Michael Jackson's life was surrounded in controversy, as was death at the age of 50. After months of rehearsal and on the verge of performing live for the first time in years, Jackson died after his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, administered Propofol and two other sedatives to help him sleep.
Each year the Library of Congress selects 25 "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant films to be preserved for all time, and Jackson didn't live long enough to see Thriller named to the 2009 National Film Registry. Thriller changed music videos forever, and was so popular it was also released theatrically.
Patrick Swayze didn't let Stage 4 pancreatic cancer stop him from starring in the crime drama, The Beast, an A&E TV series canceled after just 13 episodes. Swayze underwent chemotherapy yet he still managed to handle all the duties of being the lead actor in a fast-paced TV series.
Staying positive to the very end, Swayze passed away with his wife of 30 years, dancer Lisa Niemi, at his side.
Brittany Murphy was busy working on a handful of film projects, including Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables, when she died suddenly at 32. Her mother found Murphy unconscious in the bathroom of the LA home she shared with her husband, British screenwriter Simon Monjack. Murphy was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center but never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
On a personal note, Murphy was always a pleasure to interview. I remember Murphy as being one of the only stars of Sin City to spend quality time with the fans at the film's premiere.
Film Credits Include: Clueless, Girl, Interrupted, Don't Say a Word, 8 Mile, and Little Black Book
Tony Award-winning Natasha Richardson was enjoying a ski vacation with her sons, Michael and Daniel, when she took a tumble and hit her head. Richardson, who wasn't wearing a helmet, said she felt fine immediately after the accident but then developed a headache about an hour later. The headache increased in intensity and she was taken to a hospital where she lapsed into a coma. Two days after the ski mishap, Richardson passed away as the result of epidural hematoma due to blunt impact to the head. Richardson was just 45 when she died.
David Carradine, best known for his starring role in the classic TV series Kung Fu, died at age 72 from accidental asphyxiation. Carradine was found naked with a rope around his neck and genitals in a closet in hotel room in Bangkok. Although it was initially believed Carradine had committed suicide, Thai police later determined he most likely died while sexually pleasuring himself.
Farrah Fawcett didn't want to take her battle with anal cancer public, but was forced into doing so when a tabloid reported her cancer had returned. It was later revealed an employee at UCLA leaked the information. Nevertheless, Fawcett kept her spirits up, traveling to Germany for experimental treatment, and documenting each step of her journey on video. After her courageous battle with the disease, Fawcett passed away with her son, Redmond, and off-and-on again lover Ryan O'Neal by her side. Her struggle was chronicled in Farrah's Story which aired on TV just weeks before her death.
Film Credits Include: Man of the House, The Apostle, and Dr T and the Women
Lucy Gordon had only a few film roles to her credit before she took her own life just two days short of her 29th birthday, but they were in major releases. The former model-turned-actress was found dead hanging in a bedroom in the Paris apartment she shared with live-in boyfriend Jerome Almeras. Gordon left two notes for her family indicating how she wanted her estate divided up, but not revealing why she took her own life. She had just finished work on Serge Gainsbourg, vie héroïque, a biopic of French singer Gainsbourg, and her family and friends were stunned she committed suicide when her life seemed to be on track.
John Hughes made some of the best high school, teenage angst, coming-of-age films ever to come out of Hollywood before retiring from filmmaking to live on an Illinois farm with his family in the '90s. Hughes' films were smartly written, insightful, and audiences of all ages could relate to his characters. When Hughes gave up writing and directing, moviegoers lost a filmmaker who could always be counted on to entertain the masses. And the world forever lost a great storyteller in August when Hughes died of a heart attack while taking a walk.
Film Credits Include: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Walt Disney's nephew, Roy Edward Disney, worked his way up from assistant film editor back in 1954 to the Board of Directors of the Walt Disney Company (co-founded by Walt Disney and Roy's father, Roy O Disney) to one of the company's major shareholders. Never one to sit idly by, Roy Disney used the wealth he accumulated through Disney stock to shape the direction of the studio, leading two different campaigns to oust the company's CEO when Roy felt the studio wasn't living up to Walt Disney's vision. After a lengthy battle with stomach cancer, Roy Disney passed away one month short of his 80th birthday.
Sci-fi fans lost one of the greats of the genre when Dan O'Bannon passed away in late 2009. O'Bannon was multi-talented, writing, directing, even stepping in front of the camera very occasionally over the course of his nearly 40 years in the film industry. O'Bannon was still working on screenplays (including a new zombie story: Dan O'Bannon's Zombies: Fruit of the Tomb) when he finally lost his 30 year battle with Crohn's disease.
Film Credits Include: Wrote Alien, Blue Thunder , Total Recall, Screamers. Wrote and directed The Return of the Living Dead.