Which actor died before the completion of the filming of the epic war drama film “The Deer Hunter”?
John Holland Cazale (1935–1978) was an American actor. He appeared in five films over seven years, all of which were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture: “The Godfather”, “The Conversation”, “The Godfather Part II”, “Dog Day Afternoon”, and “The Deer Hunter”, with the two “Godfather” films and “The Deer Hunter” winning.
“The Deer Hunter” is a 1978 American epic war drama film co-written and directed by Michael Cimino about a trio of Russian-American steelworkers whose lives were changed forever after fighting in the Vietnam War. The three soldiers are played by Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and John Savage. Cazale, Meryl Streep, and George Dzundza played supporting roles.
Both De Niro and Streep reportedly threatened to drop out of the project when it was revealed that the producers were planning to let Cazale go. He was dying of Stage IV lung cancer, and was therefore essentially uninsurable without them shelling out a lot of money, which they were not willing to do.
Streep, who was engaged to Cazale at the time, had only taken the role in the first place to be close to him in his last days. De Niro ended up paying for Cazale's insurance out of his own pocket so that Cazale would not be fired.
All of Cazale's scenes were filmed first due to his failing health, and he did in fact die prior to the film's completion (although he did complete his own scenes). Streep, devoted to the end, was at his side when he died.