Movies where a main actor dies during filming done well?

Plan 9 From Outer Space is the canonical example of a film where an actor dies during filming and is handled terribly. Are there any good examples of the opposite, where one of the main actors dies before completing filming, but they’re too far along to make the time and money it would take to reshoot worthwhile so they fudge the remaining scenes that would’ve required the actor, and it turns out well?

Well, there’s *Gladiator *: Oliver Reed died during filming, and Scott worked around his death by filming the remaining scenes featuring Proximo either from the back, or in the dark… it works very well.
Of course, Proximo isn’t really a main character, so that may not the kind of example you were looking for.

Oliver Reed had a fatal heart attack during the filming of Gladiator. Some of the scenes he was in needed to be re-edited; they used a double who was photographed in the shadows as a stand-in, then dubbed in a 3D CGI mask of Reed’s face.

Well, **the Crow **is a classic example.

They had a ton of it shot before Brandon Lee died, but had to use CGI and other actors to get a few shots.

Brandon Lee’s death while filming The Crow. They were filming his character’s murder, when a misfire caused the prop gun to fire a dummy round into Lee’s abdomen.

From Wikipedia:

There was quite a bit a CGI work done to add Lee into scene’s that had not yet been filmed.

Not exactly done well, more like…done terribly…but since we mentioned Brandon Lee I wanted to mention Bruce Lee and Game of Death. The fight scene between Bruce Lee and Kareem Abdul Jabar is classic. The stuff that they shot after Lee’s death to pad it out–garbage.

We’re soon going to be getting to see what’s possible in a big-budget production when the lead actor dies. Heath Ledger died while making The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. The movie was rewritten so that when Heath Ledger’s character visits other worlds, his appearance changes. Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell will play the other versions of the character. The film has finished shooting and will come out later this year. Interestingly, not only did those three actors agree to play the other versions of the character, but they agreed to give the salaries they would have gotten for their roles to Matilda, Ledger’s daughter. Ledger didn’t get around to changing his will after Maltilda’s birth, so all his money went to his father.

James Dean in Giant. The had to reshoot the banquet scence with someone filling in for Dean. I’m not sure it counts since the movie was mostly finished, but I’ll list it anyway.

The Dark Knight was still in production when Heath Ledger died, although I think filming was complete and the only concern were dubs/sound editing. Could be off on that, though.

Well, I would’ve said The Thief and the Cobbler/Princess and the Cobbler/Arabian Knight, but you specified done well. And when the actor in question actually finished his part completely, but the production of the film drags out so long that said actor died in his old age twenty years after completing his scenes, and two years before the film is even released, it’s not really the same thing.

Well, back in the 80s, there was Natalie Wood’s tragic drowning before the completion of Brainstorm, costarring Christopher Walken. Apparently, they were on Thanksgiving break and had yet to film a climactic scene when she died. They used body doubles and soundalikes in combination with already shot footage to finish the movie.

It’s a well done movie despite the loss of the beautiful and talented actress.

There is Saratoga, during which Jean Harlow died. According to IMDB, “In May of 1937, with the film about 90% completed, Jean Harlow collapsed on the set and died about a week later, reportedly of uremic poisoning. Her remaining scenes were shot with double Mary Dees being filmed only from behind. Paula Winslowe supplied the voice.”

I believe the film was quite successful, though how much of it was because of people wanting a final look at the beloved Harlow, I cannot say.

And they also gave much of the action she was to do to another character.

John Candy died of a heart attack on location while filming Wagons East.

Like most of the tother films mentioned so far, most of the shooting was already complete when Candy died; they were able to “shoot around,” reuse other footage, and use stand-ins, to complete his few remaining shots.

It also has my cousin Dave Dunard in it, one of his larger roles.

Poor Dave. He just never quite “made it.”

Vic Morrow was killed while filming the “Twilight Zone” movie. I’m not sure if they handled it well or not, since it was a fairly crappy movie. However, I don’t remember the part with Morrow being noticeably more crappy than the other parts.

As I recall, Lugosi didn’t die during filming of Plan 9; he’d died well before. Ed Wood used some test footage of Lugosi from another project and jammed it into Plan 9, using the infamous foot-taller stand-in to try to stitch the movies together.

I remember watching that segment (in which the bigoted Morrow finds himself suddenly on the run from Nazis and Klansmen and, unfortunately, dodging fire in Vietnam) and it ends unsatisfactorily with Morrow on a train for Auschwitz or something, as opposed to the more conventional Twilight Zone ending in which the main character realizes he’s been taught a lesson and it was all a dream… or was it? Instead, he just gets bundled off to his doom, still protesting.

The ones I was going to mention have already been named, so I’ll just add that Bela Lugosi didn’t die during the filming of Plan Nine from Outer Space. He died before it really began. Ed Wood had the footage and decided to do something with it – Plan Nine was the result.

A televison series not a movie, but John Spencer died while the final season of The West Wing was being filmed. Ironically, his character, Leo McGarry, had been reduced in the series a season before but then brought back and given an expanded role in the final season. The writers wrote McCarry’s death into the series (which supposedly also caused them to change the outcome of the election in the series) and had him off-camera for a few shows before his death.

Well, if we’re gonna do that, may as well mention Nancy Marchand’s death during the run of The Sopranos. Her final scene had her character’s son yelling at her with her seen from behind (played by a double), intercut with old reaction shots of Marchand speaking various non-sequiturs like “Aw, c’mon,” and such.
Of course, once we starting citing TV shows, the thread sextuples in length.

I’ve seen the movie a hundred times and have never been able to tell which Brandon Lees were really Brandon Lee and which weren’t, as it were.

It probably helped that the whole damn thing is shot in semi-darkness.

Weirdly, the sound mixing for that movie was absolutely terrible. The dialogue was frequently inaudible, and then you’d get to a 140-decibel fight scene. Ruined it for me.