|The following is reprinted
John's Unsinkable Bathroom Reader
Sometimes, tragically, in the middle of shooting a movie, an actor dies.
It's actually happened many times. So what's a director to do? Turns out
they have quite a few options:
Movie: Gladiator (2000)
Story: Reed had a well-earned reputation as an extremely
heavy drinker and partygoer, and he died the way he lived. While shooting
Gladiator on the island of Malta in 1999, he went to a bar and
reportedly drank three bottles of rum, eight bottles of beer, and several
shots of whiskey. At the end of the night, Reed, 61, dropped dead from
a heart attack.
Most of his scenes had been shot, but for the few that weren't, director
Ridley Scott used a body double and then, using digital technology, placed
Reed's face on the stand-in's body (they were fight scenes). Cost of the
re-creation: $3 million. Gladiator was released in 2000 and won
the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Big Picture, who has more on the CGI trick used in Gladiator
Frank Morgan as the Wizard of Oz, one of five roles he played in the movie.
Actor: Frank Morgan
Movie: Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
Story: Morgan (best known as the Wizard in The Wizard
of Oz) was cast as Wild West legend Buffalo Bill Cody in the screen
version of this Broadway musical. Just days into filming, Morgan died
and was replaced by Louis Calhern. But in the scene where Buffalo Bill
first rides into town, when the audience sees Cody from a distance, the
actor on horseback is Morgan. The actor in the close-up - and from then
on - is Calhern.
Link: Annie Get Your Gun DVD
Movie: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
Story: Ledger died at the age of 28 in 2008, under the
influence of a range of sleeping pills and antidepressants. At the time,
he was on a break from shooting The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,
a fantasy about a magical theater show. Director Terry Gilliam decided
to keep going. The movie's premise, in which Ledger's character travels
through different worlds, was adapted so that the character's appearance
could change as well. Ledger's friend Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin
Farrell split the role between them (and donated their salaries to Ledger's
three-year-old daughter, Matilda).
Movie: Wagons East! (1994)
Story: While filming the comic western in March 1994,
the 43-year-old actor suffered a heart attack and died in his sleep in
a hotel in Mexico.
Almost all of Candy's scenes had been completed, so director Peter Markle
used a body double for the remaining footage. Wagons East! was
released later that year and bombed with critics and audiences.
Link: Wagons East!
Movie: Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
Story: Plan 9 is often called the worst film
ever made, but Director Ed Wood was able to hire horror movie icon Bela
Lugosi because the actor was 73, past his prime, addicted to morphine,
and up for anything that paid. Wood cast Lugosi as "the Ghoul Man."
After compiling just a few minutes of footage (with no dialogue because
Wood hadn't actually written the script yet), Lugosi died of a heart attack.
Not wanting to lose out on the publicity from having a recently departed
screen legend in his film, Wood shot the rest of Plan 9 with
Tom Mason, a Los Angeles chiropractor, standing in for Lugosi. To account
for the two men looking nothing alike, in all of his scenes, Mason held
a black cape over his face.
Link: Plan 9 from Outer Space
Movie: Dark Blood
Story: In the fall of 1993, Phoenix (Stand By Me,
My Own Private Idaho) was shooting Dark Blood, portraying
a man who lived alone on a nuclear testing site and spent his time making
With 11 days to go on the production, Phoenix, then 23 years old, overdosed
on cocaine and heroin, and died on the sidewalk outside The Viper Room,
a Los Angeles nightclub. There were too many pivotal scenes left to shoot,
so producers completely scrapped the movie.
From RM [Flickr]
Movie: Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Story: In a horrific morality tale, Morrow played a vicious
racist who has the tables turned on him and suddenly finds himself in
the jungles of Vietnam, being hunted down by American soldiers.
While filming a scene involving gunfire and a helicopter, the pyrotechnics
used for the gunfire exploded prematurely, causing the helicopter to crash.
The helicopter's blades decapitated Morrow, 53, and also killed two extras,
both of whom were children.
The movie was released anyway, but it didn't do as well as expected at
the box office - probably due to distaste over the accident. Director
John Landis was later charged (but acquitted) with involuntary manslaughter
and child endangerment.
Link: Twilight Zone - The Movie
Movie: Brainstorm (1983)
Story: Wood, a star in her childhood and early adulthood
with films like Miracle on 34th Street, Splendor in the Grass,
and West Side Story, died in 1981 while filming the virtual reality-themed
Brainstorm. While partying on a yacht off Catalina Island with
her husband Robert Wagner and Brainstorm co-star Christopher
Walken, Wood disappeared.
It was later discovered that she had tried to leave the yacht on a dinghy
but fell into the water and drowned. She had one scene left to shoot in
Brainstorm. Paramount Pictures debated for nearly two years about
what to do, ultimately completing Wood's final scene with a body double
and dubbed dialogue. Brainstorm was quietly released in 1983.