ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

After the untimely death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 director Francis Lawrence had a difficult decision to make. He needed to finish his movie, but would he be prepared to try some computer wizardry to bring back Hoffman for his final scenes?

In a new interview with The Huffington Post, Lawrence reveals that he never seriously considered adding a digital Hoffman to the film, but instead figured out a more basic work-around. He stated:

He had two scenes with dialogue that were left and we decided we didn't want to try any digital trickery with him, so we rewrote his scenes and gave the dialogue to other actors... I just think to try to fake a Philip Seymour Hoffman performance would have been catastrophic and I would never want to do that.

However, not everyone thinks like Lawrence. Cinematic history is full of instances of directors working around the deaths of actors - some utilize special effects, some recast while others simply use a cardboard cut out (that's actually true). Here are four more ways directors have dealt with the deaths of their stars.

Oliver Reed - Gladiator

Originally, Oliver Reed's character in Gladiator, Proximo, was expected to escape the gladiator school with Maximus. However, the veteran actor died in a break during filming, which left several important scenes unfilmed.

To get around this issue, director Ridley Scott used a combination of CGI facial reconstruction - which was in its infancy at the time - body doubles, rewrites and unused footage to complete Proximos story arch. Indeed, you can clearly see this is the case in Proximo's death scene. He is approached from behind by Praetorian guards who are wearing black armor, however when it cuts to Reed you can see those standing behind him are wearing normal legionnaire armor. This is because this shot was originally from a scene in which Proximo argued with Maximus in the arena barracks. The line, from which a snippet of dialogue was taken, was originally: "We mortals are but shadows and dust! Shadows and dust Maximus!"

Here is a video showing how previous scenes of Reed were reused for later scenes reworking Proximo's story:

Bruce Lee - Game of Death

The iconic kung-fu master, Bruce Lee, actually died before his most famous movie, Enter The Dragon appeared in US theaters. However, he had also started work on another film, 1978's Game of Death, and his demise left major holes in the original script.

With CGI out of the question, the production had to rely on body doubles, practical effects and even a cardboard cut-out of Lee's face to recreate scenes. Furthermore, they also used footage from Lee's actual funeral and worked it into the story of the movie. Keep an eye out for the cardboard cut out in the video below.

Heath Ledger - The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Although his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight might be remembered as Heath Ledger's best posthumous performance, he had also started work on Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus at the time of his death.

Instead of attempting to use CGI or other wizardry to recreate Heath Ledger for the entire film, Gilliam decided to rewrite the story to allow the character of Tony to magically change his appearance. He then called in Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law to help complete the film.

Brandon Lee - The Crow

In a strange twist of fate, Bruce Lee's son, Brandon Lee would also be reconstructed for scenes in The Crow. The star was killed on set in a firearms accident in which a prop round which was lodged in the barrel was fired out of a gun with a blank round, killing Lee.

The remainder of Brandon Lee's scenes were made up with computer effects and a body double. Often, the scenes involving a body double would be shot in a way to obscure the character's face - for example, by using a broken mirror, only illuminating his face for split seconds when lightening strikes or by simply only filming him from behind.


Which of these movies recreated their deceased actors best?



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