Gone Before 30: Stars Who Died Young

It's as common in Hollywood as the rags-to-riches tale: stories of stars who died young.

Actor Heath Ledger, who died Jan. 22 in New York, and Brad Renfro, who died just one week earlier, join the ranks of artists, actors and musicians who died before their 30th birthdays, often during the prime of their careers.

Heath Ledger, 28

Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment Jan. 22, surrounded by bottles of prescription drugs. An initial autopsy was inconclusive, and a medical examiner said further tests would be needed to determine Ledger's cause of death. The actor, recently separated from actress Michelle Williams, his former fiance and mother of his 2-year-old daughter, is expected to be remembered as one of best of his generation. He got an Oscar nomination for playing a gay cowboy in "Brokeback Mountain" and is slated to appear as the Joker in the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," this summer..

Brad Renfro, 25

Renfro made his acting debut in 1994 at age 11, playing the title role in "The Client" alongside Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. He went to on star with Brad Pitt, Robert DeNiro, Kevin Bacon and Dustin Hoffman in the 1996 film "Sleepers." Renfro quickly became a teen heartthrob, and his acting talents had critics thinking he'd last in Hollywood. But legal troubles and struggles with drugs and alcohol hindered his prospects.

In December 2005, Renfro was arrested during an undercover drug sweep in Los Angeles and charged with attempted possession of heroin. He later admitted to having used heroin and methadone and was sentenced to three years' probation. Renfro went to rehab in 2006, but in 2007 he violated his probation by not enrolling in a long-term drug treatment program, People magazine reported. He was found dead in a Los Angeles apartment Jan. 15 after a night of drinking, according to the Los Angeles county coroner. An official cause of death has yet to be determined.

Aaliyah, 22

Aaliyah Dana Haughton, known simply as Aaliyah by hip-hop and R&B fans, was one of the industry's most promising female stars. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., she appeared on "Star Search" at age 10 and performed with Gladys Knight at age 11. But it was her debut album, "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number," that got the attention of hip-hop heavyweights. The album went platinum within months.

R. Kelly, the singer who helped write and produce Aaliyah's album, married the 14-year-old singer. (He was 27 at the time.) Vibe magazine published a copy of their Illinois marriage license, dated Aug. 31, 1994, which showed the starlet's age had been listed as 18. Their marriage was annulled in February 1995. Aaliyah went on to release "One in a Million" at age 17, which was certified double-platinum within a year. She followed that up with "Aaliyah" in July 2001, after landing her first major film role in 2000's "Romeo Must Die." One month later, shortly after wrapping production of her music video for the single "Rock the Boat" in the Bahamas, Aaliyah and members of her record company boarded a small plane to fly back to the United States. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff, and all aboard were killed.

The Notorious B.I.G., 24

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