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What The Last 12 Months Of John Candy's Life Were Like

As the old saying goes, "Only the good die young." That couldn't be more applicable than in the case of John Candy. On March 4, 1994, the famed actor and comedian tragically passed away from a heart attack while in Durango, Mexico for the production of Wagons East. He was only 43 years old, and left behind an unfillable void in Hollywood, his wife Rosemary and two children, and a legacy that no one will ever truly match.

Candy's career gained incredible momentum when he joined the comedy variety program Second City Television (SCTV) in 1976, which put him on Hollywood's radar. He'd go on to star in classic films such as Stripes, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and Spaceballs, among others. Candy's presence on screen was one of a kind, and while his career was cut drastically short, he's fondly remembered not only as an actor but as the kind-natured man he was away from the camera.

As light-hearted and fun his TV and movie appearances were, however, things were not always perfect for John Candy. Between professional and personal struggles, there were more than a few bumps in the road as his time on Earth drew to its too-soon conclusion. Still, even in the face of adversity, Candy made the most of his life, even in 1994 — what he didn't realize was his last year.

John Candy made his directorial debut with Hostage for a Day

Most remember Candy for the iconic characters he brought to life on the big screen. Late in his life, however, he made the jump to directing with the dark TV comedy Hostage for a Day, in which he also played a very minor role. It starred George Wendt as Warren Kooey, who stages his own kidnapping to escape his abusive wife, as portrayed by Robin Duke. All in all, the film isn't very well-known and has mixed reviews, at best.

It's highly unlikely that this would've been Candy's one and only foray in the director's chair had it not been for his untimely demise. As his son Christopher told The Hollywood Reporter, his father's work on Hostage for a Day was a huge step for him. "It may not be the best representation of his work, but he loved the fact that he got to direct Hostage for a Day. He was really proud of that." Directing may have been the way for him to go as the '90s wrapped up, giving him new life in a new field that would not only support his family but give him a great sense of fulfillment.

John Candy starred in his final two films in 1994

John Candy had two projects in the pipeline before he passed away, and both saw release posthumously over the following year and a half. The first was the western comedy Wagons East, which opened on August 26, 1994, and starred Candy alongside Richard Lewis and Ellen Greene. The filming was a nightmare for the Cool Runnings star, whose son said "I don't know if he was excited to work on it or wasn't." The team had to apply several special effects and rewrite scenes to account for his absence, since he died before shooting wrapped up. The result is what Roger Ebert called "a sad way to end John Candy's career," and it only raked in $4.4 million worldwide.

Following a delayed release came Canadian Bacon, a satire film by Michael Moore that dissects the Canda-United States relationship, in the Fall of 1995. Candy took the leading role in a film that was only a slight step up with critics from Wagons East, but which did far worse at the box office, making a meager $178,104. He gave both movies his best effort, but sadly he finished out his acting career on a couple of low notes. Thankfully, he has a backlog of wins to make up for his less-than-stellar final outings.

Weight gain and poor health finally got the better of John Candy

With speedbumps in his on-camera career becoming more frequent, Candy was also combatting serious personal issues with which he'd struggled for years, and which were only continuing to worsen. The most prevalent was his weight problem, which he worked very hard to counteract via dieting and exercise. Christopher Candy says, "He always worked on his weight and his health," to dispel common rhetoric that Candy didn't take good care of himself. "He had trainers and would work at whatever the new diet was. I know he did his best." At the same time, he was notorious as a smoker, drinker, and drug abuser — all of which intensified in his last days.

In addition to his weight and dietary problems, Candy also suffered from serious underlying health conditions that contributed greatly to his premature death. As his kids confirmed, their father was aware of his heart disease from a young age, but he never quite grasped how severe it would become as he got older. "I don't think he was aware of the genetic heart disease that was in the family," Christopher theorized, lamenting that he wished he knew then what he knows now. Had medical technology developed at a faster rate, perhaps one of the cinema's most legendary funnymen would still be with us today.