original green ogre before his tragic death. However, Dreamworks Studios decided to recast the role with Mike Myers.
He had not died before completing his part in Shrek, the prickly albeit lovable green ogre would have sounded a whole lot different. The movie itself would have cost millions to make because the producer decided to recast the role.

#5 Aaliyah: The Matrix Reloaded

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Singer and star of The Matrix Reloaded, Aaliyah, died when she was traveling on crashed in the Bahamas. The 22-year-old actress died along with seven others when the twin-engined Cessna went down 200 feet from the end of the runway route to Florida.
The Matrix is one of the most influential movies of the 1990s, but its sequels almost featured pop star Aaliyah, and here's why her role was recast.
Aaliyah had been cast in the role of Zee- Link’s (Harold Perrineau) wife. The film started filming in March 2001 and she finished all the senses for Reloaded. But Aaliyah had not yet filmed any sense for Revolutions. Finally, directors Lilly and Lana Wachowski decided to recast Zee with Nona Gaye (daughter of Marvin Gaye).

#6 Natalie Wood: Brainstorm

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Natalie Wood died on Nov. 29, 1981, drowning off the coast of Catalina Island, California when she was 43 years old. 
After a tense and troubled 1981 shoot, director Douglas Trumbull had almost finished shooting his film Brainstorm, when star Natalie Wood died on a boat trip. Wood's sister Lana stood in for a few "long shots and shaded profiles" to help complete the film. 
Ironically, the film’s plot turned on the death of a third character, played by Louise Fletcher, who records her own death on the device. Since Wood’s performance was almost completely in the can, Trumbull eventually was able to tweak, reshoot a bit, and release the film in 1983.

#7 Philip Seymour Hoffman: Hunger Games: Mockingjay

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Hoffman died on Feb. 2, 2014, in an apartment in Greenwich Village. Hoffman was killed by a poisonous mix of drugs that included not only heroin but also cocaine, amphetamines, and sedatives when he was 46 years old.
It has become a familiar feeling: watching a film starring an actor who died during production, and waiting for the moment when their absence is felt. After Hoffman’s death, the shooting schedule was changed. A small amount of digital trickery, using existing footage of the actor, was used to disguise his absence.

#8 Brandon Lee: The Crow

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The death of Halyna Hutchins’ on the set of ‘Rust’ due to an incident involving a prop gun has drawn parallels with the tragic death of Brandon Lee 29 years ago on the set of the comic book film ‘The Crow.’ He died on March 31, 1993, when he was 28 years old.
Although his acting career was tragically cut short, the Oakland native had already starred in the hit movie ‘Legacy of Rage’, where he played the role of Detective Johnny Murata alongside award-winning Rocky VI star Dolph Lundgren.
Lee’s death was ruled an accident due to negligence and multiple special effects were used to complete Lee’s work.  For example, "For a handful of scenes, including the one in which Eric sports his eerie makeup for the first time ... (stunt performer) Chad Stahelski stood in for Lee during shooting."

#9 Heath Ledger: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

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Ledger died on Jan. 22, 2008, in an apartment in Soho (London- England). The chief medical examiner claimed that he had died of "an accidental overdose of prescription medications that included painkillers, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety drugs." He was 28 years old.
A key concern for writer Gilliam and his collaborators was finding someone to replace Ledger in the remaining scenes. He recalled saying that there was “no one actor who could replace Heath and what he’s doing in the film,” so they ultimately settled on not one but three replacements: Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell. Once Depp was on board, playing "transformations" of his character to complete the film.

#10 Oliver Reed: Gladiator

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Oliver Reed died on May 2, 1999, of a heart attack in Malta when he was 61 years old.
Reed was taken a role in the film Gladiator. It was reported that he fell in a bar in Valetta, Malta with his wife and friends. Screenwriter David Franzoni, who was one of them, recalled that Reed had encountered a crew of sailors in a pub in Malta in the minutes before his death, and had challenged them to a drinking match.
According to Looper, "Two scenes were shot which would complete Proximo's arc. Proximo first visits a jailed Maximus, whose plan to escape and reunite with his still-loyal armies was discovered by Commodus. ... A stand-in was used for the actual shoot, then, in post-production, special effects house The Mill used extra footage of Reed to digitally graft the actor's face onto the stand-in's body. 
In the second scene, Proximo allows himself to be set upon and killed by the Praetorian Guard while Maximus escapes. For this scene, another stand-in was shot from behind for one portion, while alternate footage of Reed from an earlier scene was digitally edited and inserted into the frame for another."

#11 Bruce Lee: The Game of Death

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The Game of Death is an incomplete Hong Kong martial arts film, filmed between August and October 1972, directed, written, produced by, and starring Bruce Lee, in his final film project. Lee died during the making of the film.
According to the New York Times, Lee's "cause of death was thought to be brain edema. However, there have been other theories over the years, including one from biographer Matthew Polly who believes that Lee died of heatstroke.
Before his death, Lee had started work on a film called Game of Death but briefly left to work on his first Hollywood-produced film, Enter the Dragon (which would also become his only Hollywood film). Lee died not long after his return to Game of Death and, according to Screen Rant, "The project was abandoned...but a few years later, Golden Harvest decided to release the movie anyway," even though Lee had only shot about 40 minutes of footage. To work around this fact, the film's story was reworked, actors posed as stand-ins for Lee, and recycled footage from some of Lee's previous films was used.

#12 Vic Morrow and child actors Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen: The Twilight Zone: The Movie

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Morrow, who was 53 years old, died while he was filming a mock Vietnam battle scene near Santa Clarita, California on the 23rd of July, 1982.
According to Slate, when the cameras rolled, the Dorcey Wingo’s helicopter forced him down into a river where the actor waded. The right skid of the aircraft crashed the kid who took part in this scene. Then, the helicopter toppled over and its main blade sliced through Morrow.
After that, Morrow’s character returned to Nazi. The director John Landis tried to use many special effects and changed the pilot (Wingo) for the deadly accident.

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#13 Finally, Paul Walker: Fast & Furious 7

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Walker died on Nov. 30, 2013, alongside friend Roger Rodas, who was driving, in a single-car accident in Valencia, California. He was 40 years old.
The producers decided to use older footage of Walker as a reference the most "because as close as the brothers were in style and mannerisms, they just weren't Paul when Paul played his character," according to Letteri. Complicating matters, many of these shots included dialogue, which the movie's sound editors had to create by drawing from existing dialogue previously recorded by Walker. Letteri also touched on the process of crafting Walker's CGI face and how the film's VFX artists had to be extra careful to prevent the effect from landing somewhere in the "uncanny valley" (e.g. when a digitally-rendered human is close to the real thing, but off just enough to look creepy instead of convincing). While the final result wasn't flawless, it was nevertheless very impressive, considering the major obstacles the movie's VFX artists had to overcome.
It all culminated in the final scene in Fast & Furious 7, where Dom and Brian have one final "race", but are far more invested in simply enjoying their time riding together, just before reaching a fork in the road and heading off in separate directions. It was an undeniably poignant sendoff for Walker, and one that Diesel went so far as to proclaim as maybe "the best moment in cinematic history".
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