Urban myth or is truth stranger than fiction? You decide…
Regarded by most as the scariest film ever, The Excorcist has had its share of creepy bad luck. Various sources have it that up to nine people died during filming including Jack McGowran who had just finished his final scene when he suffered a heart attack. ‘Proof’ that satanic powers were at work occured during the Italian Premiere at the Metropolitan Theatre in Rome when lightning destroyed a 400-year-old crucifix.
The original Superman George Reeves was found dead with a gun shot wound. An apparent suicide, but none of his fingerprints were found on the gun. A later Superman Christopher Reeve was left paralyzed after a riding accident and Margot Kidder, his co star, suffered a very public mental meltdown.
No film has had worse luck than The Omen. Before filming began Gregory Peck’s son killed himself. Two different planes carrying cast and crew were struck by lightning. The crew hotel was bombed by the IRA as was a restaurant they were all due to dine at. A plane scheduled for use in the film, which was rescheduled and used for a commercial flight instead, crashed and killed everyone on board. Most remarkable of all was the fate that befell SFX guy John Richardson. On Friday the 13th of August 1976, Richardson crashed his car in Holland. His assistant was sliced through by the car’s front wheel. Scrambling out of the wreckage, Richardson looked up and saw a road sign: Ommen, 66.6km.
Director Roman Polanski suffered the tragedy of art inspiring real-life as his pregnant wife Sharon Tate was stabbed to death by the Manson Family. The film’s composer died of a brain clot just as a character in the film had done.
Rebel Without a Cause
James Dean’s tragically short life was brought to an end the same weekend the film opened in cinemas. Co-star Sal Mineo ended up a murder victim and female lead Natalie Wood drowned in mysterious circumstances.
The Poltergeist Trilogy
Four main actors from the films died early – child actor Heather O’Rourke died after a bout of flu, Will Sampson died during a routine operation, cancer claimed the life of Julian Beck and finally Dominique Dunne (who played the oldest child in the first film)was strangled to death by her boyfriend.
For mass bad luck this John Wayne classic is hard to beat. First the entire cast and crew were nearly wiped out in a flash flood. Female lead Susan Hayward survived an attack by a black panther, but worse was to come. The film was shot in the Nevada desert downwind from nuclear test facilities. The actors were exposed to 13 weeks of fall-out at the site of 11 atomic bomb tests. Over the next few years, 91 of the 220 crew members developed cancer, 46 died including John Wayne, Susan Hayward and the director. One of the film’s other stars, Pedro Armendariz, committed suicide when he found out his cancer was terminal.
The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger – the Joker – overdosed after what many think was mental stress caused by filming. Morgan Freeman suffered a car crash and broke his arm. During stunt tests for the car scenes a technician was killed and finally Christian bale was arrested for the assault of his family just before the UK premiere.
Brandon Lee had premonitions that he would die on the set just as his father Bruce Lee had done. The film had had many fires and accidents prior to the tragedy, but it is the death of Lee that has lead to The Crow’s legendary cursed status. A film made by Bruce Lee the year he died has a scene where he is shot with a gun he thinks is unloaded. How coincidental is it that Bruce’s son, Brandon Lee, was shot and killed when a gun supposed to be loaded with blanks actually contained live bullets. To this day, nobody knows how a real bullet found its way onto the set