This past weekend, the world lost Paul Walker. At the young age of 40, he was killed in a car accident. Walker may not have been known for his acting talents, but he was a father and this is certainly a devastating loss for his family. While he has a lengthy filmography, he was known most for his role as Brian O’Conner in the Fast and the Furious franchise. This unlikely series went from a mediocre muscle-car racing movie to over-the-top explosive action flicks that would make Michael Bay blush (if only for a second). His character was the everyman, the anchor point if you will, who largely reacted to the criminal elements introduced in every part of the series.
The questions about his death are also compounded by the fact that he was in the middle of filming Fast 7, which was due to be released on July 11, 2014. His character, along with Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto, is a mainstay in the series and writing him out of the next flick will not be an easy task.
The plot of the next movie revolves around Jason Statham getting revenge on “the crew” and attempting to kill them one by one. Chances are, they’re not going to outright kill Walker’s character. If they do, the movie will start with a funeral and Walker’s scenes will be cut. Another option they might go with is to mention that his character wanted to protect his family so he moved them out of country (again) and changed their identities. As of now, the movie is being delayed a few months, but the show must go on. These Fast and Furious movies have made 2.4 billion so far after all.
The following actors also died while they were in the middle of a film’s production. Each tragedy affected their final films in ways that changed the final product.
5 – Bela Lugosi
Bela Lugosi is know for one role – Dracula. He became the face of the iconic Universal monster in 1931 and was, sadly, typecast, in that type of role. 17 years later, he famously played Dracula again in Abbett and Costello meet Frankenstein. At that point in his career, he was more well known for his drug use than his filmography and talents.
At the end of Lugosi’s career, he started working with Ed Wood. Wood filmed Lugosi in vampiric garb for short film projects: The Phantom Ghoul and Dr. Acula (Yes, Scrubs fans, it’s a thing). Wood eventually used this compiled footage for Plan 9 from Outer Space. After Lugosi’s death, he was replaced and the vampire was played by Ed Wood’s wife’s chiropractor. They tried to make the transition seamless by purposely covering the actors face with a cape as he approached the camera.
Fun Fact: Lugosi was buried in his classic Dracula costume.
4 – Oliver Reed
Oliver Reed was a certified hellraiser in the Hollywood circuit in the 1970’s. He was an absolute alcoholic, yet he got angry every time Johnny Carson or David Letterman would bring up questions about his partying behavior rather than his movies. In 1999, he was taking a break from filming Gladiator in Malta. On the night he died, he drank several bottles of Rum and beer and added to that, some shots of whiskey. Apparently, he beat five Royal Navy Sailors at arm-wrestling in his time at the bar. The 61-year old British star died of a heart attack soon after.
Ridley Scott had not yet completed Gladiator and was forced to use a body double for Reed’s remaining scenes. Scott spent $3 million to digitally add Reed’s face onto the double.
3 – Heather O’Rourke
The events surrounding the reshot ending of Poltergeist 3 are so bizarre it could almost be its own movie. In fact, the mysteries of the apparent Poltergeist Curse should get their own horror movie. For those who don’t know, within months of filming each movie in the trilogy, one of the lead actors died. This was first made apparent as the actress who played Carol Ann’s older sister being strangled by her boyfriend the same year the first movie was released. The terrifying actor who played Kane in the second movie died of stomach cancer and was replaced by another skeletal-looking old man for the third movie.
Heather O’Rourke played the role of Carol Ann in all three movies. The third film wrapped production in mid 1987. However, the producers and director weren’t happy with the ending, so they planned reshoots. A month before the reshoots, Heather O’Rourke died in 1988 at the age of 12 due to septic shock caused by stenosis. The director reportedly wanted to can the entire movie. Apparently, MGM wanted to release it because they had already spent $10 million on the project. The writer/director had written 17 pages of script for reshoots, but was forced cut it down to three pages. If you’ve seen the movie, it’s clear that a body double for Carol Ann is used in the final scene.
2 – Brandon Lee
Once again there is a supposed curse involved in this death. Bruce Lee tragically died right at the peak of his career and just prior to completing the English dubbing for Enter the Dragon. His son, Brandon Lee, was poised to become an A-lister in the 90’s. The Crow was a major role for him, made all the more legendary because of the tragedy.
While filming a scene where thugs break into Eric Draven’s (Lee) house and shoot him, a fragment of a dummy bullet was lodged in a revolver and hit Lee in the side. He died soon after. Most of his scenes had been shot (pardon the pun), yet they still needed a few more minutes of footage. This was the early 90’s and special effects weren’t what they are now, yet his face was digitally added to a double as the character was thrown out the window and fell to his death. It’s important to be sensitive in a situation like this. Fortunately for the crew, Lee’s mother and fiancee were supportive of the project seeing completion. The fatal scene is not used in the final cut. Instead, it was reshot as the intruders stabbed, not shot, a body double and threw him out the window.
1 – Heath Ledger
This is the death that rocked Hollywood. Heath Ledger virtually came from nowhere (Perth Australia) and quickly became one of the most-respected actors of the 2000’s. While filming his last movie, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, Ledger admitted several times that he had trouble sleeping and was taking several meds. He died in January 2008. Despite standing on it’s own feet as one of the greatest films ever made, much of The Dark Knight’s publicity came because of Ledger’s death. Thankfully, The Dark Knight was in the editing process when Ledger died and was not affected by the tragedy.
However, his death greatly affected the aforementioned Imaginarium. With the film only being 2/3 through its production, director Terry Gilliam knew that he would not be able to finish the movie. Producers (money) left the movie in a big way. Gilliam’s daughter asked Johnny Depp to take over for Ledger’s remaining scenes. He agreed to film whatever his schedule permitted. Jude Law and Colin Farrell were also willing to play Ledger’s character for the duration. In that Who-vian turn of events, the character of Tony was able to transform into different people and make that element part of the plot.
Fun Fact: Depp, Law and Farrell donated their salaries from the movie to Matilda, Ledger’s daughter.