Pete Postlethwaite (Killing Bono)
Like the film itself, Pete Postlethwaite's posthumous performance in Nick Hamm's Killing Bono wasn't greeted with much warmth when it was released: most critics complained that his character, a gay landlord, was too broadly conceived. (The Voice's Michael Atkinson describes the role as "a lovable, double-entendre-spewing queen.") Best to remember Postlethwaite's end-of-career work, then, by his impressive run in 2010, which included supporting work in two hugely successful, high-profile releases: Christopher Nolan's Inception and Ben Affleck's The Town.
Brittany Murphy (Abandoned, Something Wicked)
The first posthumous Brittany Murphy performance came in Michael Feifer's thriller Abandoned, which Anchor Bay Entertainment released direct-to-video in August 2010. Almost four years later, Darin Scott's Something Wicked -- which was shot in Oregon just months before Murphy's death in 2009 -- will finally be getting a theatrical release in April.
Maury Chaykin (Casino Jack et al.)
In keeping with his prolific, varied career, character actor Maury Chaykin's posthumous output (he passed away on his 61st birthday in 2010) is extensive and diverse, encompassing both small-screen (a single episode on the series The Drunk and on Drugs Happy Funtime Hour) and feature-film work (Barney's Version, Casino Jack, Content Unbecoming).
Whitney Houston (Sparkle)
Released a few months after Whitney Houston's death in February 2012, Sparkle represents her return to big-screen acting after her mid-'90s run of The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale, and The Preacher's Wife. Her work in the film, which she also executive-produced, was favored by critics. Of Houston's rendition of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," the Voice's Melissa Anderson writes: "The moment is not as sublime as Mahalia Jackson's 'Trouble of the World' in Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life, but it's close enough.
|Houston in a publicity still for Sparkle.|
Jill Clayburgh (Love & Other Drugs, Bridesmaids)
Though she gave two Oscar-nominated performances in the late-'70s (An Unmarried Woman, Starting Over), Jill Clayburgh's acting career consisted largely of television work. Her two posthumous performances, however, both came in popular big-screen comedies: Love & Other Drugs and Bridesmaids.
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