ByMarlon McDonald, writer at
Umm... are you going to drink that Skooma?
Marlon McDonald

Life itself is not without a sense of irony. The way it takes from us the ones we love, the ones who inspire us to be better, brighter, and the ones who endeavor to transform the world into a breeding ground of empathy and optimism. It would be laughable if it wasn't so true.

This statement rings true in numerous cases of celebrity death. The stresses of being a performer sometimes drove numerous luminaries to indulge in drugs or alcohol to deal with the pressures of fame, some drove themselves to madness perfecting their most iconic role, and some were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But having the wonderful ability to bring joy into people's lives usually comes at a great cost, as these 8 brilliant performers, who burned brightly in the public eye and passed away legends, were unfortunate enough to learn.

1. Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Born: July 23, 1967

Died: February 2, 2014 (Aged 46)

In his younger years, the critically lauded and cult hit actor struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, like so many other stars of stage and screen. But, after entering rehab at 22, Hoffman managed to stay clean for 23 years until his untimely death from a mixed drug overdose.

At the time of his passing, Hoffman was filming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 in which he played gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee.

"I think I would have drank myself to death, literally, if I didn't just stop, once and for all when I did. I am not ever going to preach to anyone about drugs or drinking. But, for me, when they were around, I had no self control."

2. Marilyn Monroe

Born: June 1, 1926

Died: August 5, 1962 (Aged 36)

Monroe's story is one of grounding heartache and dizzying highs, culminating with one of the most suspicious celebrity deaths in modern history. She was found dead in her home from a supposed barbiturates overdose, alluding to possible suicide.

Many conspiracy theories surrounding her death point to CIA and Mafia ties, and the possible involvement of Robert and John Kennedy. The Kennedy theory is propped up by allegations that President Kennedy was the last person Monroe called before passing.

Monroe's last public appearance was the performance "Happy Birthday, Mr. President," serenaded to President John F. Kennedy himself at a celebration of his 45 birthday.

"No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they're pretty, even if they aren't."

3. Brandon Lee

Born: February 1, 1965

Died: March 31, 1993 (Aged 28)

Son of Bruce Lee and Linda Lee Cadwell, the young and rising star was killed on set of The Crow after an accidental shooting with a prop .44 Magnum.

The movie's prop team had specially built dummy bullets by removing the powder charge, and reinserting the bullet. But, unfortunately, the percussion primer was left in the back of the cartridge.

When the fatal scene was up, even though the dummy bullet was replaced by a blank round, the trapped bullet was fired from the gun with enough force to mortally wound Lee in the abdomen.

At the time of Lee's death, his father Bruce Lee's biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story was readied for release. It came out two months after his passing, and was dedicated to his memory.

"You only have the burdens on you that you choose to put there."

4. River Phoenix

Born: August 23, 1970

Died: October 31, 1993 (Aged 23)

Phoenix was due to perform on stage at The Viper Room with his good friend Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), after returning from Utah where he was filming Dark Blood. But in the early hours of the morning of that fateful October day, Phoenix suffered a cardiac arrest following a drug overdose, and reportedly convulsed on the pavement for over 5 minutes.

His sister, Rain Phoenix, was unable to revive him with mouth to mouth resuscitation, and he later passed surrounded by friends and family.

In memory of his friend's passing, Johnny Depp, who co-owned The Viper Club at the time, closed the club on the 31st of October every year up until he sold his share in 2004.

Phoenix was due to start work on Interview with a Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, a couple of weeks after his death. The role was later passed to Christian Slater, who donated his $250,000 wage to two of Phoenix's favorite charities.

"Addiction is not just for bad people or scumbags - it's a universal disease."

5. Aaliyah

Born: January 16, 1979

Died: August 25, 2001 (Aged 22)

The first artist to reach the Billboard Top 100 off airplay alone, Aaliyah died in a plane crash following the completion of the music video for her hit single "Rock the Boat."

Returning from the shoot in The Bahamas, the private jet was said to have been 320kg over the recommended weight limit upon takeoff. It was seen to nose dive and hurtle towards the ground, 60m away from the runway, exploding into flames on impact.

It was said that the findings of an autopsy made on the pilot Luis Morales III, found there to be traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system. And, even more shockingly, he wasn't actually approved to fly the plane, and had falsely acquired his FAA license.

Aaliyah's second and final feature was 2002's Queen of the Damned, and was released posthumously. Her brother, writer Rashad Haughton, performed some re-dub duty for the movie after his sister's untimely passing.

"Everything is worth it. The hard work, the times when you're tired, the times where you're a bit sad . . . In the end, it's all worth it because it really makes me happy. There's nothing better than loving what you do."

6. Heath Ledger

Born: April 4, 1979

Died: January 22, 2008 (Aged 28)

The posthumous Academy Award winner was found unresponsive in his apartment by his housekeeper and personal masseuse. The latter attempted to revive him with CPR but was sadly unsuccessful. Ledger later died from an overdose from a mixture of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine.

The medications listed above are usually prescribed to patients suffering from insomnia and anxiety, and it was said that Ledger had prior problems with his sleeping habits. Additionally, a lot of sources have cited a psychological breakdown of sorts, after delving deep into darkness while portraying the Joker in The Dark Knight.

Ledger was midway through filming Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus when he passed. In honor of his legacy, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law stepped in to play different incarnations of his character. All actors donated their wages to Ledger's daughter, whom he had with actress Michelle Williams.

"I'm not good at future planning. I don't plan at all. I don't know what I'm doing tomorrow. I don't have a day planner and I don't have a diary. I completely live in the now, not in the past, not in the future."

7. Paul Walker

Born: September 12, 1973

Died: November 30, 2013 (Aged 40)

The beloved actor and charity advocate died, alongside his friend Roger Rodas, in a car accident as they were leaving an event for Walker's charity Reach Out Worldwide for victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

The 2005 Porsche Carrera GT they were in was traveling at an estimated 80 mph to 90 mph, in a 45 mph zone, on a spot that is famed for drifting enthusiasts. Apparently Rodas, who was driving, lost control and the car impacted upon two trees and a concrete lamppost.

Three movies starring Walker were released posthumously - Hours, Brick Mansions and, of course, Furious 7. Due to his passing, Walker's brothers Caleb and Cody agreed to stand in and complete their brother's unfinished scenes in Furious 7 to honor his memory.

"You know, all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy. Everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae."

8. Robin Williams

Born: July 21, 1951

Died: August 11, 2014 (Aged 63)

The legend and inspirational comedian took his own life after a battle with severe depression, and had reportedly been estranged from his wife due to anxiety over his recently diagnosed Parkinson's disease.

An autopsy revealed that Williams had been suffering with Lewy body Dementia, and the onset of paranoia attributed to that may have led to him ending his own life.

Williams had worked on four films coming up to the time of his death - A Merry Friggin' Christmas, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Boulevard and Absolutely Anything, all of which either have or will be released posthumously.

"I don't know how much value I have in this universe, but I do know that I've made a few people happier than they would have been without me, and as long as I know that, I'm as rich as I ever need to be."

These talented and beloved people brought unparalleled amounts of joy and fun into our lives, and will be forever remembered as the beautiful and selfless artisans they were.

Though their deaths may have come from personal struggles or unfortunate accidents, I hope that for a few fleeting moments at least, they were warmed by the love of generations of adoring fans from all over the globe.

As the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, and so aptly quoted by Sarah Michelle Gellar in her recent tribute to Robin Williams:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here.
This is to have succeeded.


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