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Fantasy Island entered the pop culture consciousness as two made-for-TV movies and returned as a popular ABC series airing from 1977 to 1984. It lasted long enough in the memory to earn three Fantasy Island reboots. However, none garnered the same acclaim as the original show starring Ricardo Montalban and Hervé Villechaize. Sure, the remakes speak to Hollywood’s neverending desire to mine profitable IP, but they also prove Fantasy Island still has value despite its principal cast members’ deaths years ago. 

‘Fantasy Island’ is a ’70s anthology series about human’s darkest desires

Are any Fantasy Island cast members still alive?
‘Fantasy Island’ stars Ricardo Montalban and Hervé Villechaize in 1978 | ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Ricardo Montalban and Hervé Villechaize played the only two regular cast members on Fantasy Island. Montalban portrayed Mr. Roarke, the mysterious overseer of the titular location somewhere near Devil’s Island, French Guiana, in the Atlantic Ocean. (According to IMDb, the studio’s first choice for the role was Orson Welles.) Sporting a clean white suit and debonair personality, Roarke welcomes guests to the resort and offers them the opportunity to live out their fantasies for a price. 

Of course, this transaction comes at a greater cost. Mr. Roarke tells visitors he is powerless to stop a fantasy once it begins even if, as would often happen, the scenario would play out much differently in reality from the guests’ minds. (He sometimes steps in after the plot makes moral points.) The show never explicitly shares the nature of Roarke’s character, but it heavily implies he’s some form of immortal deity. 

By his side for most of Fantasy Island‘s run is Tattoo, Roarke’s helper, played by Hervé Villechaize. At the beginning of each episode, he announces new travelers’ arrival by running up a tower, ringing a bell, and shouting his catchphrase, “The plane! The plane!” 

Actors Wendy Schaal and Christopher Hewett briefly joined the cast as Julie (another assistant) and Villechaize’s replacement, respectively. However, everyone else on Fantasy Island was a guest star. The romantic drama’s anthology-style format brought in new actors weekly, but a few performers returned to the island numerous times as various characters. Carol Lynley (11 appearances), Dack Rambo (six), and Alex Cord (five) were popular recurring guests on Fantasy Island

They all went on to have extended careers in the industry, but everyone with a substantial part in the series has died.

Ricardo Montalban was one of Hollywood’s 1st proudly Mexican stars

Montalban found fame in his native Mexico in the 1940s before making his way to the States. He was one of the first actors to succeed in America without diminishing his Latin heritage. 

He is best known for his role as Khan Noonien Singh in the original Star Trek TV series and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Montalban also starred as Armando in Escape From the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Grandpa Valentin in the Spy Kids franchise. His talents earned him an Emmy Award in 1978 for his work in the miniseries How the West Won and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 1993.

In addition, Montalban supported other Latinos by co-founding the Nosotros Foundation to advocate for better acting roles in Hollywood. He died of congestive heart failure in 2009. Montalban was 88. 

Hervé Villechaize lived a tragic life despite early success in film and ‘Fantasy Island’

After being bullied as a kid because of his diminutive stature, Villechaize found solace as a painter, becoming the youngest artist with work displayed in the Museum of Paris at age 16.

He took up acting after moving to New York in 1964 and learned to speak English from watching movies and TV shows. Villechaize made a name for himself in experimental cinema and off-Broadway plays before finding work in Hollywood. His big break came in the 1974 James Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun, where he played Nick Nack, a henchman of the main villain, Francisco Scaramanga. 

Fantasy Island furthered burnished Villechaize’s popularity. However, his on-set reputation was far from gleaming. He allegedly sexually harassed women and argued with producers. ABC fired him after he demanded a salary on par with Montalban’s. 

Villechaize appeared in a couple more projects after that, but he was secretly experiencing severe physical and mental health problems. He died by suicide on Sept. 4, 1993, at age 50.

A week before his death, Villechaize met with journalist Sacha Gervasi to unload his numerous traumas and shed light on his personality outside of “The plane! The plane!” and other stereotypical parts. Their meeting inspired the 2018 HBO movie My Dinner With Herve, starring Peter Dinklage as Villechaize. 

How to get help: In the U.S., call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 to speak with a trained crisis counselor at the free Crisis Text Line.