It has been announced that Cory Monteith’s surprising and tragic death will be handled in an episode of the upcoming season of Glee, which will address the death of Monteith’s character Finn. Glee executive producer Ryan Murphy has also said that he is planning a tribute episode to honour the star.
River Phoenix was the rising star of his generation, with many pegging him for super stardom until he died of a drug overdose on Halloween in 1993 outside the famous Viper Room, aged just 23. The film he was working on at the time of his death, ‘Dark Blood’ (co-starring Judy Davis), ultimately had to be abandoned because River was so integral to the film’s story. However in 2012 the film’s director George Sluizer ultimately released an unfinished cut of the film where the Sluizer narrated missing portions of the story. Reviews of the film were positive with The Guardian noting, "Dark Blood is fragmentary, uneven and downright odd in parts but it also has huge curiosity value.”
Bruce Lee was the first martial arts star to make it big in Hollywood and is remembered as a legend in the genre. He died in 1973 from a reaction to analgesic which caused a cerebral edema. At the time of his death he had completed ‘Enter the Dragon’ and shot more than 100 minutes of completed footage for another film ‘Game of Death’. After Lee’s death the director of ‘Enter the Dragon’, Robert Clouse, was enlisted to complete ‘Game of Death’ using body doubles and older footage from earlier in Lee’s career. The final product was not well received with critics lambasting the use of footage of Lee’s actual dead body from his funeral, and ham-fisted effects such as the scene where a cut out of Lee has simply been pasted onto the surface of a mirror.
The great Bela Lugosi, most famous for his role as Dracula, was filming ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’ at the time of his death. The film was the work of Ed Wood, renowned for his hilariously bizarre low-budget films. ‘Plan 9’ was one of the first zombie films, about an alien plan to resurrect the dead. Lugosi died of a heart attack before filming could be completed so Ed Wood did the obvious thing, he hired his chiropractor to replace the Dracula star. The chiropractor overcame the fact that he looked nothing like Lugosi by covering the lower half of his face in every scene. The completed film has been called the ‘worst movie ever made’.
The aptly named ‘Something’s Got to Give’ was blond bombshell Marilyn Monroe’s last film. Marilyn died of a drug overdose before the film could be completed, but the project had been plagued from the start by the star’s repeated illness and failure to appear on set. Instead of attempting to complete the film after the star’s death in August 1962 the project was shelved with most of the completed footage never seeing the light of day. Monroe is pictured above in the film's famous nude pool scene.
The world was shocked when Aussie heartthrob Heath Ledger died in New York in 2008 as the result of taking an accidental fatal overdose of prescription drugs. The star had just completed ‘The Dark Knight’ and begun work on Terry Gilliam’s ‘The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus’. Three close friends of the actor, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, stepped in to allow the film to be completed by sharing the role intended for Ledger.
Sadly Brandon Lee, son of legend Bruce Lee, came to a tragic end during the production of 1994’s ‘The Crow’. Lee was accidentally shot by a real bullet fired by a prop gun on set when the project had only 8 days left of filming. With the film almost complete the decision was made, with the support of Lee’s mother and fiancé, to finish it despite the tragic death. Some key scenes were re-written and body doubles were used – where Lee’s face was visible (such as the scene where his character falls to his death), his face was carefully overlaid onto the double’s using visual effects – one of the earliest instances where this technique was used.
Larger than life comedian John Candy was in the final stages of shooting the comedy ‘Wagons East’ when he died in his sleep from a massive heart attack. To finish the film it was necessary to re-use some shots of Candy more than once in the film, most notably a scene in the saloon where Candy empties a liquor bottle which appears twice, the second time with an altered background. Sadly the film was a massive flop with the NY Times saying "’Wagons East!’ has the distinction of being Candy's final film, and it is dedicated to his memory. That, unfortunately, is its only distinction.”
Nancy Marchand who played the matriarch of the Soprano family, Livia Soprano, died of lung cancer and emphysema during filming. Her sad death forced the producers to CGI the actress into a scene to try and tie up loose ends in the story and say goodbye. The scene plays awkwardly, with the computer generated actress’ responses seeming out of step with the questions being asked.
Natalie Wood drowned in mysterious circumstances in 1981 while on a boat trip with her husband Robert Wagner and ‘Brainstorm’ co-star Christopher Walken, with reports the husband and wife had been arguing before Woods went overboard. Woods had finished most of her major scenes in ‘Brainstorm’ at the time of her death but the studio got cold feet and shut the production down. With the help of the film’s insurer it was ultimately completed, with some of Wood’s final scenes shot using a body double, and released two years after the actress’ death.
Burly, brawling British actor Oliver Reed battled alcoholism through much of his life. While filming the role of Maximus in the Russell Crowe blockbuster ‘Gladiator’ Reed died suddenly of a heart attack in Malta in May 1999. With the film incomplete producers were obliged to bring in a body double and CGI Reed’s head onto his body. The performance was then stitched together from usable parts of the actor’s completed scenes.
In 1982 Tough-talking actor Vic Morrow was killed in one of the most horrific on-set accidents in memory. The star was filming a Vietnam War sequence when a helicopter that was hovering above him and two child stars crashed on top of them killing all three instantly. Despite the controversy and lawsuits surrounding the deaths the film was completed and sunk at the box office.