We all know how complex the shooting process could get, and how the stunts could very well end up in a bloodbath. There have been multiple scenarios where the stuntmen died during filming. But those scenarios have been less controversial than an actor’s death during filming.
When an actor dies during filming, the makers have to bear a lot of criticism and backlash. They are interrogated thoroughly and their efforts to produce a film start to weigh down. These are the superficial details, right? What goes behind the curtains can be a lot different than they let on. We come bearing the answers to all your questions, read and find out!
What Happens If An Actor Dies During Filming?
No doubt it is a tough situation for the makers and the actor’s families. No filmmaker would want to live this nightmare and bear the never-ending accusations. The family members have to deal with their grief and often, they end up accusing the filmmakers. This cycle continues for decades, sometimes inside a courtroom as well.
The audience sympathizes with these family members and the production house to endure their wrath. This is when the producers are somehow involved in the death of an actor. This isn’t a common scenario since not many actors have died during filming because of the filmmaker’s mistake. However, there have been some unfortunate accidents leading to an actor’s death because of the filmmaker’s mistake.
If the actor dies on the set or his condition gets severe, the paramedics tend to him and try their best to save him. If they couldn’t, they immediately shifted him to a hospital and informed his family. The makers and the family members work together to save him. If everything works well, the makers don’t have to go through that vicious cycle and the film continues.
If an actor dies before the film has been completed, the makers are forced to take some harsh decisions. They could either continue the remaining film with the aid of VFX or they could terminate it. Either way, their decision depends on multiple factors and we audience contribute majorly to it without even realizing it. After all, we are the end judges and the target of the filmmakers.
Here is a list of some popular actors who died during filming. Their tragic deaths are engraved deep in our minds and the film industry is still mourning them.
13. James Dean
German cars are considered to be the safest, right? In Dean’s case, these super-safe cars couldn’t help him avoid a collision and premature death. He was involved in a car crash which resulted in him losing his life to an accident. It could have been avoided had he been more careful. The actor died in a car crash, and how that crash took place remains a mystery.
James was due to complete some scenes of his upcoming movie entitled Giant. His death was mourned highly but the movie was resumed and released later on. The makers used VFX and Dean’s best friend, Nick Adams, to complete the movie. Since it was the late 1950s and the graphics weren’t as developed, the makers were heavily dependent on Adams.
12. John Candy
The legend of comedy, John Candy, is known for his bright smile and boisterous personality. He has brought several epic movies to us and made us topple over with fits of uncontrolled laughter. Candy was known for being the essence of laughter in all the films he starred in.
He passed away due to a severe heart attack. His obese health was to be blamed for such a tragic accident. The comedy king was shooting for Wagons East at the time of his death. The makers continued with the film and released it with the help of VFX. Though Candy was missed terribly, the makers tried their best to bring his essence to the film.
11. Bela Lugosi
All the fans of horror movies would recognize Bela Lugosi anytime. He was the man who brought spooky vibes to a film in the era when there were hardly any special effects. The 1930s became a remarkable decade with Lugosi’s portrayal of our beloved Dracula. Those sharp eyes and the stark glare made Dracula the most successful movie of the decade.
The highly fit actor passed away because of a heart attack in the late 1950s. Lugosi was currently shooting for an upcoming movie, Plan 9 from Outer Space. This was meant to be another epic movie brought to us by Lugosi but ended up being released without him a few years later.
10. Chris Farley
Today, we come across multiple animated films, right? In the late 1990s, when the animation industry was slowly crawling towards success, Shrek was the first film to win an Oscar. Chris was working as a voiceover artist for this film and was supposed to bring Shrek to life with his thick Scottish accent and cheerful personality.
Things went downhill when Chris was found dead because of a drug overdose. The paramedics reported that he was high on cocaine and his obesity certainly didn’t help. If Chris would have been alive Shrek would have been certainly better but the film is quite iconic of Shrek’s silly personality.
9. Marilyn Monroe
The legend of the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe, was a Hollywood icon. Her original name, Norma Mortenson, is hardly recognized anymore. She was known for her unique hairstyle, sophisticated grace and natural talent. Monroe had a glowing career ahead of her, she had quickly become a legend.
Unfortunately, her personal life overshadowed her career. Monroe was infamous for her multiple marriages and was rumoured to suffer from anxiety. She was found dead at her apartment due to an overdose. Marilyn’s death remains one of the most grieved deaths of the 1960s decade.
She was filming for Something’s Got to Give at the time of her death. The makers didn’t revive the film and decided to wind it up. But almost four decades later, the scenes from this film were used in Marilyn’s documentary.
8. Heath Ledger
Most of the deaths in the film industry are ruled out to be because of an overdose. We all know how competitive and overbearing this industry could be. Most of the actors resolve to some kind of drugs to help them get through. Ledger was one such actor who took the aid of anti-anxiety drugs and died of an overdose. Heath was on some painkillers as well during the time of his death.
His death came out as a surprise to his family who never thought Ledger was battling anxiety. He was working on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus which was supposed to be a complex movie showcasing Ledger in various scenarios. After a while, the makers completed the movie with other actors but missed Ledger’s fine skills.
7. River Phoenix
Phoenix is meant to rise from the ashes, right? River Phoenix, an actor who was known for his intense acting skills, was another man who succumbed to drugs. In the early 1990s, Phoenix was found stumbling on the streets of California before collapsing down and winding up dead. He died due to an overdose of multiple drugs that ended up destroying River’s several internal organs.
Phoenix was supposed to enact in a film entitled Dark Blood at the time of his death. Following his sudden death, the makers received a letter from Phoenix’s mother. She didn’t want the film to continue and her wish was granted. The makers honoured her request and didn’t continue the movie.
After 20 years of Phoenix’s death, the makers brought Dark Blood which honoured his memories. The makers used body doubles, voiceover artists and VFX to complete the remaining scenes. The film didn’t only remind us of Phoenix, but it also served as the last epic movie by such a talented actor.
6. Natalie Wood
Wood’s death is most probably the darkest mystery ever. No one knows how she disappeared nor do we have any idea if she disappeared or was a victim of something more sinister. In the early 1980s, when Wood was shooting for Brainstorm, her fate took a turn for worse.
Insecure partners are no surprise in this glamorous industry. Natalie’s husband, Robert Wagner, was one such insecure partner who couldn’t bear his wife’s growing fondness for her co-star. So, when these three, Natalie, Robert and Christopher went boating, there has to be something fishy. Natalie ignored the alarm bells and as a result suffered a tragic death.
According to Wagner, he had an argument with Wood regarding her relationship with Walken. She excused herself and disappeared. As absurd as it sounds, it is what it is. Why would a woman with a flourishing career ahead go missing? Natalie Wood’s death remains a mystery even after decades of her death.
5. Oliver Reed
All the Gladiator fans would know of Oliver Reed and how well he portrayed Proximo. Reed’s death was quite natural and thankfully, nothing suspicious that we thought it would be. Oliver was a victim of a brutal heart attack and died at a local bar. His wife, Josephine, and other friends who were present with Reed had a hard time dealing with his sudden death.
The filmmakers of Gladiator had to rely on visual effects to portray Proximo. Though Reed was nowhere close to giving up on his career, he ended his career with a grand movie. His death marked a significant loss in the 1990s decade.
4. Paul Walker
How could we forget the hypnotic grey orbs of Paul Walker? The Fast and Furious star has been a highly acclaimed actor and was merely 40 when he died because of a car crash. In late 2013, Paul and his friend, Roger, were found dead in California. His unfortunate death made headlines but there was hardly anything anyone could have done to avoid it. Both Roger and Paul were perfectly sober and yet met with a car crash.
Walker was currently in the production of Fast and Furious 7 but couldn’t complete it. The makers were initially sceptical since the main scenes were yet to be shot. But later on, decided to complete the movie with the help of Paul’s brothers and of course the magical VFX.
3. Vic Morrow
Morrow’s death proved how dangerous shooting a war film could be. The Twilight Zone: The Movie was supposed to be an epic film. The makers went as far as using a real Vietnamese helicopter to portray a war scene in which Morrow was supposed to pick up two girls and drag them away from the war scene.
When the scene began, everything was working fine. The makers were all over it, shooting Morrow’s epic skills when the aircraft went haywire. The helicopter’s wings caught fire and crushed Morrow, Renee and Myca–the girls who Morrow was supposed to save. Hundreds of spectators watched the incident unfold and yet couldn’t help them.
There were multiple lawsuits filed against the makers aside from the numerous accusations. The makers settled most of these lawsuits out of court. This scene was later altered and the movie was released a while later.
2. Brandon Lee
One of the most unfortunate deaths of the early 1990s was Brandon Lee. You cannot call yourself a film enthusiast if you don’t know who Bruce Lee is. Brandon is Bruce’s only son who also died early like his father, just at the mere age of 28. His death could have been avoided but it was most certainly an accident even if it was initially frowned upon.
While shooting for an action movie entitled The Crow, Brandon was shot in the abdomen. It was supposed to be a blank shot but there was a bullet lodged inside the supposed blank barrel. This bullet ended up damaging Brandon’s spine and internal organs before becoming the reason for his death.
The makers had to bear severe consequences but they came out unscathed since Brandon’s death was ruled out as an accident. The Crow was later continued with the help of visual effects. The graphics helped the creators portray a close resemblance to Brandon’s perfection.
1. Bruce Lee
One of the most traumatic deaths of the 1970s was of the infamous Bruce Lee. This name needs no introduction, does it? The man who changed the fate of action fighters had a quite short career. We all know how Bruce’s mere presence elevated the film which is why we aren’t able to let him go even after decades of his death.
His cause of death was reported to be brain oedema. Bruce was found unconscious in his apartment and was declared dead soon after. He was supposed to make his presence known in Hollywood with The Game of Death but ended up in a grave instead of the red carpet.
Initially, the producers withdrew the film and decided to put a halt to it. But a while later, they started to work on it with the help of graphics and brought Bruce Lee to Hollywood for the first and the last time. He would have ruled the cinematic world had he been alive.
Frequently Asked Questions
If the actor falls ill on the set, he is immediately given medical treatment. The filmmakers decide whether they want to continue the film or leave it.
If the actor dies because of the makers’ fault, the family is generally compensated. In other circumstances, there is no compensation.
It depends on the filmmakers whether they want to continue with the film or not. Most of the time, the remaining scenes are shot with stand-ins and VFX.
Yes, Bruce Lee was shooting for a film entitled The Game of Death at the time of his unfortunate death.
When there are complex stunts involved, the paramedics are generally available on the set.
Yes, if the actor is dead because of the filmmaker’s fault, a lawsuit could be filed against him.
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