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The Production Curse

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A work of imaginative fiction which is beset with a cluster of inexplicable problems almost from the start. The production could be in any medium, but, especially if it has a supernatural dimension, its production difficulties (which can extend to development as well) lead observers to speculate that it has somehow attracted a Curse. In its most extreme form, a series of tragedies and disasters start afflicting the cast and production crew, up to and including serious injury and death. This trope takes over as a courtesy detail after Development Hell and Creator Killer have taken their toll on a work.

Even though the tragedies, viewed objectively, are randomly clustered and coincidental, it doesn't take much for them to become "evidence" of a curse or supernatural activity.

A classic example might be the Exorcist franchise of horror movies: news coverage and popular legend (possibly assisted by shrewd press releases) point to inexplicable deaths, tragedies, and ill fortune coming to people associated with the production. Then there is the Superman movie series - think Christopher Reeve's personal tragedy, of falling off his horse and becoming paraplegic; or Margot Kidder lapsing into extreme mental distress and requiring confinement to a secure facility for treatment.

Tragedies happen, and no causal link or actual curse is presumed. But popular imagination, aided by sensational news reporting, can be relied upon to attribute a "curse", and to make it a trope. And in Real Life, businesses or individuals who associate with a "cursed" production, or a celebrity who died a tragic premature death, can also suffer inexplicable ill fortune.

Such incidences are often seen as having a Fortean dimension, belonging in the twilight zone between the completely explicable and the putative area of the supernatural.

This would appear to be largely a Real Life trope; a separate section has been opened for In-Universe examples occurring in works of fiction. Cursed objects as opposed to creative works, such as personal possessions of the late Diana Spencer which have allegedly brought ill luck to those who acquired them, should go to Artefact of Doom.

Please append any instances to a work's Trivia tab. Not to be confused with Star Trek Movie Curse, which is a specialised form of damnation afflicting only odd-numbered films in the series.

Examples in real life:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Magical Princess Minky Momo was one of the first Magical Girl anime ever made and a series with a long, complicated production history but most people only know it for the supposed curse attached, bringing misfortune and death wherever it goes even though the show itself is long gone.
    • Immediately after the creators' first attempt at a Series Finale, an earthquake warning was broadcast across the Kantō region. However, the creators were contractually obligated to continue the series, and the real finale aired on the same day as the 1983 Sea of Japan earthquake, one of the worst seismic events to ever hit Japan. But it doesn't end there; when they aired reruns of the series in 1995 the second run of the finale occurred on the same day as the Great Hanshin Earthquake.
    • The entire English dub managed to become lost media twice. Originally it only aired briefly in Melbourne, Australia, with only one man managing to save bits and pieces. In 2015, the current owners William Winckler Productions attempted to broadcast it on Amazon Prime but it was never actually uploaded to the service.
    • The SOS incident, in which after rescuing a group of missing hikers Japanese authorities discovered a giant SOS sign made from fallen logs by a separate group of missing hikers. Only the skeletal remains of one man were found, alongside the belongings of a man named Kenji Iwamura. Police Never Found the Body, but among his last worldly possessions were four cassette tapes; one being a recorded plea for help, and the others being the theme songs of various anime, including Macross and — you guessed it — Minky Momo.
    • Roro-chan was a 14-year-old Japanese vlogger who livestreamed her own suicide in 2013 (inspiring the popular Shinsei Kamattechan song Ruru's Suicide Show on a Livestream) and was known to be a big Minky Momo fan to the point she had her as a profile picture.
  • Minky Momo wasn't the only Magical Girl anime to have become associated with misfortune. Mitsuteru Yokoyama, creator of Sally the Witch, the first-ever MG TV anime, died in a house fire at age 69 (so arguably a "Magical Girl Curse" started on day one). And despite being a massive hit, Puella Magi Madoka Magica has become associated with the strongest earthquake in Japanese history, the 2011 Tohoku quake and tsunami, which occurred the day after Episode 10 of the series first aired. Due to the show's grim nature and some scenes of Episode 10 eerily resembling towns ravaged by the tsunami, the last two episodes were postponed for two months, following rumors that the show would be cancelled. A large aftershock struck on the day the movie sequel was released in 2013.
    • Going back to the Madoka series, a hinted-at continuation beyond the sequel saw no sign of further progression since release of a possible rough draft and character sketches in late 2015 until the 2023 announcement of the movie Walpurgisnacht Rising; this was subsequently followed by a mass departure of several staffers from Studio Shaft, the anime's production house. Also the band Kalafina, which provided the ending themes for both the TV anime and movie and thus heavily contributed to its atmosphere, broke up in 2018.

    Comic Books 
  • Scatological satirical adult comic Viz subverted this concept by inventing a completely spurious curse on long-running TV comedy Dad's Army. It excitedly reported that twenty years on from the final episode, all but one of the core cast had died in unexplained circumstances that the BBC was concealing from the public. It even listed them: Clive Dunn, died at age 82; John leMesurier, died at age 71; Arthur Lowe, died at age 77; Arnold Ridley (died at age 98); John Laurie (died at age 83). Viz observed that the last surviving cast member, Ian Lavender (then around 45) must be quaking in his boots waiting for the inevitable moment the curse claimed him.note 
  • Superman left some weird legacy. For starters, his creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster frequently were at odds with DC Comics regarding credits and payments, specially as despite conceiving the flagship superhero both at times lived near the poverty line. The most notable was during production of the 1978 movie, as their contract granted them no share of film royalties on their comic creation and they subsequently sued.
    • A really tenuous link, but worth noting: The Other Wiki says "In 1963 John F. Kennedy's staff approved of a Superman story in which the hero touts the president's physical fitness initiatives, scheduled to be published with an April 1964 cover date. On November 22, Kennedy was shot and killed." Yes, Superman has been implied to be the other gunman in Dallas.
    • George Reeves, the original TV incarnation of the Man of Steel in The Adventures of Superman, was found dead in suspicious circumstances, shot in the head with a loaded pistol near his hand. This was put down to suicide but it has been pointed out that the corpse must have remained alive for just long enough to clean any fingerprints off the weapon (a recently-oiled Luger with checkered grips, which would not retain prints that 50s-era CSI could detect).
    • The two protagonists of the 1978 film endured hard times: Christopher Reeve famously became paralyzed due to a riding accident, and Margot Kidder was said to suffer mental health issues following the movies, ultimately dying of suicide in 2018.

    Film- Live Action 
  • One production worth mentioning despite never having been filmed is the curse of the Atuk adaption. Atuk is the story of a fat Eskimo trying to make it in the big city. The first victim of this cursed script was John Belushi, who the creator had in mind to play the title role; he was preparing for the part when he died of a drug overdose at the age of 33. The second victim was Sam Kinison- who nearly got around to making it but then freaked out and pulled out of doing it, and later died in a fiery car crash. The third victim was John Candy, who was in the process of reading the script when he died of a heart attack, and the last victim was Chris Farley who died of a drug overdose at the age of 33 much like his hero Belushi- he wanted Phil Hartman to be his co-star, and Hartman later got shot by his own wife.
  • Blade Runner provides something of a variation on the theme: it suffered a similar curse, but instead of cast and crew members, it was the sponsors that got hit:
    • Atari would go on to be the catalyst for The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 thanks in part to an ill-advised video game adaptation of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial;
    • Bell would be broken up as a monopoly;
    • Cuisinart would go bankrupt in 1989 and be acquired by Conair Corporation;
    • Pan American Airlines was already undergoing problems since the Oil Embargo of '73. Then the Tragedy of Flight 103 happened, and everything went to hell in three years, the final straw being the price hikes caused by the Persian Gulf War;
    • Coca-Cola would go on to create the infamous New Coke, which, though it wasn't enough to bring down the company (which is still going strong today), helped its chief rival Pepsi take the lead in the Cola Wars.
    • As an eerie coincidence, Rutger Hauer, who played Roy Batty, would die in 2019, the same year the movie is set in.
  • The China Syndrome was released on the 28th March 1979. This disaster movie opens with the duty engineers at a nuclear power plant realising the coolant system has failed. On exactly the same day, a nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania realised its coolant systems had catastrophically failed. The movie never got over its association with real-life nuclear near-disaster.
  • Possibly the worst luck in film in history had The Omen (1976):
    • During filming, scriptwriter David Seltzer's plane was hit by lightning, as was star Gregory Peck's, as was executive producer Mace Neufelds'.
    • A hotel Neufeld was staying at during production was bombed by the IRA, as was a restaurant the director and actors were scheduled to eat at. Luckily, no one died.
    • One of the film's tiger handlers died. Gregory Peck's oldest son Jonathan shot himself. A plane scheduled for use in the film, which was rescheduled and used for a commercial flight instead, crashed and killed everyone on board.
    • An assistant to special effects consultant John Richardson on the other hand, wasn't quite as lucky. On Friday the 13th of August 1976, Richardson crashed his car in Holland. His assistant was sliced through by the car's front wheel. Scrambling out of the wreckage, Richardson looked up and saw a road sign: Ommen, 66.6km.
  • The Conqueror. Years after the making of this film, members of the cast and crew, most notably the superbly mis-cast John Wayne, were diagnosed with cancers and leukemia. Until somebody pointed it out, the common link to the film was never realized. It turned out to have been shot in the deserts of southern Utah, not far away (and more importantly, downwind) from a nuclear test site in Nevada. Even worse, they trucked the hot (radioactive) dirt from the desert back to Hollywood to finish off the sets they were building for verisimilitude. The cluster of cancers was due to having lived and worked on the film set, where the fall-out was densest... this is unique, as the cause of the "curse" - thirty years on - was so unmistakably clear, with ample evidence to back it.
  • Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was so plagued with problems that production was shut down permanently after six days of filming. The documentary about the "unmaking-of" the film, Lost in La Mancha, is a little heartbreaking. The film was resumed and completed only in 2018, over thirty years after it was first mooted.
    • To be honest, a lot of the production trouble was self-inflicted by Gilliam, who chose to make the movie without American money (asking big studios usually means Executive Meddling) and employ several smaller European producers despite the story's necessary big budget (which led to financial disputes with each of them); shoot in the more picturesque Bárdenas Reales rather than in La Mancha (discovering too late that there is a reason why the Bárdenas Reales are not developed for human habitation after all); and cast very old actors to play the physical Don Quixote role, even though he isn't actually that old in the source material. The final ironic nail was the making-of (or "unmaking-of", as they called it): Gilliam began doing making-ofs of his films after the production of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen almost collapsed, in order to have something to show of his work if a production collapsed for real. When this happened to The Man who killed Don Quixote and Lost in La Mancha was released in its place, The Man who killed Don Quixote gained popularity as a cursed film, scaring potential investors and stars from plans to resume the project.
    • The role of Don Quixote went through Jean Rochefort (born 1930), who injured his back in a riding scene; Robert Duvall (born 1931); Michael Palin (born 1943), who dropped out during a new round of financial trouble; and John Hurt (born 1940), who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer right before filming. In the end, the role fell ironically to Jonathan Pryce (born 1947), who had been part of the production since the beginning but was cast originally in a small role. Johnny Depp held on the main character role for a long time, but was eventually forced to drop out due to his commitment to Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lone Ranger.
    • Nearly all of Gilliam's films after Man of La Mancha run into trouble, causing Gilliam to say that he had been cursed by his failure to bring The Man who killed Don Quixote to the screen. The Defective Detective starring Nicolas Cage also collapsed; the adaptation of Good Omens was abandoned after studios deemed it too dark to film in the aftermath of 9/11; his choice cinematographer was fired from The Brothers Grimm by the Weinstein brothers; and lead Heath Ledger died during the filming of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
  • The movie of A Confederacy of Dunces has been in Development Hell for years, initially since every fat comedian announced to be playing the lead died (John Belushi, John Candy, Chris Farley), and then when Will Ferrell and a supporting cast was announced, the head of the Louisiana State Film Commission was murdered. Then Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. And that seems to be the end of the attempts to make the film for now.
  • Brandon Lee's fatal freak accident on the set of The Crow was only one of several events that led to a widespread belief that the film was cursed. When the filmmakers first showed up, it was to find that someone had left a voicemail stating that bad things would happen if they made the movie—and on the first day of the shoot, an electrician had to have both his ears amputated after an electrocution left him with second- and third-degree burns. It only got more bizarre from there: a hurricane destroyed several sets, one of the equipment trucks burst into flames—and prior to Lee's death, he'd cut his hand on a piece of breakaway glass (which, for those not in the know, isn't supposed to be sharp at all). Things got so bad that one of the studio's neighboring productions started taking bets on the next mishap to take place—until some of their sets got destroyed by a fire!
  • Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers actually got its title because of this. Producer Moustapha Akkad asked screenwriter Daniel Farrands for a title idea. Because of problems with the weather during shooting (unseasonably early snow) and constant on-set re-writes that totally derailed the story, Farrands jokingly suggested "The Curse of Michael Myers" to suggest the production was cursed. Akkad ran with it. And this was BEFORE star Donald Pleasence died and extensive reshoots had to be done without him or the actor who had been playing Michael.
  • The Exorcist had a Troubled Production many felt the Devil himself must have inflicted (though Prima Donna Director William Friedkin helped), and the cast and crew suffered afterwards:
    • Ellen Burstyn suffered a lifelong, crippling, spinal injury when a special effects stunt went inexplicably wrong - the wire she was on to simulate her possessed daughter throwing her across a room pulled with ten times the expected force, badly injuring her back.
    • The child star Linda Blair later on developed mental illness that some excited people thought was demonic possession.
    • This film employed a Roman Catholic priest to act as on-set chaplain and counsellor, not to act as a technical adviser but to allay some very real fears among cast and crew, generated by the subject matter and what was acknowledged to be a genuinely creepy atmosphere. After one set (of the possessed girl's bedroom) caught fire and after the injury to Ms. Burstyn, the Rev. Thomas Bermingham S.J. obligingly performed blessings in each new set in a way stopping short of actual exorcism note .
    • Jason Miller, who played exorcist Father Karras, lived in a Jesuit seminary for a while to totally immerse himself in the manners and mindset of a Catholic priest. A senior Jesuit who felt the film's subject matter was just asking for trouble gifted Miller a protective amulet of the Virgin Mary and explicitly warned him that there would be trouble ahead. A day or two later, Miller's eldest son was critically injured in a road accident.
    • Ellen Burstyn herself is a convinced believer that this film was cursed. She lists nine people close to the production who she feels died in suspicious circumstances. Some can probably be discounted, like the ninety-year-old mother of a supporting actress with a very small part who died some years later. Others, like the carpenter who died in an on-stage accident building the set, or another carpenter who lost all the fingers on one hand in a freak accident with a power saw, seem more plausible "curse victims".
    • Editing and post-production on the film was done in a studio whose address was... 666 Fifth Avenue, New York. Given the pre-publicity of the film that was already circulating, this cannot have been accidental.
    • Eduardo Garza, the voice director for the third Mexican Spanish dub of The Exorcist, remembers that strange things happened to him during the production. He had two popped tires. The door to his home was banging by itself. He found himself locked in a cabin. There were strange noises in the dub's audio that he couldn't remove. His lights went out, and his VCR turned on by itself.
    • Even the sequels got a share of it, complete with a prequel that had to be shot twice.
  • For years, Hollywood has tried to produce a biopic of Fatty Arbuckle. Unfortunately, the attached stars were (again) Chris Farley, John Belushi, and John Candy, all of whom ended up dying younger than Arbuckle did.
  • Poltergeist. This movie is popularly thought to have attracted a curse. It has been pointed out that real corpses were used as props in some scenes (although curse skeptics have also pointed out that it's far from the first film to do so).
    • Dominique Dunne, who played Dana in the first movie, died in November 1982 at age 22, after being strangled by her abusive former boyfriend John Thomas Sweeney.
    • Julian Beck, 60, who played Henry Kane in Poltergeist II: The Other Side, died on September 14, 1985, of stomach cancer (diagnosed before he had accepted the role).
    • Will Sampson, 53, who played Taylor the medicine man in Poltergeist II, died as a result of post-operative kidney failure and pre-operative malnutrition problems in June 1987.
    • Heather O'Rourke, who played Carol Anne in all three movies, died in February 1988 at the age of 12 after a hospital misdiagnosis led her to be treated for the wrong ailment.
    • Actress Jo-Beth Williams claimed that during the filming, a poltergeist was active in her own home: she would return home from set to discover things askew and out of place from the way they had been when she left earlier.
  • Rosemary's Baby (1968)
    • Roman Polański's career and personal life nosedived after making this creepy movie about the conception of Satan's child. He only escaped the massacre of his wife, the film's star Sharon Tate and five others, by being in London at the time. (The perpetrators of the crime, the Manson Family, were alleged to be Satanists themselves)
    • The film's composer died of a brain clot one year after making the film, the same way a character in the film dies.
    • Producer William Castle nearly died of kidney failure shortly after the film was completed; he was heard reciting lines from the movie while in a near-death coma, such as
      For God's sake, Rosemary, drop that knife!
  • The Return of the Musketeers (1988): British character actor Roy Kinnear was fatally injured on set when a formerly placid horse he was riding, one thought suitable for the actor, became uncontrollably wild and galloped away, eventually bucking him off into a wall. He died a day later from complications to a broken pelvis. Kinnear's family successfully sued the filmmakers for negligence. Director Richard Lester was so shaken by the incident (he had worked many times with Kinnear and considered him a friend) that he retired prematurely from the film business, despite a series of successes.
  • The Wizard of Oz
    • Buddy Ebsen, the first actor cast as the Tin Man, was hospitalised after inhaling the aluminum powder that was used for his make-up, forcing the role to be recast (with safer metallic greasepaint).
    • Both Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West, and her stunt double Betty Danko, were seriously injured in separate accidents involving the pyrotechnics used for the Witch's appearances and disappearances.
    • Four months after the movie was released Frank Morgan, who played the Wizard, was involved in a serious car accident. His chauffeur/house servant was killed in the December 1939 smash in New Mexico and Frank’s wife Alma was injured. Frank and his son George escaped unharmed.
    • Like Linda Blair, Judy Garland's post-child star life was plagued with depression, mental illness, and other calamities. Some have said the Curse even encompassed her daughter, Liza Minnelli.
  • Virtually all adaptations of author Roald Dahl's works have done poorly at the box office. Ironically, his adaptation of Ian Fleming's You Only Live Twice is still one of the 5 highest-grossing Bond films of all time, adjusting for inflation.
  • Hammer films, given their subject matter, have been surprisingly free of manifestations of this trope—with one exception. Their adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel The Jewel of the Seven Stars, subtly retitled Blood From The Mummy's Tomb, became known as "Hammer's cursed production". Three days into filming, star Peter Cushing had to drop out when his wife died of emphysema. A month later, director Seth Holt dropped dead of a heart attack—some accounts go so far as to claim he died on set. One scene in the film involved filming the aftermath of a motorcycle accident and the retrieval of a corpse from the scene. A member of the production crew died in a motorcycle accident just as filming got to this point.
  • The notorious 1940 anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda film Jew Suss, commissioned by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels as a "curtain opener" for the Holocaust, has caused more than its share of misery—not least for enabling, if not contributing, to one of the most horrific genocides in history:
    • Several members of the cast and crew ended up as defendants for crimes against humanity by the Allies after the war. Though most of them were acquitted, they were forbidden to work in the film industry for several years.
    • Veit Harlan and his wife Kristina Söderbaum were banned from making films for a period of 10 years by the Allies, but the ban was lifted a few years later. They were often shamed and heckled by the public and never lived down their involvement in this film, even though both swore that they were forced to participate in its creation; a claim that is often contested by historians. Veit Harlan's relatives, meanwhile, would go to great lengths to distance themselves from his work: his niece would marry the Jewish film director Stanley Kubrick, while his daughter from a previous marriage eventually converted to Judaism herself, and even married the son of two Holocaust victims before taking her own life in 1989, at the age of 57.
    • One of the film's stars, Heinrich George, was denounced as a Nazi collaborator for his participation in propaganda movies and arrested by the Soviet NKVD right after the war ended. He was incarcerated at the repurposed camp of Sachsenhausen, where he died of starvation in 1946.
    • Ferdinand Marian, who portrayed the titular antagonist, was so haunted by his role in the film that his fatal car crash in 1946 was thought by many to be suicide. His wife would drown herself in a lake three years later.
  • Titanic, the 1943 anti-British Nazi Germany propaganda film about the sinking of the RMS Titanic seems to have been haunted by bad luck from the start.
    • Herbert Selpin, the film's director, was turned in to the Gestapo for speaking out against the German war effort. He was promptly arrested and found hanged by his own suspenders in his cell the next day, officially ruled a "suicide."
    • Walter Zerlett-Olfenius, the film's screenwriter and one of Selpin's closest friends, was the one who reported Selpin's fatal outburst. After the news of the "suicide" spread, he became Persona Non Grata on the set of Titanic and a pariah within the German film industry in general. While Goebbels' support still kept Zerlett-Olfenius employed until the end of the war, he was arrested as a Nazi collaborator as soon as the Allies took over, and charged for his role in Selpin's death. In 1947, after a prolonged trial, Zerlett-Olfenius was sentenced to five years in a heavy labor camp—and when he was released, he discovered most of his assets had been seized, he'd been permanently blacklisted from ever working in the industry again, and none of his former friends would speak on his behalf with the new film commission due to the lingering memory of Selpin dead in his cell. Zerlett-Olfenius died in 1976, ostracized and unemployed.
    • Sybille Schmitz, the lead actress, found herself virtually blacklisted after the war and fell into periods of alcoholism, depression, suicide attempts, and drug abuse. She was eventually found unresponsive in her bed at the age of 45 after taking a lethal cocktail of morphine and eukodol (a crude precursor to modern-day narcotic oxycodone). It remains unknown whether it was suicide or murder by her doctor, and alleged lesbian lover. This sordid affair was later dramatized in a No Celebrities Were Harmed way by Rainer Werner Fassbinder in his penultimate film Veronika Voss.
    • Another one of the film's leads, Kirsten Heiberg, a popular actress and singer of the time period, fled Germany to her native Norway right before the Nazis surrendered to the Allies in order to avoid reprisals. Unlike Sybille Schmitz, Heiberg openly endorsed the Third Reich and flaunted her association with high-ranking Nazi officials, such as Joseph Goebbels. Upon her return to Oslo, she faced backlash and derision from her artistic colleagues and was essentially boycotted. Kristin Heiberg moved back to Germany once the dust settled and attempted a Career Resurrection, but after a few sporadic acting roles, she bitterly realized her stardom went down with the Titanic (and the Third Reich with it).
    • SS Cap Arcona, the ship used as a stand-in for the doomed Titanic, ended up sharing the same fate. On May 3, 1945, only four days before Germany surrendered to the Allies, the ship was bombed and sunk by the Royal Air Force. The British were mistakenly led to believe that the liner was transporting troops, when in fact it was a prison ship filled with over five to six thousand concentration camp inmates. Only 400 people survived and bones of the victims kept washing up on the shore near the wreck for decades afterwards.
    • One day after the tragic sinking of the Cap Arcona, Karl Dannemann, who played the heroic wireless operator Jack Phillips, shot himself in the head in order to avoid capture by the Red Army, who had stormed Berlin two days prior.
    • The film was ultimately never released in Germany upon its completion. By 1943 the war had turned against them, and the Berlin theatre that was to host the premiere was bombed the night before the event. Joseph Goebbels ended up banning the film altogether when he realized that a film portraying the impending mass death of a terrified crowd would hit too close to home for German civilians, who were at that point being terrorized nightly by British bombing. The film was later confiscated by the victorious Allies and plundered mercilessly for stock footage by American and British film studios, including another famous film about the sinking of the Titanic, 1958's A Night to Remember).
  • Every film version of the Fantastic Four has been either a critical or commercial failure.
  • All three stars of Rebel Without a Cause died sudden and untimely deaths. James Dean died at the age of 24, a month before the movie was released, when his Porsche accidentally hit another car. Sal Mineo was murdered in a mugging in 1976 at the age of 37, and Natalie Wood drowned in 1981 at the age of 43, under circumstances that have never been fully determined.
  • Of all movies, Judy Moody & the Not Bummer Summer has had two actors that passed very young: Jackson Odell (Zeke) died in 2018 at the age of 20 from a drug overdose, and Cameron Boyce (Hunter) died a year later, also at the age of 20, from complications due to epilepsy.
  • Adaptations of Doctor Dolittle have had their share of problems:
  • The Our Gang series is often reputed to be cursed due to a supposedly high number of cast members having met untimely deaths. This was debunked by Snopes, who point out that such claims of an "Our Gang curse" deliberately single out the actors who died young while leaving out those who lived past 65; their own analysis of the deaths of Our Gang regulars reveals that the majority of them reached the life expectancy for people born in their era.
  • The 1966 Religious Horror film Incubus — perhaps most known for starring a pre-Star Trek William Shatner and being filmed in Esperanto — is built up with the mystique of having a curse, partly due to it being considered lost for several decades (until copies were discovered in 1996). The titular incubus was played by Yugoslavian actor Milos Milos, who murdered his girlfriend before turning the gun on himself in the year of the premiere. A few weeks after filming wrapped up, actress Ann Atmar also died of suicide, and a few years after the release, Eloise Hardt — daughter of one of the actresses — was kidnapped and murdered. Director Leslie Stevens' production company also went belly-up not too long after release, with his marriage to one of the actresses who played a succubus in the film ended in divorce.
  • Three of the four main actors of the original Funny Games are already dead. Actor Ulrich Mühe died in 2007 at the age of 54 and his wife Susanne Lothar in 2012 at the age of 51. Frank Giering, the actor for Peter, died in 2010 at the age of 38.
  • You wouldn't think a film as effervescent (if somewhat controversial by today's standards) as Grease would've attracted a curse, but supposedly there's a curse for that, too. Maybe some metal salvaged from James Dean's supposedly cursed Porsche was used in the Greased Lightning car (see the note on Jeff Conaway below).
    • John Travolta (Danny) was on top of the world in terms of acting (and had even released some songs) at the time of the movie's release in the summer of 1978, but his very next film, Moment By Moment was a critical and commercial bomb that wasn't released on any form of home video until 2021. Ever since then, his formerly charmed career would go on a roller coaster trajectory (The '80s were marked by flops for him and his career wouldn't recover until 1994's Pulp Fiction), and his involvement with Scientology and continuing rumors of promiscuous homosexuality would make him a popular punching bag for the tabloids, comedians, and comedy writers. On a much more tragic note, his son Jett would die from an epileptic seizure in 2009, followed by his wife Kelly Preston dying from breast cancer in 2020.
    • Olivia Newton-John (Sandy)'s next movie, 1980's Xanadu would also become a dud, along with her cinematic reunion with John Travolta in 1983's Two of a Kind. An attempt to start an Australian-themed boutique called Koala Blue would also fail, as well as her first marriage to dancer Matt Lattanzi. A boyfriend would literally go missing while on a fishing trip in 2005 (rumors that he absconded to Mexico remain unconfirmed). Her daughter Chloe would be troubled by alcoholism and bulimia. And in 1992 she was diagnosed with breast cancer (on the same day that her dad died of cancer) that would eventually metastasize and kill her at age 73 in 2022.
    • Jeff Conaway (Kenickie) actually injured his back filming the "Greased Lightning" scene. This led to an addiction to painkillers, which led to general substance abuse which would contribute to his 2011 death from pneumonia (which wasn't diagnosed properly).
  • The Whole Nine Yards:
    • In 2022, Bruce Willis was forced to retire from acting after being diagnosed with aphasia, which was later amended to frontotemporal dementia.
    • Matthew Perry spent much of his life struggling with substance abuse, getting hospitalized for suffering a burst colon in 2019, before dying from having drowned in his hot tub in 2023 at age 54.
    • In 2012, Michael Clarke Duncan would suffer a heart attack and succumb to complications of it 2 months later, also at age 54.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Addams Family: Almost all the lead actors have died relatively young: Ted Cassidy (Lurch) at 46 from surgical complications, Carolyn Jones (Morticia) at 53 from cancer, Ken Weatherwax (Pugsley) at 59 from a heart attack, and Lisa Loring (Wednesday) at 64 from a stroke. As of 2023, John Astin (Gomez) is the only surviving lead cast member.
  • Bewitched: All three lead actors went on to die in their early 60s, two out of three of them of cancer (they were all heavy smokers). First came the two Darrin actors, Dick York in 1992 from emphysema,note  aged only 63; his replacement Dick Sargent in 1994 from prostate cancer, aged 64; and then Samantha actress Elizabeth Montgomery in 1995 from colon cancer, aged 62.
  • Although it's a relatively low-key case, Babylon 5 fans have been saddened and spooked by the disproportionate number of the regular cast who have died at a relatively early age:
    • Richard Biggs (Dr. Stephen Franklin) died of a ruptured aorta in 2004 aged only 44.
    • Tim Choate (Zathras) died in a motorcycle accident later in 2004 aged 49.
    • Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar) died of lung cancer in 2006 aged 59.
    • Jeff Conaway (Zack Allan) died from drug-abuse-related illnesses in 2011 aged 60.
    • Michael O'Hare (Jeffrey Sinclair) died from a heart attack in 2012 aged 60. It was subsequently revealed, by pre-arrangement with him about what would happen on his death, that he had developed schizophrenia during the making of his season of the show, and struggled with it for the rest of his life.
    • Jerry Doyle (Michael Garibaldi) died from an alcoholism-related heart attack in 2016 aged 60.
    • Stephen Furst (Vir Kotto) died from diabetes complications in 2017 aged 63.
    • Mira Furlan (Delenn) died in 2021 aged 65 from West Nile virus disease.
    • Showrunner J. Michael Straczynski claimed that Babylon 5 suffered from terrible "synchronicities." He'd write a line like "I'll have you know I have a sublime relationship with my right foot," and the actor would break an ankle. Or the line "Just one thing we need: power," would cause a power outage at the studio. The worst was a scene where Dr. Franklin muses about people who die unexpectedly due to unknown heart ailments, which happened to the actor a few years later.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Revenge of the Cybermen" suffered from a long string of bad luck attributed by the director to witchcraft. When scouting the ancient cave system of Wookey Hole — a place associated by the locals with bad luck and supposedly the grave of an ancient witch — for its suitability for location shoots, the director's wife found some Iron Age arrowheads and decided to take them home, unwittingly calling an ancient curse on the production team. First, the team encountered a strange individual in potholing gear who had apparently wandered onto the set, of whom the staff had no knowledge, which the director began to believe was the ghost of an Irish potholer who had died in the cave three years earlier. The boats used in the cave scenes repeatedly broke down; one production team member had to be replaced due to an attack of claustrophobia, and another was taken seriously ill. On a day when staff disobeyed instructions not to touch the "Witch" formation (said to be the petrified body of the witch), Elisabeth Sladen nearly died — her boat went haywire and she had to dive overboard to keep herself from smashing into the cavern wall, where a stuntman had to pull her out to save her from drowning, and who later fell ill. An electrician broke his leg when a ladder collapsed under him, and the pyrotechnician found nothing would light or work correctly. The director took the arrowheads from his wife and reburied them, after which production ran smoothly. note 
  • In Super Sentai, male Yellow Rangers are the most disproportionally cursed:
    • Baku Hatakeyama (Daita Oiwa/Kirenger I in Himitsu Sentai Gorenger) died of suicide at 34 on July 13, 1978, because of typecasting induced by the show, destroying his career.
    • Jirō Daruma (Daigoro Kumano/Kirenger II in the same series) retired from acting because he too got typecast. Medical issues later in life led to difficulties landing jobs, resulting in serious debt; his wife and son consequently abandoned him in 2012.
    • Asao Kobayashi (Asao Hyou/Vul Panther in Taiyou Sentai Sun Vulcan) was arrested in 2013 for sexually assaulting a high school girl he met on the Internet and taking pictures of the incident with his phone, which constitutes as production of child pornography.
    • Kenji Shibata (Daimon Tatsumi/Go Yellow in Kyūkyū Sentai GoGoV) has an incurable brain tumor, diagnosed not long after the end of production, which heavily impairs his motor skills.
    • Shohei Nanba (Leo/Zyuoh Lion in Dobutsu Sentai Zyuohger) has completely disappeared from the face of the Earth in 2018; his status is such a mystery that no one knows if he has become a voluntary Reclusive Artist or something worse has happened to him. Even his Zyuohger co-stars have lost all contact with him.
  • The Seinfeld curse, in which Jerry Seinfeld's co-stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards failed to find success after the end of the series, as all tried to launch new sitcoms as title-role characters and almost every show was canceled quickly, usually within the first season. However, the Emmy award-winning success of Louis-Dreyfus' The New Adventures of Old Christine and later Veep led many to believe that she had broken the curse, at least for herself.
  • A string of tragedies and scandals that followed the cast and crew of Glee led many to believe that there was a "Glee curse". This was found especially jarring since, at least onscreen, it was found to be one of TV's cheeriest shows.
    • The curse is said to have begun when Cory Monteith, who played Finn Hudson, died on July 13, 2013, of an accidental drug overdose.
    • Becca Tobin's boyfriend died in similar circumstances to Monteith a year after the latter.
    • Perhaps the most horrific of all was the case of Mark Salling, who played Noah "Puck" Puckerman, who was arrested on December 29, 2015, for possession of child pornography, with investigators describing it as "the worst pornography collection the nation has seen," for which he pled guilty. He hanged himself on January 30, 2018, before sentencing. Beforehand, Salling had been also accused of domestic abuse by an ex-girlfriend, with co-star Naya Rivera (who had also dated him) admitting in her biography that she was not surprised by his convictions.
    • Lea Michele, who played prima donna theater brat Rachel Berry, would eventually receive accusations that her character's bad attitude was a pretty good reflection of her real-life personality. Naya Rivera confirmed in her biography that she didn't get along with Michele, to the point where they were not on speaking terms by season six (which Naya speculated was due to Lea being unhappy at Santana's increased prominence in the show), although she also added that the rumors of their feud were blown out of proportion. Samantha Ware (who played Jane Hayward in season six), however, was not nearly so diplomatic and accused Michele of making her life a "living hell" on set. Michele tweeting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in June 2020 was the last straw for Ware (who is black), who called Michele a hypocrite and accused her of subjecting her to routine racist abuse on set, to the point that she claims she almost quit Hollywood because of her experience. Shortly after, several of Michele's co-stars from Glee and other projects she'd worked on all chimed in to support Ware's accusations, with some of them adding their own horror stories of working with Michele and even those defending her from some of the worst charges (including Heather Morris) admitting that she was unpleasant to work with.
    • Naya Rivera herself would end up being counted as one of the victims of the curse when she was declared missing at Lake Piru in Ventura County, California on July 8, 2020, after she rented a boat and swam in the lake with her four-year-old son (who was found on the boat unharmed); her body was discovered a week later on July 13, which also happened to be the seventh anniversary of Monteith's death.
    • In a behind-the-scenes crew example, production assistant Nancy Motes, the sister of Julia Roberts, died of suicide on February 9, 2014, aged 37, via drowning in a bath after taking several pills, leaving behind a scathing suicide note directed towards Roberts.
    • A non-fatal example came with Melissa Benoist and Blake Jenner, whose portrayal of the couple Marley and Ryder led to a real-life relationship and eventual marriage. The relationship was later revealed to be horribly abusive, the worst incident being when Jenner threw a phone at Benoist's face and left her with a damaged eye, which turned out to be why Benoist divorced Jenner in 2017.
  • Several actors from the The Outsiders sequel TV series died very young: Rodney Harvey (Sodapop) at age 30 from a cocaine and heroin overdose, Harold Pruett (Steve Randle) at age 32 from a drug overdose, and Kim Walker (Cherry Valance) at age 32 from a brain tumor.
  • Beginning in 2014 (with the exceptions of 2016 and 2020), at least one person who worked on The Noddy Shop has died every year:
    • 2014 saw two people who worked on the show die: Peter Callandar, who worked on the music video "Special" and Gerard Parkes, who played Wally the Wanderer and died of natural causes in a retirement home.
    • In 2015, Susan Sheridan, who voiced Noddy in the show's British version as a result of playing him in the show that the series was a Framing Device for, passed away after fighting breast cancer.
    • Gregory Cross, who played Ed Caruso, died in November 2017.
    • In April 2018, Harry Anderson, who played Jack Fable, suffered a stroke as a complication of the flu that he was suffering.
    • June 13, 2019 was the day when Sean McCann, who played Noah Tomten, died of complications from heart disease.
    • Two people with ties to the show died in 2021, both on the 31st day of the month. In August, Theresa Plummer-Andrews, the producer of the Noddy's Toyland Adventures segments, died of natural causes, while in December, Betty White, who played Mrs. Claus in the Christmas Special, died in her sleep on New Year's Eve as a result of complications from a stroke she suffered on Christmas, 17 days before her 100th birthday.
    • Gilbert Gottfried, who played Jack Frost, died of complications of muscular dystrophy on April 12, 2022.

  • Weird things reportage magazine Fortean Times loves things like this and reports on new cases as they arise; interested students are directed to the magazine and its extensive archives.
    • The July 2022 issue (FT422) devotes a four page article to this very subject (The Celloloid Curse). It doesn't mention this TV Tropes page, alas.
  • The alleged Sports Illustrated Curse, which says that anyone on the cover will soon have a career setback. Which is sort of true; you usually get on the cover for being a standout sportsman, but nobody is a standout among standouts for long.
  • This is also said of British celebrity magazine Hello, which went through a phase of interviewing celebrity couples and taking lots of photographs of how happy they were in their multi-million-pound country home only to discover that in every case, messy and acrimonious divorce followed shortly afterwards.
  • In 1991 a letter to the Radio Times wondered if it had a similar jinx; several sportspeople had been featured on the cover through the summer, and each one had subsequently underperformed or been injured.

  • What makes Spiderland by Slint so mysterious and alluring, once you get past the album cover, is the story behind the recording - singer Brian McMahan threw his vocals and vomited after recording, the stressfulness of the album caused the band to break up before the album's release; but most infamous of all, two of the band members getting institutionalised. With the album's abstract and dark composition, it makes the album a very different experience.
  • The Medal of Dishonor page notes that even the biggest awards in any field can become this. There are certain awards from the big award shows that some people are a little suspicious of because of a track record that they might be cursed. For example, Best New Artist at the Grammys: The award is notorious for its completely erratic track record. You either go to soaring new heights or completely disappear from the public eye. Almost every Best New Artist winner is asked afterward if they're worried about the curse. More specifically, the 1990 award, which was awarded to Milli Vanilli and was later revoked. They had planned to give the award to one of the other nominees (Neneh Cherry, the Indigo Girls, Soul II Soul, or Tone Lōc), but none of them wanted it.
  • A number of people affiliated with Joy Division have died at an early age:
    • Lead singer Ian Curtis hanged himself in 1980 at 23.
    • Record Producer Martin Hannett died in 1991 at the age of 42 after years of drug abuse.
    • Manager Rob Gretton died in 1999 of a heart attack at 46.
    • Factory Records founder Tony Wilson died of renal cancer in 2007 at 57.
    • Ian Curtis' lover and founder of Factory Benelux, Annik Honoré, died in 2014 of cancer at 56.

  • BBC Radio Scotland in the late 1960s decided to really spice up Hallowe'en broadcasting, by having a simulated Black Mass in the studio to broadcast to the nation.note  This was despite objections from the Church. The play's producer went home that night, trying to shake off a conviction that something bad would happen. He found his house empty save for a scribbled note from his wife to say she'd had to rush their daughter to A&E. Finding them at the hospital, he discovered earlier that evening a feral rat had got into the house and badly bitten the child's face, leaving a permanent scar. Next day he recounted this to a Church of Scotland minister who was broadcasting a God-slot. The priest listened, then said: "Well, what can ye expect? You called on the Wee Man and he answered you knocking on his door. Only he didnae come to the studio. He made it a wee bit more personal than that, aye."

  • The "Stadium Curse", in which companies who purchase the naming rights to stadiums seemingly have an elevated likelihood of declining or going bust. This was first popularly observed around the turn of the century, after years of naming rights being purchased by dodgy dot-com boom companies that had all vanished before long. Other observed examples include the Tennessee Titans playing in Adelphia Coliseum from 1999 to 2002, Enron Field becoming the Houston Astros' stadium in 2000, a year before their massive high-profile collapse, and the Miami Heat swapping from American Airlines to FTX in 2021, once again a year before its own collapse.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Various editions of Wraith: The Oblivion mention this in their afterwords over things like schedules, art issues, missed deadlines, and contract disputes. And it was "confirmed" when Wraith was the first of the original The World of Darkness lines to be canceled due to low sales. Even the 20th Anniversary Edition Kickstarter blog has a post about it, which is amusing since Wraith 20 itself suffered multiple delays in production.

  • The mystique that has developed concerning Shakespeare's Macbeth. Macbeth universally is thought of as this trope embodied. For that reason it's usually referred to as The Scottish Play by superstitious actors. (As mentioned on that page, there are rational reasons why accidents might happen during productions: the play has a lot of on-stage violence and fight scenes, many of which take place at night in-universe and hence may have low lighting, but it also requires a relatively small minimum number of actors, which means that it can be put on by cash-strapped companies who might be tempted to skimp on safety precautions.)
  • The modern production of a Kabuki play based on the legend of Okiku (the ghost story that inspired Ringu), reportedly suffered from numerous accidents, including the death of actors' relatives and even an onstage fire.
  • Spoofed by the U.K. press in 1986 as they joked about "the curse of the Phantom" during previews for The Phantom of the Opera, owing to reports of the extensive special effects (which were largely radio or computer-controlled) frequently malfunctioning. Luckily things were pulled together by opening night and the show became a massive hit.

    Theme Parks 
  • At Universal Studios Florida there's the "KidZone curse". The area was a set featuring the Bates Motel and house used for the filming of Psycho IV: The Beginning, which was slowly transformed into KidZone over the course of the '90s, with the Bates house eventually being demolished in 1998. Ever since, it has been noted that every attempt to add new attractions to the land or change it into something else has faltered over the span of 20 years, with fans jokingly claiming that the removal of the Psycho sets have something to do with it.
    • The first proposal from around 2012 was to turn the land into one themed after Ice Age, which was conceptualised but either never pitched or was rejected by 20th Century Fox.
    • Next up was the introduction of a ride based on The Smurfs, specifically the Sony-produced CGI films. This would've replaced the classic opening-day attraction E.T. Adventure, and it is believed that backlash to the idea on guest surveys, as well as the underperformance of The Smurfs 2, killed the idea.
    • Next, Super Nintendo World was due to take over the space. Universal was even developing this idea before they acquired the Nintendo theme park rights. Demolition permits were filed and work barriers were set up, before unceremoniously being removed again with nothing changed. At the same time, Universal had finally completed the legal process to build a new theme park south of their current Orlando complex, so Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Florida was cancelled so it could be built at Epic Universe instead.
    • To compensate for this delay, the new plan was to transform KidZone into a Pokémon land, featuring a Pokémon Snap attraction. This was put on indefinite hold because Universal decided that they wanted to open Super Nintendo World first and evaluate its performance before committing to a new Nintendo area. Due to the 2020 pandemic, that opening date would be a lot later than Universal anticipated when making that decision.
    • The current situation is that something finally changed in 2021 when A Day in the Park with Barney was closed and replaced with DreamWorks Destination, a DreamWorks Animation stage show, while the Shrek meet and greet area also moved here in 2022 after the closure of Shrek 4D. KidZone as a whole was finally announced to be permanently closing for a currently unannounced replacement land in 2023, bringing the curse to an end.

    Video Games 
  • There's a long-standing legend about the Madden Curse where, ever since EA stopped using John Madden's likeness on the cover of their NFL sports game, the Pro NFL player featured on the cover of each new Madden game will either a) be part of a team won't be up to snuff in the next season or b) will suffer a Career-Ending Injury or at least be sidelined for the rest of the year. It's gotten so bad that it's alleged to be spreading to other EA Sports games.
  • According to Yoko Shimomura, the chorus portion of the track "Destati" from Kingdom Hearts's soundtrack is believed to be cursed because every time the developers loaded it into the game, something bad would happen. An example of this was the entire building suffering a power outage.
  • Street Fighter X Tekken reportedly picked up the nickname of "Street Fighter Cursed Tekken" around the office, due to the massive amount of production woes it picked up, including massively overblown sales forecasts, the game being cracked almost immediately (which resulted in the discovery that a massive number of characters were deliberately Dummied Out so they could be sold as Downloadable Content later), the cancellation of a large number of Mega Man games, a sexual harassment controversy, and showing up right when Bribing Your Way to Victory was hitting its greatest level of backlash. The general joke went that the game was greenlit on an Indian Burial Ground. The curse also seemingly hit the whole fighting game division of Capcom, which wouldn't see an unqualified success again until Street Fighter 6 eleven years later.

    Web Animation 
  • ENA: Not one, but two voices behind ENA's happy side were hit with role-ending accusations of sexual abuse: GaoGaiKingTheGreatVA only lasted the first episode before being dropped in August 2020 after allegations of grooming a minor, and replacement Gabriel Valez was accused of rape three years later, which ended his stint in the role.

In-Universe examples:

Establishing a difference between events in Real Life and fictionalised variants.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Cock And Bull Story, in which Steve Coogan, playing himself, faces all sorts of problems while trying to make a film of Tristram Shandy - itself a book about the problems the author encounters trying to write the book.
  • Inland Empire has, among its other myriad plots, a theme of the remake of an atmospheric European thriller that is taking place on an unhappy set, beset with calamities and inexplicable accidents.

  • In Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's Illuminatus! trilogy, author James Joyce is inflicted with blindness by the evil Illuminati, because he just will not quit writing books that reveal crucial occult secrets that the secret society do not want to see out in the open, in any form. It is also hinted that Ludwig van Beethoven was given the deafness treatment for encoding Freemasonic secrets in his Fifth Symphony. The curse, in both cases, attends the work of art they created. Of course, we only have Hagbard Celine's word for this...
  • The King in Yellow revolved around an eponymous, cursed play, the mere reading of which causes madness and worse. According to H. P. Lovecraft's friend and fellow writer August Derleth, actual live performance of The King in Yellow is even less advisable, as it's a summoning ritual for an Eldritch Abomination.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Royal Pains once had Hank serving as a doctor on an amateur movie shoot. The cast and crew are siblings who are shooting one of their father's scripts as a surprise, but one actress claims that the script was never shot because it was believed to be cursed. During the amateur shoot, the lead's stunt double repeatedly passes out at inopportune moments (usually in the middle of stunts). It later turns out the stunt double is passing out because of a head injury she sustained which is exacerbated by the contact lenses she has to wear.
  • In the final season of Oz, every person cast as the lead in the prison's production of Macbeth dies.
  • A TV series screened in 2020, Cursed Films, is a five-part documentary exploring this very concept and going into depth concerning the idea of a Production Curse in film, theatre, radio, and TV, and has gathered enough source material to fill five forty-five minute episodes.