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Atuk is most infamous, however, for supposedly being cursed and, at least partly responsible for the deaths of several major comedic actors in the 1980s and 1990s. The Atuk Curse has become one of the better known urban legends of Hollywood. Its first victim, supposedly, was John Belushi, who had read the script and was reportedly enthusiastic about taking on the role of Atuk. Shortly afterwards, he was found dead of a drug overdose in 1982.
After Belushi's death the part was offered to comedian Sam Kinison, who accepted it in 1988. Kinison filmed at least one scene for the film before he grew dissatisfied with the script and demanded parts of it be re-written, halting production. His leaving the film led the production company to file a lawsuit against him which was a large part in of making him destitute when it finally settled. Not long after, while talks were underway to continue the project, Kinison died in a car crash in 1992.
The curse supposedly struck again in 1994 when John Candy, who had been approached for the role of Atuk, was reading the script when he suddenly died of a heart attack, on March 4 (the day before the 12th anniversary of Belushi's death). It was around this point in the production's history that the press began to speak of a curse. Some believe the curse struck twice that year, since in November Michael O'Donoghue died of a cerebral hemorrhage. O'Donoghue was a writer and comedian who was also a friend of Belushi and Kinison and, the story goes, had read the script (in some versions even worked on it) before recommending it to them.
The final victim of the Atuk Curse, to date, is said to be Chris Farley, who idolized John Belushi. Like his idol, he was up for the role of Atuk, and was about to accept when, also like his idol, he died of a drug overdose in December 1997. According to some versions the curse would strike once more, only six months later in May 1998 when Farley's friend and former Saturday Night Live cast-mate, Phil Hartman, was murdered by his wife. Farley is said to have shown the Atuk script to Hartman, before his death, and was encouraging him to take a co-starring role.