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Movies with Recently Deceased Actors: A Weird and Wonderful Thing

Last week, the second trailer for the soon-to-be released film Brick Mansions hit the intertubes. It appears to be your typical cop/revenge action flick, probably a lot of mindless fun. What the big to do about this generic film is that it stars the late Paul Walker. Walker, of Fast and the Furious fame, was tragically killed in a car accident this past November.

In addition to Mansions, it was also just announced that the seventh incarnation of the Fast/Furious movies would be released in 2015, also with Walker. The parts that they were unable to film before his death will be completed with CGI and a stand-in. That movie will wind up coming out two years after the actor's passing.

Walker is not the only actor no longer with us that have movies coming out soon. In November of this year one of the most anticipated films of the year, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, will be released. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who overdosed on a concoction of hard drugs and alcohol will return to his role as Plutarch Heavensbee. According to the film's production company, Lion's Gate, Hoffman had already completed scenes before his death in February of this year. Nothing has been said about the second part of the film, which is due to be released in 2015. People are already commenting on how emotional it will be to see the movie with Hoffman, who many fans and colleagues consider one of the greatest actors of his generation.

"Emotional" is also the word that writer/producer Joe Colleran recently used to describe the editing process of his new movie Something Wicked. Reason being that it stars the late actress Brittany Murphy who died of rather bizarre occurrences almost five years ago. Her movie is to receive a limited release next week.

I don't know about you, but watching recently dead actors on screen has always felt very strange to me, but also kind of wonderful in a way.

The release of a movie that unfortunately lost one of its actors along the way is nothing new. Clark Gable died just months before the release of the film The Misfits, which, coincidentally, was also the last movie to star Marilyn Monroe. Spencer Tracy was not alive to see one of his best roles in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (luckily he also wasn't alive to see the remake with Ashton Kutcher). James Dean died a month before his behemoth film Rebel Without a Cause, as well as Giant. And Dean wasn't alive to get excited over his Oscar nominations for East of Eden and Giant; although Dean probably would have played it off cool anyway.

In more recent times, Brandon Lee's death and its subsequent impact on Goths everywhere was big news; the actor died during the filming of The Crow. We also lost Tupac, Aaliyah, Chris Farley and Bernie Mac, among others just before their films were released in theaters. Heath Ledger's death, the release of Batman and his Oscar win probably marks the most memorable of these deaths.

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Regardless of the growing number, there is something kind of icky about it, but there is also something kind of beautiful. Speaking from experience, if you've ever lost someone close to you prematurely, your initial desire is to remember only the good things. But quickly, the stuff about the person that you never knew comes out, some of which casts a negative shadow over the good memories that you had. People feel like they have to tell you everything that this person ever did or said, and a lot of it they probably had no intention of you ever finding out.

I imagine this is the case with some of these actors, many of whom died in drug-related incidents. They say Hoffman led an entirely secret life. And rumors about the world that Ledger was a part of were shocking. After an actor passes, people come out of the woodwork to over-share what went on behind closed doors. This places the fans in an odd position between reverence and disdain. We prefer not knowing that our beloved Brandt from The Big Lebowski died amongst piles of heroine that he very much planned on doing. We don't want to know that he had his demons; it's disappointing and inconvenient for us.

But when an actor passes and then releases something wholly new, we are allowed to fall in love with him again and remember what it was that we were so attracted to in the first place: his talent. And for the actors, despite the fact that they are not there to bear witness, it's nice that after all the hoopla, they are doing what they love, even in the afterlife.

It might be uncomfortable to see Paul Walker drag race on the big screen, especially given the manner in which he died (car crash), but it will also be a homage to a man who entertained so many. It will be weird to see Brittany Murphy alive again in theaters, but what a nice way for her to have a comeback. Eternally, these actors are still stars.

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