Hollywood Stars Who Passed Away – The Ups And Downs Of The Spotlight


Jonathan was one of the biggest teen idols back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He made his debut on the soap opera One Life to Live, where he portrayed Kevin Buchanan. This led to notable roles in various film productions including The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter in which he played the main character Bastian Bux. Jonathan didn’t limit himself to just acting, however. He also wrote screenplays and even directed independent films, for which he received credit for.
Unfortunately, he passed away in 2003 due to suicide. Friends of the actor have spoken about his battle with depression because of his declining career.


Bill Nunn, born William Goldwyn Nunn III, is best remembered for his portrayal of Robbie Robertson in the Spider-Man films directed by Sam Raimi. You might be surprised to know that his early work is in many of Spike Lee’s films—this is because he went to college with the filmmaker. In fact, Bill’s first film credit is in School Daze, which was directed by Spike. The film was shown in theatres back in 1988.
This wouldn’t be his last movie appearance, of course. The talented actor was also in Firehouse Dog, Sister Act, and He Got Game. Bill passed in 2016 at 62 years old.


Alexis was an icon to the LGBTQ community. She was an actress, a cabaret performer, as well as an activist. Audiences might recognize Alexis for her appearances in various fan favorites such as Bride of Chucky and Pulp Fiction. It was only later in her career did Alexis begin to make investments towards transitioning from male to female. She underwent sexual reassignment surgery in her late 30s. As some of you might already know, Alexis was Patricia Arquette’s sister.
She passed away in 2016 due to myocarditis induced cardiac arrest. Learn more about her journey in the film, Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother.


His portrayal of Derrial Book on the sci-fi series Firefly was memorable for many and the spiritual shepherd character went on to become a fan favorite for loyal audiences of the show. Fortunately for us, after the series ended, he reprised the role in its film adaptation Serenity. Aside from TV and film work, Ron also did voice-acting for different animated shows, including Randy Carmichael on Rugrats and All Grown Up! The actor received his degree from the University of Evansville, where he had double majors in drama and literature.
Ron passed away in 2016 due to respiratory failure. The actor was 71 years old.


With her 1982 single “Gloria”, Laura was able to cement her place in the music industry’s history. The song remained on the U.S. Billboard 100 chart for 36 weeks—the first time for a female artist. Her success wasn’t limited to just the United States, Laura was equally successful in the United Kingdom, with two of her songs making it to the Top Singles Chart. The singer-songwriter was in the midst of preparing to release new music in 2004 when she suddenly passed away due to an undiagnosed cerebral aneurysm.
The St. Louis Blues recently used “Gloria” as their unofficial victory song with credit to Laura.


His emotional performances and versatility helped the English actor establish a formidable reputation in the industry. Throughout his career that has spanned over 5 decades, he received numerous accolades and recognition for his contributions to drama. In fact, he was knighted back in 2015 to honor his work. John has collected plenty of notable film credits through the years including for his appearances in the Hellboy films, V for Vendetta, in Harry Potter movies, and Midnight Express.
Despite receiving a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, he continued to work. He passed away in 2017 at 77 years old, just 3 days after his birthday.


Her unique vocals, charisma, and innate talent helped turn Teena Marie into a star and is remembered by fans and her contemporaries as the Ivory Queen of Soul. Teena’s distinct sound is credited to her skill as a multi-instrumentalist; she was able to play the congas, the keyboards, and the rhythm guitar. Unlike other artists, Teena is very hands-on when it comes to her music—she writes, sings, arranges, and produces each of the singles. No wonder she’s received Grammy nominations three times!
Much to the grief of the industry and her fans, Lady Tee passed away in 2010 due to natural causes.


Pat Morita will always have a special place in our hearts as the adorable Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid film series. With credit to his endearing performances in the films, he earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination from the Academy Awards. But, this isn’t the only recognition he has received for his work. The actor was among the first Asian American leads on TV, starring in popular programs such as Ohara and Mr. T and Tina.
Pat struggled through a number of health issues as a child, but overcame it all and made a success of himself. He passed away in 2005 at 73 years old.


He was one of the biggest teen idols of the ‘80s, gaining prominence for his role in the film, The Lost Boys. With credit to his charismatic performance, the Canadian actor was able to establish himself as a reputable actor. Corey would land other notable roles later in his career, including his work for Dream a Little Dream,  Silver Bullet, License to Drive, and Murphy’s Romance.
Unfortunately, the actor would go through the same issues other young celebrities have before. He would continue to struggle with personal troubles, which led to his health declining. The actor passed away in 2010 due to pulmonary edema.


Chris may have had to share the spotlight with his brother Sean during his time in the industry, but no one would argue that the two are talent powerhouses. Chris starred in a number of notable films including blockbusters such as All the Right Moves, Reservoir Dogs, The Funeral, Rush Hour, and At Close Range. His investments towards the industry didn’t go unnoticed, and he received plenty of accolades for his performances. Whilst his career was successful, Chris grappled with personal issues behind the scenes. This led to a decline in his health.
The actor passed away in 2006 due to heart disease.


Leonard Nimoy’s passing was mourned by Star Trek fans from around the world. An outpouring of tributes came, including getting an asteroid named after him: the 4864 Nimoy. He touched and inspired people through his role as Spock, so when he retired the character in 2010 to pass on the baton, many were saddened. Outside of acting, he was also able to show off his talent in other ways—he is a known lover of photography, an author, and singer. He has also received credit as a voice actor.
He passed away in 2015 at the age of 73 years old.


One of Hollywood’s best-known character actors, James Rebhorn, whose work includes over 100 shows for television and film, died at his home in 2014 from complications of Melanoma. His decades-long career saw him starring in such memorable hits as My Cousin Vinny, Carlitos Way, and Basic Instinct. Rebhorn was also involved in numerous stage plays and Broadway productions in the course of his career. Even Jason Alexander, who plays George on Seinfeld, shared that Rebhorn was a “terrific actor,” and he said he happily witnessed this when Rebhorn played a district attorney in the last episode of Seinfeld.


For many of us, the Power Rangers was a big part of our childhood. We idolized them and had our own favorites! Thuy Trang portrayed the Yellow Ranger, Trini Kwan, on the show. Before finding success in TV, however, she had to overcome becoming a refugee as a child. She was also separated from her father for years, only reuniting after they moved to the US. Credits to their hard work, the family was able to live comfortably.
Sadly, Thuy’s career was short-lived. She passed away in a car accident back in 2001. Her last role was a Kali on The Crow: City of Angels.


National Lampoon’s European Vacation is a classic, and its cast has become memorable to audiences since. Among them is actress Dana Hill who portrayed Audrey Griswold in the film. She made a name for herself doing movies, but prior to that Dana was on the verge of becoming one of the country’s best athletes. At age 10, she was showing potential and placed third in the national 880-yard run. Sadly, this was also when she discovered that she had diabetes, so health insurance probably became a priority for the family.
Dana passed away in 1996 due to the disease at only 32 years old.


Fans of the HBO series, True Blood, will remember Nelsan Ellis for portraying the colorful character Lafayette Reynolds on the show. The actor was able to give justice to the TV adaptation of the beloved book character, making him an instant favorite for many. In fact, his work didn’t go unnoticed by the press either. He won numerous accolades for his performance.
In the film industry, we know him best for appearing in the James Brown biopic, Get on Up. Nelsan’s final film credit was in True to Game, which was released posthumously. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 39.


He is considered to be one of the greatest TV dads, credits to his performance on the show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as Philip Banks. Aside from this role, however, we also have to thank James for bringing some of our favorite animated characters to life through his work as a voice actor. He has voice Haroud Hazi Bin on Aladdin and Shredder in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. Needless to say, the actor was a big part of many people’s childhoods!
Sadly, the talented and charming actor passed away in 2013 following complications after his open-heart surgery.


The actor was one of Sweden’s finest, but international audiences were first introduced to his talent through the Martin Beck television series, where he portrayed Banck. He gained further international success after starring in the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies, alongside Noomi Rapace. The film marked his Hollywood debut and was followed by other major roles in big productions such as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and John Wick. He has been given credit by audiences and critics for being one of this generation’s greatest film villains.
Sadly, Michael passed away in 2017 after losing his battle with lung cancer.


He delivered powerfully on every episode of The West Wing, leaving a lasting impression on both casual audiences and fans of the widely praised TV series. Credits to his performance, John Spencer won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series back in 2002. However, it is by no means the only one production he stood out in. John starred alongside Harrison Ford in the film Presumed Innocent and certainly held his own in the role. Aside from TV and film work, he has also performed in Broadway.
John passed away in 2005 following a heart attack.


Between Broadway and film, Alice Playten’s career was certainly prolific. She has starred in some of the most popular and beloved theatre productions, including Henry, Oliver!, Seussical, Hello Dolly!, Caroline, and Change. The actress has also done a number of off-Broadway performances, which boosted her acting credit. Eventually, she would start landing roles in films. In 1979, she joined the cast of California Dreaming. She was also in Amityville II: The Possession, providing the terrifying voice for the Demon character.
All her life, Alice struggled with juvenile diabetes and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The actress passed away in 2011, primarily due to heart failure.


The actress appeared in a number of stage and film productions and even debuted on TV through minor roles in various shows. This includes a small acting credit in Puppets Who Kill. Despite being a late bloomer when it comes to TV success, she would later be cast for The Newsroom’s second season. Holly’s experience with performing in the Canadian theatre scene would later bring her to the international stage—garnering accolades along the way.
Her career was short-lived, sadly. Holly passed away in 2012 and the circumstances of which remain unclear. Various reports on the case attribute it to a possible suicide.


We’ll always remember Marcia as the beloved Carol Kester, her role in the sitcom The Bob Newhart Show. However, did you know that aside from being a versatile actress and comedian, she also did voice acting? In fact, for those who are fans of The Simpsons, they might be familiar with her for being the voice of Mrs. Krabappel—Bart’s teacher. For her work on the animated series, Marcia even won an Emmy award! Needless to say, she deserves all the credit for her contributions to the industry.
Marcia passed away at the age of 71 due to breast cancer. This was back in 2013.


Actress Sunny Johnson, who played Jeanie in the 1983 romantic drama film, Flashdance (which starred Jennifer Beals) didn’t come into mainstream consciousness to the same degree as other young stars of her time because she wasn’t in the industry for very long. However, her role in Flashdance was quite memorable, and she had landed roles in other movies as well like in The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia and Dr. Heckyl and Mr.Hype. Sadly, she was found unconscious in her boyfriend’s home at the young age of 30 due to a ruptured blood vessel in her brain. Johnson fell into a coma as a result and died after she was released from life support.


Her screen debut was in the film Meet The Parents, where she played Deborah Byrnes, the character who famously got bloodied up by Greg Focker (played by Ben Stiller) in a round of pool volleyball. DeHuff landed a regular role in The Court, a legal drama series that ran for one season in 2002. DehHuff would also tie the knot with Ari Palitz, a producer and director whom she met at Carnegie Mellon University, where she got her bachelor’s degree in drama. Sadly, DeHuff collapsed in her home on February 16, 2005. It was discovered at the hospital that DeHuff died from complications due to pneumonia.


Multi-award-winning actor Richard Griffiths, who is best known for portraying Vernon Dursley, the muggle stepfather of Harry Potter in the Harry Potter film series, died at the age of 65 following complications of heart surgery. Many will have already seen some of Griffiths’s performances on screen, but he was first and foremost, an acclaimed stage actor, who enjoyed a long and storied career as such. Indeed, Griffiths is, to a huge degree, one of the most loved and critically-acclaimed actors of British descent, and his many awards for stage and film are a testament to this.


There is not much known about Romi Koch. After all, she wasn’t in the industry for very long. And, unfortunately, even less is known about the circumstances of her death. The only role she’s been given credit in a film is for an obscure one, and it was in an equally obscure film that’s been directed by Adam Sherman called Dead Doll. A year after her appearance in the film, she passed away. Under what circumstances? Nobody knows. Needless to say, she was an actress who could have made it big in Hollywood had she been given the opportunity to do so. Alas, she was gone too soon.


British-American actor and skateboarder Justin Pierce, who is best known for his roles in the films Kids and Next Friday, was a moderately successful skateboarder who was a member of the Zoo York skateboard team. To his credit, he appeared in multiple roles for television and films and was for all practical purposes slowly making a name for himself in the industry. Unfortunately, he committed suicide in his Bellagio Hotel room in 2000, where he was staying for a fashion shoot. Pierce is another celebrity whose career would have taken off if he didn’t pass away so early.


Actor, director, writer, and human rights activist, Andrew Koenig, who many will remember as Boner from the hit television sitcom Growing Pains, had reportedly been battling depression before taking his life. Koenig’s father shared that his son stopped taking medication a year before, which many have linked to the exacerbation of the younger Koenig’s mental health. It appears that he was very despondent during the weeks before he took his own life, to the point of selling all his possessions and terminating the lease on his apartment. Koenig’s death has, to a huge degree, opened the lid on depression, especially among those who grew up amidst fame and glitter.


Film, stage, and television actor Michael Jeter, who many will remember as Mister Noodle on the children’s television program Elmo’s World, was found dead in his home in 2003. According to Jeter’s partner, the actor died from an epileptic seizure. Many speculated that his death might have been related to his HIV status, but people who knew Jeter said that that wasn’t likely the case, given he’s been in good health for many years. The actor’s film credits include Water World, The Green Mile, Jurassic Park 3, Open Range, The Polar Express, and more.


Actor J.T. Walsh, who many will remember as Jack Nicholson’s suicidal lieutenant in the film A Few Good Men, passed away from a heart attack at Grossman Hospital in 1998. He was 54 years old then and was at a resort hotel, but suddenly fell ill so he was taken to the hospital. Walsh was, to some degree, one of the most underrated actors of our time and took on a variety of roles for films, a lot of which were notable and were of ethically-challenged men. Interestingly, he was an encyclopedia salesman prior to getting into acting.


Politician, actor, filmmaker and entrepreneur, Richard Attenborough, who many will remember for playing John Hammond in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (Hammond was the fictional character who owned the park), passed away five days before his 91st birthday due to complications brought about by the stroke he had a few years earlier. He had, to his credit, a career that spanned six decades, with a slew of awards under his belt as a director. Unfortunately, the stroke he had a few years back left him in a wheelchair. Prior to his death, he reportedly sold his estate to live at a nursing home with his wife.


Character actor Len Lesser, who is known the world over as Seinfeld’s Uncle Leo from the hit television sitcom Seinfeld, died in 2011 from cancer-related pneumonia. He was 88 years old then. He was a prolific character actor for more than 50 years and landed the role of Uncle Leo—the role that would make him a household name—in 1989. Indeed, he shared for an interview that the show Seinfeld was the first show in the long list he’s been involved with that made him a celebrity. Among his film credits are Birdman of Alcatraz, Moonshine County Express, and Death Hunt. Interestingly enough, Lesser served in the army during World War 2, having enlisted after the events of Pearl Harbor. He’s a man who will definitely be missed.


Actor, writer and New York City police detective, Barney Martin, who millions of TV viewers will remember as the fictional father of Seinfeld (he was the third actor to play the role) in the hit television sitcom of the same name, died of bladder cancer in 2005. One of the most memorable moments Martin had on the show was when he invented a beltless trench coat, which he was said to have brought on the last episode for each cast member to sign. Interestingly enough, he wrote humorous speeches for deputy commissioners during his time as an NYPD detective. Among his film credits include The Producers, Deadly Weapon, and Hero. Martin also appeared in a number of Broadway shows, including the original production of Chicago.


Actress and singer Brittany Murphy, who gained prominence after her breakout role as Tai Frasier in the coming-of-age comedy film Clueless, passed away in 2009 from a cardiac arrest that was due to a combination of pneumonia and iron deficiency. She was 32 years old then. It was initially speculated that Murphy died from a drug overdose, but the coroner ruled her death as accidental. Oddly enough, Murphy’s husband Simon Monjack passed away a few months later from similar causes, leading some of Murphy’s family members to speculate both were victims of foul play.
Aside from Clueless, some of Murphy’s other film credits include Girl, Interrupted, 8 Mile, and Sin City.


Drag Queen, singer and reality television personality, Antoine Ashley, who most will know by the stage name Sahara Davenport, died of heart failure in 2012 at the age of 27. She was a contestant in the second season of Netflix’s hit show RuPaul’s Drag Race and was able to release the single Go Off after the show. To her credit, the single was able to reach no. 35 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart. Ashley also appeared in a number of music videos, including Gettin’ Over, a song by David Guetta and Chris Willis.


Emmy-nominated actor and director Bill Paxton, whose film credits include Aliens, Twister, and Apollo 13, died in 2017 following complications from heart surgery. Apparently, Paxton had a damaged heart valve since he was a kid and decidedly underwent heart surgery at the age of 61 to have it repaired. Unfortunately, eleven days after his surgery, he had a stroke. The last film he was involved with, The Circle, was released posthumously. Although Paxton never really reached the A-lister heights during his career, he did have an extraordinary body of work which will ensure that he will be sorely missed in the industry.


Character actor David Graff, who will be known to many as the man who played the overzealous Sgt. Eugene Tackleberry in the Police Academy comedy film series, died from a heart attack in 2001. It was a little more than a week before his 51st birthday when the incident occurred, and he was attending his brother-in-law’s wedding in Arizona. There have been reports saying he was engaged in an eating contest before he suddenly collapsed, but the dearth of articles about it leaves us unable to confirm whether it’s true. His other film credits include Citizen Ruth, The Brady Bunch Movie, and American Kickboxer 2.


American actress Wendie Jo Sperber, whose film credits include I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Back to the Future, and Bosom Buddies, died at her home in November of 2005, following an eight-year battle with breast cancer. She reportedly approached her cancer head-on and was hopeful until the end that she could turn it around. Unfortunately, the actress who founded the weSPARK Cancer Support Center of Sherman Oaks in 2001 succumbed to the disease. Many of her friends and relatives have shared that Sperber remained full of love and joy throughout her painful ordeal.


American actress Gina Mastrogiacomo, who many might remember for her roles in The Color of Money and Goodfellas—two films for whose lead characters she played the love interest—died from myocarditis, a rare bacterial infection of the heart that causes inflammation, at the young age of 39. Not much is known about the actress since she only ever had minor roles in films. Her performance in the aforementioned films, however, was indeed memorable, and for that she deserves credit. She worked as a model prior to getting into films and then was discovered by the great Martin Scorsese, who cast her in his films.


Hong Kong singer and actress Anita Mui, whose credits include huge contributions to the Cantopop music genre and was frequently referred to as the “Madonna of The East” during the peak of her career, succumbed to cervical cancer in December of 2003. She had this flamboyant onstage persona that enamored fans from all over the country. She was, to a huge degree, one of the most celebrated celebrities in Hong Kong, and was even said to have paved the way for other Hong Kong artists. Interestingly enough, she started singing in amusement parks as a kid until she was discovered.


Prominent African-American actress and voice actress Lynne Thigpen, who many will know as the voice of Luna in the children’s series Bear in The Big Blue House, died of an Intracerebral hemorrhage in March of 2003. She was 54 years old then. Apparently, she was having headaches in the days prior to her death, which her friends and family didn’t expect was serious since she was often in good health. Her credits include various roles (and voice roles) for television, films, and computer game franchises. Indeed, friends of Thigpen shared that although she was a workaholic, she was as healthy as can be, which made the news of her death immensely surprising.


It is a known fact that music can heal and transcend language barriers. This is, perhaps, why Avicii’s work as a DJ was able to move so many across the globe. Even today, his music is still well-loved. His chart-toppers, “You Make Me”, “Hey Brother”, and “Addicted to You” are still celebrated and played on air. Avicii, born Tim Bergling, also gets credit for helping introduce electronic music to a whole new generation—making it more mainstream than it originally was.
Due to health issues, however, he had to retire from doing live performances. Sadly, the 28-year-old artist took his own life in 2018.


Impresario, artist, musician, fashion designer and entrepreneur, Malcolm McLaren, who many will know as both the manager and promoter of the hard rock bands New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols and who many considered as the man who invented Punk, died on 2010 after a long battle with cancer. His spokesman revealed that McLaren had been battling cancer for a long while but chose to keep it from the public. To some degree, the Sex Pistols owe their fame and fortunes to McLaren, who brought them together, formed the band, and made each one—including himself—a household name.


Singer and actor Andy Hallett, who gained prominence for playing Lorne in the hit television series Angel, died from congestive heart failure in March of 2009. He was 33 years old then. Apparently, it was a dental infection that spread to his heart that was, to a huge degree, the cause for the heart problems he had been experiencing 5 years before his passing. Interestingly enough, his being cast into the role of Lorne reportedly happened accidentally. The show creator, Joss Whedon, saw Hallet performing, of all places, at a karaoke bar, and got inspired to write up the part of a singing demon.


French actor Guillaume Depardieu, who’s the son of both Gérard and Élisabeth Depardieu (both French actors), died of severe viral pneumonia in October of 2008. He was 37 years old then. Depardieu’s health had apparently already been compromised by his long-term drug use, and this made him particularly vulnerable when he contracted pneumonia. Depardieu was also said to have had a fraught relationship with his more famous father, not least because of his prodigal past, which included jail time for theft, drugs, and dealing. To some degree, the young Depardieu was able to extricate himself from his violent past, but it, unfortunately, caught up with him in terms of his health.


Character actress on stage, film, and television, Jean Stapleton, who gained prominence playing the role of Edith Bunker in the highly successful 70’s sitcom All in the Family, passed away in 2013 from natural causes at the age of 90. Interestingly enough, Stapleton has had a long career as an actress but only attained stardom at the age of 50, when she was cast as Archie Bunker’s perpetually optimistic wife. The show went on to win a slew of Emmy Awards, and Stapleton, to her credit, was able to win a few, too. In June of 2013, the marquee lights on Broadway were dimmed in her honor.


English actor Trevor Goddard, who some might remember for his role as Kano in the fantasy martial arts film Mortal Kombat, was found dead in his home in 2003. Initial reports suspected Goddard committed suicide because of depression stemming from his recent divorce, but his death was eventually ruled accidental due to a drug overdose. It was determined that the actor had, to a huge degree, been battling addiction for a long time. His death was a tragedy, given it was the same year Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was released, which was the film where he landed his biggest role.


Actor, stunt performer, and martial arts expert, Steve James, who’s known (relatively speaking) for the corny catchphrase “I’m gonna git you sucka!” died in his home from pancreatic cancer in 1993. He was somewhat of an action star in the ‘80s, and the roles he often played were that of over-the-top kung fu characters who frequently recite one cheesy line after another while simultaneously kicking the crap out of dozens of bad guys. To Jame’s credit, many enjoyed his campy films during the ‘80s—he wasn’t really Best Actor material, but at least he was on screen, entertaining people.


Actor and stand-up comedian Redd Foxx, who gained prominence for playing Fred Sanford in NBC’s 1970s hit television sitcom Sanford and Son, died in 1991 after suffering a massive heart attack while on set. It was reported that Foxx did his scene and fell to the floor with nobody realizing that something was wrong. His character had scenes where he purposefully faked heart attacks, after all, so people assumed he was doing it again. It was only when Foxx told someone to get his wife did they know something was wrong. Unfortunately, he was pronounced dead by the paramedics when they arrived. In 1992, Foxx, whose credits include a lot of shows on television and film, was posthumously given a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

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