The show must go on: when actors die during filming (+photos)

The death of Academy Award nominee Heath Ledger yesterday raises the question of what happens when actors die during the filming or production of a movie.

Ledger had already begun working on The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus directed by Terry Gilliam and on his role as The Joker in the forthcoming Batman film The Dark Knight.

With the release date of The Dark Knight set for July 2008 and the former in 2009, we look at other cases where actors have died prematurely and how the production houses ensured the films still got to the big screen.

Happy Feet (2006)

Animal obsessed Steve Irwin was chosen as the voice for Trev, the elephant seal in the 2006 animation. However Irwin was killed during post-production from a stingray barb while filming his own documentary on the Great Barrier Reef in September 2006.

Happy Feet was released in November 2006, just two months after his death.

Queen of the Damned (2002)

The title of this movie proved sadly prophetic for star Aaliyah when she was killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas on August 25, 2001, while filming an adaptation of Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles.

The film was released six months after her death and was dedicated to her.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Though he portrayed one of the world's most powerful wizards in the first two Harry Potter movies, Irish-born actor Richard Harris was unable to beat the illness which eventually took his life. On October 25, 2002, the actor who had delighted a whole new generation as Dumbledore died of Hodgkin's disease.

The movie was released in the US two and a half weeks later and fellow Irish-born actor Michael Gambon took on the role of Dumbledore in subsequent Harry Potter movies.

Gladiator (2000)

Oliver Reed was just as famous for his acting debuts as he was for his boozy nature - sometimes on screen as well as off. In May 1999 Reed died from a heart attack after drinking enough alcohol to warrant an $866 bill while filming in Malta.

CGI techniques were introduced in order to finish a number of his scenes.

Gridlock'd (1997)

The underground theme of drugs and criminals versus the police became a reality when Tupac Shakur (Spoon) was murdered several months before the film was released. In September 1996, Shakur was killed in a drive-by-shooting incident in Las Vegas.

The producers went ahead with the filming after his death.

The Crow (1994)

Whether the success of The Crow was due to the actual plot and cinematography or the fact that Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee) died during filming, is still up for debate. Lee's death from a bullet wound came just eight days before the film was due to be completed.

Stunt doubles, Chad Stahelski and Jeff Cadiente were used after Lee's death to finish scenes he would have appeared in.

Rebel without a cause (1955)

James Dean, the heart throb of the 50s, died in a car accident on 30 September, 1955. He had just completed filming of the movie Giant which, along with his second movie Rebel Without a Cause, was released after his death.

The last scene in Giant, in which Dean makes a drunken speech, has come to be known as the "last supper" as it was the last scene he filmed before his death. However the scene doesn't actually feature Dean at all. He apparently mumbled so much during filming that the scene had to be re-recorded by his co-stars after his death.


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