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The Script that Killed Actors: The Incomparable Atuk

The curse of the Atuk has endured over the decades, leaving historians still scratching their heads
The curse of the Atuk has endured over the decades, leaving historians still scratching their heads

Many Hollywood productions are said to be cursed. The Poltergeist trilogy is one example. The whole Superman series. Then there is the Atuk curse.

A movie called Atuk has never been produced. Based on the Canadian satire book The Incomparable Atuk, published in 1963, it is a “fish out of water” tale about an Inuit in New York. There was a rumor that the screenplay was cursed when many actors who were in negotiations for the significant part passed away too soon.

The script’s first well-known actor was John Belushi. The former Saturday Night Live cast member reportedly had the screenplay on his coffee table when he passed away, according to the book Hollywood Myths: The Shocking Truths Behind Film’s Most Incredible Secrets.

The book claims that Belushi “had allegedly indicated an interest in the idea before he went on his last bender.”

Belushi passed away on March 5, 1982, from a heroin overdose. He was 33. When he passed away, Cathy Smith, a lady with Belushi, admitted to injecting him with a heroin and cocaine mixture.

Sam Kinison, a contentious stand-up comedian, later agreed to take the leading role in Atuk. However, it was stopped eight days into the early 1988 shooting. In a Los Angeles Times piece, Kinison said that despite his management telling him he could, he couldn’t modify the screenplay.

The book cover of The Incomparable Atuk

The book cover of The Incomparable Atuk

He claimed, “I did not walk off the film. They stopped it. I was competent. I even attended dog-sled training so that I could play the role. They only took it down when they failed to locate a replacement for me.”

The film’s producers filed a lawsuit against Kinison. On April 10, 1992, a pickup vehicle operated by a 17-year-old under the influence of alcohol struck and killed him. Malika Souiri, his wife, whom he had married in Las Vegas six days previously, was also in the vehicle but managed to escape unharmed. Kinison was 38.

The script was then sent to John Candy. Candy, who had acted in several successful films, including Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, reportedly indicated an interest in it. But on March 4, 1994, Candy was discovered dead in his bed while taking a break from filming Wagons East in Mexico. He was 43 years old. Since he had a history of heart illness in his family and had battled with his weight for much of his life, no autopsy was performed, but it was assumed that he had died of a heart attack.

His son Chris reportedly said, “His father had a heart attack, and his brother had a heart attack. It was a family issue. He worked hard at whatever the new diet was and hired trainers. I’m sure he tried his hardest.”

Chris Farley was the next candidate for the starring role in Atuk. According to Hollywood Myths, he was genuinely “excited” with the screenplay.

Despite having a significant drug problem, the former Saturday Night Live cast member was in high demand in Hollywood. When his brother John discovered him dead in his flat on December 18, 1997, he had almost finished recording the lines for the leading role in Shrek and was slated to appear in a third Ghostbusters film.

He had been on a four-day travel binge, his brother John said. Farley was 33.

According to an autopsy, his arteries were narrowed, which was also a contributing cause, and it revealed that he had overdosed on cocaine and morphine.

He was reportedly last seen alive by a dancer named Heidi Hauser, who revealed to tabloids that she had taken a picture of him as she left his flat, lying on the floor and still breathing.

Belushi, Kinison, Candy, and Farley were four witty, bright men who were cruelly killed early. Their deaths weren’t bizarre, and a few weren’t even shocking, but soon, some people connected their ends to the wide film’s plot.

The script of the Atuk and the actors that were killed

The script of the Atuk and the actors that were killed

The Atuk Curse was the title of an article that appeared in The Los Angeles Times in 1999.

“The excitement around a decade-old screenplay titled Atuk, a comedy about an Eskimo, is the latest legend to join the expanding ranks of haunted Hollywood mythology,” the piece stated.

Tod Carroll, the screenwriter who transformed the book for the big screen, was cited in the article. He said, “either coincidence or a practical reason” for the fatalities.

Carroll said, “I’m not superstitious, and it has no significance to me.”

At that point, it seemed unlikely that Atuk would be produced.

Carroll said, “With the appropriate cast and tone, it may have been a terrific movie.

Or maybe not. You may read the script here if you want to see it yourself.

The Plot of Atuk

In the book, Atuk is a poet originally from Baffin Island in Canada who moves to Toronto; in the film script, he is originally from Alaska but ends up in the Big Apple. The movie version of the story is planned to center on Atuk, the son of an Inuit mother and a missionary who longs to go beyond the boundaries of the Inuit homeland of Alaska.

When a lovely documentary filmmaker called Michelle Ross and her team show up to shoot in the community he lives in, he realizes this is his opportunity.

After Michelle’s group arrives in Canada, Atuk decides to hitch a ride on their aircraft to the next community they’ll be visiting. As a result, Michelle must bring Atuk over the border and into the United States with her.

They go to Michelle’s desired location in New York City. Meanwhile, wealthy property magnate Alexander McKuen has plans to build The Emerald, a sprawling city above Alaska’s undeveloped interior. Over concerns that the city may harm the local ecology, McKuen has come into conflict with environmentalists.

McKuen’s son Bishop, who is sixteen years old, is a smoking, drinking menace at his high school. On the day he is scheduled to be punished, Bishop takes his boat out for a spin, smashes it near the pier where Atuk is waiting and starts to drown. In an instant, Atuk intervenes to protect Bishop.

To date, no one knows what caused the curse of the Atuk

To date, no one knows what caused the curse of the Atuk

When Bishop meets Atuk, he immediately takes him out on the town. As much as McKuen’s wife Vera would prefer that Atuk remain in one of their hotels, Alexander has decided to accommodate him at their house until they can find suitable accommodation for him.

McKuen informs Atuk that he wants him to be a part of an image campaign for McKuen’s initiative and that Michelle works for him; Atuk agrees. For betraying his father, Atuk is punished by having Bishop shipped off to military school.

Michelle and Atuk return to Alaska to film ads for McKuen’s Emerald project, hoping to appease the project’s critics within the environmental community.

Dark makeup and roughhouse treatment at the hands of his Inuit trainers make Atuk feel weird. Atuk and Michelle initially didn’t get along, but after working together, they’ve become incredibly fond of one another.

After seeing the advertisement, Atuk understands that McKuen has used him as a scapegoat to spread his ideology via editing.

Atuk, realizing he’s been used, frees Bishop from the academy’s confines. He rushes to a meeting regarding Emerald’s plans by dog sled. He successfully persuaded the other participants that he was wrong to accept McKuen’s proposals since the project would negatively affect the environment.

All of the project’s investors have now dropped out, and McKuen and Bishop can patch things up. Returning to his community, Atuk is surprised when Michelle flies in and asks him to join her in Hawaii the following day.

Following Atuk’s acceptance, Bishop hopped in the aircraft with him and took the copilot’s seat for the flight.

Other Cursed Movies

Hollywood’s most iconic and notorious films are shrouded in mystery, wonder, and mythology, from famed actors to rumored curses. In fact, Atuk barely scratches the surface. Many people believe these films are cursed because of their tragic production histories, which may generate more interest and discussion than the films themselves.

Indeed, the entertainment business has had its share of scandals, catastrophes, and conspiracies, many of which will forever be linked to these seminal works. Some instances of curses and disasters in cinema are more challenging to understand than others, although in most cases, they can be explained away as harmless coincidences.

When Brandon Lee tragically passed away on site while filming the original 1994 version of The Crow, it sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry and the globe at large. It was reminiscent of the recent 2021 Rust shooting, in which actor Alec Baldwin unintentionally shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins while practicing with a toy pistol.

After Hutchins’s death, discussions over workplace safety in the film business and the usage of actual weapons as props were hot topics. Let’s analyze Poltergeist and similar allegedly evil films more closely.

The Crow

The Crow (1994), starring Brandon Lee (son of martial arts hero and film actor Bruce Lee), tells the story of a slain musician who is resurrected to revenge the murders of himself and his fiancée. As filming got underway, tragedy struck when Lee, just 28 years old, was shot and killed during a scene in which his character, Eric Draven, gets murdered after witnessing the attack of his fiancée.

Character actor Michael Massee’s Funboy enters a room and shoots the actor with a.44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 629; the prop assistant didn’t know to check the barrel for obstructions before or after handling the gun.

The.44 Magnum bullet was discharged with almost the same force as a live round because a bullet from the dummy round became stuck in the barrel. Lee, who was hit in the belly, died after six hours of fruitless emergency surgery.

A scene from The Crow (1994)

A scene from The Crow (1994)

Michael Massee took a year off performing because the event upset him, and he never saw the movie. The actor said, “I don’t believe you ever get over something like that,” when asked whether he had ever gotten over Lee’s death and the incident in an interview conducted in 2005, twelve years after Lee’s passing.

Brandon Lee’s tragic end is reminiscent of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’s death on the set of the Western picture Rust when Baldwin accidentally shot himself in the foot with a gun that was supposed to be a fake. A member of Lee’s family tweeted after the shooting, “Our hearts go out to Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza and everybody involved in the event on Rust. It is unacceptable for someone to be shot and murdered while working on a movie. Period.”

The Poltergeist

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg penned and adapted the script for Tobe Hooper’s 1982 supernatural horror film Poltergeist, which depicts a suburban family whose house is invaded by malicious spirits that steal the daughter (with one of the best horror movie trailers ever).

Two of the film’s young, promising actors died in tragic accidents, giving the great film a sour aftertaste.

Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Anne Freeling in the films, was 12 years old when she tragically died of septic shock before the release of Poltergeist III. Dominique Dunn, who played her older sister onscreen, was cruelly strangled by her ex-boyfriend on November 2, 1982, and she passed away two days later, on November 4, 1982, at the age of 22.

The film was also plagued by strange events and discoveries, such as using actual bones in a terrifying swimming sequence involving JoBeth Williams’ character, which was revealed long after the film’s first release. That, at least in the minds of many superstitious moviegoers, is where the Poltergeist “curse” began.

At one point during the original film, Oliver Robins was in danger of being strangled by the mechanical clown that tortured his character, Robbie; however, Steven Spielberg saw what was occurring and freed Robins in time.

The actor Richard Lawson was one of the lucky ones to walk away from an aircraft disaster in 1992, in which 27 of the 51 passengers perished since he had been given a first-class ticket in exchange for his signature. Actor and real-life shaman Will Sampson, who starred in Poltergeist II, allegedly conducted an on-set exorcism to banish “alien ghosts” off the set.

Annabelle Series

The most recent addition to our list is Annabelle. Based on a scary real-life doll alleged to be possessed by a demon, this 2013 horror film will give you the willies.

It was given as a gift to a nursing student in 1970, and paranormal researchers later concluded that it was possessed due to its “malicious and terrifying behavior.”

No one was killed on the set of Annabelle, unlike the other supposedly cursed movies on our list, but members of the cast and crew have reported weird occurrences.

On many occasions, director John R. Leonetti observed “three fingers painted through dust,” a reference to the homicidal doll that looms over the cast and crew.

Peter Safran, the film’s producer, also said that one actor was almost paralyzed during filming due to an event that mirrored a dramatic sequence in the movie.

He said to The Hollywood Reporter, “We shot in this great, ancient apartment building in Koreatown, and we had some strange stuff go down.”

The Annabelle poster

The Annabelle poster

“On the first day of filming, we took the elevator up with him when the devil was all made up. The whole glass light fixture collapses on his head as he goes out and around the green room to the area where we are keeping the performers.

“According to the plot, the janitor is murdered in the corridor by the demon. It was quite strange.”

The producers of “Annabelle Comes Home” were so anxious about shooting the sequel that they had a priest bless the set before they began production.

Since the movie’s release, the doll that inspired it has been exhibited at Connecticut’s Warren’s Occult Museum.

Before alarming rumors arose that she had escaped last year, she was accessible to people with a morbid passion.

Fortunately, it turned out that the doll and all the other museum artifacts had been relocated so that she couldn’t have gotten away.

The Omen

Given that it depicts the Antichrist, it should come as no surprise that 1976 eerie classic The Omen was plagued with terrifying and even bloodcurdling episodes, earning it a reputation as one of the most cursed movies in cinematic history.

The death of Gregory Peck’s oldest son just before filming started was a tragic family tragedy for the film’s leading actor. When Peck was flying to London in September 1975 to make the movie, lightning hit his aircraft, starting a fire in one of the engines and bringing the jet perilously near to crashing.

Lightning also missed executive producer Mace Neufeld’s jet a few weeks later, and screenwriter David Seltzer was in Rome when he was almost killed. Fortunately, Neufeld and his wife were not there when the Irish Republican Army bombed the Hilton Hotel in London.

Depicting the Antichrist, The Omen is one of the most cursed movies

Depicting the Antichrist, The Omen is one of the most cursed movies

The special effects designer for The Omen, John Richardson, and his assistant, Liz Moore, were traveling in Holland while filming A Bridge Too Far when they were involved in a vehicle collision that was both terrifying and unsettling.

Richardson assisted with the special effects for the terrible death scene in The Omen, in which Liz Moore is decapitated.

Even more ominously, Richardson noticed a Dutch road sign near the collision that read: Ommen, 66.6 kilometers, after crawling from the damaged automobile on Friday the 13th.

The Exorcist

The Exorcist tops our list due to the highest number of fatalities associated with its production, earning it the moniker of one of the most notoriously “cursed” movies of all time.

The terrifying story of a little girl named Regan, possessed by the devil, told by William Friedkin, terrified viewers upon its premiere, and not only because of the events shown onscreen.

A bird flew into the circuit box and started a strange fire, destroying the film set depicting Regan’s family house, but the room in which the exorcism was shot was astoundingly spared.

There were nine casualties due to the fire that occurred during filming in 1973.

Tragically, Burke Dennings’s actor, Jack MacGowran, died of influenza complications just before the film’s release.

Another cast member, Vasiliki Maliaros, who portrayed Father Damien Karras’ mother, died of “natural causes” during filming.

Linda Blair (Regan) and Max von Sydow (Max) lost loved ones before filming was completed.

A 16th-century church opposite the theatre where the film played was hit by lightning shortly after its debut, bringing its cross crashing to the ground.

Fearful moviegoers fainted and screamed during the viewing of The Exorcist; one lady even fell and broke her jaw.

RIP Victims

Next, read about the True Story Behind the Borley Rectory and its Connection to the Nun. I also recommend checking out the Barbara Bolick Incident: When a Woman Disappeared Right In Front of the Eyes!


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Written By

Abin Tom Sebastian, also known as Mr. Morbid in the community, is an avid fan of the paranormal and the dark history of the world. He believes that sharing these stories and histories are essential for the future generations. For god forbid, we have seen that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

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