By Denise Martin, Special to The Times, and Todd Martens, Times Staff Writer
Is the summer’s biggest film a cursed production? The past few weeks have seen a slew of headlines related to the personal lives of cast members of “The Dark Knight.”
They’re in good company. From Superman to Bond to the Madden NFL video game, Batman is simply the latest in a long line of pop-culture curses. But start here and judge for yourself. Simply myth, or is something spooked going on?
“The Dark Knight”
Tragedy had already befallen “The Dark Knight” before it was released to the theaters, with the film marking the great final performance from the late Heath Ledger. When the film was released in July, however, everything appeared to be on track, with “The Dark Knight” winning rave reviews and destroying box-office record after box-office record.
But then things got weird. Batman himself, Christian Bale, was questioned and arrested by police after allegations that he had assaulted his own family members. Soon after, Morgan Freeman was injured in a bad car accident. And days later, reports surfaced that Freeman and his wife of 24 years were getting divorced. (European Pressphoto Agency)
First, it was “Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica”: Simpson and Lachey lasted three seasons before divorcing in 2005. “Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen + Dave” covered the lead-up to Carmen Electra and Dave Navarro’s nuptials, culminating in the wedding itself. They split three years after tying the knot. Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and Shanna Moakler, stars of the network’s “Meet the Barkers,” split after the second season wrapped.
Even the four-part special “Brandy: Special Delivery,” following the pregnancy of R&B singer Brandy and then-thought-to-be-hubby Robert Smith, spelled doom. When the couple split in 2002, Smith revealed they only pretended to be married to protect the singer’s image. (MTV)
Campbell’s Chunky Soup
Sports fans love talking curses. From the Bambino to the Billy Goat to the cover of Sports Illustrated, sports lore goes hand-in-hand with curses. And NFL players who fancy themselves TV pitch men may want to look into the Campbell’s Chunky Soup curse.
As curse’s go, it’s relatively simple: Endorse the soup, and get injured -- at some point. Reggie White, Brian Urlacher and Terrell Davis (pictured, here with mom, Kateree), are all said to have been victims of the chunky.
Take John Madden out of the picture and you run into problems. Before 1999, Madden’s image graced every edition of the Madden NFL video games. Most of the athletes who succeeded him seemed to have been cursed. Michael Vick was the cover for the 2004 game and soon after suffered a leg injury causing him to sit out most of the season. Two years later, Donovan McNabb underwent a surgery that took him out of play for that season. Shaun Alexander (pictured) sustained a foot injury that ruined his stats for the year.
When Vince Young announced he’d be the cover in 2008, he admitted I done prayed about it.” It’s been reported that Young replaced this year’s MVP LaDanian Tomlinson after a fan-led campaign, SaveLTFromMadden.com, might have led him to decline the offer. (EA Sports)
Hitting 27 in music
Rock ‘n’ roll is a kid’s game. And for those who believe in the so-called “27-club,” it can be a deadly one as well. From the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones to Nirvana’ s Kurt Cobain, rock history is littered with tragic deaths at an early age -- or, to be precise, at the age of 27. The club has its own Wikipedia page, and its members include such legends as Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison. (Frank Micelotta / Getty Images)
It took Julia Louis-Dreyfus just one failed sitcom, “Watching Ellie,” to land CBS’ “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” a role that’s also earned her Emmy gold. But her " Seinfeld” colleagues have not been as lucky. Jason Alexander bombed in both “Bob Patterson” and “Listen Up!” and Michael Richards‘ “The Michael Richards Show” barely got off the ground. Star Jerry Seinfeld has yet to attempt a regular series comeback.
When Louis-Dreyfus won her Emmy for “Christine,” she acknowledged the idea of a curse: “Im not somebody who really believes in curses, but curse this, baby!” (Columbia/TriStar Television Distribution)
James Bond(Susie Allnutt / Columbia Pictures)
The Superman curse hasnt affected any particular production. It seems to have afflicted an entire brand. In fact, it comes with its own Wikipedia page, serving as a warning to those who don the cape, as well as those who have contact with Superman.
As evidence, tragedies that befell such stars as George Reeves and Christopher Reeve are cited, as well as lesser-known Supermen such as Kirk Alyn. Even those who didnt play Superman dont seem to have escaped the curse unscathed, as financial hardships or illnesses have befallen a number of those close to the Man of Steel.
But Brandon Routh, take heart. Plenty have escaped the curse without a scratch.
Richard Dawson blew it up, Ray Combs kept it going, but in 1992 the show’s luck changed. Feud’s ratings began to decline and the show’s legendary producer Mark Goodson died. In 1993, the daytime and nighttime versions of the show were cancelled. During his last episode, Combs walked off the set without a farewell and two years later committed suicide. Dawson returned briefly but poor ratings caused the show to go off the air for the next four years.
When the show was later revived with Louie Anderson as host, he became the center of a controversy involving a gay hustler who had tried to extort $250,000 from him. The “curse” seems to have ended with the arrival of new hosts “Home Improvement” alumni Richard Karn in 2002 and John O’Hurley in 2006. (Pearson Television)
The Devil movies
Some of the most memorable horror films of our time have developed some tragic myths of their own. Three, in particular, deal with stories involving Satan, including Rosemarys Baby, The Omen and The Exorcist.
Just months after releasing 1968s Rosemarys Baby, director Roman Polanski suffered the loss of his wife, Sharon Tate, who was pregnant at the time, at the hands of the Manson family.
A decade later, a multitude of strange events afflicted production on The Omen, including a crew members fatal car crash and a bolt of lightning that reportedly struck the plane of screenwriters David Seltzer and actor Gregory Peck. The instances have been chronicled in the 2005 TV documentary, The Curse of the Omen.
As for The Exorcist, curse-mongers often cite the travails of young actress Linda Blair. After her role as the possessed child, a 15-year-old Blair dated rocker Rick Springfield, at the time in his mid-20s, and later succumbed to a myriad of drug and legal problems.