Sci-Fi Stars You Might Not Know Died

As every fan of the genre knows, there are great comforts to be found in immersing yourself in the infinite universes of science fiction. Exploring new worlds and alien cultures on screen can not only provide an escapist distraction from everyday life, but it can also help viewers to process the various challenges of our own world. To discover there are sci-fi stars you might not know died can subsequently be something of an emotional experience. 

Enjoying a film or TV show on a deep level can mean that viewers understandably create certain attachments to poignant characters and the actors who portray them. These may be stars who have been part of a storyline or scene that represented or reflected something deep and meaningful to you. Sometimes, it's enough that they simply made you smile with their performance. Whatever the case may be, it's understandably sad to discover that one of your favorites may have died — and particularly so if you maybe weren't aware of it at the time. 

As every fan of science fiction also knows, however, the universe is limitless and death is not always the end. As Carl Sagan once said, "We are stardust," and every one of these sci-fi stars you might not know died have been immortalized by their contributions to the genre. 

The actor behind DS9's most thoughtful young Ferengi

In the '90s, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" switched up the sci-fi franchise to explore deeper storytelling and greater character dynamics to its extended cast of characters. That meant that even the most minor of characters remain imminently memorable to this day. Aron Eisenberg's young Ferengi character Nog was one such character, having started the show in a minor role as a delinquent before evolving to become the first Ferengi in Starfleet. Later, his character was even involved in a thoughtful storyline regarding the traumas of war.

When Eisenberg died at 50, in 2019 (via Deadline), his "DS9" co-stars flooded Twitter with warm tributes to the beloved actor. Armin Shimerman – who played Ferengi bartender Quark in the show – called his former co-star "the best of humanity" who was "a great soul and a tremendous talent." Penny Johnson Jerald, known for playing Kasidy Yates-Sisko, echoed the shock of the "Star Trek" community, "My eyes are blinded by tears," she wrote, "My ears are deafened by sobs. It's Sunday morning and you are no longer on Earth."

Eisenberg had received two kidney transplants throughout his life after being born with one kidney and had experienced health issues as a result (via Variety). On Facebook, his wife Malissa Longo paid tribute to her late husband and wrote, "He was so driven to put the best he had into whatever work was put before him. He lived his life with such vigor and passion."

The man behind Stargate SG-1's most lovable villain

He was best known for playing Ba'al – one of "Stargate SG-1"'s best-loved villains – and as tributes to the actor suggest, Cliff Simon was just as well-loved for being a legit good guy in real life, too. In 2021, his wife shared the news on Facebook that Simon had tragically died "after being involved in a kiteboarding accident at Topanga Beach in California" (via BBC). She wrote of her grief, "There is a gaping hole where he once stood on this earth. He was loved by too many to mention and had a great impact on so many lives."

As Ba'al, Simon's performance was as fearsome as it was charismatic and won such adoration from fans that the character was made the main villain of the 2008 spinoff movie "Stargate: Continuum." He'd clearly also left an impression on his "Stargate: SG-1" co-stars who shared their love for the star on Twitter. Michael Shanks, who depicted archeologist Daniel Jackson on the show wrote, "He was a talent at EVERYTHING he tried and I was lucky enough to call him my friend," while Claudia Black, known for depicting Vala Mal Doran, confessed to being "a mess" upon hearing the tragic news and called Simon, "a gentleman and a delight to play-work with."

The space captain with the iconic voice

Whether you were a huge fan of "Babylon 5," or only dipped in to enjoy the odd episode, there's a strong likelihood that Jerry Doyle's tremendous presence and performance as Michael Garibaldi made an impact on you. The actor — who would later enjoy a career as a political talk show host — lent a power to the character which Deadline described as being "the show's everyman, a streetwise, recovering alcoholic, working class character who loved Looney Tunes cartoons and old movies." Garibaldi was a tender and complex character, and Doyle's depiction of him was likewise warm and affectionate.

In 2016, Doyle's family shared the sad news of "Jerry's passing" on Twitter with TMZ confirming the actor died of natural causes, with chronic alcoholism as a "contributing factor." He was 60. His former co-star Bruce Boxleitner, who played Captain John J Sheridan on the show, shared his devastation "at the news of the untimely death" on Twitter and said, "During the 'B5' years, he was a great pal." 

Meanwhile, "Babylon 5" creator J. Michael Straczynski penned a loving tribute to Doyle for the late actor's website Epic Times, "He was funny, and dangerous, and loyal, and a prankster, and a pain in the a**," he wrote, "and his passing is a profound loss to everyone who knew him" (via The Hollywood Reporter).

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Babylon 5's most inspirational actor

In a show crammed full of outstanding characters, Mira Furlan's eloquent depiction of the rousing Minbari Ambassador Delenn still shines as a standout. As reported by Deadline, the Croatian-born star "was a well-known, award-winning theater, film and TV actress in the former Yugoslavia," who emigrated to the U.S. during the Croatian War of Independence.

Her strong theatrical roots and experience with living through conflict brought extra power to Furlan's performance. Speaking to the Chicago Tribune Furlan described Delenn as a "woman who must be a leader and must be strong, but who is also full of emotion and secrets." She also confessed that what happened to herself and her husband in war-torn Croatia helped how creator J. Michael Straczynski built her character. "Delenn is a combination of ... what Joe created, what happened to me in my homeland, my other life experiences and what I bring to her with my imagination."

The actor died in 2021, and as Straczynski stated on Twitter it sadly wasn't a surprise, "we've known for some time now that Mira's health was failing," he wrote and encouraged fans to pay tribute by firing "up those special moments" in "Babylon 5" where the actor "shook the heavens" with her performance. Just before her death, Furlan quoted "Delenn's line from Joe's script" that appeared to resonate with her, "'We're all star stuff'" and added, with comfort, "not a bad prospect. I am not afraid."

The man who brought the OG Boba Fett to life

There's really something to be said about an actor who can convey so much on-screen from behind a mask. And yet, through gesture and mannerisms, British acting legend Jeremy Bulloch was able to bring bounty hunter Boba Fett to life in the original "Star Wars" trilogy – and he didn't have to show his face once to do so. Bullock died in 2020, aged 75, from complications due to Parkinson's disease (via BBC). However, his captivating performance of the beloved character (so popular that he even received his own fan club in 1996) was rightfully celebrated as a beguiling force, as threatening as it was charismatic.

"Star Wars" creator George Lucas described the actor as being "a true gentlemen" who "brought the perfect combination of mystery and menace" to the character, while Billy Dee Williams – who starred opposite Bulloch as Lando Calrissian – paid tribute by writing, "Today we lost the best bounty hunter in the galaxy." 

As Den of Geek points out, Bulloch's performance was inspired by "the ruthless antihero elements" of Clint Eastwood's character from Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western trilogy, with the actor once stating, "I thought of Boba Fett as Clint Eastwood in a suit of armor" (via The New York Times). Arguably, Bulloch's choice of Western influence contributed a great deal to the overall tone of the trilogy, and it can be seen to this day in the continuation of the character in "The Mandalorian."

The man inside the Darth Vader suit

Like Jeremy Bulloch, former bodybuilder-turned-character actor Dave Prowse contributed an imminent physical presence to the original "Star Wars" movies as dark side troubadour Darth Vader. Though James Earl Jones notoriously voiced the villain, as Lucasfilm noted in their tribute to Prowse, the star brought a "commanding presence" and "imposing physical performance" to the role. 

Likewise, George Lucas remembered the actor by celebrating how Prowse had "an imposing stature and movement performance to match the intensity and undercurrent of Vader's presence." The actor's physicality was "essential" to the character, he wrote, "He made Vader leap off the page and on to the big screen" (via BBC). The actor died in 2020 at the age of 85 after living with Alzheimer's (via Deadline). However, his daughter later confirmed to The Sun that he was hospitalized with Covid-19 before he died. 

Commemorating Prowse on Twitter, actor Mark Hamill (who played Luke Skywalker in the saga) wrote, "A fine actor, delightful company & so kind to everyone lucky enough to meet or work with him," adding that he would "deeply miss him." Meanwhile, Anthony Daniels – best known for his performance as camp robot C-3PO – praised Prowse's ability to "'go to the dark side' and be cool about it," during an interview on BBC Radio 4 (via BBC). Prowse, he said, "made being bad cool." And how.

The lovable Star Wars giant

Interestingly enough, Dave Prowse was originally considered by George Lucas for the role of Chewbacca due to his commanding stature (via Daily Express). However, when the actor turned down the role because he didn't "fancy three months in a gorilla suit," a much taller actor was chosen to portray the lovable Wookiee instead: Peter Mayhew. Born with gigantism, the actor was originally picked solely for his height but brought a great deal more to the role.

Starring opposite Harrison Ford's roguish Han Solo as the character's hairy, heroic ride-or-die, Mayhew played the character like an intergalactic comfort blanket, once telling Rolling Stone, "My character is a teddy bear, basically ... that's what Chewie is, he looks after everybody." Mayhew died in 2019 at the age of 74 after receiving spinal surgery a few months earlier to assist his mobility (The Hollywood Reporter).

Understandably, the extended "Star Wars" community was devastated. George Lucas wrote a tribute for The Hollywood Reporter calling him, "a gentle giant," and "more like a Wookiee" than he "originally imagined a Wookie to be." On Twitter, Mark Hamill called him "a big man with an even bigger heart," and a "loyal friend." Perhaps the most touching, however, was Ford's tribute to the man who co-piloted the Millennium Falcon with him for three glorious movies. In a statement given to Entertainment Weekly, he said, "We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him."

The circus star of Buck Rogers

Like so many icons of sci-fi cinema, Felix Silla might not be automatically recognizable to most but the characters he's portrayed and the projects he's been a part of most certainly are. The versatile star is probably best known for playing babbling hairball Cousin Itt in the original 1960's incarnation of "The Addams Family," however he's also known for playing the lovable (but obnoxious) robot Twiki in the classic series "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," and for being one of the acrobatic Ewoks in "Return of the Jedi."

Silla was a former circus performer from Italy, before moving to the U.S. where, per Variety, "his skills as a tumbler, bareback rider, and trapeze artist" snagged him roles in projects like "Battlestar Galactica," "Planet of the Apes," and "Batman Returns." Gil Gerard –- his co-star from "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" –- shared the news that Silla had died on Twitter, and recalled the fun they had together at conventions. "I will miss him terribly," he wrote, and affectionately joked, "especially the great time we had at our panels. Just telling me to 'go 'f' myself.'" Silla died in 2021 at the age of 84, after living with pancreatic cancer (via Variety).

The versatile genre icon

Known for his work as a distinctive actor, director, and producer, Clark Middleton is likely most recognizable to sci-fi fans for playing Painter in Bong Joon Ho's "Snowpiercer" and Edward Markham in "Fringe." However, his impressive career also included notable performances in "Twin Peaks: The Return," "The Blacklist," and "Kill Bill Vol. 2." The actor died in 2020 as a result of the West Nile Virus, at the age of 63 (via Variety).

Diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 4, Middleton experienced pain, injuries, and multiple procedures throughout his life. However, he refused for his disability to be a limitation and was a beacon for others to forge a path for themselves without being defined by their health. As he told Cheat Sheet, "Disabilities certainly create obstacles, but how you interpret those obstacles can become a creative act." Paying tribute to the impressive legacy left by her husband, Middleton's wife Elissa said of the actor, "Clark was a beautiful soul who spent a lifetime defying limits and advocating for people with disabilities."

A few days following Middleton's death, filmmaker David Lynch shared his sadness over the death of "the great Clark Middleton" during his daily "Weather Report." Speaking of his experience filming with the actor, Lynch said, "Clark did such a great job, I loved working with him," and added, "I feel for his family and friends, he was such a good guy."

Predator's scene-stealing hero

The classic 80's sci-fi action flick "Predator" is basically 100-straight-minutes of quotable lines and insanely memorable moments between a bunch of mega macho men and the unseen alien threat "out there waiting for" them that "ain't no man." We can all probably agree that, along with "Citizen Kane," it's one of the true high points of cinema.

In a truly amazing ensemble cast that included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, and Jesse Ventura, actor Sonny Landham somehow still managed to establish himself as a strong component of the film. Landham depicted Native American tracker Billy Sole, and the character remains well-loved thanks to a scene in which he refuses Schwarzenegger's advice to "get to the chopper!" He instead chooses to stay on land to fight the predator one-on-one with a knife, and Landham became forever adored for the scene ever after.

Sharing his condolences for the loss of his former co-star, Schwarzenegger wrote on Twitter, "Sonny Landham was such a joy to work with on 'Predator' – so talented, so fun to be around. We'll miss him." Landham enjoyed a varied career throughout the '80s and '90s since enjoying a breakout role in Walter Hill's gang-classic "The Warriors," and is also known for starring in films like "48 Hrs," "Action Jackson," and "Lock Up." He died from congestive heart failure in 2017, at the age of 76 (via Variety).

The supreme sci-fi commander

The Boston-born character actor Richard Herd is one of those faces that made TV and cinema audiences across America joyfully yell, "Oh, it's that guy!" whenever he appeared. Though he enjoyed a lucrative film career starring in critically acclaimed movies like "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," and a minor role in Jordan Peele's "Get Out" (as an ad representative for The Order of Coagula,) Herd will be best known to sci-fi audiences for his contributions to the genre on television.

Most notably, the veteran actor depicted Supreme Commander John in the classic alien invasion series "V," however he was also a prominent "Star Trek" star, having appeared as the Klingon L'Kor in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and also as Admiral Owen Paris in "Star Trek: Voyager," and the fan-funded independent follow-up series, "Star Trek: Renegades." On a none sci-fi note, fans may also recognize the esteemed actor from his droll performance as bumbling New York Yankees executive Mr. Wilhelm in "Seinfeld."

The 87-year-old died in 2020 of complications from cancer (via Variety). On Twitter, Herd's co-star Jane Badler – who depicted central antagonist Diana on "V" – recalled "the great honor" she had in working "with the wonderful actor and beautiful man." She wrote, "I was so blessed to have had him on the set of my first big mini series 'V' ... RIP Richard."

The man who served up sci-fi's greatest monologue

Rutger Hauer will eternally be considered sci-fi royalty if just for the delivery of his iconic monologue, "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain" as replicant Roy Batty in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner." It might be the movie's most standout moment, and as the actor expressed to Radio Times it came about because Scott gave him "all the freedom" to "[take] a knife to" the script, and make the moment his own. "I kept two lines, because I thought they were poetic," he said, "I thought they belonged to this character, because somewhere in his digital head he has poetry, and knows what it is. He feels it!"

"Blade Runner" aside, Hauer managed to craft a distinctive career for himself by starring in an impressive variety of genre movies and TV shows which included "Ladyhawke," "Batman Begins," and the original movie of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The actor died at the age of 75 in 2019 "after a short illness" (via Variety), and fans and former colleagues flooded social media with tributes to the one-of-a-kind actor.

Filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro celebrated the "intense, deep, genuine, and magnetic actor" for bringing "truth, power, and beauty to his films," meanwhile, Kristy Swanson -– the original Buffy -– observed the immense legacy the actor has left. Addressing her tribute directly to him she wrote, "Your mastery of every role you ever played will always be cherished."

The classic RoboCop villain

As far as breakthrough roles go, Miguel Ferrer's stint as Bob Morton – the young, immoral executive leading the cyborg police officer program in Paul Verhoeven's "RoboCop" – is pretty damn baller. Though the actor had minor roles prior to the enduring sci-fi satire (including a bit part as an officer in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock"), "RoboCop" established his talents for bombastic performances of well crafted, and often villainous, characters. 

As Ferrer told OK! TV, such roles were creatively instinctive to him, "I think villainy just comes naturally to me," he said, "I get to work it out professionally so I can be a nice person in life." Ferrer's "RoboCop" co-star Kevin Page – who played junior executive, Mr. Kinney – told The Hollywood Reporter that Ferrer's natural instinct for performance gave him a terrific learning experience on-set, "He forced you to pay the hell attention to what was going on or he was going to whip you off the screen," he said.

After "RoboCop" put him on the map, Ferrer appeared on screen in a variety of projects including "Hot Shots! Part Deux," and the NBC reimagining of "Bionic Woman." He also enjoyed career-defining roles as Owen Granger in "NCIS: Los Angeles," and as exasperated FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield in "Twin Peaks" and the 2017 series reprisal "Twin Peaks: The Return." Ferrer died of throat cancer in 2017, aged 61 (via Variety). 

The man who always played old timers

Suffice it to say, when an individual has enjoyed roles in a double whammy of sci-fi greatness like "Cocoon" and "The Thing" then they're going to be given a full, loving salute by the community when they die. That's exactly what happened in 2020 when singular acting talent Wilford Brimley died at the age of 85. As reported by NPR, the actor was "on dialysis and had several medical issues" when he died. Brimley's manager Lynda Bensky led tributes to the "one of a kind" actor, saying "he had a gruff exterior and a tender heart."

On Twitter, "Doctor Strange" writer C. Robert Cargill saluted the manner with which Brimley was inexplicably able to transform into much older characters for his roles in "Cocoon" and "The Thing," and wrote, "Imagine the incredible balls to play significantly older, and the skill it took to do so convincingly." Meanwhile, horror legend Barbara Crampton called the character actor a "purveyor of truth and reason" and added that the consistent quality of his work -– being able to effortlessly transform into such characters –- made him, "A man you always trusted when watching him work."

Sci-fi's first Black hero

A revered star of stage and screen, Yaphet Kotto was a trailblazing Black performer who challenged racial stereotypes in mainstream movies of the '70s and '80s. While the actor is known for roles in films like "The Running Man," and "Live and Let Die," they're roles that he admitted to The Big Issue he chose to help him change "the black stereotype onscreen." 

"That was my plan," he said, "to play parts that would open up the doors for others, and it worked." Not only did Kotto get to provide "the first time you saw a black guy out to do James Bond," but he also got to depict the first "black man in a space adventure" in his iconic role as blue-collar chief engineer of the Nostromo Dennis Parker. His performance as the heroic technician gave him sci-fi legend status for life, but he could have achieved Rogue status. The actor was reportedly being touted to play Han Solo, and later Lando Calrissian, in the original "Star Wars" trilogy (via The Big Issue).

Regardless, his "Alien" role remains an astounding legacy for the actor, who died in 2021 at the age of 81 (via Variety). In tribute, Kotto's former "Alien" co-star Sigourney Weaver wrote how his acting prowess on-set was an inspiration to her. "He just went for it in every scene, making the stakes higher and higher and giving each scene a terrifying reality," she said. (via Variety).

The British thespian turned Replicant

British actor Ian Holm might be one of the greatest acting talents to have graced sci-fi screens. The actor, who received an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in "Chariots of Fire," also received a knighthood in 1998 for his services to drama. To sci-fi and fantasy fans, however, he'll always be known for playing hobbit hero Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's incredible "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and the duplicitous android Ash in Ridley Scott's "Alien,"

Holm's acting prowess lent a significant quality to the role of Ash in "Alien" and as recounted by Holm in his autobiography, Scott asked that the actor play the role not as an android, but as a human. "Realistic human, it's the same for the monster," he wrote, "The realism will make it work –- not the fantasy" (via SyFy Wire).

Upon the news of the actor's death, Scott shared his memories of directing the celebrated thespian with SyFy Wire, "Ian talked to me during production quite a lot, which I found to be very helpful," he said and called the later actor, "A great talent and a great man -– we'll miss him." The Guardian reported that Holm "died peacefully" aged 88 of a Parkinson's related illness in the summer of 2020.