With Tony Scott taking his own life recently, we’re reminded that Hollywood has a long history of tragedy. And often it is the most creative and most brilliant members of that community that suffer the most. Here are the 12 most shocking Hollywood suicides.
12. Freddie Prinze
Richard Jeni was a famous stand-up comedian who was known for his stand-up specials (one of which is credited with creating the phrase “Thank you, Captain Obvious) and his appearances in The Mask and The Aristocrats. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest comedians of all time.
In 2007, Jeni shot himself in the face and was rushed to the hospital where he died. Jeni had recently been diagnosed with “severe clinical depression, coupled with fits of psychotic paranoia” and his girlfriend reported hearing him talking to himself a week earlier saying “just squeeze the trigger.” His girlfriend was in the apartment at the time of the shots. They had just discussed his next career move when she went to the kitchen to cook breakfast at his request, when she heard gunshots.
2. Jonathan Brandis
Jonathan Brandis was a 90s teen idol thanks to his starring role in the TV show SeaQuest. But he had actually been working since he was five years old. In fact, audiences already knew him from The NeverEnding Story II, It, and Ladybugs. At the peak of his popularity Brandis received as many as 4,000 fan letters a week and needed three studio guards to escort him through the mob of female fans onto the SeaQuest set.
In November 2003 Brandis hanged himself. He was rushed to the hospital and died the next day. Friends speculated that Brandis was depressed about his career, but no one really knows why he took his own life.
1. Peg Entwistle
Peg Entwistle’s death is particularly shocking and tragic because it is more memorable and notable than her film career. Entwistle was born in the UK in 1908 and dreamed of the bright lights of Hollywood. She had a successful Broadway career before moving out west where she only had one film credit to her name. She played a small supporting role in a movie called Thirteen Women.
When the film received bad reviews and her role was greatly reduced she decided to take her own life and did so in a dramatic fashion. She climbed to the top of the “H” in the famed Hollywood sign and jumped off. Her suicide note is also famed as it states:
I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.
She was only 24.
In this context it’s easy to see the tragedy of Tony Scott’s death as a continuation of a long line of bewildering suicides among both great and small in Hollywood. Perhaps all this says something about the cost of creativity or the depravity of the entertainment industry, but mostly it just makes me sad.