10 Actors Who Appeared on Screen After Their Deaths.
1. John Candy – Wagons East! (1994)
The famous comedian and SCTV alum died during production of the mostly forgotten Western comedy Wagons East!
Candy had not completed all of his scenes before his untimely passing; therefore, much of his role was cut from the film. What little was filmed was reused as reaction shots, including the one pictured above, which is shown twice in the movie, with different backdrops.
2. Oliver Reed – Gladiator (2000)
Film legend Oliver Reed died of a heart attack during a break from shooting on Gladiator, leaving several important scenes unfinished.
Using CGI, Reed’s face was mapped onto a double’s head in the editing process, like in the shot pictured above. The digital mask is impressive for a film completed in 2000.
3. Shemp Howard – The Three Stooges (1956)
Often known as the “fourth stooge,” Shemp Howard replaced his brother Curly in 1946. Howard died less than a decade later in 1955, after suffering a heart attack.
The 1956 Three Stooges unfinished shorts continued with reused footage or body doubles of Shemp, usually portrayed by Joe Palma. The studio’s attempts to use body doubles in place of the deceased actor led to the term”Fake Shemps,” referring to stand-ins for actors in a film.
4. Nancy Marchand – The Sopranos Season 3 (2001)
Critically acclaimed HBO series The Sopranos had one of the most vicious mother-in-laws ever written: Livia Soprano. Sadly, the actress who played her, Nancy Marchand, died from complications due to lung cancer during the show’s run.
The crew of the show tried to keep the character alive by using the same technique for the aforementioned Gladiator. The CGI mask failed to look human and the archived audio clips they chose for her dialogue didn’t quite fit the scene. Ultimately, the character was killed off-screen.
5. Bruce Lee – The Game of Death (1973)
Movie icon Bruce Lee passed away three months before the U.S. release of Enter the Dragon, his most celebrated film. Before his tragic death, Lee shot some scenes for The Game of Death which were cut together in an attempt to create a second hit for the now deceased star.
In order to fill in for Lee, the crew used practical effects like body doubles, voiceovers and cardboard cut-outs. The film even showed footage from Lee’s actual funeral, saying the character faked his own death.
6. Brandon Lee – The Crow (1994)
Bruce isn’t the only Lee on this list. His son Brandon died on the set of The Crow, due to an accidental shooting.
Since the film was nearly complete, the crew did its best to wrap up production and finish the film. They obscured the character’s face whenever possible and digitally placed Lee’s face onto a double’s head. The CGI is so well done, it’s hard to tell which scenes were shot after the actor’s tragic accident.
7. Larry Hagman – Dallas Season 2 (2012)
In the world of American soap operas, few characters are as infamous as J.R. Ewing from Dallas. The hit series was revived in 2012, but the actor who played J.R., Larry Hagman, died from leukemia complications shortly after.
As one of the series’ most important characters, J.R. lived on to enact his final plan. Using unused footage and audio clips from previous episodes, J.R. was able to last until his on-screen murder. The oil tycoon is still pulling strings from beyond the grave and will reportedly make an appearance in the upcoming third season.
8. Bela Lugosi – Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Best known for his portrayal of Dracula, Bela Lugosi died in 1956, but that didn’t stop director Ed Wood from casting Lugosi in his infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space three years later.
Using silent footage of Lugosi in his Dracula attire, Wood also had a double act out scenes where the footage fell short. You can tell when the double steps in, since he covers his face to avoid breaking the illusion.
9. Peter Sellers – The Trail of the Pink Panther (1982)
Peter Sellers has an impressive filmography, including Dr. Strangelove and Lolita, but arguably, his most famous character is Chief Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther series.
Sellers passed away before production on the seventh film in the franchise, but the director decided to use deleted scenes from The Pink Panther Strikes Again. For all other portions of the film, a body double would take Sellers’ place, using heavy bandages to obscure his face, until Clouseau presumably dies mid-film.
10. Laurence Olivier – Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
This fantastic film feat is particularly interesting because Sir. Laurence Olivier died in 1989 at the age of 82, a full 15 years before the release of this film.
In order to cast the iconic legend of stage and screen as the main villain of the film, the crew used archived footage of the actor in different roles. That, combined with overlaying his face over an electric effect, brought the famed actor to the big screen once more.