Even though comedian Bernie Mac died at the age of 50 of pneumonia this past August, he still stars in two movies opening this weekend. He not only plays opposite Samuel L. Jackson in the endearingly foul-mouthed tale of two washed-up singers in “Soul Men.” But he also lends his voice to DreamWorks’ animated movie “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.” Here’s a look at other film stars who died before the release of their final films.
Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight Though he died of an accidental drug overdose this past January, a full seven months before “The Dark Knight” opened, Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s grim superhero blockbuster has already garnered Oscar talk. The Australian actor died while shooting Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” but a trio of other stars — Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell — stepped in to film the character’s remaining scenes.
James Dean – Giant
James Dean – GiantDean was a mere 24 years old when he died in a car wreck in 1955. But in that short time, he starred in three movies and garnered two posthumous Oscar nominations, one for “East of Eden” and the other for “Giant.”
Oliver Reed – Gladiator
Oliver Reed – GladiatorLegendary British actor Oliver Reed died of a heart attack during production of this epic sword and sandal flick. As a result, a number of his scenes had to be re-edited using a double, digital effects, and plenty of shadows.
Bruce Lee – Enter the Dragon
Bruce Lee – Enter the DragonBruce Lee died just three weeks before his breakout movie opened, killed suddenly by a cerebral edema. “Enter the Dragon” proved to be such a hit — one of the most profitable movies of all time — and there was such a demand for its departed star that Hong Kong soon started cranking out films with leads named Bruce Li, Bruce Lei, Brute Lee, and Lee Bruce.
Brandon Lee – The Crow
Brandon Lee – The CrowIn a coincidence so ghoulish people speculated there may have been some sort of “curse” involved, Bruce Lee’s son Brandon was killed in a freak on-set accident during filming of 1994′s “The Crow.” An improperly-cleaned prop gun discharged a blank that pierced Lee’s abdomen and lodged in his spine. After the tragic mishap, production resumed using stunt doubles and digital trickery for the remaining scenes.
Spencer Tracy – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Guess Who’s Coming to DinnerSpencer Tracy starred alongside Katharine Hepburn and Sydney Poiter in the 1967′s landmark “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” which broached the then-taboo subject of interracial marriage. Tracy’s health was so bad prior to shooting that insurance companies refused to cover him for the production. He died after the film wrapped and posthumously received his ninth Oscar nomination.
Adrienne Shelly – Waitress
Adrienne Shelly – WaitressWhen “Waitress” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007, the film was hailed as being a sweet, witty comedy about one of life’s true pleasures: pie. Sadly, writer/director/actress Adrienne Shelly was not there. She was murdered months prior by Diego Pillco, a New York City construction worker. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison earlier this year.
Peter Finch – Network
Peter Finch – NetworkThough he did die two months after “Network” opened, Peter Finch, who brilliantly played crazed newscaster Howard Beale, is the only person to win an acting Oscar posthumously.
Tupac Shakur – Gridlock’d
Tupac Shakur – Gridlock’dRapper Tupac Shakur proved to be almost as posthumously prolific in movies as he was with music. After he was killed in a drive-by shooting in Vegas in 1996, Tupac appeared in both “Gridlock’d” and “Gang Related,” both of which were released the following year.
Clark Gable – The Misfits
Clark Gable – The MisfitsThe day shooting for John Huston’s 1960 movie “The Misfits” wrapped, Clark Gable was reported to have said, “Christ, I’m glad this picture’s finished. [Co-star Marilyn Monroe] damn near gave me a heart attack.” He keeled over from a heart attack the next day and died 11 days later. “The Misfits” also proved to be Monroe’s final film as well.
To hear Samuel L. Jackson, Sharon Leal and director Malcolm D. Lee reminisce about their experience working with Bernie Mac on “Soul Men,” watch the exclusive interview below.
by Jonathan Crow