All the very worst curses affecting actors and films
Whether or not you believe in forces of this world beyond our understanding, some odd happenings cannot fully be explained. Mar. There are plenty of them that follow you into day-to-day life. A horseshoe in the doorway, tossing spilled salt over your shoulder, knocking on wood: all are examples how we still combat the fear of curses in our lives.
Actors are a pretty superstitious lot. One well known curse among thespians is that of the Scottish Play, a.k.a. Shakespeare’s MacBeth. The curse goes thus: if you say the name of the play outside of performing or rehearsal, then disaster will strike. Should someone say “MacBeth” outside of those circumstances, he or she is banished until after performing a cleansing ritual.
If you’re cursed by the Scottish Play, you can turn three times, spit over your left shoulder, swear, or recite a line from another play of Shakespeare’s. Only after the completion of one of these rituals is the curse considered “broken” and the actor allowed back.
Hollywood is full of tales of curses and hauntings, too. There are stories around every corner from the Cecil Hotel to the Beverly Hills Bermuda Triangle to Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Actors or films are even said to be cursed, such as the infamous death curse on 1973’s The Exorcist.
Here are just some of the actors believed to have been affected by curses in Hollywood. Whether from a film set or in their blood, these actors experienced some major calamities, even dying by their curse . . . if you believe in such things.
The unfairly tragic end of Brandon Lee
Son of famed actor and martial artist Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee spent much of his life trying to get out from under the shadow of his famous father. He started acting in 1985 in such films as Kung Fu: The Movie and Legacy of Rage. In 1991, he was beginning to break into Hollywood thanks to his work in Showdown in Little Tokyo and Rapid Fire.
With 1994’s The Crow, based on the popular underground comic, Lee’s star was set to rise even further – before tragedy struck. While filming on set in 1993, Lee, only twenty-eight-years-old, was fatally shot in the abdomen while filming. The prop gun was loaded improperly. No one had taken out the dummy round from an earlier shot and when the blank fired, it sent shrapnel right into Lee’s midsection. It wasn’t the first on-set accident, but it was the most devastating.
Brandon Lee tragically died in Wilmington, North Carolina after six hours of surgery in an attempt to save his life. The film, which only had a couple more days of filming left, was quickly reworked using Lee’s student double and digital imaging to help.
The Crow is widely considered to be a cult classic, Lee’s most successful film. It was dedicated in honor of Brandon Lee and his fiancee, Eliza Hutton. To make the story even sadder, the pair were only a couple weeks away from their wedding date. (Due to the tragedy, Hutton worked to have on-set gun safety regulations tightened.)
Now this isn’t the first time that rumors of a curse dogged the Lee family. When Bruce Lee died in 1973 from a brain edema possibly caused by a prescription painkiller, rumors circulated that his death was due to a curse. There’s also another rumor that said Chinese gangsters were to blame as well. Given that both father and son died so young, it does make you think.
Bruce and Brandon Lee are buried next to each other in Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery. Local lore says that ghosts of father and son occasionally appear.
Jim Caviezel may have peeved God.
Maybe God didn’t want Mel Gibson to make The Passion of the Christ. This 2004 film rather brutally depicted what is known in Christianity and Catholicism as “the Passion”, the trial and execution by crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Performing the Passion is not that big of a surprise; Passion plays are held every year in churches around the globe. Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell both feature their own version of the Passion. There was even one made by Tyler Perry, performed live on Fox.
For some reason though, poor Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus, was dogged with issues throughout filming. Caviezel not only dislocated his shoulder while carrying the crucifix, but was also struck by lightning. It lit his hair on fire.
He wasn’t the only one on set with issues, either. Assistant Director Jon Mikalini was also struck by lightning – his second time being struck. In addition, Caviezel also almost died of hypothermia, and accidentally got flogged for real.
Adding insult to injury, despite Caviezel’s powerful performance, his career in Hollywood all but dried up following the release. It’s now just getting back on track thanks to roles in Person of Interest and When the Game Stands Tall.
It’s said many of those who worked on the production of The Passion of the Christ converted to Christianity after filming was completed. Maybe it was because they saw God’s wrath in person? Anyway, in 2018, it was announced that a sequel was in the works for the film, with Caviezel returning as Jesus. Watch out for those lightning storms.
Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Sheen, and the curse of Apocalypse Now (1979)
War is hell. Few films have captured that truth better than 1979’s Apocalypse Now. No film title has lived up to the drama both on and behind the screen. What makes us call it apocalyptic? Well, everything: everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Not only did things go wrong, they went spectacularly wrong.
Director Francis Ford Coppola recounted of the production: “We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane.”
Just a few weeks into Apocalypse Now’s production, Coppola had to recast lead Harvey Keitel with Martin Sheen, meaning the production had to start over. They had to write the script heavily and on the fly while trying to keep an expensive, mercurial Marlon Brando happy (who showed up to production shockingly overweight).
Sheen suffered a heart attack during filming. There was bad weather in the Philippines along with difficulties with the government. Production spiraled for almost a year; Coppola invested millions of his own capital into it. Coppola even reportedly suffered suicidal results due to the insanity of production.
Maybe the long and arduous filming process got all the bad luck out of the way. Apocalypse Now is regarded as a masterpiece, a defining picture of the 1970s.
The Poltergeist death curse
Poltergeist is one of those cursed productions that lives on infamy. Not only was the set of the films cursed, but there was a reported death curse on the actors of the film. This curse began with the deaths of two young actors associated with the film.
In 1982, a short time after Poltergeist’s release, Dominique Dunne, who played oldest daughter Dana Freeling, was tragically murdered at age 22 by her ex-boyfriend John Thomas Sweeney. Sweeney was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served three-and-a-half years of a six-year sentence for the crime.
In early 1987, Heather O’Rourke, who played youngest Freeling daughter Carol Anne, became ill with the parasitic illness giardiasis (known as “beaver fever”). Later in the year while filming Poltergeist III, she was diagnosed with chronic digestive condition Crohn’s disease.
It tragically turned out that O’Rourke was misdiagnosed. On February 1, 1988, O’Rourke collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. Her cause of death is listed as cardiac arrest and septic shock caused by a misdiagnosed intestinal stenosis, an abnormal narrowing of a blood vessel or other tubular organ/structure.
Other deaths attributed to the Poltergeist curse are Julian Beck, who played the evil preacher Kane in Poltergeist II, and Will Sampson, who played Native American shaman Taylor in Poltergeist II. Beck died of stomach cancer and Sampson died as a result of an attempted heart-lung transplant.
It’s also said that Sampson attempted to rid the set of the curse. He apparently performed an exorcism ritual in order to cleanse the set after shooting had wrapped one night.
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s . . . the Superman curse!
Superman stands for truth, justice, and the American way. He’s the paragon of all that’s good in the world. For those involved with the adaptations of the beloved character, tragedy tends to befall them. The most famous victims of the curse are Superman actors George Reeves and Christopher Reeve.
George Reeves played Superman in 1951’s Superman and the Mole Men and the television series, The Adventures of Superman. Due to the close association he had with the character, Reeves found it hard to find other work. In June 1959, days before he was to be married, Reeves was found dead of a gunshot wood in his home. He was forty-five.
While Reeves’s death was ruled a suicide, there are many controversies surrounding the ruling. One key piece of evidence is that Reeves’s fingerprints were never found on the gun. Many believe it was a murder due to his affair with wife of MGM executive Eddie Manix. The 2006 film Hollywoodland is a fictionalized account of the Reeves case.
Christopher Reeve, who played Superman from 1978 – 1987, is also believed to be a victim of the curse. Despite winning audiences over with his portrayal of the classic comic book character, Reeve found it hard to find leading work in other films.
Famously, he then became paralyzed from the neck down following a tragic accident at a cross-country equestrian event. He died in 2004 at the age of fifty-two. His wife Dana Reeve is also believed to be a victim of the curse, dying of advanced lung cancer – despite never having smoked.
Other actors who have played the role, such as Tom Welling, Dean Cain, and Brandon Routh, have not found much success after their turns as the classic character, either. Welling’s film career never really materialized, for example.
Even so, Welling & Routh have fared the best out of all the Superman actors. They both are still working in Hollywood. Routh even went on to play Ray Palmer/The Atom in the Arrowverse. Both will tempt fate and reprise their Superman roles in the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths event.
Henry Cavill, who played Superman in the DC Extended Universe, was unceremoniously dropped from the role. He’s currently set to star in the Netflix adaptation of The Witcher. Tyler Hoechlin, who plays the character on Supergirl with his own series in development, also seems to be doing fairly well.
Of course, the Superman Curse is said to affect those associated with the adaptations. Other supposed victims of the curse are Marlon Brando, who played Jor-El in the Reeve Superman films, Richard Pryor, who starred opposite Reeve in Superman III, and Superman creators Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster.
Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the 80s Reeves films, was also believed to be a victim of the curse.
She, however, dismissed the notion in 2002: “That is all newspaper-created rubbish. The idea cracks me up. What about the luck of Superman? When my car crashed this August, if I hadn’t hit a telegraph pole after rolling three times, I would have dropped down a 50ft to 60ft ravine. Why don’t people focus on that?” Kidder died of suicide in 2018.
(Luckily, the curse doesn’t seem to affect Supergirl. So Melissa Benoist and Helen Slater should be safe.)