After watching this year’s Academy Awards, the odds on favorite to win the Best Actor Oscar was Chadwick Boseman. After taking home a majority of the best male actor awards, highlighted by his wife accepting on his behalf at the Golden Globes for his role as Levee in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, it was quite sad because this would be his last chance to win the award. Although he did not win the Oscar, there was no doubt it would have only been a matter of time.
Boseman’s death shocked not only the acting community, but the rest of the world, because most had no idea he was suffering from cancer for the last four years of his life while he bravely carried on continuing to do the best work of his career. When talented actors like Chadwick Boseman unexpectedly die we all feel a sense of loss. Not the kind of loss their families feel, but a loss of great talent meant to impact others for years to come. This blog will remember just a few of the talented actors we lost long before their time. This is not meant to suggest actors lives are any more valuable than another, but since we cover the topic of movies we thought this would be a way for us to recognize some of those actors who had an impact on us directly in the material we cover.
The first actor that came to mind was John Cazale. Cazale was born in Massachusetts and you may know him best for his depiction of Fredo Corleone in The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974). He won the role after long time friend Al Pacino invited him to audition for the part. Also in 1974, Cazale worked with Gene Hackman in another Francis Ford Coppola film, The Conversation (1974). In 1975, Cazale was nominated for a Golden Globe playing Sal, a bank robber in Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon. Cazale’s last role was in 1978 as Stan in The Deer Hunter. Unfortunately, Cazale died of cancer before the movie hit theaters. An amazing film career in just seven years and five movies. All five of the movies he appeared in were nominated for Best Picture with 3 winning. If you want to take a closer look at the career and impact of John Cazale, pick up the 40th anniversary blu ray of Dog Day Afternoon that includes a special dvd covering his life.
John Candy was among the funniest actors in Hollywood at the time of his death. Candy started his career on stage at the Toronto location of the Second City improvisation group and was a cast member on the Second City Television show (SCTV). Candy’s film career included roles in Vacation, Lost and Found, Armed and Dangerous, Splash, Summer Rental, Cool Runnings, Spaceballs, The Great Outdoors, Uncle Buck to name only a few. One of his greatest roles is an Oh Brother Top 5 Film Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987) as a shower curtain ring salesman (someone does that job) who meets a reluctant travel partner in Steve Martin. Candy passed away in 1994 at just 43 years old. He was meant to make us laugh for many more years.
Heath Ledger was only 28 when he died in 2008. He won a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor with his striking depiction of the clown prince of crime (The Joker) in the blockbuster The Dark Knight 2008 as part of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Ledger proved to be an extremely versatile actor in his short career with roles in The Patriot, A Knights Tale, Monster’s Ball, The Order, Lords of Dogtown, and a huge breakout role in Brokeback Mountain that brought him his first Oscar nomination. He died while The Dark Knight was in post production and while also working on the film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009). Director Terry Gilliam decided to finish the film using a variety of Ledger’s fellow actors and friends (Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell) along with the footage already shot, so audiences could see his final performance on screen.
Another Academy Award winning actor who died at the young age of 46 was Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman got a lot of recognition while playing supporting roles in films such as Scent of a Woman, Twister, Boogie Nights, The Big Lebowski, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, and Along Came Polly. In 2005, Hoffman showed just how talented and versatile he was taking home the Academy Award for best actor portraying Truman Capote in Capote (2005). He took on bigger roles after mostly being known for his work on independent films. Playing a CIA officer in Charlie Wilson’s War and a priest in Doubt (2008). A lot of people will remember him playing the bad guy against Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible III (2006). The New York Times called Hoffman “one of the most ambitious American actors of his generation”.
These are but a few of the great actors we’ve lost over the years. Let us know who else you believe should be among this preliminary list of actors gone too soon.