Senior Editor
01.24.08 20 Comments

Besides being, like, a tragedy and stuff (doctors say I’m bad with emotions), Heath Ledger’s death has added to director Terry Gilliam’s string of bad luck.

Production on Terry Gilliam’s indie "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" has temporarily shut down… "Parnassus" has three options: Replace Ledger in the role, shoot around him or shut down the production entirely. The insurance company will likely determine which option the producers take.

Gilliam, of course, was the subject of the documentary Lost in La Mancha, which chronicled the production of his $30 million dollar Don Quixote movie which was ultimately scrapped after flash floods destroyed the set and Jean Rochefort suffered a herniated disk. 

The Variety article goes on to mention other films that had to deal with the death of a star.

James Dean’s final scene in "Giant," for example, had to be looped after his death in a car crash because he mumbled so much in the shot. When Brandon Lee died during an accident on set during production of "The Crow," director Alex Proyas used a stunt double to complete scenes; Lee’s face was added using special effects. That film was days away from completion, however. Similarly, a look-alike for Natalie Wood was used after her drowning death during production of "Brainstorm." The producers used several techniques to finish "Wagons East" after John Candy died of heart failure, rewriting scenes or using a body double.

Further back, Louis B. Mayer threatened to scrap "Saratoga," when Jean Harlow died suddenly, but relented after fans demanded he release it; a body double finished the remaining scenes with her back to the camera.

River Phoenix was supposed to co-star in "Interview With the Vampire," but when he died, they recast Christian Slater in the role. He was working on another film called "Dark Blood" which was scuttled entirely.

And Chris Farley was working on "Shrek" for DreamWorks when he died; Mike Myers took over the lead voice role after his "Saturday Night Live" cohort overdosed in 1997.

Warners has a different predicament with "The Dark Knight." Production on Christopher Nolan’s "Batman Begins" sequel is believed to largely completed — principal photography concluded in the fall — but the initial marketing campaign focuses on the ghoulish Joker character [played by Ledger].

That sucks.  This totally reminds me of the time in 6th grade when Jimmy Melville’s mom died and he got like a week off of school.  I was so jealous.

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