The entertainment industry is willing to overlook a lot when it comes to its stars. Substance abuse, violent outbursts and subsequent arrests... and sometimes even the fact that the actor in question is no longer alive.
Hey, you can't let something like a little death get in the way. There's money to be made.
#6. Bruce Lee in Game of Death
In 1973, Bruce Lee burst onto the scene with Enter the Dragon and was on track to become a major Hollywood star, or at least he would have if he hadn't died three months before the movie's release in the U.S. But the producers weren't about to let the minor issue of Lee's mysterious demise ruin a promising young career, so they set about making a blockbuster follow-up in the face of all logic and reason.
"Of course we want to honor his memory. Shove a stick in his ass and call some puppeteers."
Before making Enter the Dragon, Lee had been working on his own movie, The Game of Death, but had only managed to finish filming part of the climatic action scene. The sequence featured him fighting the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar while encased in a yellow track suit that proved his skills at martial arts did not extend to costume design.
The director of Enter the Dragon took these unfinished scraps and tried to cobble together a finished film using new footage featuring several stand-ins who, aside from also being Asian guys who knew how to kick and punch, didn't resemble Bruce Lee in any way.
To explain this, the producers inserted footage of Bruce Lee's real-life funeral to suggest that the main character had faked his own death, thus allowing Bruce Lee's fill-ins to spend the rest of the movie wearing fake beards and other wacky disguises without disrupting the narrative. We don't like to judge, but when you're including shots of your star's actual dead body lying in his actual casket, anything less than the biggest box office receipts of all time would land you the worst haunting in the history of the universe.
Of course this death fakery plot needed some sort of set-up, so early on in the film they had to shoot around the impostors using shadows, giant sunglasses, incredibly awkward editing and gluing a cardboard cutout of Bruce Lee to a mirror.
You read that right.
By the end of the movie all bets are off, and absolutely no attempt is made to disguise the new actor's appearance.
"Screw it, they all look the same anyway."
Inexplicably, the producers also saw fit to make Game of Death 2 three years later, splicing together even more unused footage of the martial arts legend. Bruce Lee's character is actually killed off early in this movie, but you sure as hell wouldn't know it from the trailer.
#5. Tony Soprano's Mom
During The Sopranos glory years, Tony's mother Livia was probably the second most fascinating character on the show. She could shift gears from senile old widow to terrifying, cunning sociopath with frightening speed. You couldn't watch the first two seasons of the show without coming to the conclusion that you'd feel safer turning your back on Tony.
Nancy Marchand, the actress who played her, unfortunately passed away after the second season. Surely The Sopranos, one of the most critically acclaimed shows in the history of television, would have the dignity to just have her die peacefully off screen. Surely.
But, you know by now that would be too much to ask. After all, this is the 21st century, when we can use CGI to insert dead pitch men into our commercials. So, by patching together some existing footage and using CG to crop her into a new setting, we got one final dramatic scene between Tony Soprano and the digital ghost of a dead actress. Her side of the conversation (about 6:00 in) is made up of out-of-context audio clips that plays like the wacky sound boards morning show DJ's use to make prank calls.
The bizarre exchange comes off as exactly what it is--two actors who no longer inhabit the same mortal realm:
Tony: Hey, Ma!
Livia: Look who calls!
Tony: Well, actually I'm standing here in front of you.
Tony: I brought you some books on tape since you say you can't concentrate to read.
Livia: I wish the lord would take me now!
What? Who is she talking to? After that, Tony tells her which books he brought, which inexplicably prompts her to lean forward in alarm and say, "WHY? WHAT'S WRONG?!?" Nothing fits, and everything is punctuated by a handful of tics and mumbles with some nonsensical gesturing.
Visually, the scene is all kinds of creepy, with Tony's mom looking oddly washed-out and otherworldly. The effect makes it seem like she's already dead and Tony is yelling at one of The Frighteners.
We guess we understand that you'd hate to give such a great character an off-screen death, so really they didn't have a choice... oh, wait. In in the very next scene we're informed she died off camera anyway.
#4. John Candy's Last Role
Wagon's East was a forgettable comedy about a bunch of whiny pioneers who talk like characters on a C-grade Seinfeld clone. Well, it would be forgettable if it didn't turn out to be comedy giant John Candy's last role. Candy died during production, and the producers swore up and down that Candy had wrapped shooting before he passed away. This was clearly a load of bullshit.
Even though he was the top billed star, Candy probably ranks third or fourth in terms of total screen time. OK, big deal, that happens in a lot of movies. But then you notice that usually all you see are reaction shots of Candy silently nodding or staring blankly into space just so you won't forget he's there.
Then, at one point it's revealed that he was the wagon master of the Donner Party, and the depressed Candy rides away and is simply missing for most of the rest of the movie. Nobody seems to care that he's gone, and no mention is made of his dabbling in cannibalism once he comes back. And then, it gets stupider.
A sharp eye, or even a casual eye watching the movie over a magazine, will catch scenes where they actually reused certain shots, awkwardly superimposing them over new footage. For instance, the key turning point in the character's story is when he resolves to clean up and stop drinking.
Then, later in the film, he does it again. Only this time, digitally inserted over a new backdrop:
Here's the scene on YouTube, in case you're doubting that a major studio would use a cheap trick that never even occurred to Ed Wood. But, hey, at least they didn't throw in footage from John Candy's funeral.