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Picking Up the Pieces: 7 Actors Who Died Before Finishing Their Films

Meriah Doty
Yahoo Movies
December 4, 2013

Many if not most footage had been shot. The film is indeed salvageable. But Paul Walker's shocking death over the weekend has cast a huge shadow over the upcoming "Fast and Furious" sequel.

While initial reports indicated "Fast & Furious 7" would roll on in the wake of the 40-year-old actor's untimely passing, Yahoo Movies has learned there are several factors at play that make the fate of the highly anticipated sequel far from clear.

Production had been under way since September, but there were several scenes with Walker that had not been filmed yet. According to sources involved in the film, about two-thirds of the script would have to be rewritten to accommodate Walker's loss. The writers are currently going over options about how to proceed in a manner that is respectful to the actor. All options are on the table at this juncture, including scrapping the script entirely and starting over, the insiders tell us.

[Related: Paul Walker Autopsy Results: Actor Died From 'Traumatic and Thermal Injuries']

Key decisionmakers on "Fast 7" are Universal, director James Wan, the film's producers, and Vin Diesel — but the studio's insurance company could wind up having a lot of say. While the production has completely stopped, a source close to the film tells Yahoo that it's likely to resume next month and that the entire film won't be abandoned.

"At this time we feel it is our responsibility to shut down production on 'Fast & Furious 7' for a period of time," Universal said in a statement Wednesday.

Sadly, Walker isn't the only actor to die suddenly while working on a film. The unexpected death of a leading player can halt a movie in its tracks, left never to see the light of day. But under similar circumstances, other projects have still found their way to the theaters.

Here's a review of how the deaths of seven actors affected the films they never had a chance to complete.

1. Marylin Monroe, "Something's Got to Give"

With Monroe in a splashy nude pool scene that predates Christy Brinkley's in "Vacation" by a few decades, the comedy remains unfinished to this day. Monroe was initially fired from the film, then rehired. Her death in 1962 became the ultimate roadblock for the troubled film. (Warning: Brief nudity in the footage below.)


2. Brandon Lee, "The Crow"

For better or for worse, Lee's death — which happened when a faulty stunt gun mortally wounded the actor — triggered fascination over the gothic action film wherein he plays a murdered man who returns to life. Lee hadn't shot all his scenes when he died and it looked like the film was a wash. Then Miramax stepped in, invested $8 million extra dollars, enabling the film's completion, '90s-awesome soundtrack and all.


3. River Phoenix, "Dark Blood"

Phoenix was not yet finished filming "Dark Blood" when he collapsed at a West Hollywood nightclub and couldn't be revived. It wouldn't be until this year, a full 20 years later, that the film would see the light of day… on YouTube! Director George Sluizer posted the entire film on the online video site in several parts, so Phoenix's fans could finally see the last of his work.


4. Natalie Wood, "Brainstorm"

The "Rebel Without a Cause" actress died in 1981 during a production break for the sci-fi film "Brainstorm." MGM stalled its release by two years. Once the film was put back on track, a body double was used for Wood's remaining scenes.


5. Heath Ledger, "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"

Ledger hadn't shot nearly enough of the 2009 Terry Gilliam film to make for a salvageable final product when he died from an accidental drug overdose at the age of 28. The director, known for his flair for the surreal, cast Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell to fill out the remainder of Ledger's part. Yes, four men all in the same role!


6. John Candy, "Wagons East" and "Pocahontas"

Candy had shot the majority of his scenes for "Wagons East" when he died of a heart attack in his trailer on the film's set in Durango, Mexico. The comedic Western rode onto a summer release that year. The same cannot be said for Candy's role in the Disney animated feature "Pocahontas." His part as a turkey sidekick was cut from the final film.


7. Aaliyah, "The Matrix Reloaded"

She was a pop star on the rise and even had a role in a wildly popular sci-fi franchise when she died in a plane crash in 2001. Aaliyah had shot some scenes for the follow-up to "The Matrix" — but it apparently wasn't enough material and her role was recast to Nona Gaye.


Taryn Ryder contributed to this report.

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