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31 Celebrities Who Died Too Young

Naya Rivera

Naya Rivera was an amazingly talented person starting from a young age. She started in commercials and quickly transitioned to TV shows. When she got older, she starred in the hit TV show Glee as Santana Lopez. Fans loved her, and she received award after award for her achievements. At the same time, Rivera was signed to Columbia Records as a solo musical artist. There was nothing this woman couldn’t do.

On July 8, 2020, Rivera and her four-year-old son went boating on Lake Piru. Another boater found Rivera’s son by himself in the boat an hour after the rental boat was supposed to be returned. Ventura County Sheriff’s Office declared Rivera dead the following day. It wasn’t until July 13 that her body was confirmed to be Rivera.  

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Kobe Bryant

On the morning of January 26, 2020, news broke of basketball legend Kobe Bryant’s sudden death. Reports revealed that he and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna had been aboard a helicopter that crashed in Calabasas, CA. They were en-route to a basketball game. Gianna was following in her father’s footsteps and was expected to play in the game, while Kobe was expected to coach the game. Tragically, all nine people aboard the helicopter died on impact.

Fans continue to mourn the loss of Kobe, Gianna, and the seven other passengers. The NBA star spent his entire 20-year career with the LA Lakers and retired in 2016. He led the team to five championships throughout two decades and was named an All-Star player 18 of 20 seasons. Although he will be remembered predominantly for his athletic career, he will also be remembered for his kindness. 41-year-old Kobe was a loving husband, father, and friend. He leaves behind his wife Vanessa and his three remaining daughters, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.

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Princess Diana

When the “People’s Princess” perished on August 31, 1997, the world stopped. 36-year-old Diana, Princess of Wales, was a beloved public figure. Her death was sudden and unexpected, which is why it became a media sensation. She was vacationing in Paris with her socialite boyfriend Dodi Fayed when she became the victim of a fatal car crash. Dodi and the driver, Henri Paul, were pronounced dead on the scene. Princess Di was taken to a local hospital, but was declared dead just hours later.

Although many believed the paparazzi to be the cause of the crash, it was later revealed that Henri Paul was guilty of manslaughter. He had been under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of their death. Her funeral was held at Westminster Abbey on the 6 of September. More than 2.5 billion people watched and mourned as Princess Diana was laid to rest. The overwhelming reaction to her death was a testament to who she was in life. She left behind two sons—Prince William, who was 15, and Prince Harry, who was 12.

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Whitney Houston

The death of Whitney Houston came as a shock. The performer was only 48 years old. And because of her larger-than-life persona and youthful exuberance, the news of her death was difficult to comprehend. She was found dead in a hotel bathtub in Beverly Hills, CA. Coroners officially ruled her death to be an accidental drowning. What was the most heartbreaking though was the toxicology reports that were later released. They confirmed that the accidental drowning was caused by heart disease and chronic drug use.

There’s no doubt that Whitney’s legacy lives on. She was one of the greatest singers of our generation and will always be remembered for her countless hits, including her iconic No. 1 single “I Will Always Love You.” Although we remember her as a beautiful, talented, and lively woman, she lived a truly troubled life. She struggled with abusive relationships, drugs and alcohol, and public scrutiny. She had one daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, who also died too soon. She, like her mother, was found dead in a bathtub at the age of 22.

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Heath Ledger

Australian actor Heath Ledger made his acting debut in the United States in 1998, which was when he starred in the romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. But this wasn’t his most impressive accolade. He’s most remembered for his role as Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain and the Joker in The Dark Knight. During filming of The Dark Knight, Heath admitted he was having trouble sleeping due to the stress and anxiety caused by his career.

Soon after filming had wrapped, Heath was found dead in his SoHo apartment. He and his partner Michelle Williams had recently separated. She and their daughter remained in Brooklyn, and the 28-year-old film star had moved to Lower Manhattan. His death was ruled as an accidental overdose after the New York City medical examiner’s office found painkillers, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety drugs in his system. His death was a huge loss for the Hollywood film industry. His family members, friends, costars, and fans honored his life in the days and weeks following his passing.

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Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury was the vivacious and eccentric frontman of the British band Queen. He was and continues to be known as one of the most versatile and engaging performers of all time. While he’s known for many memorable rock songs, he’s best known for his lengthy operatic piece, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He and his bandmates, Roger Taylor, Brian May, and John Deacon, redefined music.

Freddie’s innate charisma and powerful personality were evident onstage. But when he was offstage, he was sensitive and vulnerable. In 1991, just days before his death, he announced to the world his HIV diagnosis. Although he didn’t want to become the poster boy for AIDS, he raised awareness and understanding of the disease. This was a time when HIV/AIDS was highly stigmatized as a disease contracted by gay men and drug addicts. His story was an opportunity to educate society on the misconceptions of this diagnosis. At the age of 45, Freddie passed away due to AIDS-related pneumonia, but his legacy lives on.

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John Belushi

Actor, singer, and comedian John Belushi skyrocketed to fame in 1975 when he became the seventh original cast member in the landmark comedy skit show, Saturday Night Live. On the show he created and cultivated several comedy sketches and characters such as a sword-weilding samurai, a killer bee, and a cone-headed alien, and his most famous character of all: Jake Blues of The Blues Brothers.

According to People Magazine, in the early '80s Belushi was spending an exorbitant amount of money on drugs, weekly. The final night of his life he was reportedly partying with Robin Williams, but was found dead in his hotel room the next day of an apparent drug overdose. Sadly, John was only 33 at the time of his death in 1982.

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James Dean

On September 30, 1955, James Dean’s life was cut short. The promising actor had hardly lived, as he was only 24 when he passed away. He was an avid lover of cars and enjoyed auto racing as a hobby. In 1954, he decided to pursue auto racing as a career. He was en-route to a racing event in Salinas, California when he crashed his Porsche 550 Spyder car—which he referred to as the “Little Bastard". A ‘50s Ford Tudor was making a left turn at an intersection ahead of James. Unable to stop in time, James crashed into the vehicle.

Heartbreakingly, James died as a result. He suffered numerous injuries, including a broken neck and massive internal injuries. The other driver miraculously walked away with only minor injuries. James Dean became an icon after his death, known for his impact on cinema, television, and youth culture. Although his career was brief, his legacy is everlasting.

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Elvis Presley

August 16, 1977 is a date that very few have forgotten. This is the day the ‘King’ unexpectedly died. Elvis Presley, who was commonly referred to as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, had significantly impacted the music industry. He was a highly celebrated celebrity who was loved by many. His death seemed almost surreal. He performed on TV just days earlier. Fans grieved the life and career of Elvis, paying their respects to the performer.

Elvis’s cause of death was originally said to be a heart attack, but toxicology reports later revealed he had high levels of pharmaceutical drugs in his body at the time of his death. Losing yet another rock ‘n’ roll start to drugs was devastating, especially because Elvis was only 42 years old. A crowd of an estimated 100,000 gathered at Graceland for the visitation on August 17. The King’s body still resides at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. Fans can go there to visit his grave and honor his legacy.

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Selena

At the height of her career, Selena Quintanilla (known to the world as Selena), was an international superstar and cultural icon. She had recently won a Grammy for Best Mexican-American Album and was finally sharing her blended Tejano music with the world. The singer/songwriter had the ambition and tenacity needed to succeed. The music industry was competitive, but Selena had made it...or everyone thought she had. On March 31, 1995, Selena was murdered. She was only 23.

Selena was gunned down by Yolanda Saldivar, the president of her fan club and manager of her clothing boutiques. Saldivar had recently been fired for embezzling money. When Selena agreed to meet with her at a Days Inn motel to retrieve documents, she sealed her own fate. This is where Saldivar killed her with a revolver. Saldivar was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years. Selena’s family and friends continue to honor her tragically brief life by celebrating her legacy.

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Michael Jackson

It’s been more than 10 years since the unexpected death of Michael Jackson. The late superstar was referred to as the King of Pop during his life. The greatness of his music was recognized, as well as the problematic and questionable actions of his personal life. There were many allegations made against him before his death. The opposition of musical genius and quiet predator is complex. Regardless of your opinions of MJ, there’s no denying that his death was sad and senseless.

He died on June 25, 2009 at only 50 years old. Hours before his death, he was found in his Los Angeles home unconscious and with a weak pulse. Paramedics rushed to the home and he was taken to a nearby medical facility. Unfortunately, they were unable to resuscitate and he was pronounced dead. It was later revealed that his death would be ruled as a homicide. A lethal amount of sedatives were found in his system at the time of his death—the most prominent being anesthetic propofol and anxiolytic lorazepam. Jackson’s personal physician was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, leaving family, friends, and fans to mourn his tragic and preventable death.

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Amy Winehouse

In July of 2011, eclectic musician Amy Winehouse was found dead in her North London home. This loss felt detrimental. Amy was only 27 years old and had died of alcohol toxicity. Like all drug and alcohol overdoses, this was a preventable and senseless death. The star was more than five times the legal limit when she passed away. She had 416mg of alcohol in her system, while the legal driving limit is 80mg.

Because she died at 27, she was compared to other musicians and actors who had tragically died at that same age. The 27 Club includes Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and many others. Amy’s bluesy, jazzy style was unique, bringing her immense fame. But fame wasn’t kind to her. She struggled with depression, self-harm, addiction, and eating disorders. She won five Grammys and received lots of praise for her music, but ultimately, the lifestyle didn’t suit her. Although she’s no longer with us, her friends, family, and fans still honor her.

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John Lennon

Musician, artist, poet, and peace activist John Lennon was taken from this world far too soon. He gained notoriety as songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist of The Beatles. After the band separated, he continued as a musician. He could write and perform songs that captured the fragility of this life just as easily as he could create and sing rock’n’roll tracks. His name was one that was heard around the world. Everyone knew who John Lennon was—including David Chapman.

At only 40, Lennon was assassinated. It was December 8, 1980. He and his wife Yoko Ono were stepping out of their limo and into their home, the Dakota hotel, when David Chapman fired five shots at the musician. He was taken to the hospital, but doctors were unable to save him. The world mourned the rock icon’s death at an unbelievable magnitude. He left an irreplicable impact on those who loved and admired him. Chapman, the gunman, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20-years-to-life. He’s been denied parole 10 times and remains behind bars.

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Tupac Shakur

1990s rapper Tupac Shakur had both talent and potential. He grew up studying art, acting, poetry, and dance. And he had a natural talent for rapping. After moving to New York, he began recording music and his hip hop career began. He had gained considerable success after the release of his first several albums, but his success stalled when he was charged for sexual assault and sentenced to nine months in prison. While in prison, he joined Death Row Records, which was founded by Dr. Dre, and continued to make and produce music.

After his release, he became heavily involved in the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry. Due to this rivalry, he became the victim of gun violence. In September of 1996, he was struck four times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Tupac was immediately taken to a nearby hospital and underwent emergency surgery. Although doctors were hopeful he would improve, he died as a result of his wounds six days later. He was only 25. His murder is still unsolved, but he’s yet to be forgotten.

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Chris Farley

Farley shot to fame much like his idol and hero, the late John Belushi, when he joined the cast of the popular and long-running comedy skit show Saturday Night Live. He performed landmark skits for the show blending both spoken and physical comedy to roars of approval and laughter from audiences week after week. He then stole the public’s heart in films such as Tommy Boy and Black Sheep, along with his Saturday Night Live co-star David Spade.

Like many, his fast fame led to a struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, landing him in rehabs more than two dozen times in a two-year span. Unfortunately, Farley lost his battle and was found dead in his Chicago apartment on December 18, 1997. He was 33—the exact same age as John Belushi when he, too died of an accidental overdose 15 years earlier.

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Luke Perry

In March of 2019, 52-year-old Luke Perry unexpectedly passed away. Fans grieved the loss of the actor who played the lovable “90210” rebel, Dylan McKay, throughout the 1990s. Strangely enough, Perry was hospitalized on the same day Fox announced a reboot of the iconic “Beverly Hills, 90210.” He had suffered a stroke while at his Los Angeles home and was immediately rushed to the hospital.

Perry was under observation when he suffered a second stroke. His family followed the advice of medical professionals to remove him from life support. He was surrounded by his loved ones during his final days. And in the days and weeks following, his friends, family, and past and present co-stars honored him with heartfelt messages and honest sentiments. He was a loved father, brother, son, and friend.

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River Phoenix

The death of 23-year-old River Phoenix was heartbreaking. The Oscar nominee had a promising career ahead of him. He had starred in multiple films, including Stand by Me, Running on Empty, and My Own Private Idaho, and was projected to star in many other upcoming films. But his premature death changed everything. On October 30, 1993, River walked into the Viper Room—an iconic Los Angeles landmark and club. Sadly, the talented, influential, and sensitive River Phoenix passed away that same night.

River’s then-girlfriend Samantha Mathis recalls that tragic night more than 20 years later. Not only was she there, but so were two of his siblings, Joaquin and Rain. The young actor died of an accidental overdose outside of the Viper Room after consuming a mixture of heroin and cocaine that was dissolved in a drink. He dropped to the ground and began seizing. Joaquin called 911, but it was too late. The beautiful, youthful River is still revered today. He is remembered for his talent, gentility, and activism.

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Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix, one of the greatest guitarists and musicians of all time, left this world far too soon. His creativity and drive were unmatched. During his career, he worked with The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsys. He had many hit songs—songs that fused rock, funk, and blues. Unfortunately, Jimi suffered a tragically early death. At only 27, he was found dead in an apartment in London. This was September 18, 1970—a day many have yet to forget.

The media response to Jimi’s death was huge. This was the man who the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame called “one of the greatest instrumentalists in the history of rock music.” Reports confirmed that his death was the result of an overdose. He had taken too many sleeping tablets, aspirated on his own vomit, and died of asphyxia. His death was ruled an accident. Just 16 days later, Janis Joplin passed away, another incredible musician. She was also only 27.

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Kurt Cobain

Nirvana redefined alternative rock music. Their frontman, Kurt Cobain, was the band’s lead singer and guitarist. His talent was immense and he helped Nirvana become one of the most influential bands of all time. It was their second studio album, "Nevermind", that defined their career. Since its release in 1991, 30 million copies have been sold worldwide. Despite the fame and success that Nirvana experienced, Cobain wasn’t entirely happy. He struggled with persistent addiction and clinical depression.

On April 8, 1994, 27-year-old Cobain was found dead. He had died three days prior, on April 5. He had checked into a rehabilitation center at the end of March, but escaped from the facility. It was then that his wife, Courtney Love, hired a private investigator to find him. When they did find him, they found him deceased. He suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and had left a handwritten note nearby. It was determined that Cobain was high on heroin at the time of his death. His passing was a great loss. He was beloved musician, father, husband, son, and friend.

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Brittany Murphy

Actress Brittany Murphy made her Hollywood debut at only 14. In the years following, she landed roles in Clueless, Girl, Interrupted, 8 Mile, and many other major films. All her dreams were coming true. She had aspired to be a star since she was a young child and had finally become an actress. But in the midst of her career, her life tragically ended. In December of 2009, after suffering flu-like symptoms, Brittany collapsed in her home. Paramedics rushed her to an LA medical center, but they couldn’t save her. She was pronounced dead at 10:04 a.m. on December 20th.

Because she passed away at the young age of 32, many questions and speculations arose about her death. Reports revealed that she died of acute pneumonia and anemia and ruled her death an accident. But this conclusion didn’t satisfy everyone. In the years since, there have been many theories surrounding her death—possible drug use, an eating disorder, murder, and potential toxic mold. Regardless of Brittany’s cause of death, her passing was unexpected and heartbreaking. Her life and career were cut short.

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Jim Morrison

Morrison was the lead singer of the Doors as well as a songwriter and American poet. Because of the music he wrote (which was quite scandalous at the time), his unpredictable behavior, and widely recognized voice, Morrison is still, to this day, considered to be one of the most iconic and influential artists of all-time even though his music was most popular in the '60s.

He died mysteriously in 1971 at the age of 27 in Paris. There was no autopsy performed so the cause of his death will never be known, but it was widely suspected that his death was caused by alcohol and/or drugs.

Paul Walker

Actor Paul Walker, who was best known for the Fast and Furious franchise, tragically died in a car crash on November 30, 2013. He was in the passenger seat of a Porsche Carrera GT, and his friend Roger Rodas was in the driver’s seat. They were in Los Angeles when Roger, who was driving, lost control. The car crashed into a tree and both Paul and Roger died. It was almost unbelievable that an actor who starred in six movies about street racing would die tragically in a car accident.

Paul, who was only 40 years old, was in the process of filming Fast and Furious 7 when he passed away. Reports were made after his death about the car wreck, stating that the car was traveling somewhere between 80 and 93 mph. When the car hit the tree, it burst into flames. Although his daughter filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Porsche for their lack of safety features, investigations still show that it was speed that killed the star. No drugs or alcohol were found in the system of Roger, the driver, and both men were wearing seatbelts. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to save them.

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Aaliyah

Singer, songwriter, actress, and model Aaliyah was just 22 years old when a plane from the Bahamas carrying her and eight other passengers crashed, killing everyone on board. In her short life she had co-produced three multi-platinum selling albums, was nominated for a Grammy, and had acted in the highly anticipated film Romeo Must Die.

It was later discovered that the pilot of the plane had no license and was operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol and cocaine. The world wept for such a senseless tragedy and such a beautiful life cut so short.

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Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes

In 1990, the world knew it had found something special in new all-girl R&B group TLC. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was one-third of that powerhouse and in addition to rapping and providing backup singing for the group, she was also largely responsible for much of their songwriting, costuming, and staging.

They eventually became a household name and rose to be the most popular and highest-selling female group in history. Unfortunately, “Left Eye’s” life was cut short on April 25, 2002 when she was in an automobile accident while doing charity work in Honduras. She was only 30 at the time of her death.

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Corey Haim

One of the biggest child stars to come out of the 80s, Corey Haim was one of the most recognizable faces in the world. He starred in some of the most popular teen movies of the time such as License to Drive, Lucas, and Silver Bullet. He met and befriended Corey Feldman on the set of The Lost Boys and the two became known as the Two Coreys and went on to star in seven more films together.

Haim’s early success led to drug addiction later in his career, and at the young age of 38 Corey died of pneumonia in 2010, devastating his still large fanbase.

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Janis Joplin

In 1943 a star named Janis Joplin was born. She became one of the most successful and widely known rock stars in the world, in a time when women were very rarely considered successful in that particular genre of music. She had a smokey mezzo-soprano voice with an electric stage presence and she sang a mixture of rock, soul, and blues music.

She rose to fame in 1967 and by 1969, Joplin was one of the biggest names to appear and perform at the historic Woodstock. She still remains to be one of the highest top-selling artists in America today, despite the fact that she lost her life in 1970 due to an accidental drug overdose at the age of 27.

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Mac Miller

American rapper and self-taught musician Mac Miller began topping charts when he was only a teen. He created an incredibly successful career in a matter of years. He befriended big-name musicians in the industry and became accustomed to a life of fame. He was open with fans about his long struggle with addiction, but was in a seemingly positive place just weeks before his passing. He had been working with a sober coach since 2016 and had invested in both his physical and mental health.

This is why his death came as such a shock. He was a young man, only 26, with an entire future ahead of him. On September 7th, 2018, his sober coach and longtime friend discovered his body in his bedroom. He was pronounced dead at the scene and an autopsy report determined that he died of an accidental overdose. Mac’s friends, family, and fans mourned his death and celebrated his life. In January of 2020, his final album Circles was released. He had been working on it with Jon Brion, who took it upon himself to finish and release it so the world could hear it.

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Brad Renfro

Brad Renfro, one of the bigger child stars of the '90s, died at the untimely age of 25 years old. He got his start at the age of 11, catching a big break and landing a role in the 1994 suspense thriller The Client, alongside Hollywood legends Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones.

Renfro went on to appear in more than 20 feature films, including hits like Tom and Huck and Sleepers. In the late '90s, Brad began to appear in the tabloids for a series of arrests and stints in drug rehabs. He tragically lost his battle with addiction and died of an overdose in 2008.

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Cory Monteith

The world was knocked back on its heels when it was announced that singer, actor, and musician, Cory Monteith, had been found dead of an apparent drug overdose at the young age of 31. Cory’s breakout role was as the all-American, boy-next-door Finn on the hit show Glee, and fans couldn’t wait to see what he would do next in his career.

Unfortunately, even before he started on Glee, Monteith had been fighting a battle with drug abuse and had to undergo treatment once again in 2013. Sadly, on July 13, 2013, Cory sadly died of a toxic combination of heroin and alcohol.

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Cameron Boyce

Young actor Cameron Boyce rose to fame after being cast as a Disney channel star. He first appeared on the sitcom Shake It Up before snagging a more prominent role. He was cast as Luke Ross in the hit TV show Jessie, which ran for four seasons. As a talented and sweet kid, he was destined for great things. He scored a role in the film Descendants, which looked great for his career. And he was set to appear in two upcoming TV shows, Mrs. Fletcher and Paradise City.

In the midst of his success, his sudden death came as a shock. At only 20 years old, Cameron passed away as a result of his ongoing battle with epilepsy. He was found unresponsive in his North Hollywood home on July 6, 2019 after suffering a seizure. His family, friends, and fans continue to honor him by remembering his immeasurable talent, undeniable compassion, and dedication to humanitarian work.

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Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Hoffman was a director, producer, and Oscar-winning actor. His career began in the early '90s in the critically acclaimed Scent of a Woman alongside Hollywood royalty, Al Pacino. He quickly followed up with films such as Twister, Boogie Nights, and Patch Adams—some of the biggest hit movies to come out of the '90s.

Hoffman had struggled with drug addiction most of his life and sadly relapsed in 2013. Unfortunately, the relapse cost him his life in 2014 when he died from combined drug intoxication at the age of 46.

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