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From Stardom to Addiction

This article remembers the addiction-related deaths of some of the biggest names in show business and asks why actors and singers appear particularly prone to alcohol and drug abuse.

An early death

February marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died of a heroin overdose in 2014 aged only 46. His body was found in the bathroom of his New York apartment with a syringe in his arm. His death was ruled accidental, the result of “acute mixed drug intoxication“, including heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and amphetamines.

Hoffman entered a drug rehabilitation programme at the age of 22 and remained clean for the following 23 years. During this time he starred in many major films, winning an Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in the 2005 film Capote“.

Interestingly, the real-life Truman Capote also underwent treatment for alcoholism and drug abuse. Without Capote we would not have had Audrey Hepburn’s iconic portrayal of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s“, the film based on Capote’s novella. He also wrote the pioneering work of narrative non-fiction “In Cold Blood”. Capote’s health declined drastically over the years due to continued substance abuse. He died in 1984, aged 59.

Prone to insecurity

February also marked the anniversary of another great talent lost to addiction: the singer Whitney Houston, who was found dead in the bath of a hotel in Beverly Hills in 2012, aged 48. Her death was attributed to accidental drowning, due to the combined effects of cocaine use and heart disease.

Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston’s friend and co-star in the film The Bodyguard“, delivered a eulogy at the singer’s funeral. Providing an insight into how this beautiful woman with such an amazing voice was plagued by insecurities, he recalled how she had once asked him: “Am I good enough?”, “Am I pretty enough?”, and “Will they like me?”

The higher up, the greater the fall

The tragedy of these deaths highlights the issue of why so many singers, writers, directors and artists appear to succumb to addiction.

The book “Adventures in the Screen Trade”, by award-winning screenwriter William Goldman, highlights the fragility of actors: “Never underestimate the insecurity of a star. Decline and fall can’t ever be easy, but the distance of the drop is much greater than the rest of us may (or will) experience” .

Who, for example, could have imagined that Cary Grant was concerned about a lack of charm? Goldman’s book recalls how an interviewer once said to the actor, “Everybody would like to be Cary Grant” ““ to which Grant is said to have replied, “So would I” . Grant was a heavy drinker and became ill with infectious hepatitis and jaundice in 1948. He lived until 82 years of age, but not before experimenting with LSD in an effort to get ‘inner peace’.

Whether in private or in their professional lives, the stars of the entertainment industry are often plagued by insecurities and a fear of failure, and this frequently appears to lead to substance abuse.

Tragically, stars who live most of their lives in the limelight sometimes end up dying alone in the darkness of addiction.

Photo source: Wikipedia