Ledger died a little less than six months before The Dark Knight was released in theaters.
By the time Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker in Christopher Nolan's 2008 The Dark Knight was finally seen by critics and audiences, talk of a posthumous Oscar reached a fever pitch. Naturally, the inclination to compare Ledger's work to past posthumous landmarks proved tempting, and many lists were compiled in the name of tracing the timeline of great posthumous performances.
Sadly, the recent passing of a series of notable performers - Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Gandolfini, Paul Walker - has again brought this on-screen occurrence to the fore. However, rather than merely rehashing a list with legendary performances that are already written in stone, the following list of ten actors restricts its focus to the past several years, ideally making room for posthumous work both from major leading performers (like a Hoffman) and less-headline-friendly character actors.
|© 2014 - Roadside Attractions|
|Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man|
The late Philip Seymour Hoffman appeared in two new films at this year's Sundance Film Festival:A Most Wanted Man
, director Anton Corbijn's John le Carré adaptation, andGod's Pocket
, the feature-directing debut ofMad Men
star John Slattery. Both films will arrive in U.S. theaters soon (God's Pocket
on May 9,A Most Wanted Man
on July 25), but for those still feeling the effects of Hoffman's passing, it's a comfort to know that his work in the next twoHunger Games
films remains on the horizon.
|Right to left: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini and Nicole Holofcener in Enough Said.|
In the fall of 2013, Nicole Holofcener'sEnough Said
was released to universal acclaim, with James Gandolfini's recent death undoubtedly adding resonance and feeling to the movie's romantic coupling (Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays his sparring partner). His performance was so beloved, in fact, that there were brief predictions of a posthumous Oscar nomination. While that didn't materialize, the work still speaks for itself:In the words
's Stephanie Zacharek, "Gandolfini's charisma isn't something turned on at will, but a radio vibe that radiates from deep within...Part of what Gandolfini does here, of course, is acting; but sometimes acting is an intensification of just being." Gandolfini's posthumous film work continues later this year with the release ofThe Drop
|Photo by Skip Bolen - © 2013 - Pantelion Films|
|Paul Walker in Hours.|
Less than a month after Paul Walker's sudden death in November 2013, Eric Heisserer's Hurricane Katrina dramaHours
was released. The film is notable for requiring a more commanding dramatic presence from the normally low-key Walker. TheVoice
's Alan Scherstuhlwrites
the following of the film: "The late Paul Walker practiced the kind of manly American acting that often doesn't look like acting at all...Now...Walker is starring in a film that demands the opposite of him. For once, he shows his work." Walker's posthumous output continued with the April 2014 release ofBrick Mansions
(a film whose vision of racial harmony takes full advantage of Walker's nice-guy persona) and will conclude with the planned 2015 release ofFast & Furious 7
|Cory Monteith in McCanick.|
Following his death in July 2013, two films featuring Cory Monteith premiered: Gia Milani'sAll the Wrong Reasons
, which has thus far only been screened in Canada, and Josh C. Waller's McCanick, for which Monteith received several positive notices. TheVoice
's Inkoo Kangwrote
that the film's main character, played by David Morse, "only comes to life when he's face-to-face with [Monteith's character]."
|Scheier in Iron Cross|
Almost two years after Roy Scheider's death in February 2008, Joshua Newton'sIron Cross
, starring Scheider as a retired New York cop, received a one-week theatrical run for Oscar qualification. Nothing ever came of that, and though the film received mostly negative reviews, Scheider's work was typically well-received: ForL.A. Weekly
, Tim Griersonwrites
that the actor brought a "haunted gravitas" to his role.
Like the film itself, Pete Postlethwaite's posthumous performance in Nick Hamm'sKilling Bono
wasn't greeted with much warmth when it was released: most critics complained that his character, a gay landlord, was too broadly conceived. (TheVoice
's Michael Atkinsondescribes
the role as "a lovable, double-entendre-spewing queen.") Best to remember Postlethwaite's end-of-career work, then, by his impressive run in 2010, which included supporting work in two hugely successful, high-profile releases: Christopher Nolan'sInception and Ben Affleck'sThe Town
|Murphy in Something Wicked.|
The first posthumous Brittany Murphy performance came in Michael Feifer's thrillerAbandoned
, which Anchor Bay Entertainment released direct-to-video in August 2010. Almost four years later, Darin Scott'sSomething Wicked
- which was shot in Oregon just months before Murphy's death in 2009 - will finally be getting a theatrical release in April.
|Character actor Maury Chaykin died in 2010.|
In keeping with his prolific, varied career, character actor Maury Chaykin's posthumous output (he passed away on his 61st birthday in 2010) is extensive and diverse, encompassing both small-screen (a single episode on the seriesThe Drunk and on Drugs Happy Funtime Hour
) and feature-film work (Barney's Version
|Houston in a publicity still for Sparkle.|
Released a few months after Whitney Houston's death in February 2012,Sparkle
represents her return to big-screen acting after her mid-'90s run ofThe Bodyguard
,Waiting to Exhale
, andThe Preacher's Wife
. Her work in the film, which she also executive-produced, was favored by critics. Of Houston's rendition of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," theVoice
's Melissa Andersonwrites
: "The moment is not as sublime as Mahalia Jackson's 'Trouble of the World' in Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life, but it's close enough."
|Jill Clayburgh (left) and Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids|
Though she gave two Oscar-nominated performances in the late-'70s (An Unmarried Woman
), Jill Clayburgh's acting career consisted largely of television work. Her two posthumous performances, however, both came in popular big-screen comedies:Love & Other Drugs
Follow Danny King at @thekingbulletin on Twitter.
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