The reason why I was originally trying to find Public Invasion's site was for this list. About seven years ago, my friend and I had one episode where we discussed people in movies and music who died before the age of 50.
With Heath Ledger's recent passing, I wanted to give you my top ten people associated with movies. This isn't a list you really want to be on (obviously). This list is also subjective as I'm ranking people in regards to what they meant to my life and career as a filmmaker. If you have anyone else you can think of that influenced you, feel free to write a comment.
10. Chris Farley, 33
I was actually recently watching a SNL tribute to him this past December with my parents for his ten year anniversary of his death. This guy was funny, plain and simple. I was laughing for almost the entire show. I always loved that interview with Paul McCartney when he was so "nervous" that it was this awkward humor that I found amazing. His transition into movies also was smooth and on its way up. Personal favorite for me is Tommy Boy. His comedy partner, David Spade, and him were a great duo. Farley in that film still cracks me up with his selling techniques. Or how he destroys a roll and gets the waitress to turn back on the grill. Sadly his weight and substance abuse problems go the best of him.
9. Sharon Tate, 26
If you want to look at someone in the 60s and say they were absolutely beautiful, Sharon Tate would have to be at the top of the list. I recently bought an old Playboy with a pictorial of her in it that Roman Polanski took before she became pregnant. Not to be "sick", but because I'm still amazed at what she could have done. Her acting career never really took off, but she was so stunning. She tragically died in the famous Manson murders while eight and a half months pregnant in one of the most horrific murders of the 20th century. One film I've never seen in its entirely, but looks very interesting is The Fearless Vampire Killers. It was directed by her husband. As for Roman, he was never the same after Sharon's death and rightfully so.
8. Heath Ledger, 28
He may move up this list years down the road, but this is where I rank him right now. I just think he was so talented and for him to die with such a small film resume is disappointing. I remember watching 10 Things I Hate About You all the time when I was younger. I actually almost bought it during this past Black Friday, but they had no more copies. He still will be forever remembered for his critically acclaimed performance in Brokeback Mountain. It's a film that would be remembered 50 years from now regardless of this tragedy, but now I know for a fact that it will be remembered. Him firmly grasping that shirt at the end of the film or standing in the foreground of the fireworks will be images that will be replayed for many years when someone talks about his short, but great career. The upcoming film, The Dark Knight, will only add to his legend.
7. Judy Garland, 47
A lot of people (or maybe just me) forget that Judy Garland died so young. For years growing up, I wanted to try to convince myself that I should not like The Wizard of Oz. I'm currently 22 and I can honestly tell you that I gave up. It's a great movie and her performance as Dorothy is one of the best. Her career might have never been the same after that, but she was also in A Star is Born. Still, she's always been Dorothy in my heart and I love her for that.
6. Bruce Lee, 32
Why do I love Bruce Lee? He was just simply the man. I watched Enter the Dragon once and I honestly don't know why I don't own that movie. The way he fought guys in some of those kung fu movies was awesome. Some people call it cheesy, but I would take Bruce Lee over say Jet Li or Jackie Chan any day of the week. How can you not love it when he gets those huge cuts on his chest and he's still taking out 10 men at once. I would have loved to see him kicking people's asses well into his 50s. Sadly, he died a mysterious death at 32.
5. Andy Kaufman, 35
Some people I think forget how funny and original Andy Kaufman really was. I got somewhat obsessed with him after Man on the Moon. He was on SNL for a little and also Taxi. I also loved how he was the inter-gender wrestling champion. Rather than wrestle men, he wrestled women. That's a great gimmick. Although, even a greater gimmick was Tony Clifton. Talk about fucking with the minds of his audience. That's how you know you're dealing with a genius. He was one of a kind.
4. River Phoenix, 23
River was one of those child actors that you just had a really good feeling that he would transition well into becoming an adult actor. He just had the talent. My favorite film of his was Stand by Me (one of my favorite films of the 80s). That's a great film with plenty of scenes I still remember vividly. You have the scene in the pond with the leeches. You have the scene with the gun in the back of the store. That film is always bitter sweet for me too since it is revealed that Phoenix's character dies while trying to break up a fight. Like his character in that movie, Phoenix died too young. Another good film with him is also Mosquito Coast with Harrison Ford. Considering that at the time of his death, he had a role as the Interviewer in Interview with a Vampire I can only imagine where his career would have gone. If you think his brother, Joaquin, is talented, River would be on another level.
3. John Belushi, 33
John Belushi may have been the funniest member of the original cast of SNL. Some of his skits were absolutely hilarious. One of my favorites is him impersonating Joe Cocker. You also have to love Samurai Futaba (one of my favorite skits in SNL, period). Even look at his short filmography. The Blues Brothers and Animal House are his two big films. Two classics. I was watching Animal House a couple weeks ago. I forgot how funny he was in that film. How can you forget him loading up his food tray with every food imaginable. What am I? A zit. Get it? Hell, I even like him in The Rutles as Ron Decline. Enough said. I can only imagine what he would have done in the 1980s. He was slated to play Bill Murray's character in Ghostbusters and I'm sure his career would have been long and funny.
2. Marilyn Monroe, 36
Simply stunning and talented. How can anyone not like Marilyn Monroe? From her modeling career to her film career. I can only imagine what it was like to live during her time and be a man. She's in my one my favorite movies of all time, Some Like It Hot. A film that I still think is extremely funny for being made all the way back in 1959. Add other films like The Seven Year Itch or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It was a damn good career. Plus, she even had the high profile marriages to Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio. What really happened to her will probably never be known. That's part of her legend. With all that said, there will only be one Marilyn Monroe. She was that special.
1. James Dean, 24
What if? There's just something about James Dean that I just connect with. I know a lot of people put him at the top of these lists, but I just can't put anyone else here. Three films. Two Oscar nominations. Really, all three are amazing films with three amazing performances. For his time, there had to be no one cooler than James Dean. Another reason why I admire him so much is for the quote, "Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today." I love that quote. It's one of my favorite quotes and it's how I try to live my own life. I envisioned him to be somewhat like a Clint Eastwood (posture) and Marlon Brando (talent) combined. He was going to stick around for the long haul. What more can you really say about him?