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Hollywood actors who died of substance abuse

Bollywood may have had its share of run-ins with the world of drugs, but in comparison, Hollywood has always been charmed by — and consequently struggled with — it. The recent death of the 46-year-old Academy Award-winning actor due to drug overdose only puts the spotlight on this.

Philip Seymour Hoffman
Philip Seymour Hoffman

On February 2, the actor — best known for his roles in films such as 'Capote' (2005), 'Charlie Wilson's War' (2007), 'Synedoche', 'New York' (2008) and 'The Master' (2012) — was found dead at his New York residence. HitList takes a look at a host of other celebs whose lives were cut short by substance abuse.

River Phoenix
River Phoenix

Year of death: 1993
Age: 23
Cause of death: Cocaine overdose
Notable Work: Older brother of the critically acclaimed Joaquin Phoenix, River’s most memorable role came by in Stand By Me (1986) during his childhood. The talent was unmistakeable as he later garnered appreciation for his act in films like Running On Empty (1988) and My Own Private Idaho (1991).

Brad Renfro
Brad Renfro
Year of death: 2008
Age: 25
Cause of death: Morphine intoxication
Notable Work: After making a spectacular debut in The Client (1994), he went on share screen space with Robert De Niro in Sleepers (1996) and Ian McKellen in Apt Pupil (1998). Two days before his death, he had tattooed the words ‘F*** All Y'all’ on his back. After his death, James Franco had Renfro’s first name tattooed on his right arm as a tribute.

Anne Nicole Smith
Anne Nicole Smith

Year of death: 2007
Age: 39
Cause of death: Combined drug intoxication
Notable Work: Touted as ‘the next Marilyn Monroe’ during her modelling days, Anne had a topsy-turvy ride ahead. Although her acting skills were unremarkable, her larger-than-life story provided endless fodder to tabloids. After her son’s drug-related demise, her addiction to prescription drugs intensified and it eventually took a toll on her.

Chris Penn
Chris Penn

Year of death: 2006
Age: 39
Cause of death: Prescription drug complications
Notable Work: The younger brother of Sean Penn had a relatively less illustrious film career. After appearing in fine movies such as Footloose (1984), Reservoir Dogs (1992), True Romance (1993) and Rush Hour (1998), Chris saw a steep decline in his filmography owing to tardiness and obesity.

Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger

Year of death: 2008
Age: 28
Cause of death: Overdose of prescription drugs
Notable Work: His extraordinary portrayal of Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) remains one of the finest villainous performances of all time. Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain is another movie of his that undoubtedly deserves a mention here. After his breakup with fellow actress Michelle Williams, the Australian actor was said to be battling depression.

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston

Year of death: 2012
Age: 48
Cause of death: Drowned in a swimming pool post-drug abuse
Notable Work: Widely popular for her accomplishments as a singer with multiple hits to her credit, Whitney also contributed a lot to the world of cinema through soundtracks that were used extensively in films, documentaries and TV series alike. She showcased her acting talent in Waiting to Exhale (1995) and recently in Sparkle (2012).

Brittany Murphy
Brittany Murphy

Year of death: 2009
Age: 32
Cause of death: Multiple drug intoxication
Notable Work: Although not considered among the greatest acting talents around, her film career was punctuated by her work in a series of big banner Hollywood productions. Her performance in Girl, Interrupted (1999) was very well-received.

Cory Monteith
Cory Monteith

Year of death: 2013
Age: 31
Cause of death: Heroin overdose
Notable Work: Known more for his work on the small screen, the young actor appeared in the franchise film, Final Destination 3 (2006) and then in The Invisible (2007) and Sisters and Brothers (2011). At the time of his demise, he was acting in the popular TV series Glee. He reportedly had a history of substance abuse.

Blast from the past
Some other Hollywood names who fell prey to drug overdose:

Marilyn Monroe

>> Although the actual circumstances of her death still remain an open-ended mystery, it is said that the sex symbol Marilyn Monroe had overdosed on barbiturates.

Judy Garland

>> Oscar-nominated Judy Garland, of The Wizard of Oz fame, died after overdosing on Secobarbital. She was said to be fighting depression at the time.

James Hayden

>> James Hayden portrayed a heroin addict in the critically acclaimed American Buffalo, co-starring Al Pacino. He died of a heroin overdose during the play’s production.

Alan Ladd

>> The actor who essayed the protagonist in The Great Gatsby (1949), Alan Ladd, passed away due to a sedative overdose.

George Sanders

>> Best known as the voice behind Sher Khan in Disney’s The Jungle Book (1967), George Sanders died of Nembutal overdose.

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