Death is tragic, but when we witness the demise of a famous person, it leaves an everlasting mark on the lives of every ordinary individual who had the pleasure to watch them while their career flourished.
Many stars left behind everything from promising debuts to their career-defining and record-shattering performances, that changed the landscape of Hollywood.
We are left to wonder how far a celebrity’s career may have gone if they had lived on and not passed away during the peak of their career.
Let us have a look at the celebrities who passed away at the height of their fame.
Brandon Bruce Lee was born on February 1, 1965, in Oakland, California to a martial arts expert and film legend Bruce Lee and Linda Lee Cadwell.
The actor, made his film debut in the movie Legacy of Rage (1986), in Hong Kong but his big break was in 1992 when he landed the lead part in the film adaptation of Alex Proyas’ The Crow.
The Crow had a massive comic-book following and ultimately grossed $50 million, above its $23 million budget.
Toward the end of production of The Crow in 1993, during his death scene for the film, Lee was struck by a bullet that was in the prop gun. The gun was supposed to be a blank, but it turned out it wasn’t, and when Lee was shot in the abdomen, the bullet pierced through his spine.
The actor was rushed to the nearby hospital but couldn’t succumb to the injuries and later died in the hospital on March 31, 1993.
Paul William Walker IV was born to Paul William Walker III and Cheryl Crabtree on September 12th, 1973 in California and he was the oldest of his five siblings.
Paul Walker got his breakthrough role with Universal’s ‘The Fast and the Furious’ as a former cop Brian O’Conner, alongside Vin Diesel in 2001, which garnered him international recognition, as well as box office success.
Walker was not all about business and the good life, as he was greatly known for his humanitarian work.
On November 30, 2013, Paul Walker died in a car accident, in Santa Clarita, California as he was leaving a charity event to benefit the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Walker’s friend Roger Rodas was driving his car, a Porsche Carrera GT when the car hit the concrete lamp post and the vehicle burst into flames.
Walker who was 40, died instantly leaving behind his only daughter, Meadow Walker who was just 15 at the time.
Since the actor was in the middle of filming the seventh instalment of the Fast movie franchise, the film producers had to bring Walker back to life in a way and did so with the implementation of CGI.
Judith Eva Barsi was born on June 6, 1978, in Los Angeles, California and as a child of Hungarian immigrants, her parents had fled from the hardships of the Soviet Union.
Judith’s first break came at the age of six in NBC’s miniseries Fatal Vision; she also appeared in several TV commercials during that time.
She quickly became the top-earning child star in Hollywood by landing roles in TV and films and starring in movies like Jaws: The Revenge, The Land Before Time, All Dogs Go to Heaven (released posthumously).
Sadly, Judith’s father was an abusive alcoholic who used to beat both his wife and daughter. According to sources, he was known to be jealous of Judith’s success and threatened to kill her on numerous occasions.
On July 25, 1988, József shot both Barsi and Maria and then, after burning their corpses, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
Such a sad story for a little girl.
Brittany Murphy (Brittany Anne Bertolotti) was born in Atlanta, in 1977, and she quickly became a household name in Hollywood after her performance in the film Clueless (1995), which helped her in grabbing long term jobs.
In 1997 she was cast as a voice actor to play Luanne Platter in the long-running animated TV show ‘King of the Hill’ and was also a part of the critically acclaimed films like Girl, Interrupted alongside with Angelina Jolie (1999), 8 Mile (2002) and Sin City (2005).
Murphy sadly passed away on December 2009, at the peak of her fame at just 32 years old, due to mysterious causes, as the cause of death was ruled to pneumonia and severe anaemia.
Her husband was soon to follow her ill-fate, as he was also dealing with health problems of his own, before passing away five months later.
Mystery revolved around her death as many believed that she was poisoned or that she committed suicide.
I guess it’s one of those mysteries that will never be solved.
Heath Ledger was an Australian actor, born in April 1979, who had his first Hollywood break in the film ‘10 Things I Hate About You. ’(1999).
Heath Ledger perhaps played the role of the century when he performed as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008). Maybe the biggest indicator that an actor died at the exact apex of his or her career, is when the individual is awarded an Oscar posthumously.
That is the exact cause of Ledger, as he died on January 2008, when he was found unconscious in his bed at his Manhattan apartment.
The actor was pronounced dead inside his apartment, but after a complete toxicology report revealed that he died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, and doxylamine.
Christopher Crosby Farley came into this world on February 15, 1964, but likewise the aforementioned actors, he too passed away at the peak of his career in Chicago on December 18, 1997.
Farley was best known for his work and collaboration with comedians like Adam Sandler, David Spade, and Chris Rock in Saturday Night Live and was known for ‘Bad Boys of SNL.’
Farley also appeared in numerous comedy movies like Wayne’s World and Coneheads and he was also slated to work in the third instalment of the Ghostbuster movie.
Farley was, unfortunately, found dead on a cold night of 1997, in his apartment due to overdose on cocaine and morphine. According to sources, despite being only 33 years old when he passed away, Farley had already had a chronic drug problem and a visible decline in his health.
Post Farley’s death, the actor received a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star in 2005.
River Jude Bottom, who was known as River Phoenix, (after participating in the film itself called Phoenix, and owned the role) was born on August 23, 1970, in Madras, Oregon.
Bottom started acting at the tender age of twelve in 1982, but he only gained recognition when he played a leading teenager in Rob Reiner’s coming-of-age film ‘Stand By Me’ in 1986.
Being one of the youngest Oscar-nominated actors in the history of acting (he got nominated for his role of Danny Pope in 1988 movie ‘Running on Empty’) it became crystal clear to everyone, that Bottom had one of the most promising and aspiring careers in Hollywood.
The actor became a household name when he also starred alongside big names, such as Keanu Reeves in “My Own Private Idaho” (1991), but the actor was mostly admired for his performance in the film “Phoenix”.
On a fatal night, Phoenix was out with his siblings in Viper Room, a popular nightclub that was partly owned by Johnny Depp, when he overdosed on drugs and alcohol.
The actor collapsed outside the curb of the club and his brother Joaquin, panicky called 9-1-1, but the medics were unable to revive him.
The actor was declared dead on October 31, 1993, at just the age of 23, due to multiple drug intoxication, and it was ruled an accident by the police.
Born on May 11, 1982, Cory Allan Michael Monteith was a Canadian actor and musician and decided to move to Vancouver to pursue his acting career, where he landed many minor roles in shows like “Smallville” and “Supernatural”.
Monteith also appeared in the horror movie “Final Destination 3”, but his big break happened when he landed the role of Finn Hudson, in the hit TV show “Glee”, which gave him international fame.
During his time with “Glee”, Monteith turned to drugs and for this reason, he was seen in and out of rehab centres.
However, it wasn’t long before the actor was found dead at a hotel in Vancouver, Canada, after mixing drugs with toxicity, on July 13, 2013.
He was just 31 years old at the time of his death, leaving behind his girlfriend of two years, Lea Michele, who also played his love interest on Glee.
American actress and model Sharon Tate was born on January 24, 1943, in Dallas, Texas but lived in Italy for a while, before appearing on the television show ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ and landing minor roles in movies like “The Americanization of Emily” (1964) and “The Sandpiper” (1965).
Tate married director Roman Polanski after meeting him during the shoot of a film in 1968 but their marriage was short-lived as a then 26 years – old Tate was brutally murdered in her home, along with three houseguests by the followers of Charles Manson, on August 9, 1969.
What made the situation more tragic, was that Tate was eight months pregnant with Roman Polanski’s child at the time of her gruesome death.
Manson and his four followers were convicted of the murder and were handed life imprisonment sentences.
Tate will be honoured with a biography film, as actress Margot Robbie will perform her life and work in Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,’ to be released in 2019.
James Byron Dean was born to Mildred Marie and Winton Dean on 8th February 1931, in Marion, Indiana and got his breakthrough in 1955, when he played in a film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden, which gained him a posthumous Oscar nomination.
James Dean became the first artist to have ever received such an honourable award after his death.
The actor also got the lead part in Jim Stark in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause, a role that would define his image as a cultural icon around the globe.
Sadly, Dean’s last film was Giant, which was released in 1956 after his death.
On Friday, September 30, 1955, Dean was driving his new Porsche 550 Spyder to a weekend race in Salinas, California with his mechanic. A car collided with Dean’s Porsche at an intersection at route 466, where the two vehicles hit each other almost head-on and Dean was killed instantly, while his mechanic survived.
Michelle Doris Thomas was born on September 23, 1968, in Boston, and had her first break came when she played Justine Phillips in the Cosby Show from 1988 to 1990. Michelle is mostly known as SteveUrkel’s girlfriend Myra Monkhouse on ABC’s Family Matters in 1993, which was a life-defying for her career.
In 1997, at the peak of her career, just before landing a job in the soap opera ‘The Young and the Restless,’ doctors diagnosed her with a rare form of stomach cancer, intra-abdominal desmoplastic small-round-cell tumour, where she went through her first operation.
By October 1998, she underwent surgery for the second time, which was later proven unsuccessful, as Thomas passed away on 22nd December 1998, at just 30 years old.
Josh Ryan Evans
Josh Ryan Evans was born January 10, 1982, in Hayward, California and due to congenital heart illness, and a growth disorder(Dwarfism) called achondroplasia, only allowed the actor to grow up to 3 feet 2 inches.
Ryan Evans started his career at the age of thirteen when he first appeared in the TV show Family Matters in 1996. Evans is perhaps best known for his work on the soap opera ‘Passions’ for which he won two Soap Opera Digest Awards.
Evans starred alongside big names as well, as in the film ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ he played along megastar Jim Carrey, as Evans was playing an eight-year-old Grinch in the year 2000.
Sadly enough, this also came to be his last performance.
Evans passed away in San Diego, California on August 5, 2002, during a medical emergency related to his heart condition. His death scene in the soap opera ‘Passions’ also coincided with his death and that episode was dedicated to him.
Evans was cremated, and his remains were buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood.