Sudden Deaths on Set: Stars Who Died During Production

July 20, 2013 By:
Sudden Deaths on Set: Stars Who Died During Production

In the wake of Cory Monteith’s death, the future of a television show seems rather inconsequential by comparison.

However, he was an invaluable cast member on “Glee,” which ultimately speaks to his talents as an actor and singer. The show’s creators will have a challenge dealing with how to address his absence from the series, and everyone will be watching to see how they’ll pay tribute to him when it premieres in November.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time a production was met with an untimely death.

Heath Ledger during The Dark Knight and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus — After wrapping his role as the Joker on The Dark Knight, Heath was also a third of the way through filming Imaginarium, a fantasy-adventure film, when he died of an accidental drug overdose in New York City. Actors Colin Farrell, Jude Law, and Johnny Depp stepped in to pay tribute to their friend by filling the role. Their salaries were then donated to the late actor’s daughter Matilda.

Brandon Lee during The Crow Bruce Lee’s son Brandon was tragically killed on the set of the film in 1993 after an accidental shooting involving a faulty prop gun. The majority of the film was completed and to finish the remaining few scenes, a stunt double who was a friend of Brandon’s served as a stand-in.

Michael Jackson during This Is It – While prepping for his comeback tour, Michael died after going into cardiac arrest due to illicit Propofol use. The tour was expected to run from July 2009 to March 2010 and generate $1.1 billion. Following his death, the tour was canceled and behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage became the basis for a documentary of the same name.

River Phoenix during Dark Blood — River died outside the Viper Room in L.A. due to heart failure from overdosing on heroin and cocaine. He was 80 percent into completing this film, but it was scrapped in 1993. Then 20 years later, it made its U.S. premiere at the Miami International Film Festival in 2013.

Aaliyah during Queen of the Damned – Aaliyah was in post-production of her film debut when she died in a plane crash in 2001. The film was released six months after her death and dedicated to her memory.

Marilyn Monroe during Something’s Got To Give — Co-starring Dean Martin, Marilyn’s last work was this screwball comedy, but production was constantly disrupted by her personal troubles. After her death in 1962, the film was abandoned and left unfinished.

John Ritter during “8 Simple Rules” — When John died in 2003 from an undiagnosed aortic dissection; the show’s second season’s first three episodes had been completed. His passing was incorporated into the series’ arc with a one-hour episode titled “Goodbye” in tribute to the actor.

Steve Irwin during “Crocodile Hunter” — The beloved wildlife expert was killed while filming a sea life documentary; Steve was pierced in the chest by a stingray. That documentary was completed without any mention of Steve’s accidental death.

David Strickland during “Suddenly Susan” — In 1999, David committed suicide while filming the show’s third season. The “Suddenly Susan” writers dealt with the death directly in the season finale: David’s character doesn’t show up to work one day; Brooke Shield’s character (Susan) spends the episode searching for him and discovering good deeds he did throughout his life. The episode was also edited with out-of-character interviews of the cast reflecting on David and his life.