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Gone but Never Forgotten: 29+ Celebs We Never Realized Passed Away

Celebs

| LAST UPDATE 11/08/2021

By Georgina White

From child actors to infamous television stars, these Hollywood legends left their mark in the industry before passing away. Here's a list of these late actors and actresses that we never realized passed away.

Richard Griffiths

For many fans of the wizarding world, Richard Griffiths was most recognizable for his role in the Harry Potter series, where he played the part of Harry's sinister guardian, Uncle Vernon Dursley.

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IMDb - Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone (2001) via Warner Bros.

But beyond the franchise, Richard had a successful career that included a Tony Award for his part in The History Boys. However, this talented actor tragically passed away during heart surgery at the age of 65 back in 2013. "Any room he walked into was made twice as funny… just by his presence," Daniel Radcliffe recalled.

James Avery

The television world absolutely fell in love with James Avery and his portrayal of Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air from 1990 to 1996. So much so that he made the list of TV Guide's "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time." However, his legendary career came to an end after his shocking passing.

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IMDb - Eli Stone (2008) via American Broadcasting Companies

Avery underwent extensive open-heart surgery in 2013, which ultimately led to his passing. At the age of 68, the prolific actor left behind a loving wife and millions of fans. "Some of my greatest lessons in acting, living, and being a respectable human being came through James Avery," Will Smith said after his passing.

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Lisa Robin Kelly

While we may recognize this talented blonde actress from her witty one-liners on That '70s Show, the Fox sit-com actress had been working away in the industry on projects like Poltergeist: The Legacy and Married with Children. However, few could deny that her role as Laurie Forman changed the trajectory of her career.

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IMDb - The X Files (1993) via Fox Broadcasting Co.

However, despite her strides in her professional life, the Hollywood actress had many inner demons that she struggled to fight against. Eventually, her struggle with substance consumption resulted in her removal from the hit sitcom and contributed to her tragic passing at the age of 43 in 2013.

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Gary Coleman

For long-time fans of Diff'rent Strokes, it can be challenging to look at this picture without immediately hearing Gary Coleman's character, Arnold Jackson, say his catchphrase, "What'chu talkin' bout, Willis?" And just like this legendary childhood acting gig, Coleman left his mark wherever he went in Hollywood.

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The talented child went on to score other industry gigs, including The Kid with the Broken Halo. However, his magical career was cut short in 2010 when the 42-year-old actor tragically fell down a set of stairs in his home, resulting in his sudden passing.

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Carl Switzer

At the peak of his career, Carl Switzer was beloved by America for his part as Alfafa in Reg'lar Fellers and Our Gang. However, the child star's luck in the entertainment industry seemed to dry up as he outgrew his adolescence. But he didn't give up on acting.

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Instead, Switzer continued working away on mid-budget films before moving to television and expanding to other interests altogether. He worked for years as a breeder and hunting guide. However, his passion would contribute to his passing, as the late actor was hurt over a missing dog in 1959 and passed away. He was only 31 years old.

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Thuy Trang

While Thuy Trang eventually climbed the industry ranks, she wasn't exactly born into Hollywood. The young actress only moved to America as an infant as her family fled South Vietnam and the boiling conflict in 1975. But after growing up in the U.S., she developed dreams of making it as an actress.

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IMDb - Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993) via Saban Entertainment

And her dreams became a reality. She landed her breakout role as Trini Kwan in the 1993 cast of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, where she starred in the first and second seasons. Her career was really hitting a stride when the 27-year-old actress's life was taken in a car accident in 2001.

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Harold Ramis

Did you know that before taking Hollywood by storm with his starring role in Ghostbusters, Ramis was a writer? It all started back in his college days when the aspiring creative wrote play scripts in his spare time. He then went on to write for a newspaper before becoming editor of Playboy magazine.

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However, most of us knew him from Ghostbusters, Stripes, and Year One. But the multi-talented icon sadly passed at the age of 69. Former President Obama spoke on his passing, saying, "When we watched his movies... we rooted for the underdog [and] through it all, we never lost our faith in happy endings."

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Michael Clarke Duncan

Michael Clarke Duncan is the definition of rags to riches story. He started out doing hard manual labor before entering the Hollywood scene as a bodyguard. He worked with celebs including Jamie Foxx and Will Smith before rustling up the courage to attempt acting in advertisements.

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From that first gig, he went on to star in blockbusters like A Night at the Roxbury and The Green Mile, for which he received an Oscar nomination in 2000 for Best Supporting Actor. However, the 54-year-old actor succame to a heart attack and sadly passed in 2012.

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Marcia Wallace

While some wouldn't recognize this talented actress by her face, others could spot her voice from anywhere. Marcia Wallace was the comedic legend behind Edna Krabappel, Bart Simpon's teacher on The Simpsons. She even won an Emmy for her incredible performance during the show's 1992 season.

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IMDb - That's My Bush! (2001) via CBS Television Distribution

But, unfortunately, the veteran comedian perished at the age of 70 due to sepsis and pneumonia. Upon her passing, there was an outpour of love for the late actress, with the Simpsons exec Al Jean saying, "You fall in love with these people when you see them as characters on [TV], but when you met Marcia, you loved her even more."

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Dana Plato

Cast your minds back to 1978, and if felt like Dana Plato and her fellow castmembers of Diff'rent Strokes were everywhere you looked. The NBC sitcom found major success with their new show, which propelled Plato to fame and even resulted in a spin-off project titled The Facts of Life.

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And while Diff'rent Strokes was seen as a huge success, Dana struggled in the years following the series's end in the 1980s. By 1999, Dana was at a critical low in her struggle with substance consumption and mental health, and she ultimately passed at the age of 34. Her presence is missed in Hollywood to this day.

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Heather O'Rourke

Did you know that Heather O'Rourke got hand-picked for her first Hollywood project by the highly-esteemed director, Steven Spielberg? On a trip to MGM's studios, the young girl was spotted by Steven, who quickly signed her for his upcoming 1982 thriller, Poltergeist.

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And thank goodness he did, or else we wouldn't have known the talent that Heather possessed. She went on to appear in a dozen television programs, in addition to snagging six nominations for Young Artist Awards. But unfortunately, the promising actress passed at the shockingly premature age of 12 from a heart attack.

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Taylor Negron

Whether you recognize him from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Curb Your Enthusiasm, or Seinfeld, this legendary comedian stole every scene he appeared in without even having to speak. To do this day, many remember his iconic scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High!

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Unfortunately, the prolific actor and artist suffered for years from a debilitating case of liver cancer. He fought admirably for seven years before tragically passing away in the comfort of his home at the age of 57. His passing in 2015 is still seen as a profound loss in Hollywood.

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Glenn Quinn

Glenn Quinn stole the hearts of American television lovers for his many iconic parts, including Mark Healy in Roseanne and Doyle in both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. But no matter where his acting talents took him, he never forgot his roots. Glenn was incredibly proud to be Irish!

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And for that reason, he particularly loved his role on Angel, which allowed him to speak freely in his native Irish accent. However, this talented actor from across the pond sadly passed at the young age of 32 after a tragic overdose. Hollywood lost a legend in 2002.

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Sky McCole Bartusiak

In 1999, Skye McCole Barusiak broke into the acting scene as Pippa Hatcher, a role in Storm of the Century, a Stephen King project. And after a positive reception, she went on to co-star with Mel Gibson in the historical drama, The Patriot - a role for which she was widely recognized.

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Skye's career was going from strength to strength when she landed the role of Marilyn Monroe in Blonde. However, fans didn't realize that the 2012 film, Sick Boy, would be the final chance to see her talents. She sadly passed away due to substance consumption at the young age of 21.

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Jonathan Brandis

Jonathan Brandis was born to be a star. The eager and talented actor got his start in the industry at the ripe young age of two when he tried his luck at modeling. From there, he went on to land some commercial gigs before making a name for himself as Kevin Buchanan on One Life to Live.

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From his soap opera days, he leaped to the big screen in the 1990 fantasy film, The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter where he played the role of Bastian Bux. Jonathan's future was looking bright, but unfortunately, the young star lost a battle with mental health and passed at the age of 27.

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David Graf

Unlike Jonathan Brandis, who found immediate success in Hollywood, some of these late stars struggled to find their footing in the industry. And David Graf was a perfect example of a dedicated actor who fought for a place in entertainment. He spent the majority of the 1980s struggling to find work.

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He managed to snag guest roles on TV classics like M*A*S*H and The Dukes of Hazzard before finally making it to the big screen in the 1984 comedy film Police Academy. However, we lost this talented actor just as he was hitting his stride. He passed from cardiac arrest at the age of 50 back in 2001.

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Windell Middlebrooks

Whether you knew him from the iconic Miller Hill Life beer commercials or the successful Disney series, The Suite Life on Deck, Windell Middlebrooks left an impression with every role he took. And that most definitely included his part in Body of Proof and Ace in the Hole.

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IMDb - The Suite Life on Deck (2008) via Walt Disney Television

No matter what set he walked on to, the show was left funnier after he'd appeared. And after he tragically passed at the age of 36 due to a blood clot, social media was flooded with condolences and tributes to the late actor. His name was even trending across Twitter.

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Wendie Jo Sperber

As a young child growing up near Los Angeles, Wendie Jo Sperber dreamt of a glamorous life on the big screen from an early age. And finally, in 1978, the eager actress got her shot in the comedy film Corvette Summer. And from there, she went on to land some pretty big projects.

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Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer via Getty Images

From playing Linda McFly in Back to the Future to co-starring with Tom Hanks in Bosom Buddies, Wendie carved out her spot in the industry over time. However, she tragically passed in 2005 at the age of 47 after battling breast cancer. Keep scrolling for more...

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Natasha Richardson

This next actress was an absolute force of nature in the entertainment industry. Whether she was on stage or on set, Natasha Richardson captivated audiences in projects such as A Streetcar Named Desire, Anna Christie, and, of course, the family favorite rom-com, The Parent Trap.

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IMDb - Nell (1994) via Egg Pictures

From rom-com mom to more serious roles, James had the golden touch when it came to acting - which made her sudden passing an even more painful shock to the public. She passed following a ski accident in 2009 on the snowy slopes of Mont Tremblant, Canada.

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Michael Jeter

Looking back on his multi-decade career, it's hard to imagine that the world almost missed out on Michael Jeter's talents. Prior to embracing the life of an actor, this late star pursued a career in medicine. However, he captured audiences' attention in the 1999 fantasy drama, The Green Mile.

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The role propelled Jeter's career to new heights and decorated him with multiple awards for subsequent acting projects. From Emmys to Tonys, Michael was beloved in the industry up until the very day that he passed. He passed at the age of 50 in 2003 from a seizure.

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John Spencer

Back in 2002, John Spencer had the public gripped by his legendary portrayal of Leo McGarry in West Wing. His character served as the White House Chief of Staff and earned him a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.

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However, in reality, Spencer's career went a lot further back than West Wing. He got his Hollywood start in the 1963 television program, The Patty Duke Show. His talents only continued to develop over the years, and his loss shocked the public in 2005. He passed away after cardiac arrest at the age of 58.

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Gregory Hines

His breakout appearance in Mel Brooks's 1981 comedy, History of the World, Part I, kicked off Gregory Hines's career all those years ago. And from there, he went on to steal the hearts of audiences in projects including Waiting to Exhale and White Nights.

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The late '90s and early '00s only brought more success his way, as Gregory landed his own show, The Gregory Hines Show. Plus, he appeared regularly in Will and Grace as Ben Doucette. However, just a short number of years later the actor passed away due to liver cancer at 51-years-old.

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Leonard Nimoy

While Leonard Nimoy has been carved into pop culture history thanks to his role as Spock on Star Trek, in reality, the talented artist had a prolific career pre and post USS Enterprise. However, it's understandable that he's known for a character he played for over five decades.

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But off-screen, the legendary actor had a myriad of other interests. He penned multiple poetry anthologies and even flexed his creative muscles as a director. However, we had to say goodbye to this iconic talent in 2015 after he fell into an irreversible coma at 83 years of age.

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Chris Penn

Recognize the last name? That's because the late Chris Penn belonged to the same family as Sean Penn. It's no secret this talented actor made a name for himself in the industry, especially after starring in Quentin Tarantino's 1992 classic, Reservoir Dogs.

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But that wasn't the only project under his belt. He also starred in Starsky & Hutch, Corky Romano, and much more. In addition, he hit the studio to do voice work in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. However, Chris, unfortunately, lost his battle with heart disease in 2006 at the young age of 40.

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Ben Woolf

Ben Woolf had a successful run in both television and film projects throughout his decade-plus-long career. For thriller lovers, you may recognize Woolf from his regular appearance in seasons one and four of American Horror Story, where he played Meep and Infantata, respectively.

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Albert L. Ortega / Contributor via Getty Images

Fans loved his approach to the genre, and he became a fan favorite from the show. However, just two weeks before receiving his Russian Horror Film Award, the 34-year-old actor experienced a severe stroke and subsequently passed away in 2015. Keep scrolling for more actors that have left us too soon.

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Sawyer Sweeten

It's hard to imagine Everybody Loves Raymond without Sawyer Sweeten. This talented child joined the show's cast at a young age and immediately captured viewers' hearts with his adorable smile and memorable portrayal of Geoffrey Barone. He held his weight amongst fellow adult castmates.

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IMDb - Everybody Loves Raymond (1996) via CBS Television

Sadly, the world never got to see what the future had in store. He tragically passed at the age of 19. His passing rocked the sitcom community, with his co-stars paying tribute back in 2015. "[He was] a funny and exceptionally bright young man," shared Patricia Heaton, who played his mother in the show.

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Brittany Murphy

Remember Brittany's iconic diss in Clueless? This Georgia-born American actress made a name for herself thanks to this career-changing role back in 1995. She then flexed her triple-threat status by moving onto Broadway in the 1997 production of A View from the Bridge.

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Her later success came in the 2002 drama 8 Mile. However, Brittany later struggled to be taken seriously in the industry. Unfortunately, we lost her at her prime back in 2009. She tragically passed away from what first responders ruled was a heart attack at the age of 32.

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Dana Hill

Dana Hill, like many talented actors and actresses, got her industry start at a young age. However, she was most widely recognized for her part in National Lampoon's European Vacation, where she played the role of Audrey Griswold. She then went on to work on projects including Shoot the Moon and Cross Creek.

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However, despite her career successes, life wasn't easy for Dana. She was dealing with a diabetes diagnosis she'd received at the age of 10. And it was that very condition that led to the stroke that ultimately took her life in 1996. The promising actress was only 32.

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Michelle Thomas

With both parents in the music and entertainment industry, it was no surprise that Michelle Thomas found her footing in Hollywood early on. She made her mark in The Cosby Show, where she played Justine Phillips, in addition to her role as Myra Monkhouse in Family Matters.

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IMDb - The Cosby Show (1984) via Carsey-Werner Productions

Tragically, despite leading a health-conscious life, Michelle fell victim to a gruesome case of stomach cancer in 1997. The following year, at only 30 years old, the promising actress lost the battle against the disease in the comfort of her family's presence.

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Jean Stapleton

All in the Family just wasn't All in the Family without Jean Stapleton. The talented actress brought her wit and charm to her portrayal of Edith Bunker, for which she was highly praised. The role landed her multiple awards, including Golden Globes and Emmy Awards.

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In the following years, Stapleton starred in projects like Archie Bunker's Place and eventually landed herself a spot in the American Theatre Hall of Fame. However, at the age of 90 years, the actress sadly passed back in 2013. She may be gone, but her talent will never be forgotten.

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John Cazale

With such a tragically short career, John Cazale managed to accomplish what most dream of achieving in a lifetime. He starred in five films over seven years, with the incredible record of all them receiving Academy Award Nominations. Many fans recognize him for his part in The Godfather.

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IMDb - Dog Day Afternoon (1975) via Warner Bros.

However, this talented light in Hollywood tragically passed away at the young age of 42 years old. His passing left a profound mark in the industry, which inspired the 2009 short documentary titled I Knew It Was You. The film features interviews from fellow stars paying tribute to the late actor.

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Cory Monteith

When Cory Monteith found stardom as Finn Hudson in Glee, television lovers around the world knew that he was something special. In just a couple of episodes, Cory catapulted to new levels of fame, however, there were some demons that haunted him along the way.

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After battling with a dependency to substances, Monteith's body was tragically found in the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel room in Vancouver, Canada. The late actor's co-stars on Glee gathered for a tribute and aired an episode dedicated to his character's fictional death on the show as well.

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Lupe Ontiveros

With over four decades in the entertainment business, it was hard to imagine television and film without Lupe Ontiveros. The El Paso, Texas-born actress rose to fame in the 1970s after landing roles in Charlie's Angels and The World's Greatest Lover.

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She would later go on to gain praise for her role in Selena, in addition to an Emmy nomination for Desperate Housewives. Alas, this talented actress sadly passed in 2012 after a battle with liver cancer. She was 69 years old at the time of her passing.

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Judith Barsi

Few could deny that Judith Barsi was a light in Hollywood. The child actress was only in the industry for four short years, however, she most certainly left her mark. She starred in films including The Land Before Time, Jaws: The Revenge, and All Dogs Go to Heaven.

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Judith Barsi via IMDb

However, tragedy struck on July 25th, 1988, when Judith and her mother were shot in their home by Barsi's father, József. At the young age of ten, the actress's life came an end, and the industry gathered to mourn the loss of such a talented star with so much potential.

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Naya Rivera

Although Naya got her start in Hollywood at a young age, her real fame came with her role in Glee, just like Cory Monteith. And unfortunately, just like Cory, Naya lost her life at a tragically young age. The actress, singer, and model was only 33 at the time of her passing.

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IMDb - Glee (2009) via Fox Broadcasting Co.

Naya was the victim of a drowning incident in a Californian lake. In the aftermath of her passing, Glee's cast and crew members honored the late star by sharing their memories of her. Naya's co-star, Heather Morris remembered Rivera as her most "consistent and loving friend."

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Elizabeth Peña

From credits in projects like The Incredibles, Rush Hour, Modern Family, and NCIS, it's clear that Elizabeth Peña had a successful career in Hollywood. The New Jersey-born actress lived the majority of her life on-camera, having started her career in 1976 and working up until her death.

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The talented actress passed away at the age of 55 in 2014 from what coroners ruled as cirrhosis of the liver. In the wake of her passing, publications around the country paid tribute to the late star, describing her as the "It Girl" of her time.

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Willie Garson

Having worked in the entertainment industry for 35 years, Willie Garson left a legacy behind him after his tragic death. He was go-go-go back in his prime, starring in over 75 films and more than 300 television episodes. But most of us knew him from his role as Stanford Blatch from Sex and the City.

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And in tragic timing, Willie passed away at the age of 57 as the new Sex and the City revival was underway earlier this autumn. His co-star, Sarah Jessica Parker shared her thoughts in an Instagram post dedicated to her late friend. "Your absence a crater that I will fill with the blessing of these memories," she said.

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John Gavin

Few have had a successful run in Hollywood like the late John Gavin. The legendary actor became a household name in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to roles in films like Imitations of Life, Spartacus, Psycho, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. But his career didn't stop there.

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Gavin then went on to serve as the president of the Screen Actors Guild in addition to serving as the Ambassador to the United States in Mexico. With such an impressive list of accomplishments, his tragic passing in 2018 left a hole still felt to this day. He died at the age of 86.

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William Smith

William Smith entered the entertainment business young and he never looked back. And with a career spanning more than seven decades, it's clear that it was a matter of passion, not just the money. William loved the craft as much as fans loved his performances.

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IMDb - The Rockford Files (1974) via NBC

He starred in blockbusters including Any Which Way You Can and Red Dawn. However, at the age of 88 years of age, the legendary actor passed away in Los Angeles on July 5th, 2021. Keep scrolling to see more late actors and actresses that left us too soon...

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Lois De Banzie

From television to film and broadway, Lois De Banzie was a force of talent to be reckoned with. During her career in the entertainment business, she earned awards including the Drama Desk Award, and even got nominated for a Tony Award for her part in Morning's at Seven.

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IMDb - Sudden Impact (1983) via Warner Bros.

Annie, Tootsie, and Arachnophobia were just some of the films we saw her in. However, Lois De Banzie started slowing down towards the turn of the century, partially due to her old age. And sadly, in April of 2021, the prolific passed away at the age of 90 years old.

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Edith González

Born in Mexico City, Edith González got her start in the business at a young age. She started acting at the age of six in a telenovela and never looked back. González went on to become one of Mexico's most famous actresses, starring in projects like Los ricos también lloran.

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Clasos / Contributor via Getty Images

González's star power was too strong for just one medium. She went on to star in films and even plays throughout her career. However, despite her love of acting, her career became overshadowed by a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Despite beating it once, it eventually led to her death in 2016. She was only 54.

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Raymundo Capetillo

From as far back as the 1960s, Raymundo Capetillo was entertaining the masses with his legendary acting skills across a multitude of platforms. The Mexico City native brought his talents to the world of telenovelas, in addition to acting in film and theatre.

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Clasos / Contributor via Getty Images

His successful career made him one of Mexico's most famous actors at the time, however, he fell victim to the devastating pandemic that swept across the globe in 2020. Capetillo was admitted to the hospital in July of last year with breathing complications and later passed away at the age of 76 due to the virus.

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Abel Fernandez

For fans of the ABC classic program, The Untouchables, there's only one Agent Bill Youngfellow and that's Abel Fernandez. The Los Angeles native spent the majority of his life on-screen after a brief stint in the United States Army and blip as a competitive boxer.

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But once he found acting he never looked back. His career carried all the way up until the 1990s, where he starred in films like Quicksilver and Buster's Bedroom. However, a tragic diagnosis of lung cancer claimed his life in 2016. He was 85 at the time of his death.

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Louisa Moritz

Havana-born actress, Louisa Mortiz broke into the entertainment industry scene at the age of 30 years old. She first got her start in small supporting roles, before landing more notable gigs like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and her part in the TV program, Love, American Style.

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While Louisa was often type-casted as a ditzy blonde, she was nothing like that in real life. She went on to earn a law degree and work as a show producer briefly. She passed away at the age of 82 years old in January of 2019. Her friend Edward Lozzi remembered her as "full of life [and] talent."

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Miguel Ferrer

From RoboCop to Blank Check and Mulan, Miguel proved that he could bring his acting talents to any and every film set he walked onto. The Santa Monica native spent nearly three decades in Hollywood, where he worked on a variety of films and television programs.

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Little did we know at the time, but his role in Iron Man 3 was one of the last times we got to see Ferrer on our screens. His work began to wind down and he later passed away in 2017 from throat cancer at the age of 61. Hollywood was in shock and honored the late actor with character names and tribute TV shows.

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