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Celebrity Casualty

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https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/billy_murray_dead.png
Alas, poor Bill Murray.

Jeremy: I..I'm sorry! I.. I don't know...w..why I'm... crying...?
Brooke: Well, I do.
Jeremy: Y..You do?
Brooke: And I totally understand! They're saying it was a freak hockey accident.
Jeremy: What are you talking about...?
Brooke: Oh my God...You don't know?! Eminem's dead!

When works of fiction include real people, the general rule is to portray them in a way that does not differ wildly from how they are in real life. Sometimes writers feel the need to stretch the truth somewhat in order to serve the story they want to tell, especially in works of speculative fiction. One way of doing this is to kill off the still living real person in a clever way. If this occurs in performed media, the person in question might even participate (often to poke fun at themselves). At times, this can also be used as a Take That! against a public figure that the creators do not like.

Please note that the celebrity portrayed as dying must be alive at the time of the work's release. Contrast with Fictionalized Death Account, in which a deceased historical figure is killed off in a way that does not resemble their actual death. See also Death by Cameo, Celebrity Survivor, and Celebrities Hang Out in Heaven.

This trope is NOT to be confused with a real person faking their own death. You want the Real Life section of Faking the Dead for that.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Tricksters and Gods: Stephenie Meyer is murdered by Dracula, who exsanguinates her and leaves her drained corpse.
  • The Cabin: Melanie meets this fate thanks to being processed. Well, Emma had something to say about that, once Melanie's body goes missing.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Simpsons Movie opens with Green Day performing at Lake Springfield until their barge sinks and they drown into Lake Springfield's toxic waters. It's at their funeral that Grandpa Simpson gets his vision warning about a disaster befalling Springfield involving "Eepa".
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut:
    • The film is set roughly in its release year of 1999, where "It's been six weeks since Saddam Hussein was killed by a pack of wild boars, and the world is still glad to be rid of him." The real Saddam Hussein would be hanged in 2006.
    • Bill Gates is shot to death at one point in the film.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • In 11/22/63, Bill Clinton dies of a heart attack at the 2004 Democratic Convention.
  • In Harry Turtledove's And The Last Trump Shall Sound, Donald Trump dies during a second coronavirus outbreak in 2024.
  • In John Birmingham's Axis of Time novels, President Hillary Clinton is martyred by a suicide bomber.
  • Be More Chill: In the book and its musical adaptation, the SQUIP arranges for Eminem to die through a freak hockey accident, just so Jeremy can appear upset about it and get sympathy from girls.
  • The Dark Tower: Stephen King dies at the end of one book in the series, a clear nod to his near fatal accident when he was hit by a vehicle in real life.
  • Doctor Who Novelisations: For the fifteenth anniversary of "Rose", Russell T. Davies wrote an additional chapter to his novelization of the episode which is heavily implied to depict Boris Johnson as having been crushed to death by a steel beam as a consequence of said episode in 2005. As a result, the Boris Johnson who became Prime Minister in 2019 is actually an Auton that absorbed his body to become a new entity.
  • The Enemy is a series of Young Adult novels set in a world where all adults note  and older teenagers have turned into zombie-like creatures with an overwhelming urge to kill and eat children. Several real life adult celebrities are mentioned (including Jamie Oliver, Meryl Streep, Soulja Boy and others) and, though their fate is not explicitly stated, it is implied that they are either dead or have joined the ranks of the "sickos" note . All of them were still alive when the books were written.
  • In The Fireman, radio host Glenn Beck burns up during a broadcast and J. K. Rowling is mentioned as being gunned down for using her wealth to give refuge to those afflicted with the plague. Martha Quinn (one of the original MTV VJs) is heard over the Internet as a spokesperson for an island where Dragonscale victims can seek safety and medical treatment. By the time Harper learns about the island, it's been shut down and Martha has been dead for some time.
  • In "History" by Isaac Asimov, it is mentioned that Adolf Hitler died in Madagascar (implied to be in exile after defeat, as later confirmed by the writer). The story was written in 1941.
  • In the short story "Mahogany Dreams" by Lyn Nichols contained in the anthology Alternate Tyrants edited by Mike Resnick, President Ronald Reagan is successfully assassinated by John Hinckley Jr.
  • In Gretchen Felker-Martin's novel Manhunt, it is mentioned that J. K. Rowling died in a fire at her mansion sometime prior to the events of the story.
  • In The Onion Book of Known Knowledge, Pete Rose is claimed to have killed himself on national TV out of shame at his infamous gambling scandal.
  • Tom Clancy's Politika began with the then-still living Boris Yeltsin dying of a heart attack in 1999.
  • In Poul Anderson's The Psychotechnic League, Richard Nixon is killed in a nuclear war.
  • In the Timeline-191 book Settling Accounts: Drive to the East, Jimmy Carter is an 18-year-old sailor in the Confederate States Navy and is killed by an army major in battle.
  • In Amelia Wheeler's novelette "We will not allow him to live!", Bill Clinton and Al Gore are both killed by a car bomb.
  • World War Z:
    • Ruben Studdard is killed (alongside his agent) when a grenade detonates in his hand at the celebrity house.
    • Geraldo Rivera is swarmed and killed by zombies at Yonkers.
    • It's heavily implied that Bill Maher, Ann Coulter, and Paris Hilton were all killed in the Long Island celebrity house, though how is not mentioned.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Big Wolf on Campus, Corey Feldman plays himself as a vampire and gets killed with a wooden stake through the heart.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Last of the Time Lords" implies that Bill Gates was one of the people the Master had killed.
  • An episode of Fishing with John had Willem Dafoe dying of starvation.
  • Frontline: The first episode has Brooke interviewing "living legend" Ugly Dave Gray, who dies offscreen and forces them to turn the segment into an In Memoriam at the last minute.
  • The Final Cut, the last in the original House of Cards (UK) trilogy, opens with the state funeral of Margaret Thatcher who was still alive at the time.
  • The 1976 TV special Joys (a parody of Jaws) has Bob Hope and many of his celebrity friends killed off by a mysterious figure ultimately revealed as Johnny Carson.
  • This happens twice in season 4 of the Danish series Klovn:
    • At the start of one episode, Jarl Friis-Mikkelsen, a famous Danish TV host/actor/singer who also had a recurring role As Himself in season 3, suddenly drops dead from a heart attack at a bowling alley. The remainder of the episode is then about the main character and his best friend trying to cover up Jarl's true place of death (at least in Denmark, going bowling in the suburbs is considered a bit of a unsophisticated working-class activity which they think is a bad legacy for a celebrated entertainer).
    • In another episode, Nelson Mandela's death is reported on the radio. The episode aired in 2006, i.e. 7 years before the real Nelson Mandela died. This leads to a Cringe Comedy scene when the main character is in a taxi with a black driver. After the radio announcement, the driver pulls over to have two minutes of silence for Mandela while the main character (who is obsessed with fairness) desperately tries to make the driver turn off the taximeter as long as the car is holding still, only to be accused of not caring about Mandela and his achievements.
  • In The Last Man on Earth, it is mentioned that President Mike Pence succumbed to the mysterious virus that wiped out most of humanity, as did Cher.
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme made a guest appearance on Las Vegas as himself in which a stunt was sabotaged and he fell to his death.
  • Possibly in The Leftovers. Gary Busey, and the entire main cast of Perfect Strangers, are among the 1% of the population who Departed. Except Mark Linn-Baker, who survived, but faked his own Departure due to the experience of all his castmates disappearing. If we believe Nora at the end, they actually didn't die, but were mysteriously transported to another world or dimension. This is left ambiguous, though, and the whole world mourns them as if they died.
  • In the Louie episode "Elevator Part 4" a news report appears about Hurricane Jasmine Forsythe, which destroyed Florida, causing the death of LeBron James (and 12 million other people).
  • In 2006, a six-part miniseries of Monty Python clip shows were released called Monty Python's Personal Best. Each episode had a different wraparound format. The John Cleese episode features the actor in makeup that made him look twenty years older than he was, being interviewed. The final gag was Cleese supposedly dying of a heart attack on screen and the interviewer running away. Many viewers thought that Cleese had actually died, but he's still with us.
  • In the Night of Too Many Stars TV special, Steve Buscemi dies after eating peanuts (to which he is allergic) and being shot by Vincent D'Onofrio. Also, Bob Barker dies after fighting Adam Sandler and Sandler dies of the Ebola virus.
  • This trope provided the Couch Gag for the short lived comedy series Police Squad!. Each episode had a "special guest star" whose only function was to be killed during the opening credits. The stars so dispatched were Lorne Greene, Georg Stanford Brown, Robert Goulet, William Shatner, Florence Henderson note and William Conrad.
  • Quantum Leap: In the original history, Jackie Kennedy was also assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. The episode was made two years prior to her real death.
  • A Saturday Night Live sketch from The '90s had John Denver presenting at the Nobel Prize ceremony, accidentally infecting himself with the Magenta Virus, and dying. The sketch aired some time before his fatal plane crash.
  • In the Sliders episode "Greatfellas", Ronald Reagan dies while serving as Governor of California in 1998.
  • The final scene of Two and a Half Men has creator Chuck Lorre crushed to death by a falling piano.
  • The series finale of Veep has former President Selina Meyer's funeral interrupted by the news that Tom Hanks has died.
  • Season 4 of What We Do in the Shadows (2019) has Sofia Coppola and her husband, musician Thomas Mars, eaten by vampires as one of many celebrities lured to Nadja's nightclub by the enigmatic "Celebrity Special" as a special perk for celebrities, not knowing that it actually refers to them as the special for vampires.

    Music 
  • Fitting his inspiration from South Park, Eminem portrays the deaths of numerous living celebrities in his music. Usually at the hands of his murderous alter-ego, Slim Shady.
    • In "Criminal", Slim Shady has Dr. Dre Bound and Gagged and shoots him, which explains why Dre's "dead — he's locked in my basement!" in "The Real Slim Shady" (earlier on the album, but written after).
    • He's killed off himself numerous times, such as having Slim Shady commit Murder-Suicide at the end of Encore and detailing Eminem's kidnap and murder by a Loony Fan in "Bad Guy". "Castle/Arose" dramatises Eminem's death from an overdose. In "The Adventures Of Moon Man & Slim Shady", he dies of COVID due to inconsiderate people refusing to wear masks.
    • His Relapse Slasher Movie character does a lot of celebrity murder. Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan get offed by a serial killer in "Same Song And Dance", Ivanka Trump ends up dead in the trunk of his car in "Framed", and it's generally assumed that the 'Dakota' who he kills and eats in "Music Box"/"Psycho" is Dakota Fanning. "Oh No" dedicates a whole verse to murdering Perez Hilton (as a Take That! for his body-shaming of Eminem for gaining, then losing weight), chopping up his body, and finding places to keep the pieces.
    • During his The Eminem Show tour, Eminem would do a skit where Moby would get shot on stage by Obie Trice to lead in to "Without Me".
    • The track "Can-i-bitch", made in retaliation for the Pet Shop Boys song "The Night I Fell in Love" (where the narrator, a teenage boy, has a homosexual encounter with a rapper heavily implied to be Eminiem), has Eminem and Dr. Dre run the Pet Shop Boys over.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • High on Life has Jack Black and Susan Sarandon appearing in a brief cameo before the second phase of the Final Boss, Garmantuous. When Garmantuous discovers these aren't the two most important people to the Bounty Hunter (as Kenny was expecting them to be the Bounty Hunter's parents) despite hearing them being loved by other humans, he has them blown up messily.
  • Hitman (2016): One Elusive Target is Gary Busey, whom 47 was hired to assassinate for bailing on a commercial he was appearing in.
  • Hong Kong '97: Deng Xiaoping (or "Tong Shau Ping", as the game calls him) is said to have recently died, and the Chinese government converted his body into an "ultimate weapon". He was still alive when the game was released, though in an eerie coincidence, he really would die in 1997 as the game implies he did.
  • In Saints Row: The Third, the mayor of Steelport is Burt Reynolds voicing himself. The next-to-last mission has the player chasing down an escaping villain when they get the notification that some of their allies, including Reynolds, are being held hostage at a landmark. If the player continues pursuit of the villain, the hostage taker will destroy the landmark and kill the hostages, again including Reynolds.

    Web Animation 

    Webcomics 
  • Team Fortress 2: In Ring of Fired, Tom Jones turns out to be the roommate of Merasmus the wizard, and he is promptly killed by Merasmus's old roommate the Soldier. Later, in The Naked and the Dead, Tom Jones is seen in heaven but God has him killed again before the singer can break the Scout's mistaken belief that Tom Jones is his father.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • CollegeHumor:
    • "Chris Brown's Publicist" features a hapless publicist trying to deal with Chris Brown's antics, including his killing Sisqo, Usher, and Mýa, all of whom are still alive.
    • "If Things Turned Out Differently" has President Howard Dean dying from avian bird flu.
  • Funny or Die: One video parodying a famous scene from American Psycho has Huey Lewis murder Weird Al with an axe.
  • Jreg: Parodied in the video "Modern Day Political Satire" where Donald Trump is killed by a Trump-hating comedian's preferred candidate on an in-universe satirical TV show; since the whole video is about mocking lazy, cliched anti-Trump humor, this bit is intended as a shot at the idea that Trump's death would also kill what he represents or is seen to represent.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!:
    • In "Stan of Arabia, Part 1", Stan kills Jay Leno via Neck Snap while the latter is making a quip about Stan's relationship with his wife.
    • In "Lost in Space", Sinbad gets killed by aliens. His ghost returns in a Shout-Out to Star Wars.
    • Cuba Gooding Jr. gets impaled by Francine in "The Adventures of Twill Ongenbone And His Boy Jabari" while in the role of an "angry tribal chief". Stan visits his funeral and returns an Oscar of his Roger bought online.
  • In the BoJack Horseman episode "Underground", Zach Braff is killed and cannibalized during a cave-in at Mr. Peanutbutter's fundraiser.
  • By the very nature of its premise, every episode of Celebrity Deathmatch ends with at least one instance of this.
  • The Cleveland Show: Julia Roberts briefly shows up at the end of "Cleveland Live" just to be crushed under a falling stage light.
  • In an episode of Clone High, John Stamos dies after being stabbed in the eye with a crown.
  • Close Enough: The episode "The Canine Guy" has "Weird Al" Yankovic being mauled to death by a bear.
  • Family Guy:
    • In "I Never Met the Dead Man", Meg runs over William Shatner and he dies.
    • In "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven", Stewie kills Denise Crosby with a laser.
    • James Woods is assassinated in "And Then There Were Fewer", though he is brought back to life in "Tom Tucker: The Man and His Dream".
  • Harley Quinn:
    • Howie Mandel is blown up by the Joker in "A High Bar".
    • Billy Bob Thornton is mauled to death by Catwoman's pet tiger in "The 83rd Annual Villy Awards".
    • Queen Elizabeth II is implied to fall to her death after Harley pushes her out of a plane in "Harlivy"; though Harley claims she had a parachute.
    • Both Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are killed while attending MalCon in "The First Person to Come Back From a Business Conference Without Chlamydia".
  • Inside Job: In "My Big Flat Earth Wedding", Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos, is eaten by a Kraken. Later, in "Mole Hunt", Oprah Winfrey falls down a bottomless pit.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the "Treehouse Of Horror VII" segment "Citizen Kang", Homer accidentally sends incumbent president Bill Clinton and his Republican presidential opponent Bob Dole out of an airlock into space.
    • In the "Treehouse of Horror IX" segment "Starship Poopers", Jerry Springer is strangled to death by the alien Maggie.
    • In the "Treehouse of Horror X" segment "Life's A Glitch, Then You Die", the following people are incinerated by the sun: Ross Perot, Spike Lee, Dan Quayle, Courtney Love, Tonya Harding, Al Sharpton, Tom Arnold, Pauly Shore and Rosie O'Donnell.
    • In "Helter Shelter", after TV ratings for the family's reality show begin to decline when the family stops fighting with one another, the producers send actor David Lander as his character Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley to stir things up. When that fails to get anybody fighting again, the producers deliberately set out to make the family miserable by relocating the 19th Century house to a river and watching it float downstream and over a waterfall, destroying the house and killing "Squiggy" in the process.
    • The "Treehouse of Horror XIX" segment "How To Get Ahead In Dead-vertising" is built around this, as Homer gets the job of murdering celebrities so they can be used in advertising without their permission. We see three of these murders depicted: He drowns George Clooney in extra-deep quicksand, then stabs, chokes, and bludgeons Prince with his own guitar, and hits Neil Armstrong with the golf club at the National Air & Space Museum.
  • South Park has done this a lot. Justin Bieber was killed by Cthulhu, Rosie O'Donnell was eaten by Cartman's Trapper Keeper, Britney Spears was sacrificed to ensure a good harvest... The list goes on and on.
  • In The Venture Brothers, the villain King Gorilla is serving a life sentence in prison for, to quote fellow villain Phantom Limb, "eviscerating and sodomizing Vince Neil on live television".

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