Often when an actor or actress dies, especially at an early age, the media is flooded with testimonials to their talents and how their premature death is an end to a career destined for legend, rather than the “what if?” that we are left with.
When a movie star dies before an age we would determine ‘natural’ they become timeless, their faces never age and they are forever young. This may well be the case for the late James Gandolfini, whose role as Tony Soprano is arguably the most recognisable in television drama history. He will be remembered by us, the public, as the New Jersey Mafioso he so memorably rendered for 86 episodes. Whether Enough Said‘s reception will be anything different now to what it would have been if Gandolfini was still alive, we will never know. With this said, let us take a look at some other actors, their final roles and their posthumous reception.
Bruce Lee (1940-1973)
Bruce Lee, the most iconic martial arts movie star of all time died just a month before the release of what was to be his final, and by far most popular film, Enter the Dragon. The movie went on to achieve enormous success and to this day is heralded as having some of the best hand-to-hand combat sequences ever captured on film. Lee, who passed away at a very young 32, became a household name, making nunchucks the karate weapon of choice for young teenage boys for generations to come, despite the fact he only appeared in a handful of movies released in the US and UK. His son, Brandon Lee, would also lose his life at a young age, after being accidentally shot while filming a scene for 1993’s The Crow. He was 28.
John Candy (1950-1994)
John Candy, star of such films as Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Space Balls and Uncle Buck, was one of the greatest comedy talents of his generation, and beloved by everyone he worked with. The Canadian actor died of a heart attack in 1994 while filming Wagons East. Both Wagons East and the previously filmed Canadian Bacon were released in 1995 to mixed critical reception.
James Dean (1931-1955)
Heralded as one of the greatest young talents of his generation, James Dean is the poster boy of the “died too young” star. Dean captured the raw emotion brewing in the adolescent generation of the 1950’s in his most iconic role as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, which was released a month after the 24 year-old actors death in a car crash. Dean received two posthumous leading actor Oscar nominations for his roles for East of Eden and Giant, the latter having also been released after Dean’s death.