Without any doubt, one of the most emotional moments in the last edition of the Academy Awards Ceremony, was the moment in which an Oscar was given to the late actor, Heath Ledger for Best Supporting Actor for his characterization of The Joker in Batman: The Dark Knight (2008).
The audience at the Kodak Theater that day, most of them connected to some extent to the Media industry, became overwhelmed with emotion when the young actor was rewarded with the highest award possible for an actor. Sure, the loss of someone so talented and with a such a promising future ahead, only make people sad and think of what it could not be. But in the cinema history, there are plenty of tragic examples. Some movies became very popular for being the last movie its actors performed before passing away.
John Candy: The comedian, famous in this side of the world for Trains & Automóviles (1987), was filming Wagons East (1994) when he died of a heart attack. The scenes he had not been able to film, were rewritten or filmed by a double.
Guillaume Depardieu: Yes, the son of the great Gérard was filming L'Enfance d'Icare (2008) when pneumonia complications make him pass away.
Gloria Foster: When she passed away from diabetes the Oracle from Matrix (1999) had finished most of her scenes for Matrix reloaded (2003), the second part of the saga, but not for the third part Matrix Revolutions (2003), (both movies were filmed together). She was replaced by the actress Mary Alice.
Jean Harlow: at the age of 26 died from nephritis. She was filming Saratoga (1937) along Clark Gable when she passed out in the set and then was hospitalized only to die a week later. As the film was almost finished, the filmmakers made changes to the ending and decided to hire a double (Mary Dees) who was filmed only from behind.
David Hemmings: a heart attack ended the life of this English actor, an icon in the sixties, while filming Blessed (2003) in Bucharest, Romania.
Pier Angeli: A beautiful Italian who stole James Dean’s heart, another unfortunate, and almost became his wife if it had not been for her mother who forced her to marry another actor. While working in Octaman (1971), Pier died from a barbiturates overdose.
Jon-Erik Hexum: The actor was known in Argentina by the series Voyagers! and Cover Up. He was working in Cover up when, during a shooting delay, put a utility gun on his forehead and pressed the trigger. He had such bad luck that a fake cartridge went directly into his head, wounding and killing him. He only was 26 years-old.
Roy Kinnear: Well known English comedian. He was filming The Return of the Musketeers (1989), the third film from a saga that began in 1973 and in which the actor was interpreting the same character as in the first two movies “Planchet” when during a shooting scene fell from a horse and broke his pelvis, a hemorrhage ended his life.
Bert Lahr: famous for interpreting the coward lion from The Wizard of Oz (1939),
He was filming The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968) when a hemorrhage and pneumonia killed him. His unfinished scenes were completed by the actor Joey Faye.
Heath Ledger: we could not leave the Australian aside. He was working on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) when he died from a drug overdose. Actors Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell continued his role and donated their salaries to his daughter Matilda.
Brandon Lee: the son of the great Bruce Lee had the potential to become a superstar when he died shooting The Crow (1994). A 44-caliber Magnum revolver, that had to be used in a scene where Brandon’s character was shot, still had an old bullet inside. He was shot in the abdomen and died hours later in a hospital. His death was recorded by cameras, but later by a legal agreement the sequence was destroyed. The urban legend says that the real sequence was in fact used in the film. The scenes Brandon was not able to shoot were done with doubles or using CGI (computer graphics).
Bela Lugosi: one of the great masters of horror movies. While filming Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), by the incredible filmmaker Ed Wood Jr., a heart attack ended his life. For those who have not heard about it, Bela was buried with the cape that was used in Dracula (1931), the character that led him to fame.
Marilyn Monroe: When the Blonde was fired from Something's Got to Give (1962), an alleged remake of My Favorite Wife (1940); Dean Martin, her co-star refused to continue the film unless Monroe was hired again. But everything was forgotten because of the mysterious death of the exuberant actress due to a barbiturates overdose. Her autopsy did not reveal any trace of drug in her body and her vital organs mysteriously disappeared. There is a theory that states that she was murdered because of her close relationship with the Kennedy brothers, Robert and John; apparently she was in possession of some confidential information.
Vic Morrow: Know for playing Sgt Saunders in the TV program Combat (1962). Shooting one of the stories from Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), the actor was carrying in his arms two-Vietnamese children Renee Chen, 6 years old and My-ca Dinh Le 7 years old; when a helicopter that was chasing them lost control falling over and decapitating them with its propeller.
Al Mulock: the Canadian was on the set of C’era una Volta il West (1968) when he decided to commit suicide by jumping from the window of the hotel where he was staying in Spain. He was wearing the clothes of the character he was performing.
River Phoenix: his death was as striking as Dean’s or Ledger´s. River Phoenix was a brilliant actor who had forged himself a great future due to his excellent performances. The movie Dark Blood (1993), in which he was performing, could not be completed because of his death by drug overdose that occurred outside of Johnny Depp's club, The Viper Room in Los Angeles. He was 23 years old.
César Pierry: Argentine actor who was widely known in the nineties. While filming My partner ... Impossible (1992), a program produced by Telefe that was later canceled; a grenade exploded in his hand smashing it. After the accident, Pierry was taken to a hospital for emergency surgery only to die two weeks later for reasons still unclear.
Tyrone Power: Tyrone died filming the great Solomon and Sheba (1959). During a swords combat scene against George Sanders, he had a devastating heart attack. Almost every scene was then filmed by actor Yul Brinner, he can be seen in some shootings though.
Oliver Reed: this amazing actor was playing Próximo in Gladiator (2000) when a heart attack ended him. Many of his scenes were filmed again by working with a double that was filmed in the darkness and with a 3D special effects mask with Reed’s face.
John Ritter: Ritter, a great comedian, had completed the first three episodes of the second season of the TV series Eight Simple Rules (2002) when he died. A dissection of the aorta artery, the result of an undiagnosed congenital disease, was what led him to the grave. The series continued weeks later with a new format in which the character of Ritter had died. The first post-Ritter episode was called "Goodbye" and recorded laughter was not added.
Robert Shaw: Avalanche Express (1979) was his last film. Shaw was very ill and his voice sounded shaky and very weak,; because of this they had to hire a voice impersonator (Rich Little ) in order to do all his dialogues. When driving back home with his wife and son, Shaw had a heart attack, parked the car, walked 4 or 5 steps and collapsed, fifteen minutes later he was dead. Ah, the director of Avalanche Express, Mark Robson, also died of a heart attack during the post-production stage of the movie.
Natalie Wood: the female protagonist of Rebel Without a Cause (1955) was filming Project Brainstorm (1983) when she died. She is said to have drowned falling into the sea from a boat. The strange part about this is that after having nearly drowned during her childhood, Natalie was afraid of water. The official story tells that the actress, who was on a yacht with her husband, actor Robert Wagner and a friend of the couple, actor Christopher Walken, was drunk and decided to jump into the yacht’s lifeboat and take a little trip by the moonlight, falling and drowning in the attempt. Apparently, Robert and Christopher were also drunk, so they did not become aware of the accident. Wood's family, unhappy with this version of the facts, asked to reopen the case but found no evidence for attributing her death to other causes. Brainstorm project was completed with a double and changing camera angles to film the remaining scenes of Wood’s character.
In the last 80-years of history of the Academy Awards, another 13 artists received the award for their work having passed away.
Find out who are the ones that won the statue from the sky:
Sidney Howard for Best Screenplay for Gone with the Wind (1939).
Victor Young for Best Soundtrack for World Tour in 80 days (1956).
William A. Horning for Best Art Direction for Ben-Hur (1959).
Sam Zimbalist, producer, Best Film for Ben-Hur.
Eric Orbón for Best Art Direction for Spartacus (1960).
Walt Disney for Best Animated Short for Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968).
Ray Rasch and Larry Russell for Best Soundtrack for Candilejas (1952). They won in 1973, however the film was premiered a year earlier. According to the Academy rules of that time, films could be elected despite having been released almost two decades ahead.
Peter Finch for Best Actor for Powerful Mata (1976).
Geoffrey Unsworth for Best Photography for Tess (1979).
Howard Ashman for Best Song for Beauty and the Beast (1991).
Thomas C. Goodwin for the Best Short Documentary for Educating Peter (1992).
Conrad L. Hall for Best Cinematography for Road to Perdition (2002).