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With the golden glow of Hollywood around them, sometimes it’s easy to forget that our favorite actors and actresses are actually human. But for them, just as for us, life is fragile. 

Something that hits home hard when a seemingly untouchable artist suddenly passes away. 

Today we pay tribute to the 10 actors and actresses that, for one reason or another, left the stage far too quickly. 

River Phoenix

River Phoenix gave a breakout performance in the classic 1987 film Stand By Me. Although young, he stuck mainly to serious roles and was lauded for his performances in other movies like Mosquito Coast, Running On Empty and My Own Private Idaho

With his impressive acting skills, River proved that he wasn’t just another flash in the pan teen idol. And it seemed like he would be on the scene for a long time to come. Unfortunately, like many young stars, he lost his life too soon to a drug overdose.

In 1993, he collapsed in front of Hollywood’s Viper Room club with multiple substances in his system and never regained consciousness. He was only 23.  

Paul Walker 

Action star Paul Walker was a central figure in the wildly successful franchise, The Fast & Furious.

But he actually got his start in teen films like Varsity Blues, She’s All That and The Skulls.

A self-described adrenaline junkie, he died suddenly in 2013. On November 30, he was hosting a charity car show to raise money for victims of a recent typhoon in the Philippines. 

Roger Rodas, Paul Walker's friend, was behind the wheel of the star’s Porsche when they took the car for a spin and crashed just a few blocks away from the event. Tragically, they were both killed when the car burst into flames. 

Fans will forever be left to wonder what might have been ahead for the 40-year-old actor.

Brittany Murphy

Most of us probably remember Brittainy in the ‘90s hit teen comedy Clueless, where she co-starred as Cher’s new friend and makeover victim. 

She also gave notable performances in Girl Interrupted, 8 Mile and Don’t Say a Word

It seemed that the charming young actress had a long career ahead of her. But in 2009 at only 29 years old, she collapsed at home. Doctors said her death was a combination of pneumonia, anemia and too much cold medicine.

But when her widower died five months later of what may have been toxic mold poisoning, eyebrows were raised. Another test on Murphy’s hair revealed the presence of heavy metals.

The bizarre circumstances of both their untimely deaths set off a chain of conspiracy theories including foul play. Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know what actually happened.  

Heath Ledger

Originally from Australia, Heath got his big break in America in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. But like River Phoenix before him, he steered away from teen idol status to go for more challenging roles in films like Brokeback Mountain and Monster’s Ball

Unfortunately, his Academy Award for best supporting actor for the Joker in Dark Knight came posthumously as he died from an accidental prescription drug overdose when the film was in editing. Surely, the 28 year-old actor would have gone on to do even more great things.  

Cory Monteith

If you were a teen in the early 2010s, chances are you were a big fan of Glee. The popular high school dramedy meets musical mashup skyrocketed the cast to fame.

Corey played Finn; jock turned singer and love interest to Rachel. What you may not have known is that Monteith was 10 years older than many of his co-stars and had struggled with substance abuse for years.

Sadly, the actor-singer was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room in July of 2013. A mere 31 years old, his death was attributed to a lethal combination of alcohol and heroin.  

Lee Thompson Young

Disney Channel fans were especially sad to hear of the passing of this young actor who starred in The Famous Jett Jackson and Johnny Tsunami. His feature films included Friday Night Lights and Akeelah and the Bee.

Although a Disney favorite for a time, his life behind the scenes was not quite as rosy. The actor struggled with bipolar disorder and was suffering from depression when he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in August of 2013. 

At only 29, Lee is a sad reminder of the often ignored issues surrounding mental health.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

The incredibly versatile Philip Seymour Hoffman was considered one of acting’s greats. And his film credits, which ranged from comedies to dramas, independents to Hollywood blockbusters, attest to the breadth of his talent.

Just a few of his credits include Almost Famous, Boogie Nights, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Charlie Wilson’s War, Mission Impossible III, Twister, Doubt and Flawless.

In 2005 he won the Academy Award for best actor with the role of Truman Capote in Capote

Surely, he would have gone on to add many more accolades to those he already had.

But like so many Hollywood artists, Hoffman struggled with addiction. 

In February of 2014, at the age of 46, he died of a drug overdose. In his obituary the New York Times described him as “perhaps the most ambitious and widely admired American actor of his generation.”

Natasha Richardson

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English-American actress Natasha Richardson was the daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and the wife of Liam Neeson.

She began her career in theatre but later became a name in Hollywood. Her film credits include The Handmaid’s Tale, Nell, Maid in Manhattan and the beloved kids’ classic, The Parent Trap

Sadly, the Tony award winning actress hit her head during a skiing accident in March of 2009. What was thought to be a minor incident ended tragically when she later died of blunt trauma. Richardson was 45 years old. 

Anton Yelchin

Anton found himself in the Hollywood spotlight for his role as Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek Franchise. Originally from Russia, his all too brief career included the films Green Room, Friday Night and Charlie Bartlett.

Tragically, the 27 year old actor died in a freak accident. After stepping out of his own Jeep, it rolled and pinned him against a brick pillar. Coroners ruled the cause of death asphyxiation. 

Robin Williams

At 63, Williams is by far the oldest actor on this list. And yet, his death still seemed shockingly premature.

Famed for his improvisational skills, the Chicago native got his start as a standup comedian. He became a household name, in the ‘70s, when he starred as an alien in the sitcom Mork and Mindy.

But his career would go on to span decades in a diverse array of films including Dead Poet Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, Awakenings, Patch Adams and The Birdcage to name a handful.

He won an Academy Award for best supporting actor in the 1997 film Good Will Hunting.

But while the funnyman had us laughing for decades, he battled with depression. The world was in shock when he committed suicide in 2014—something his wife attributed to a struggle with Lewy body disease.

And while he left us with an amazing body of work, Robin Williams was definitely gone too soon. 

You might also be interested in: 15 Celebrities From The ‘90s Whose Stars Have Faded

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Posted 
Apr 28, 2020
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