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Died During Production / Film Live-Action

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  • George Clooney has said there cannot and will not be another Ocean's movie without Bernie Mac. Turns out, though, that this only meant "with the original all-male cast"; an all-women spinoff was made, produced by Clooney and starring Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock.
  • A sixth film for the 1950s-1960s Don Camillo series, fr. Don Camillo et les contestataires/ it. Don Camillo e i giovani d'oggi (Don Camillo and the Red-Haired Girl), was in the making in 1970-1971 when main star Fernandel collapsed while shooting due to cancer. He died a month later, the movie unfinished. The studio completely reshot the movie with different actors — the other lead Gino Cervi refused to make a new film without Fernandel. The unfinished movie with Fernandel and Cervi has never been seen, the reels are thought to have been destroyed.
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  • Parodied in Monty Python and the Holy Grail; the knights are saved from a cartoon monster by the (fictitious) death of the animator, Terry Gilliam.
  • Star Wars:
    • Because George Lucas hated the process of script-writing he went through on A New Hope, he hired noted pulp science fiction author and Golden Age Hollywood film scriptwriter Leigh Brackett to write the script for The Empire Strikes Back, based on ideas they came up with together in story meetings beforehand. She produced a first draft script, but Lucas wasn't completely satisfied with it. Sadly, though, Brackett died of cancer before she could revise her draft. Lucas was forced to write the next few drafts of the Empire story himself, after which Lawrence Kasdan came on board to polish the dialogue. (Incidentally, the passing of Brackett and Lucas' subsequent return to the drawing board was what led to the famous Luke, I Am Your Father revelation; in Brackett's draft, Vader was not Luke's father, while Anakin was a Force ghost and best pals with Obi-Wan.)
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    • Carrie Fisher's sudden death from a heart attack in December 2016 before the release of The Last Jedi reportedly brought some major changes to The Rise of Skywalker, the final chapter of the Sequel Trilogy. Leia's part in TLJ was not changed, even though there was a clear opportunity to kill off the character, reportedly because director Rian Johnson wanted all of Carrie Fisher's final performance as Leia to be in the finished film. For most scenes of Leia in The Rise of Skywalker, unused footage from The Force Awakens was used rather than recreating the actress' likeness with CGI; this was despite her family expressly giving permission to use CGI and CGI having been used for Leia's brief scene in Rogue One note . Backgrounds of footage with Fisher were replaced and body doubles were used in TROS for some scenes that did not feature Carrie Fisher's face, and one flashback scene of a younger Leia did use a CGI face replacement, with Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd playing the young Leia for that scene. Leia finally dies as a result of Rey's battle with her son Ben, and Harrison Ford also appears (uncredited) in The Rise of Skywalker despite Han's death in The Force Awakens two films earlier, apparently to play the role in redeeming their son Kylo Ren that Leia would have played.
  • A unique example would be actor Peter Sellers. In 1980, he was co-writing a script for The Pink Panther series for the first time, Romance of the Pink Panther, that he intended as a Grand Finale for his Inspector Clouseau character. He submitted a revised draft of it to United Artists shortly before his death in 1980. It ultimately was never produced. Blake Edwards, the director and co-writer of most of the previous entries, decided to continue the series his own way (he was quite specifically not to have anything to do with Romance), writing out Clouseau and introducing Replacement Scrappy character Clifton Sleigh over two films shot at the same time, Trail of the Pink Panther (which featured clips of Sellers from the previous films) and Curse of the Pink Panther. The results were disastrous.
    • Sellers was also due to star in Lovesick and the remake of Unfaithfully Yours. Upon his death, both roles went to Dudley Moore.
  • Steven Spielberg brought A.I.: Artificial Intelligence to the screen after Stanley Kubrick's passing on; in this case, though, Kubrick had had him in mind to direct (or at least produce) from the start.
    • Kubrick passed away just five days after showing his completed cut of Eyes Wide Shut to Warner Bros.. The movie took a record 400 days to shoot. However, as its premiere wouldn't take place until four months later, who knows if the notorious Control Freak wouldn't have wanted to work on it a bit more. Ultimately, the studio made changes of its own before its release.
  • Kinji Fukasaku refused treatment in order to film Battle Royale 2, but died after directing only one scene. His son Kenta finished it.
  • Simultaneously lampshaded and subverted in Bob Fosse's All That Jazz; a fictionalized account of Fosse's own life story, including a serious heart-attack which occurred during one of the most stressful periods of his career — while producing both the film Lenny and the Chicago stage musical simultaneously. A heart attack that he survived; but which his expy didn't. The question of whether the "play within the film" would ever be completed is left hanging; although previous scenes strongly hinted that it would be simply scrapped.
    "You could be the first show on Broadway to make a profit without really opening."
  • The Polish film Passenger (Pasazerka) suffered AEF when director Andrzej Munk died suddenly in a road accident. The film is a series of flashbacks. When Munk died, many of the scenes taking place in the present day were unshot. His assistant decided to use still images for these scenes.
  • After Halloween: Resurrection, producer of the Halloween franchise Mustapha Akkad was assassinated, dashing hopes for the original series to continue until 2018.
  • The script for a third Addams Family film (which would've served as an actual sequel to Addams Family Values) was being prepared when lead actor Raúl Juliá (Gomez) died suddenly that October of a stroke (after having been ill of stomach cancer for a while), at which point the idea of a third film in the series was scrapped. A planned sequel to the 1994 film adaptation of Street Fighter, in which he played M. Bison, did not go into production for the same reasons. He was also due to play the main villain in Desperado and Don Diego de la Vega in The Mask of Zorro.
  • Sergio Leone, best known for the Dollars Trilogy, attempted to repair his career following the abysmal disaster of Once Upon a Time in America (which has since been Vindicated by Cable) with a film based off the Nazi occupation of the Soviet city of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg, Russia), but halfway through planning his heart disagreed with him.
  • Brandon Lee was killed during filming of The Crow. The film was retooled and the character's remaining scenes were filmed using a body double, shot in shadows, or with Brandon's face added.
    • He was supposed to play Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat. After his death, Robin Chou was cast.
  • H.B. Haliki, the man that gave us Gone in Sixty Seconds (1974) died while filming the now unfinished Gone in Sixty Seconds 2, when a stunt sequence malfunctioned and he was crushed by a telephone pole. His widow hopes to one day construct a complete film out of the footage Haliki was able to capture.
  • Trinidad Silva died in an auto accident before he filmed all his scenes as Raul in UHF, so the movie had to abort his subplot before the poodles got their revenge. The film is dedicated to him.
  • Ernst Lubitsch died two weeks into shooting on That Lady in Ermine. Otto Preminger stepped in to finish directing the film; he had replaced Lubitsch as director of A Royal Scandal for similar but less fatal reasons.
  • The Top Gun sequel project was postponed after Tony Scott committed suicide in August 2012. The 3D re-release of Top Gun was delayed to February 2013 for this very reason. Eventually, the sequel was made and titled Top Gun: Maverick, with Joseph Kosinski as director and a release scheduled for 2022.
  • The future of Quentin Tarantino's traditional "Hi, Sally!" behind-the-scenes gag is in doubt after the death of its namesake, editor and longtime Tarantino collaborator Sally Menke, in 2010.
  • The future of Furious 7 looked uncertain after the death of Paul Walker, in an auto accident, no less, in November 2013. After a hiatus, Vin Diesel announced in January 2014 that production was resumed, with the release date changed from July 2014 to April 2015. But as Walker was the main character, the only way they could write his character out of the plot seemed to be to either force him and his family into exile or kill him, the former strategy lying in contention with how the character is portrayed, and the latter by and large considered ghoulish. In February 2014, the producers decided to retire Walker's character by reworking the footage he'd shot before his death with the help of Walker's brothers.
    • Walker also experienced a downplayed example with the movie Hours in 2013. It premiered that March at a film festival, but only went into wide release after he died.
  • The original director of Blue Skies, Mark Sandrich, died of a heart attack nine days into filming and was replaced with Stuart Heisler. Oddly enough, Fred Astaire, the star of six previous movies directed by Sandrich, was not cast in Blue Skies until after Sandrich's death.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman's death from a heroin overdose in February 2014 at the age of 46 left the fate of several projects uncertain, not least of them the The Hunger Games: Mockingjay parts 1 & 2, in which he played Plutarch Heavensbee. At the time of his death, he was also set to direct a feature entitled Ezekiel Moss, and he was to star in a comedy series on Showtime entitled Happyish. Since Hoffman had only one week of filming left for the Mockingjay films, the scenes he still needed to film were completed with a combination of a digital double as well as shifting some of his roles around to other characters, most notably a scene near the end of Part 2 where Haymitch reads a letter to Katniss about what happened after she killed President Coin rather than Plutarch telling her in person as he did in the book (the in-story explanation being that, given how seemingly heinous her act was he could not risk being seen with her at that point in time). Happyish ultimately continued with Steve Coogan in the role meant for Hoffman. It lasted for a single season of ten episodes broadcast in 2015. Ezekiel Moss remains in Development Hell.
  • A third film in the Ghostbusters franchise had been in Development Hell for decades, but with Harold Ramis' passing in February 2014, it seemed unlikely to ever materialize. A new movie, a Continuity Reboot with female leads, was directed by Paul Feig and released in 2016, to general fan hostility and disappointing results. Some fans viewed the 2009 video game, which featured the original team and other past cast members, as the honorary third film. Then Ghostbusters: Afterlife, an Un-Reboot helmed by Jason Reitman (son of Ivan Reitman, director of the first two films), was announced and set to be released in 2021, with Ramis' character Egon all but confirmed to be killed off.
  • Roy Kinnear died from a horseback riding accident during filming of The Return of the Musketeers in 1988. His role was completed with a stand-in, filmed from the rear and with lines dubbed by a voice actor.
  • Jurassic World has two examples: Mr. DNA has only a cameo, voiced by the film's director, Colin Trevorrow, as its voice actor in Jurassic Park, Greg Burson, died in 2008, with fellow Looney Tunes alumni Jeff Bergman also taking over as Mr. DNA for a cameo in Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous; and while Richard Attenborough had frequently expressed interest in returning as John Hammond during the film's tenure in Development Hell, he wouldn't be able to appear in the film, even if he wanted to, because his health was really poor - he died in August 2014, just as World was wrapping up production. Instead, Hammond is depicted in an Our Founder statue, and ancillary material reveals that the character died in 1997, making a deleted scene of John's funeral from The Lost World canon.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness featured Leonard Nimoy's last performance as Spock before his death in 2015. Additionally, Anton Yelchin was killed in a car crash on June 19, 2016, which makes his role as Chekov in Star Trek Beyond his last as the character. In July 2016, producer J. J. Abrams confirmed that they will not recast Chekov for the next Star Trek film, if it happens.
  • Songwriter Richard A. Whiting died during the production of the movie musical Cowboy From Brooklyn (1938), and it fell to Harry Warren to compose the movie's title song.
  • Similar to Bernie Mac, plans for a potential sequel of Galaxy Quest were folded after Alan Rickman passed away on January 2016 due to pancreatic cancer.
  • Harris Glenn "Divine" Millstead died in his sleep from heart failure just three weeks after the release of Hairspray and a night before he was scheduled to film a guest appearance as Uncle Otto on Married... with Children.
  • An early infamous example was Saratoga in 1937. Jean Harlow's sudden untimely death occurred in the middle of filming, and MGM briefly considered recasting the role entirely. However, under fan pressure, they decided to instead complete the movie by writing her character out of most of her remaining scenes and using body and voice doubles for a few additional shots.
  • Yellowbeard was on the verge of wrapping up filming when Marty Feldman suffered a fatal heart attack at his hotel room in Mexico City. His character's death scene, which had not been filmed at the time of his death, had a stunt double fill in for Feldman.
  • John Candy died of a heart attack as Wagons East! was nearing completion. His remaining scenes were shot with stand-ins and special effects while others were re-written.
  • Geraldine Peroni, notable as Robert Altman's most frequent editor, passed away before completing her work on Brokeback Mountain. It was finished by her former assistant editor Dylan Tichenor, later of There Will Be Blood fame. Both Peroni and Tichenor were then nominated for the BAFTA for Best Editing.
  • Before his death in March 1982, John Belushi was intended to star in some other films alongside his friend and fellow Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd:
  • Alfred Hitchcock was planning to work on a thriller called The Short Night, but his death prevented production from going forward.
  • Burt Reynolds was cast as rancher George Spahn in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but died in September 2018, weeks before his scenes could be filmed. Bruce Dern took over the part instead.
  • With Stan Lee's passing on November 12th, 2018, the long-standing tradition of Lee's Creator Cameos will most likely come to an end once the remaining pre-filmed footage made for his Marvel Cinematic Universe cameos is used up (barring any CGI recreations of Lee's likeness).
  • French distributor S.N. Prodis, best known for making Le Samouraï and distributing First Blood on behalf of Carolco Pictures, didn't last much longer after the death of founder Raymond Bordiere in 1982.
  • After nearly 30 years, a third Bill & Ted film, Bill & Ted Face the Music, was announced in March 2019. Unfortunately, George Carlin, who played Rufus, passed away in 2008, so he only appears at most in archive footage, with both a character that is Rufus' daughter being created and William Sadler reappearing as the Grim Reaper from the second film to compensate for Carlin's absence.
  • Following the completion of the Professional Wrestling movie ...All the Marbles, director Robert Aldrich had surgery and ultimately died of kidney failure. This prevented a planned sequel where The California Dolls would have competed in Japan.
  • River Phoenix had several projects lined up at the time of his death:
    • Dark Blood was left, by the estimation of director George Sluizer, "80 percent finished" when Phoenix died. It finally premiered at the Netherlands Film Festival 19 years later with the narrative gaps filled in by a voiceover.
    • He was due to begin work on Interview with the Vampire two weeks after his death. He was to play Daniel Molloy, the interviewer, which then went to Christian Slater, who donated his entire $250,000 salary to two of Phoenix's favorite charitable organizations: Earth Save and Earth Trust. The film has a dedication to Phoenix after the end credits.
    • He was supposed to play Sean Astin's role in Safe Passage.
    • He had signed onto the lead role in Broken Dreams, a screenplay written by John Boorman and Neil Jordan (to be directed by Boorman), and co-starring Winona Ryder. The film was put on hold due to Phoenix's death. In June 2012, it was announced that Caleb Landry Jones had been cast in the role.
    • He had expressed interest in playing the 19th-century poet Arthur Rimbaud in Total Eclipse by Polish director Agnieszka Holland. Phoenix died before the movie was cast, with the role eventually going to Leonardo DiCaprio.
  • James Dean's next film after Giant was to be the boxing picture Somebody Up There Likes Me. Upon his death, the role went to Paul Newman. He was also due to star as Billy the Kid in The Left-Handed Gun, which also went to Newman.
    • He was also due to star in a gritty urban drama called King Creole. Upon his death, it became an Elvis Presley vehicle.
  • Richard Harris passing away prior to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban led to Michael Gambon being cast as Dumbledore.
  • Marilyn Monroe's next film after The Misfits was the screwball comedy Something's Gotta Give with Dean Martin. She filmed a few scenes (including the first nude scene for a major Hollywood star). She was eventually fired for her habitual lateness, but Martin, who had co-star approval, refused to do the film without her, so she was recast, but by then, she'd died.
  • For Your Eyes Only is the only James Bond film to not have M in it. This because Bernard Lee passed away shortly before filming began. As a mark of respect, the character was given a Written-In Absence rather than recast.
  • Bruce Lee:
  • Richard Burton was due to return for Wild Geese II. When he died, Edward Fox was cast as his character's brother.
  • Heath Ledger's death during production of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus meant that Terry Gilliam had to get creative to finish the film. So he had his character played by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell when he enters a new dimension.
    • Out of respect for Ledger, The Joker isn't even mentioned in The Dark Knight Rises save for a single passing mention in the novelization where it's stated his current whereabouts are unknown.
  • Gloria Foster, who plated The Oracle in The Matrix, passed away before she could film anything for The Matrix Revolutions. The part was hastily recast and an explanation thrown together.
  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For took so long to get made that two cast members — Brittany Murphy and Michael Clarke Duncan — died in the intervening years. Duncan's role was recast, while Murphy's was Adapted Out.
  • Elizabeth Taylor handpicked Montgomery Clift to be her costar in Relfections in a Golden Eye. Following his death, the role went to Marlon Brando.
  • The Cannonball Run was a variation in that the "author" was still alive at the time. The movie was originally planned as a straight action film with Steve McQueen (Actor) playing the lead role. He turned down the offer because he was battling the stomach cancer he would later die from. Burt Reynolds turned out to be available and the movie was reworked into an action/comedy.
  • German film "Lang lebe die Königin" is about a woman who is about to die. In a bitter case of Irony, the actress died from cancer during the shooting. The makers of the film took Refuge in Audacity and pulled The Other Darrin Up to Eleven - five top German actresses jumped in for the remaining scenes (similar to how The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus dealt with Heath Ledger's passing).
  • Ideas for a sequel or reimagining of Labyrinth had been tossed around for some time when David Bowie, who played Jareth, died in January 2016. In 2020, four years later, the sequel was officially set into motion with Scott Derrickson directing; it remains to be seen how it will handle Bowie's passing. The death of Terry Jones in the same year also makes the prospect uncertain.
  • In a similar case to Paul Walker and Hours, veteran Canadian actor Sean McCann's final appearance before his death from a lifelong heart disease was as Red Storey in the 2019 made-for-TV documentary Goalie. The film had a short, limited theatrical release that March, but made its' televised premiere several days after McCann's death.
  • A sequel to Black Panther (2018) was set for a 2022 release when Chadwick Boseman died of complications from his battle against colon cancer in August 2020, seven months before filming was supposed to start. Later in 2021, Kevin Feige himself announced that the role of T'Challa would not be recast, with the sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, now focusing on the world and characters introduced in the first movie. Boseman had just finished recording his lines for an episode of the Disney+ animated series based on What If?, and a planned spinoff show about the alternate version of T'Challa that became Star-Lord was scrapped.
  • Averted with Doreen Montalvo, who passed away from a stroke as the 2021 film adaptation of West Side Story was awaiting release. It had already filmed at the time of Montalvo's death, and was scheduled for release in December 2020 but was pushed ahead a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Harry Carey died while So Dear to My Heart was in post-production.
  • With Richard Donner passing away on July 5th, 2021, it looks like Lethal Finale, the Grand Finale of the Lethal Weapon franchise, may not happen anytime soon.
  • Although his scenes were already filmed, William Hickey died just before MouseHunt wrapped up shooting. The film was dedicated to his memory.


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