Maybe it’s due to their risk-taking personalities, or the pervasiveness of cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs in their line of work. Maybe it’s an old Hollywood curse or simple coincidence. Whatever the reason, it seems as though every year, actors and actresses die years before their time. It’s not a new phenomenon; just ask the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Short. In fact, a 2013 Australian study concluded that actors, singers, and other celebrities have a higher likelihood of dying young than many other professions. Here’s a look at some of the more recent (within the last few decades) stars taken too soon.
1. River Phoenix
Photo: Alan Light
On Halloween night in 1993, the gifted Stand by Me actor (only 23 at the time) stumbled into The Viper Room, a Hollywood nightclub owned by fellow actor and good friend Johnny Depp. According to his friends, Phoenix had been on a cocaine and heroin binge for the last few days, and didn’t look like he should still be partying. A few moments later, River began seizing. An ambulance was called, but Phoenix was pronounced dead moments later at Cedar-Sinai hospital from heart-failure caused by a drug overdose.
2. Brandon Lee
River Phoenix wasn’t the only young life lost in 1993. In March of that same year, during the filming of the movie The Crow, Brandon Lee, son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee and a promising young actor, was fatally shot when a prop gun misfired and sent the equivalent of a live round through his stomach. For those that believe in the Lee family curse, it was just one of many tragic events surrounding the clan.
3. Brittany Murphy
If you’re the conspiracy theory type, Brittany Murphy’s unexpected 2010 death holds enough tantalizing bits to get your gears turning. Passing away from pneumonia-related causes (officially) the investigation into the 8 Mile star’s death was neatly concluded within an hour – something pretty much unheard of in Los Angeles. Add to that the fact that she was under surveillance from the Department of Homeland Security, and it’s no wonder there’s a lot of speculation regarding foul play in the death of Murphy and her husband, who died in the same house under eerily similar circumstances.
4. Heath Ledger
When heartthrob Aussie Heath Ledger first came to public attention in the late 90s, it would have been easy to dismiss him as just another pretty face in Hollywood. Fast forward to his amazing acting prowess in such films as Brokeback Mountain and Dark Knight, however, and nobody was questioning his acting prowess. In January of 2008, the star (who suffered from notoriously bad insomnia and had been known to resort to drastic measures to get some sleep) was found dead in his New York apartment by his housekeeper. The cause of death was found to be an accidental overdose from a toxic combination of prescription and over the counter medication.
5. Heather O’Rourke
Photo: Bogdan Migulski
It’s impossible to talk about Hollywood movies plagued with bad luck without bringing up the Poltergeist curse. The most famous of those afflicted by the alleged curse had to be 12 year old Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Anne in the movie and its sequels. In February, 1988, the young actress died suddenly of cardiac arrest and septic shock caused by a misdiagnosed intestinal issue.
6. Corey Haim
Accidental overdoses seem to be a recurring theme when it comes to Hollywood deaths, and in 2010 Lost Boys star Corey Haim joined their ranks. Following a call to 911 and being rushed to a Burbank, CA hospital, Haim was pronounced dead. Valium, Vicodin, Soma and other drugs were found in his system at the time.
7. Paul Walker
Southern California native Paul Walker spent his entire life involved in adrenaline-pumping sports like surfing, soccer, and car racing. In the end, it was his love of speed that took the Fast and Furious star so soon, when he and a friend crashed his Porsche on their way to a charity event in Valencia, CA.
Whatever the cause or the case, many people, including popular celebrities, often die before their time. We can’t avoid death, but we can be a bit more careful. Leading a healthy lifestyle is the key to a longer life. Luckily, many famous people are aware of it. Do you think these celebs died before their time?