The greatest movie stars light up the big screen and deliver performances that stay with audiences forever. But every so often we see someone pass away before we get the chance to realise just how great a talent they were.

Tuesday 22nd January was the fifth anniversary of the death of Heath Ledger and we take a look at some of the actors who died far too young.

Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger was one of the brightest young talents in Hollywood but just as he was starting to be a real force on the big screen the actor passed away.

He was just twenty eight when he passed away five years ago from an accidental overdose of prescription medication

At the time of his death there was plenty of excitement surrounding this after his role in Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight.

The second Batman movie saw him take on the role of the Joker - a movie that he never saw - and for his tremendous performance he was given a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

James Dean

James Dean remains one of the biggest icons in cinema despite making just a trio of films in his short big screen career.

East of Eden, Rebel Without A Cause and Giant were the three movies where he made his name - all lead roles - and there was huge buzz around this young actor.

He oozed cool and he had the potential to be one of the biggest actors who ever graced the big screen as he had a hugely successful career ahead of him.

But that career was cut tragically short in 1955 when Dean was killed in a car crash at the age of just twenty four.

He became the first actor to ever receive a posthumous Best Actor Oscar nod and his legendary iconic status has done nothing but grow over the years.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe is one of the brightest stars to ever grace the big screen and she went on to become a sex symbol as well as a major celebrity.

With movies such as Gentleman Prefer Blondes, The Prince and the Showgirl and Some Like It Hot she established herself on the big screen - but it was her life off screen that seemed to interest everyone.

But in August 1962 at the age of thirty six the actress was found dead at her home in Los Angeles and while the initial autopsy said cause of death was a result of ‘acute barbiturate poising’ it has always been surrounded in mystery.

There have been many theories of murder over the years and there were even conspiracy theories that included John and Robert Kennedy.

Fifty years after her death Monroe is as intriguing a character now as she was back then and there has been no bigger star then her to ever grace the big screen.

Brandon Lee

Brandon Lee was a big screen actor and martial arts expert and the son of legendary martial arts actor Bruce Lee - who died at the age of thirty two while working in Enter The Dragon.

He made his big screen debut in 1985 but after just seven movies he too suffered an early death whilst filming his last film The Crow.

He was taking on the lead role of Eric Draven when he was accidentally shot on set - the gun that was used was loaded with live ammunition instead of blanks.

Lee died as a result of the gun shot would that he received at the age of just twenty eight.

Director Alex Proyas went ahead and completed the last eight days of shooting on The Crow and the movie went on to be a cult hit.

River Phoenix

River Phoenix was one of the brightest stars of the eighties grabbing everyone’s attention with Stand By Me, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and My Own Private Idaho.

He had a meteoric rise and was tipped to do major things and have huge success on the big screen… but in October 1993 that was all cut tragically.

Phoenix collapsed outside the Viper Room and suffered drug-induced heart failure. Despite being rushed to hospital he died at the age of just twenty three.

Phoenix was shooting Dark Blood at the time of his death and was set to begin working on Interview With a Vampire just weeks after his death.

Jean Harlow

Jean Harlow was one of the first real blonde bombshells as she enjoyed a successful career on the big screen in the thirties.

Harlow had a huge sex appeal and starred in movie such as Platinum Blonde, Red Headed Woman and Bombshell - roles for which she received a lot of attention.

The actress was looking to branch out into more challenging roles in the mid thirties but all that was cut short when she died of renal failure.

While rumours circled that there were other reasons behind her death - including a botch abortion - it was revealed that she has been suffering from kidney failure for some time and it has not been detected.

Other actors who have passed away far too young include Brad Renfro, Jonathan Brandis, Bruce Lee and John Belushi to name just a few.


by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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