by Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith
Are "The Matrix" movies cursed? The big-money Keanu Reeves franchise is the latest Hollywood entity to have the c-word attached to it because two "Matrix" principles died as the series was being made. During filming of "The Matrix Reloaded
," Gloria Foster, who was reprising her role as the Oracle, died from complications of diabetes. And who could forget that the part of Zee was to be played by singer-cum-actress Aaliyah
, who was killed instantly when her plane crashed in the Bahamas when she was returning from a music video shoot? The 22 year-old Aaliyah had already filmed a few scenes for "Reloaded," but filmmakers Larry and David Wachowski had to recast the part, which was difficult given the suddenness of the tragedy. Nona Gaye ended up stepping into the role.
Certainly, most people would ascribe this misfortune to coincidence. But don't be surprised if "The 'Matrix' curse" grows as an urban legend -- especially now that anything negative that happens to any of the cast or key behind-the-scenes players will be chalked up to something bigger than just life's circumstances.
The infamous "Poltergeist" curse has been a much-discussed topic for years. Four deaths occurred among the cast of the film franchise that had to do with destructive spirits inhabiting a house. Heather O'Rourke died at only 12, a victim of sudden septic shock, in 1988. Dominique Dunne, her onscreen sister, was murdered by her boyfriend in 1982. Julian Beck, who had played an evil spirit, succumbed to stomach cancer in 1985. And Will Sampson, who'd been seen as a kindly spirit, died after receiving a heart-lung transplant in 1987.
It seems more than an eerie coincidence to many that martial arts legend Bruce Lee and his son, actor/martial artist Brandon Lee both died while making films. In 1973 at a young 32, Bruce, who was in Hong Kong making "Game of Death," died of a sudden brain edema, (a type of hemmorhage). Brandon died nearly 20 years later, when a "dummy" prop bullet shot through his abdomen and lodged in his spine while filming "The Crow." After over five hours in surgery, Lee died from the injury.
Then there's the "Superman" curse, which took flight after former Superman Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in a 1995 horse riding accident. Superman George Reeves of the 1950s was found dead of an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound in 1959 -- yet his death remains a subject of debate and murder mystery conspiracy theories as he was reportedly happy and soon to be married at the time of his passing.
"Superman" curse, you say? But nothing has happened to Dean Cain since he played Superman.
"Exactly," answered one Hollywood wag.
Other curses are harder to explain away.
There are literally dozens of examples of subjects who've undergone personal or professional calamities -- divorces, accidents, arrests and what have you -- within a short period of time after appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Tennis sex symbol Anna Kournikova looked luscious on the June 5, 2000 S.I. cover, for example. A day after it appeared she was bounced out of the French Open in the second round, her worst performance in a Grand Slam event in three years. A week after the S.I. cover "Rodman to the Rescue" appeared in '99, Dennis Rodman missed four Lakers games and took a leave of absence to attend to "personal matters" -- filing for divorce less than a month later, and a few days after that, being released from the team.
One of the most persistent Hollywood curse stories is that of James Dean's death car, on which the "Rebel Without a Cause" icon had bestowed the name Little Bastard. The rare Silver Porsche Spyder that carried Dean to his grave in 1955 was bought as a wreck by Hollywood car customizer George Barris, for $2,500 -- and fell while being unloaded, breaking both of a mechanic's legs. So began a string of weird accidents - including two deaths -- among those who had anything to do with the Little Bastard or its parts. The car disappeared while being transported 'cross country in 1960. To this day, its whereabouts are unknown. Now there's a good curse story.