One of Hollywood’s most lovable comedians met an untimely end on March 4, 1994. John Candy went back to his hotel after a day of shooting Wild West comedy “Wagons East!” and a celebratory spaghetti dinner, and by the next morning, had died of a massive heart attack. The film was late into filming, so only a body double was needed to continue on with what was left. Unfortunately, it didn’t contribute much to his legacy: critics universally panned “Wagons East!” and it bombed at the box office.
The titular ogre, “Shrek,” was supposed to be voiced by Chris Farley. He finished a large chunk of his voice work before dying of an overdose on Dec. 18, 1997, but there was not enough to put a film together. “SNL” colleague Mike Myers stepped into the project, and the movie went on to become a smash hit, spawning several sequels and spin-offs and winning an Oscar.
Clark Gable’s insistence on doing his own stunts may have led to his downfall. Near the ending of filming “The Misfits,” he died on Nov. 16, 1960, of a heart attack. Some have said the heart attack could have been influenced by the more strenuous action sequences. A body double was used for him in the few scenes that needed finishing.
Hagman rose to fame in the ‘80’s soap “Dallas,” but also returned to the 2012 revival of the series on TNT. However, on Nov. 23, 2012, he died of complications of his cancer. “Dallas” writers knew there was no replacing Hagman, who played beloved villain J.R. Ewing, and decided to kill off his character. This led to a large story-arc in finding out Ewing’s murderer.
The bombshell died on June 7, 1937, at the young age of 26. Her sudden death stunned Hollywood, and was the result of acute kidney failure. To continue “Saratoga,” which went on to become a huge hit, another actress served as a stand-in.
“SNL” star Phil Hartman’s role in “NewsRadio” came to a gruesome end May 28, 1998, after his wife shot and killed him. The show faced the situation head-on, and paid tribute to Hartman by opening the next season with his character’s funeral.
Heath Ledger died on Jan. 22, 2008, of an accidental overdose while filming “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.” Conveniently, it made sense for Ledger’s character to change appearances as he travelled through a dream world. Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law stepped in to complete the movie.
Bruce Lee was at the top of his fame when he died on July 20, 1973. He had halted filming “Game of Death” halfway through to pursue an offer to star in “Enter the Dragon.” After “Dragon” had wrapped and before he could finish “Game of Death,” he died due to an allergic reaction to painkillers. Director Robert Clouse jumped on board to finish filming and used body doubles and even a cardboard cut-out of Lee.
The role that could have made Brandon Lee a huge star is also the one that killed him. Lee died March 31, 1993, on the set of “The Crow” due to an accidental shooting in the stomach. With only a few days left to shoot, filmmakers superimposed Lee’s face on body doubles to wrap it up.
Will Lee’s Dec. 7, 1982, death of a heart attack could have been a disaster for “Sesame Street,” where Lee starred as Mr. Hooper. The children’s show, however, saw an opportunity in tragedy, and turned it into an episode on how to deal with death. It is remembered as one of “Sesame Street’s” most memorable and touching episodes.
“Plan 9 From Outer Space” may be considered one of the worst films ever made, but it’s not what Bela Lugosi had in mind while donning a vampire’s cape. Lugosi had been shot for another vampire project, but after he died Aug. 16, 1956, of a heart attack, director Ed Wood pieced together what he had and brought in a body double to make the now cult-classic.
While the saying goes, “the show must go on,” exception can be made for one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history. Marilyn Monroe died Aug. 5, 1962, of a drug overdose, before enough footage of “Something’s Got to Give” could be shot. As a result, the movie was shut down. Footage from the unfinished film later appeared in documentary “Marilyn: The Final Days.”
To say the least, Monteith’s death on July 13, 2013, of an overdose was a major disruption of the filming of “Glee,” in which he starred as one of the musical hit’s most beloved characters. Creator Ryan Murphy said his death required an entire script rewrite, and the show paid tribute to Monteith by mourning the death of his character in a recent episode.
Jerry Orbach gained a legion of fans thanks to his long run in “Law & Order,” but only managed to shoot two episodes of the spinoff, “Law & Order: Trial by Jury” before dying Dec. 28, 2004, of prostate cancer. The show continued, and mentioned Orbach’s character’s death in a few instances.
Phoenix’s death of an overdose on Oct. 31, 1993, devastated Hollywood, especially on the set of “Dark Blood.” With only 11 days left of shooting, the film was scrapped and left unseen for nearly two decades. Director George Sluizier, however, showed phoenix-like tendencies and the film rose out of the ashes. Sluizier completed it and premiered it at the Netherlands Film Festival last year.
Oliver Reed’s death of a heart attack on May 2, 1999, was a blow to “Gladiator,” but most of his scenes were already shot. Some scenes were re-edited, and a body double was also used to complete shooting. The film scored at the box office and collected five Oscars including best picture.
John Ritter was on his way to becoming one of TV’s most beloved dads on “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” when he died on Sept. 11, 2003, of aortic dissection. The show continued fatherless, addressing his death, but was eventually cancelled in 2005.
The cast and crew of “Barney Miller” took to a very unique approach to Jack Soo’s death on Jan. 11, 1979, of cancer. As a tribute, they ran an end-of-season retrospective of Soo’s Nick Yamana character’s greatest moments, and ended the episode with showing cast members toasting the late actor.
Sadly, not even gladiators are immune. This proved true when “Spartacus: War of the Damned” star Andy Whitfield died Sept. 11, 2011, of lymphoma. The show continued for two more seasons, though, with Liam McIntyre stepping in as the historic character.
Natalie Wood’s drowning on Nov. 29, 1981, was right before a major scene was to be shot on “Brainstorm.” After much back-and-forth, filmmakers finished with body doubles.