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Top 10 Beloved Actors You Didn't Know Had Died

VO: Rebecca Brayton

Script written by George Pacheco.

Unfortunately, the list of deceased celebrities just keeps getting longer. But there are any actors you didn’t know were dead. Whether it’s a child actor like Jonathan Brandis committing suicide, 1960’s counterculture icon Dennis Hopper suffering from cancer or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Uncle Phil James Avery dying due to complication with open-heart surgery, there are many beloved actors whose deaths were completely off your radar. WatchMojo counts down ten celebrities who died and you didn’t notice.

Special thanks to our users drewbrown and mac121mr0 for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Ways+School+Would+Be+Better


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Script written by George Pacheco.

Top 10 Beloved Celebrities You Didn’t Know Had Died

Their work was affecting and entertaining... even if they’re no longer with us. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Actors You Didn’t Know Were Dead.

For this list, we’ll be ranking the actors whose deaths either flew under the radar, or whose public images were such that their deaths might not have received news coverage around the world. We’re not intending to be flippant or disrespectful in our approximation of these actors, but rather doing our part to celebrate the work they did while they were alive.

#10: Jonathan Brandis

Suicide among young people is always sad, but it hit dangerously close to home in Hollywood when Jonathan Brandis hanged himself in 2003 at only 27 years of age. Brandis is remembered by a generation of kids who grew up watching the handsome and charismatic young actor on the small screen in “seaQuest DSV,” on the big screen in “Sidekicks,” and of course in the Stephen King miniseries “It.” Indeed, so enduring was Brandis’ quick smile and capable acting skill that it came as a huge shock when the actor passed in such a sad and dramatic fashion.

#9: Michael Clarke Duncan

Death can be a sudden and shocking event, taking the lives of those close to us at a moment’s notice. Such was the case with beloved actor Michael Clarke Duncan, who suffered a fatal heart attack on July 13th of 2012 from which he never recovered, finally passing away from respiratory failure on September 3rd of that year. Duncan was a mainstay on both the big and small screens, possessing a larger-than-life personality that continues to affect those who have the pleasure of seeing the man’s work in such films as “The Green Mile.” Michael Clarke Duncan may be gone, but his presence continues to live on in the man’s enviable body of creative work.

#8: Bernie Mac

This comedian may be dearly departed, but the laughs Bernie Mac gave his fans continue to echo long after he died in 2008 from complications brought on by pneumonia. The inflammatory disease known as Sarcoidosis was also said to have contributed to his death in a Chicago hospital in August of that year, robbing the world of a truly gifted and quick-witted comedian. Bernie Mac’s extremely popular standup work, as well as memorable appearances in films like “Bad Santa” and the “Ocean’s Eleven” series, ensure that his career will surely cast a long shadow for years to come.

#7: Brad Renfro

It isn’t easy for some people to maintain the correct balance between fame and the temptations that seem to run parallel to it. Popular actor Brad Renfro was yet another unfortunate casualty in an industry that so often sees young people paying the ultimate price for experimenting with hard drugs. Fans may have lost touch with Renfro’s career after the actor’s acclaimed appearances in such films as “The Client” and “Apt Pupil,” as his life after these performances was marred by alcohol abuse, drugs, and various run-ins with the law. Brad Renfro died from heroin and morphine intoxication due an accidental overdose while at his home, on January 15th, 2008.

#6: Dennis Hopper

There are some Hollywood icons that manage to be enduring presences on the silver screen. Dennis Hopper was one of these icons, a movie star maverick whose career thrived through over five decades in the business. The last years of Hopper’s life were made turbulent, thanks to a bitter divorce battle that exacerbated the actor’s battle with prostate cancer. This disease ultimately took Hopper’s life in May of 2010, but the man’s influence continues to be ever-present, thanks to Dennis Hopper’s definitive appearances in such films as “Easy Rider,” “Blue Velvet,” and “True Romance.”

#5: James Avery

James Avery was lucky enough to have not just one, but two defining roles in his lifetime, in front of an audience as Will Smith’s imposing but lovable Uncle Phil on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and as the voice of Shredder on the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” cartoon program. Complications from open-heart surgery may have contributed to Avery’s death at 68 years of age in 2013, but the talented actor’s voice and face continue to live on within the hearts of his loyal fans.

#4: The Cast of the Original “Poltergeist” Trilogy (1982-88)

It’s one of the most pervasive myths in the world of haunted Hollywood: the supposed “curse” that surrounds the cast and production of the 1982 horror classic, “Poltergeist” and its first two sequels. This curse is said to have been caused by the real skeletons used during a number of crucial scenes, acquired from a medical supply company by the name of Carolina Biological. Whether or not that’s true, its supposed victims include star Heather O’Rourke, who died of cardiac arrest and septic shock at only 12-years-old and co-star Dominique Dunne, who was murdered by jealous boyfriend John Sweeney in 1982. Meanwhile, Julian Beck and Will Sampson from “Poltergeist II” both met their deaths before the 3rd film’s release.

#3: Lee Thompson Young

Fans of the Disney Channel series “The Famous Jett Jackson” may have lost track of actor Lee Thompson Young after he grew up and branched out into other projects, but this didn’t mean that Young was destined for child star failure. Instead, the driven and talented Young earned a role on the hit police drama “Rizzoli & Isles,” a role that earned him both critical and commercial praise. Sadly, Young suffered from bipolar disorder, an illness that led the actor to commit suicide in August of 2013. However, he left behind a body of work with both power and potential.

#2: Thuy Trang

It’s difficult to imagine what great career paths might have opened up for actress Thuy Trang, had the young star not died in a car accident in September of 2001. Perhaps it was the close proximity of Trang’s death to the September 11th terror attacks that prevented reports of her demise from spreading through the usual news channels. What is certain, however, is Trang’s enduring legacy as the very first Yellow Ranger, Trini Kwan, on Saban’s hit franchise, “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” Thuy Trang’s career may have been cut short, but her contribution to the childhood of Power Rangers fans will always be remembered.

Before we remember our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- Christopher Evan Welch
- Marcia Wallace
- John Spencer

#1: Lisa Robin Kelly

We’ve already discussed the perils of fame, and what happens when stars lose their battles with drugs and alcohol. But what about when a star is attempting rehabilitation? This was what “That ‘70s Show” star Lisa Robin Kelly was going through when she checked herself into the Pax Rehab House in August of 2013. Kelly had endeared herself to fans as Eric Forman’s sexy older sister Laurie on the popular sitcom, but her career was derailed, thanks to a dependency on drugs and alcohol. She died in her sleep not long after checking into Pax House, due to accidental drug intoxication.

Do you agree with our list? Which actor’s death did you think went under-reported? For more retrospective top ten lists, published every day, please subscribe to!

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