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Actors From Sam Raimi Movies You May Not Know Passed Away

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Lots of people know Sam Raimi for lots of reasons.

You might know the filmmaker best as the wonderfully inventive director of the three Tobey Maguire-starring "Spider-Man" films. If you're a horror fan, you know him as the creator of the "Evil Dead" series. You may also know him as the director of cult classics like "Darkman" and "Drag Me to Hell." Or possibly as the producer of the TV series "Xena: Warrior Princess" TV series, or films like "Time Cop" and John Woo's American debut "Hard Target." More recently, Raimi took another trip back into Marvel territory by directing "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." 

The Michigan born, self-taught filmmaker made his initial splash as a unique talent who was able to do a heck of a lot with tiny budgets and DIY special effects. The "Evil Dead" films showed Hollywood that Raimi was resourceful and inventive, and you knew that with a real budget he could do spectacular things — a point underlined by the "Spider-Man" series (which also proved Raimi could do more than gory horror).

There have been a number of great actors in Raimi's films, led of course by the famously square jawed Bruce Campbell — part of the Raimi crew from the beginning, still cameoing in projects like "Multiverse" — and he has also worked with such Hollywood faves as Tobey Maguire, Kevin Costner, Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, and Benedict Cumberbatch, among many others.

But when a filmmaker is active for more than four decades, some of the actors used along the way will unfortunately die. Here's a list of Raimi collaborators you may not know have passed away.

Bill Paxton

A beloved actor who moved up to leading man status after years of solid character actor work — like his memorable turn as Chet in the John Hughes comedy "Weird Science," or Hudson in "Aliens" ("Game over man! Game over!") — Bill Paxton also had a history with early '80s music. He was in a new wave band called Martini Ranch (who had a minor hit with the song "How Can the Laboring Man Find Time For Subculture?") and directed and acted in the early-MTV phenomenon "Fish Heads" video, which he made for $2000.

Paxton was a native of Fort Worth, Texas, and his father John Paxton, who did some acting here and there, also had cameos in Raimi films like the "Spider-Man" trilogy, "Drag Me to Hell," and "Oz the Great and Powerful." 

Paxton played the lead in the Raimi-directed "A Simple Plan," a haunting, underrated thriller based on a novel by Scott B. Smith. In the film, Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda try to pull off a money scheme that goes horribly wrong and has tragic consequences (John Paxton had a cameo in this film as well). 

After memorable turns in films like "Near Dark," "One False Move" and the beloved Western "Tombstone," Paxton moved up to leading man blockbuster territory with such films as "Apollo 13," "Twister" and James Cameron's mega-hit "Titanic." Paxton also had big success on cable playing a polygamist in the HBO series "Big Love," and as Randall McCoy in the History Channel series "Hatfields & McCoys."

Paxton was starring in the CBS series "Training Day," based on the hit Denzel Washington film, when he died of a stroke during heart surgery on February 25, 2017. He was 61.

Cliff Robertson

A beloved actor whose career was marred by scandal, Cliff Robertson got a late career reinvention/resurrection playing Uncle Ben in the first two "Spider-Man" films for Sam Raimi.

Robertson grew up in La Jolla, CA. He served in World War II and fought in the South Pacific. He then lit out to New York to become an actor, where he enrolled in the famed Actor's Studio and performed on Broadway. In addition to his stage work, Robertson built a strong reputation for great TV performances on shows like "Playhouse 90," back when television was a new medium.

One of Robertson's best-known roles was in the movie "Charly," where he played a mentally challenged man who became a genius. Robertson won best actor for the role.

Robertson kept acting steadily throughout the '70s, until he got caught up in "Hollywoodgate," one of the biggest show business scandals of the era. David Begelman, the president of Columbia, was caught embezzling money, and he forged a check in Robertson's name for a sizable amount of money. Robinson blew the whistle on Begelman, and he was blacklisted for years. The entire debacle was recounted in the best-selling book "Indecent Exposure."

Robertson finally came back in the '80s, memorably playing Hugh Hefner in "Star 80,' and he was also the spokesperson for AT&T. Robertson then capped off his career playing Uncle Ben in the first two "Spider-Man" films, his performances putting the "Hollywoodgate" scandal behind him for good.

Robertson died on September 10, 2011, the day after he turned 88 years old.

Paul Smith

Paul Smith was a native of Israel best known for playing villains, like the sadistic prison guard in "Midnight Express," and Bluto in the Robert Altman big screen version of "Popeye," featuring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall.

With his dark black hair and beard, Smith was usually described as burly, strong and imposing, and he had a role in the ill-fated Raimi comedy "Crimewave," where he played the role of Faron Crush. The film also featured the Coen Brothers in acting roles, Raimi regular Bruce Campbell, well-known character actor Brion James ("Blade Runner"), and Louise Lasser ("Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman"), among others.

Raimi's work always had a strong under-current of slapstick, the funny gore scenes in the "Evil Dead" movies have been labeled "splatstick," and this was Raimi's attempt at a full-blown comedy. Unfortunately, the experience making the film was a disaster, and it left Raimi and his gang of collaborators demoralized until he came back strong with "Evil Dead 2."

Smith had featured roles in the 1984 adaptation of "Dune," "Red Sonja," "Maverick," and the slasher movie "Pieces," where he played a groundskeeper suspected of being a serial killer because he owns a chainsaw.

Smith died on April 25, 2012 at the age of 73.

Bill Nunn

Best known for playing Radio Raheem in "Do the Right Thing," Bill Nunn also became famous for playing Robbie Robertson, editor at the Daily Bugle, in the Sam Raimi "Spider-Man" films.

Nunn was a native of Pennsylvania, graduating from Morehouse College in 1976. He launched an acting career when he hooked up with Spike Lee for his second film, "School Daze," which Lee based on his own experiences when he went to Morehouse.

"Do the Right Thing" was a powerful, controversial hit in the summer of 1989, and Nunn played a pivotal figure in the film whose death at the hands at the police sets off a riot near the end of the film.

Nunn appeared in four films for Lee including "He Got Game," and "Mo' Better Blues." He also acted in "New Jack City," "Regarding Henry," "Sister Act," "Money Train," and "Idlewild."

Nunn died on September 24, 2016 at the age of 62. Lee paid tribute to him on social media by writing, "My dear friend, my dear Morehouse brother – Da great actor Bill Nunn. Long live Bill Nunn. Radio Raheem is now resting in power...May God watch over Bill Nunn." 

Danny Hicks

Danny Hicks went way back with Raimi. He first starred in "Evil Dead 2" as Jake, and they worked together on many films including "Easy Wheels" (which Raimi wrote with his brother Ivan), "Army of Darkness," "Darkman," "Spider-Man 2," and "Oz the Great and Powerful." 

In addition to working with Raimi, Hicks starred in the horror film "Wishmaster," "Maniac Cop," "My Name is Bruce," "Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way," and the underrated horror film "Intruder," about a serial killer striking a supermarket after hours. (Raimi has a cameo in the film.)

Hicks announced through his Facebook page on June 5, 2020 that he was suffering from stage four cancer. "But I gotta tell ya," he wrote. "I sure as hell packed a whole bunch of living into my 68 years. I got no change coming back that's for sure." He also made an "Evil Dead" reference, writing, "Ok., gotta go. I'm gunna find out just what in the hell is going on down in that fruit cellar."

Not long after his Facebook announcement, Hicks died on June 30, 2020 at the age of 68.

Michael Jeter

A native of Tennessee, Michael Jeter was another Raimi actor who was able to transition seamlessly from the stage to movies to television. He appeared in the Raimi film "The Gift," but he was also well known for performing on "Evening Shade," where he won an Emmy for playing football coach Herman Stiles, and a Tony Award for his performance in "Grand Hotel."

Jeter was also a regular on "Sesame Street," playing the character of Mr. Noodle. He made his big screen debut in the Woody Allen film "Zelig," and he had notable roles in "The Polar Express," "The Fisher King," "The Green Mile," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Patch Adams," and more. Jeter also made guest appearances on "Picket Fences," "Chicago Hope," "Suddenly Susan," and "Murphy Brown," among other notable TV shows.

Jeter died on March 30, 2003 at the age of 50. Jeter was HIV positive, but it was not suspected as a factor in his death at the time.

Julius Harris

A tall, imposing man known for his chrome dome shaved head and deep voice, Julius Harris was a native of Philadelphia, and he served in the military before becoming an actor. His first film role was in "Nothing But a Man," a drama about the Black experience living in the south.

In the early '70s, Harris had a featured role in the James Bond film "Live and Let Die," playing Tee Hee, the villain with a hook hand. In the early '70s, Harris also played tough guys in the blaxploitation classics "Superfly" and "Black Caesar." Other notable films included the original "The Taking of Pelham 1, 2,3," the 1976 remake of "King Kong,"  and the Diane Keaton drama "Looking For Mr. Goodbar," among others. Harris starred as a gravedigger for Raimi in the film "Darkman."

Harris also did a lot of TV work, making appearances on "Sanford and Son," "Cannon," "Good Times," and "Kojak," among others.

Harris was praised by Halle Berry, who said (via AAREG), "His work helped African Americans break out of stereotypical movie roles and move to more dynamic heroes and fully realized human beings."

Harris died of heart failure at the Motion Picture and Television Home on October 22, 2004 at the age of 81.

Nicholas Worth

Like Paul Smith, Nicholas Worth was a strong, burly actor who often played villains and tough guys. He first gained notice in the low-budget slasher film "Don't Answer the Phone," and in the Wes Craven DC comics adaptation of "Swamp Thing," but he was able to transcend the low budget B-movie world, landing over a hundred roles in movies and television over a span of several decades. 

Worth, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, went to Carnegie Mellon University with the hopes of becoming an actor, and he was also a paratrooper in 101st Airborne division in Vietnam.

Worth played the role of Pauly in "Darkman," and he also starred in such films as the Kevin Costner hit "No Way Out," the Clint Eastwood war film "Heartbreak Ridge," "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!", "Hell Comes to Frogtown," and "Barb Wire" with Pamela Anderson, among others.

Worth died on May 7, 2007 at the age of 69.

Larry Drake

Best known for playing Benny Stulwicx, the mentally challenged clerk on "L.A. Law," Larry Drake memorably played Durant, the villain in "Darkman." He also played the deranged lead role in the horror film "Doctor Giggles."

Drake, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, had a career that spanned 40 years of stage, screen and TV work. The role of Benny on "L.A. Law" was a one-shot that turned into a regular guest spot, and then it finally transitioned into a regular part of the show. Benny became a beloved character on the show, and as Drake told Bobby Wygant, "It's a wonderful character, and even if I risk being stereotyped, that's the only negative I have to deal with, and that hasn't even happened yet."

Drake's performance was so good, some thought he was truly mentally challenged, and Drake said (via the Chicago Tribune), "It's a wonderful compliment. Either I fool people, or they're willing to play the game. Benny's different. That's why he's noticed so much."

Drake died on March 17, 2016 at the age of 66

Stuart Cornfeld

Stuart Cornfeld is one of those Hollywood insiders Raimi loved to put in cameos in his movies. Cornfeld had a small role in "Darkman," and he also had a memorable cameo as Judge Reinhold's boss at Captain Hook's Fish and Chips in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," but he was primarily a producer throughout his career.

Cornfeld graduated from the American Film Institute, and became friendly with Anne Bancroft. Bancroft hooked Cornfeld up with Mel Brooks, and he started out as Mel's assistant on "High Anxiety." Cornfeld then became an executive producer on "The Elephant Man," and he also produced David Cronenberg's remake of "The Fly," which was a Mel Brooks production as well. 

Cornfeld next joined forces with Ben Stiller, and they started their own company, Red Hour Films. Together they made "Zoolander," "Starsky & Hutch," "Dodgeball," "Blades of Glory," and "Tropic Thunder," among other comedy classics.

Cornfeld died of cancer on June 25, 2020 at the age of 67.

Ron Silver

In case you're wondering where Ron Silver fits in the Sam Raimi universe, he was the villain in "Time Cop," the sci-fi adventure film featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme, which was produced by Raimi. (Raimi has produced a number of movies and TV shows including "30 Days of Night," "The Grudge," and "Xena: Warrior Princess.")

Silver was a well-known stage performer, and he also put in strong work on the big and small screens. The New York native got strong reviews for playing a Hollywood producer in the David Mamet play "Speed-the-Plow," and he also put in acclaimed performance in "Reversal of Fortune," where he played real life attorney Alan Dershowitz. Later in his career, Silver had a regular role on "The West Wing" on television, playing campaign strategist Bruno Gianelli.

Silver was known for his political activism, and he shifted political loyalties after 9/11, becoming a Republican after that catastrophic event.

Silver died of cancer of the esophagus on March 15, 2009 at the age of 62.

Pat Hingle

Pat Hingle was the kind of character actor who had been working steadily for decades, and then he became widely known for playing a single role: Commissioner Gordon in Tim Burton's "Batman." Hingle fits into the Raimi universe because he had a key role in the Sam Raimi Western "The Quick and the Dead."

Hingle moved from Texas to New York to launch his acting career, and he was mentored by director Elia Kazan. Hingle had a small role in Kazan's masterpiece "On the Waterfront," then he had a notable role in Kazan's "Splendor in the Grass," playing Warren Beatty's father. 

Hingle had the distinction of starring in four plays that won the Pulitzer Prize: "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "J.B," "That Championship Season," and "Strange Interlude." Hingle also had featured roles in the Clint Eastwood films "Hang 'Em High" and "Sudden Impact," as well as the acclaimed drama "The Grifters" and more.

Hingle died on January 3, 2009 at the age of 84.