There’s far more behind the success of “Furious 7” at the box office this weekend than the memory of Paul Walker, the late actor who had been an anchor in the film franchise.
But there’s no denying that fans wishing to pay homage to Walker swelled the numbers for the film, which were very impressive — $143 million domestically and $240 million from overseas for a whopping total of $384 million globally.
“Furious 7” wasn’t the only film featuring Walker to debut after his death. The last movie he completed was a French-Canadian urban action film co-written by Luc Besson, “Brick Mansions.” It opened softly in the U.S. but took in nearly $70 million worldwide.
Here’s a look at a few movies with stars who passed away before their films were released.
Heath Ledger‘s brooding presence as the villainous Joker in “The Dark Knight” permeated the second film in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and earned the Aussie star a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The movie was a blockbuster, taking in more than $1 billion worldwide in 2008. Ledger died while shooting Terry Gilliam’s fantasy “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” and his pals Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell all stepped in for him and the film was completed. It didn’t do much business in the U.S., but took in $60 million globally in 2009.
Philip Seymour Hoffman left behind a rich film legacy, including two very different sorts of films released after his death. One was the blockbuster “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1,” which rolled up $752 million globally. The Oscar winner’s other was “A Most Wanted Man,” the big screen adaptation of the John Le Carre spy thriller. He and the movie drew critical raves and it made $31 million worldwide.
Robin Williams was a staple in Fox’s “Night at the Museum” family film franchise, the last installment of which, “Secret of the Tomb,” brought in a strong $387 million worldwide after his 2014 death. Yet to come out are the road trip comedy “A Merry Friggin’ Christmas” and “Absolutely Anything,” the live-action film starring Simon Pegg and Kate Beckinsale in which Williams voices a talking dog.
James Gandolfini had two films released posthumously. Nicole Holofcener’s low-budget romantic comedy “Enough Said,” in which the former kingpin on HBO’s “Sopranos” starred opposite Julia Louis Dreyfus, was a critical favorite and an indie hit with $25 million domestically in 2013. But “The Drop,” a crime drama released that same year, tanked.
Oliver Reed died while drinking in a pub midway through filming Ridley Scott’s sword-and-sandals epic “Gladiator.” Using stand-ins and CGI, the film was completed and went on to make more than $450 million globally in 2000 and won five Oscars, including Best Picture.
Brandon Lee, the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, was killed when hit in the abdomen by a real bullet fragment that was pushed out of a handgun firing blanks in a scene from “The Crow.” Rumors that the fantasy horror film contained the actual footage of his shooting may have helped it become a $50 million hit in 1994 and it remains a cult favorite.
Natalie Wood, the “Splendor in the Grass” and “West Side Story” star, was shooting the sci-fi thriller “Brainstorm” when she fell overboard and drowned while on a yacht with her co-star Christopher Walken and her husband Robert Wagner. Director and special effects whiz Douglas Trumbull rewrote the script and used a body double for Wood’s remaining scenes. Released by MGM nearly two years later in 1983, the film tanked.
Bela Lugosi was famous for playing Count Dracula, but the Hungarian horror star died while shooting the sci-fi film “Plan 9 From Outer Space” for schlock director Edward Wood, who finished the film with a stand-in who looked not even a little like Lugosi. The making of the film, christened “the worst movie ever” by pundits, was chronicled in the 1994 Johnny Depp comedy “Ed Wood.”