For me, it started with the deaths of comedic greats like Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason. Death had become real and tangible, making the world and showbusiness finite. Since then, the numbers have gradually increased. We're slowly walking into the period where memorials and tributes aren't relegated to actors before our time, but to the names and faces that shaped our views of entertainment -- the people who we have spent so much time with on the big screen, and within the comfort of our own homes.
But we're not just losing people to age. 2008 has been a heavy year for Hollywood, losing both rising stars and big names with long careers. Considering the fact that we just lost two more, I wanted to take a moment and look back at this year's shockers. Some of these men were young, some of these men were older, but all of them have left this earth too soon.
It was a surreal experience hearing about Heath Ledger's death. It seemed too unbelievable, like a big mistake just waiting to be corrected when Heath would appear and tell us the rumors were wrong. But they weren't. He was a talent just starting to explode on the scene, and while many might say that Ledger's Oscar talk for The Dark Knight is only due to his death, the fact of the matter is -- he was a stellar and unforgettable part of the film, making an already solid film into a truly worthy big-screen experience.
He died just a handful of days before Heath, and his death was tarnished by his addictions and the oncoming onslaught of Ledger news. Nevertheless, Brad Renfro was a talent pulled from the Earth too early. After his debut in The Client, Renfro proved himself both in dramas like Apt Pupil and comedies like Ghost World. And there is still one more performance for us to see, one that should prove to be disturbing and eerie, given the subject matter -- Bret Easton Ellis' The Informers.
*Foul language in this clip.
While he wasn't as young as the two men listed before him, Bernie Mac's death was still a shock. After battling sarcoidosis, Mac was recently plagued with pneumonia, which became his downfall. Mac first appeared in Mo' Money in the '90s, but really made a name for himself with his television show, his stint as Bosley, and his time with the Ocean's crew. While he is no longer with us, we can still wait to see him in Old Dogs and Soul Men.
*Foul language in this clip, although the fashion crimes are certainly worse.
In a strange cinematic coincidence, Mac's Soul Men cast member Isaac Hayes died the next day. Now sure, he lived to be 65, but he wasn't slowing down at all. Aside from the upcoming comedy, he filmed Return to Sleepaway Camp, and was prepping his first studio album since 1995. But in his later years, his name was most batted around for his time as the wonderful, singing Chef in South Park.
When Oscar-winner Anthony Minghella passed away from a haemorrhage, a week after surgery to remove tonsil and neck cancer, he was in a sea of unfinished projects -- The Reader, The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, New York, I Love You -- films sure to be notable and memorable, like the rest of Minghella's resume. One can only imagine the works he would have created if he was given more years on Earth.
Yes, he was 73. Yes, he had a stunning collection of films under his belt from Tootsie to They Shoot Horses, Don't They? But Sydney Pollack was still a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, from Danny Strong's Recount, which he had to back out of when he became ill, to recent acting stints in Michael Clayton and Made of Honor. He's the sort of man who should have had a double -- one who could make stellar films, and one who could make a life with great roles like the one below.
George Carlin is one of those men you would've thought would live at least 100 years. He brought smart and funny insights to the stage, on everything from politics to psychology. He fought against bans on "indecent material." Most recently he seemed to pop up in Kevin Smith's films -- but he still maintained his roots, and even through to the end, was working live on the stage ... where we remember him best.
*There is, most definitely, foul language in this bit, since this IS his rant about dirty words.