Top Hollywood Curses
The top Hollywood curses spark our imagination and provide all kinds of fodder for the tabloids. Whether we’re talking cursed roles, doomed productions, or even an unlucky family, a number of Hollywood curses have become the stuff of legends. In the following post, I’ve listed a few of the most popular curses to strike down celebrities, as well as some of the more offbeat. Whether or not you believe in such supernatural mumbo-jumbo, I hope you’ll still find it an enjoyable read.
The 27 Club
Okay, our first entry includes musicians instead of actors, but many of those listed as members of The 27 Club have still rubbed elbows with the Hollywood elite or had some manner of dealings with Tinseltown. As the name might indicate, The 27 Club is filled with musicians who’ve died at the age of twenty-seven, and the total number (over 40) is stunning. Here are some of the most notable members of the club, along with their cause of death.
- Kurt Cobain (suicide)
- Brian Jones (drowned)
- Jimi Hendrix (choked on his own vomit after mixing wine and sleeping pills)
- Jim Morrison (heart failure)
- Janis Joplin (heroin overdose)
The Curse of Rebel Without a Cause
Was the film Rebel Without a Cause cursed? Made in 1955, all three of the lead performers were dead by 1981. James Dean would die in a head-on car crash the same year the film was released, Natalie Wood would drown at the age of 43, and Sal Mineo was stabbed through the heart at the age of 37.
The Lee Family Curse
Legends have persisted for years that Bruce Lee was killed for sharing his martial arts secrets with the Western world. That seems unlikely, but there’s no disputing the fact that his death at the age of 32 was a tragedy. After collapsing two months before, Lee complained of a headache on July 20th, 1973 and took a painkiller and muscle relaxant before going to bed. He never woke up.
Twenty years later, his 28-year-old son, Brandon Lee, was filming the big-screen adaptation of the underground comic book known as The Crow. When a mistake occurred on the set, a bullet became lodged in a gun that was later pointed and fired at Lee. The bullet exited the gun, passed through Lee’s abdomen, and struck him in the spine. The operation to save his life lasted for six hours and required 60 pints of blood, but the young star was eventually pronounced dead on March 31st, 1993.
The Superman Curse
One of the top Hollywood curses involves the men chosen to play Superman and their supporting cast. Some say that the whole thing started when DC Comics screwed over co-creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel. Whatever the case, it’s certainly claimed its fair share of victims.
- George Reeves (days before his wedding, he was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head)
- Christopher Reeve (paralyzed after a horse riding accident, he would die nine years later from heart failure resulting from his condition)
- Lee Quigley (the actor who played an infant Superman died at 14 from inhaling solvents)
- Dana Reeve (the wife of Christopher Reeve died from lung cancer at the age of 44)
- Margot Kidder (the actress who played Lois Lane suffers from severe bipolar disorder)
- Marlon Brando (played Superman’s father before his own son killed a man and went to prison, and his daughter later hanged herself)
- Richard Pryor (the co-star of Superman III was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three years later)
The Curse of Billy Bob Thornton
When he’s not busy insulting Canada or comparing himself to Tom Petty, actor Billy Bob Thornton seems to have a habit of loaning bad mojo to his co-stars. After all, how else can you explain the suspicious number of friends and co-stars who’ve up and died after being associated with Thornton?
- J.T. Walsh (the Slingblade co-star died of a heart attack at 54)
- Jim Varney (the Daddy and Them co-star died of lung cancer at 50)
- John Ritter (the Slingblade and Bad Santa co-star died unexpectedly at the age of 54)
- Warren Zevon (Thornton’s friend and neighbor died of lung cancer at the age of 56)
- Patrick Swayze (his Waking Up in Reno co-star died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 57)
- Bernie Mac (the Bad Santa co-star died at the age of 50 following a short battle with pneumonia)
- Heath Ledger (the Monster’s Ball co-star died of an accidental overdose at the age of 28)
The Incomparable Atuk
The film about an Eskimo warrior moving to the city has been cursed ever since it was written. In fact, it was eventually shelved after passing into the hands of a number of doomed actors. Here’s a complete list:
- John Belushi (overdosed while preparing for the role)
- Sam Kinison (accepted the role and died in a car wreck two years later)
- John Candy (died of a heart attack while considering the role)
- Chris Farley (died of an overdose after accepting the lead role)
- Phil Hartman (considered a supporting role with Farley before being murdered by his wife)
The Omen Curse
When it comes to top Hollywood curses, you’ve got to expect at least one involving the Prince of Darkness. That quota was met in 1976 with the release of The Omen, a film about the birth of the Antichrist. Just take a look at all the weird events surrounding the production:
- Director Richard Donner’s hotel was bombed by the IRA.
- Star Gregory Peck’s plane was struck by lightning.
- Screenwriter David Seltzer’s plane was also struck by lightning.
- The day after filming was wrapped at a safari park, one of the wardens was killed by a lion.
- A rottweiler trainer was attacked by his own dogs.
- During the first day of filming, members of the crew were involved in a head-on car crash.
- Gregory Peck was scheduled to take a flight, but he ended up cancelling his reservation. The plane crashed and killed everyone on board.
The Curse of Poltergeist
Speculation about the Poltergeist curse started when crew members used actual skeletal remains for the filming of the memorable swimming pool scene. Afterwards, a series of accidents and deaths began to occur.
- The film’s production was plagued with flickering lights, objects being moved, and a number of other unexplainable occurrences.
- Actor Julian Beck (Detective Kane in Poltergeist II) died of stomach cancer at the age of 60.
- Actress Dominique Dunne was murdered by her boyfriend at the age of 22.
- Actor Will Sampson (Poltergeist II) died at the age of 53 due to kidney failure.
- 12-year-old star Heather O’Rourke died of septic shock while filming the third movie.
Our final entry isn’t so much one of the top Hollywood curses as it is an example of really bad judgment. Future recluse Howard Hughes produced this film about the life of Genghis Khan and cast John Wayne in the lead role (nevermind the fact that Wayne wasn’t the least bit Asian). Lead actress Susan Hayward was almost killed by a panther during filming, but the worst part came during shoots in Utah’s Snow Canyon. Since it was nearby to the Yucca Flats, the site of numerous nuclear bomb tests, cast and crew were subjected to dangerous amounts of radiation. In fact, photos exist of John Wayne and others holding Geiger counters with the needle in the red. Ninety-one of the 220 cast and crew would eventually be diagnosed with cancer, including Wayne, Susan Hayward, and director Dick Powell. To make matters worse, The Conqueror proved to be a critical and commercial failure.
If you’d like to read more about some of the top Hollywood curses, check out the following books from Amazon. We do get a small commission for sending you there, but that doesn’t affect your final cost in the least bit.
- The Hollywood Book of Death
- Hollywood Kryptonite, The Bulldog, the Lady, and the Death of Superman
- Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee, and the Dragon’s Curse
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