Even though actors tend to look like they'll never age and the general consensus is that those fortunate enough to be forced into the public eye will live forever, actors live, breathe, and die just like everyday schmoes. Some actors may come and go while others seem to stay relevant much longer than they probably should (do your best not to glare at Gary Busey or Vince Vaughn with too much discontent). Every once in awhile someone is able to accomplish things in front of a camera that no one else can. These individuals were able to effortlessly capture genuine emotion and consistently created movie magic with everything they were a part of.
Some of these actors left behind a legacy that will be appreciated for years to come. Others were around for years and were just starting to pick up steam in the mainstream right when they were taken from this world. Then there were the younger stars who were just starting to find their niche in Hollywood when tragedy struck. But all of these actors offered something special with their work. These are like the James Deans and Marilyn Monroes of our time. These are individuals who had so much more left to offer despite their lives ending prematurely.
Besides "Joy Ride" and a decent outing in "Running Scared," Paul Walker was mostly in films that were really underwhelming. The guy was obviously talented, but he was still struggling to find his path to being a profitable leading man in Hollywood when his career came to an abrupt halt in late 2013. If it wasn't for "The Fast and the Furious" franchise no one would've really paid much attention to Paul Walker's career, which is unfortunate since it seems like he was on the verge of something great.
Brittany Murphy seemed to make a name for himself by playing the roles of troubled women who were either in an abusive relationship ("Sin City"), addicted to drugs ("Spun"), or psychologically traumatized ("Don't Say a Word"). She was the type of actress who always chose interesting projects to be a part of. Her filmography is similar to that of Heath Ledger's in the sense that it reads like a continuous work of passion rather than a resume full of financial conquests.
With an acting career dating all the way back to the early 60s, it's safe to say that David Carradine had a full career under the spotlight. Known best for "Kung Fu," "Kill Bill: Vol. 1," and "Kill Bill: Vol. 2," Carradine was never more of a hot commodity than he was right before his death. Passing in 2009, Carradine had at least six films come out after his death with another set to come out in December of 2014 that he also directed.
Everyone seemed to love Phil Hartman. From his days on "Saturday Night Live" to his recurring gig on "The Simpsons," and finally ending with his time on "Newsradio." Hartman would give his voice to films like "The Brave Little Toaster" and "Kiki's Delivery Service." Growing up on "The Simpsons," the void left by Hartman's sudden departure was never truly filled and is something the series has yet to fully rectify nearly 16 years after the fact.
"The Crow" made Brandon Lee a star and in turn Lee's death would make "The Crow" a legendary film even though it doesn't really have any right to be. While the film is fun, it's also 20 years old which means it's seriously dated. Thanks to the controversy regarding Lee's death while filming, "The Crow" would spawn three sequels, a television series, and a reboot that has yet to fully get off the ground. Lee's other works are forgetful at best with a team-up with Dolph Lundgren in "Showdown in Little Tokyo" being the highlight. Brandon Lee was naturally just getting started as an actor when he died.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Philip Seymour Hoffman was a man who always delivered complex, incredible performances. He seemed to give his all in every film. He'd also been acting since the early 90s. He was in his last week of shooting the latest sequel to "The Hunger Games" when he died in early 2014 leaving filmmakers scrambling. Hoffman had mostly been making independent films before "The Hunger Games." While his resume is impressive, it would've been intriguing to see where his career would have gone after soaking in the success of those films.
James Gandolfini was another guy who had been around for quite some time when he passed in the middle of 2013, but the difference is that Gandolfini seemed to be in every other film that came out leading up to his death. His performances in "Violet & Daisy," "Killing Them Softly," and "Enough Said" are personal favorites from the actor. "The Drop," starring Gandolfini, Tom Hardy, and Noomi Rapace, hits theaters this September and looks fantastic.
I'm a firm believer that "South Park" is one of the few television series that has been able to work against the models of other television programs and has actually gotten better over time. While that is true, things just haven't been the same since Isaac Hayes stepped away from the show at the end of the ninth season. His death in 2008 only cemented the fact that we'd never get to hear, "Hello there children," or one of Chef's delightful motivational songs ever again. Frankly that should make everyone a sad panda.
Making a name for himself as a teen heartthrob, Heath Ledger starred in the likes of films like "10 Things I Hate About You" and "A Knight's Tale" before moving onto more adult territory covered in the likes of "Brokeback Mountain" and "Candy." Ledger would break the system and Hollywood with his portrayal of The Joker in "The Dark Knight" as he won a posthumous Oscar for the role. Ledger had a very bright future ahead of him yet wasn't even in 20 films throughout his career. Seeing what he was fully capable of and what "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" would've been like without Ledger's tragic passing in the middle of filming is a glorified pipe dream that is still exciting to think about.
Bruce Lee paved the way for not only martial arts films becoming a worldwide source of entertainment but also for Asians being considered for major roles in Hollywood. Lee's films were and still are an inspiration to just about everyone wanting to make it in the action film business, but his philosophy about not only martial arts but life itself is what pushes Lee into one of the most inspirational figures of all time. Be water, my friend.