The Tragic Death Of Michael Massee

Long haunted by tragedy, actor Michael Massee died of stomach cancer in Los Angeles on October 20, 2016 (via The New York Times). He appeared in countless films and television shows, but his name also became synonymous with the filming accident that took the life of actor Brandon Lee in 1993. 

Michael Massee was born Michael Groo Massee on September 1, 1952. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri, but when he was young, his parents, Holly and Jack Massee, moved the entire family over to Paris, France and that's where Michael spent his childhood through his high school years. He then moved to New York City ,where he studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater. Michael only had a few acting credits before landing the role of Funboy in 1994's "The Crow." Although his character is one of the movie's bad guys, he never suspected that he would be involved in a real-life deadly incident.

The death of Brandon Lee

Ultimately, it was a horrible accident. Massee was just following the script when he pulled the trigger of the prop gun he aimed at Brandon Lee. The gun was supposed to be loaded with blanks, but, according to The Hollywood Reporter, it hadn't been properly set up by crew members. Part of a bullet, possibly left over from filming another scene, was still lodged in the pistol. The projectile came out of the gun and struck Lee (via The New York Times). Lee was taken to the hospital, but he later died of his injuries. Production continued after Lee's death and the film was released to the public in 1994.

According to History, an investigation into the circumstances of Lee's death found that he died as the result of negligence on the part of the film's crew, and that there was no foul play involved. However, per Fox News, Lee's mother filed a lawsuit against the studio in which she cited negligence. This suit was settled outside of the courtroom.

Michael Massee remained troubled by The Crow incident

After Lee's death, Michael Massee took a break from acting (via Variety). "The Crow" came out in 1994, but Massee is believed to have never watched the completed film. He returned to the big screen, landing parts in notable films such as 1995's dark crime drama "Se7en" and David Lynch's 1997 surreal thriller "Lost Highway" (via Internet Movie Database). Massee soon demonstrated his talent for playing villains with his portrayal of a terrorist on the first season of the hit action drama "24" in 2001.

Massee kept working steadily, appearing in 2004's "Catwoman" opposite Halle Berry and starring in the 2005 miniseries "Revelations" as a satanist. Also in 2005, Massee finally broke his silence about the horrible on-set incident that killed Brandon Lee. He told Extra that he originally wasn't "even supposed to be handling the gun in the scene" until the director made a last-minute change. Massee described Lee's death as a "tragic accident" and explained that he still struggled with it, saying, "I don't think you ever get over something like that."

Massee died of stomach cancer

In October 20, 2016, Massee died at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at the age of 64 (via Variety) after a bout with stomach cancer. He left behind a wife, Ellen Sussdorf, whom he married in 1997. The couple went on to live in Hollywood and had two children, a son named Jack and a daughter named Lily. 

Over the course of his multi-decade career, Massee earned more than 80 acting credits. These included two turns as Gustav Fiers and his alter ego The Gentleman in "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Amazing Spider-Man 2." Following his death in 2016, former co-stars tweeted their sympathies to the late actor's family. Massee had played a recurring role — another villain — on the TNT series "Rizzoli & Isles." His castmate from that production, Angie Harmon, tweeted, "My heart is heavy to hear of his passing. He was IMMENSELY talented & had the kindest soul. I am privileged to have known him."