The Short Life And Heartbreaking Death Of 31-Year-Old Glee Actor Cory Monteith

Published March 21, 2024
Updated March 22, 2024

After struggling with severe drug and alcohol addiction since the age of 13, Cory Monteith died tragically on July 13, 2013.

On July 13, 2013, just a few months after he had admitted himself into a substance addiction treatment facility, Glee star Cory Monteith was found dead in his room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Since he was just 31 years old, the heartbreaking news of Cory Monteith’s death was a shock to his loved ones and fans.

It was equally shocking to the hotel staff members who discovered his body on the day that he was supposed to check out. After Monteith was found unresponsive in a “collapsed position” on the floor, police were quickly called to the scene. Sadly, it was soon apparent that there was no chance to save him, as he had already been dead for several hours.

Cory Monteith Death

ART Collection/Alamy Stock PhotoCory Monteith was a Canadian actor and musician who died of a drug overdose in 2013.

Authorities quickly noted that a used hypodermic needle, a spoon with “drug residue,” and two empty champagne bottles were near Monteith’s body. As these clues suggested, it was later determined that Monteith had died from a heroin and alcohol overdose. His death was ultimately ruled an accident.

It was the unfortunate end to Cory Monteith’s battle with substance abuse that dated back to when he was just 13 years old, a hidden demon that he tragically couldn’t shake throughout his short life and career.

Cory Monteith’s Troubled Early Life

Cory Allan Michael Monteith was born on May 11, 1982, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He was the second son of interior decorator Ann McGregor and military infantryman Joe Monteith. His parents divorced when he was seven years old, after which he and his older brother, Shaun, were raised by their mother in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Cory Monteith and his brother saw little of their father growing up, largely due to his military service keeping him away much of the time.

Although he was an intelligent student at a young age, Cory Monteith struggled socially and, by the time he was just 13 years old, turned to alcohol and drugs as a way to cope. This led to him skipping school frequently to get drunk and high with an older crowd, and by his own estimate, he had attended 12 different schools by the age of 16 before leaving school entirely.

“I burned a lot of bridges,” he told Parade. “I was out of control.”

Cory Monteith

Maximum Film/Alamy Stock PhotoCory Monteith, pictured in the film McCanick, struggled to maintain his sobriety after attending rehab.

As for what drugs, exactly, Monteith was doing, he admitted that it was “anything and everything, as much as possible.”

He went to rehab for the first time at age 15, but after just a month, he left and went right back to using. Monteith went to rehab again at age 19, but again went back to using after he got out. He even stole “a significant amount of money” from a family member to fund his habit. Eventually, his family had to threaten to turn him over to the police if he didn’t get clean.

The ultimatum gave Monteith a much-needed push to get sober. He moved in with a family friend who was living in Nanaimo and started working as a roofer. Around the same time, he began taking acting classes — and soon enough, he was landing roles in a variety of television shows.

From Stargate Atlantis To Glee

Like many actors, Cory Monteith’s career started out small. He first appeared in the television show Stargate Atlantis in 2004. Monteith then made appearances in TV shows like Smallville and Supernatural in 2005, followed by the show Kyle XY and the film Final Destination 3 in 2006.

But he wouldn’t get his big break until he scored the role of Finn Hudson in Glee, a musical comedy-drama television series that first debuted in 2009. Monteith first caught the eye of the show’s creator Ryan Murphy after Monteith’s Vancouver agent Elena Kirschner submitted a video of Monteith drumming with pencils and Tupperware containers.

As Monteith revealed in an interview with Maclean’s, Murphy thought that the drumming was “cute,” but wanted to see evidence that the actor could actually sing. Monteith’s agent then submitted a video of him singing REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” which earned Monteith a chance to fly to Los Angeles and audition for the show.

In the end, he wound up landing a starring role — and his character Finn Hudson’s first song was, fittingly, “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”

Cory Monteith And Lea Michele

FOXCory Monteith with his costar (and real-life girlfriend) Lea Michele in Glee.

“I realize that this happens to an actor about once every 10 lifetimes,” Monteith told Maclean’s of his Glee role. “To be on a show that’s this good, it’s rarified air.” Monteith gave the interview as Glee was in the middle of its second season, but he playfully stated that he would stick around for 12 seasons, even if that meant becoming “Finn as the creepy janitor.”

Unfortunately, Monteith would never make it to the show’s fifth season, as he fell back into his old habits of drug and alcohol abuse.

Cory Monteith’s Struggles With Substance Abuse

Cory Monteith was a bona fide teenage heartthrob thanks to Glee’s success, even if the actor himself was 27 years old when he was first cast. Still, the show’s massive popularity — and by proxy, his — landed him even more roles, including in the 2011 romantic comedy Monte Carlo.

And for what it’s worth, Monteith seemed to humbly consider himself lucky. He lived modestly by Hollywood standards. He rented a house with four other people who were not actors. He leased his car. Monteith also put a lot of money in the bank, establishing a safety net for himself.

“I think that’s why they pay you a lot of money to do this stuff, because it implies the very real possibility of not working for a while when it’s done,” Monteith acknowledged.

Eventually, he also began a relationship with his Glee co-star Lea Michele sometime around late 2011, a couple of years into the show’s run. From the outside, it seemed as though Monteith had truly turned his life around. Behind closed doors, however, he had picked up an old and dangerous habit.

Monte Carlo

20th Century FoxCory Monteith in the 2011 film Monte Carlo.

The bombshell news that Monteith had checked into rehab again first dropped in a March 31, 2013 article from People, with the actor’s representative telling the news outlet that Monteith had “voluntarily admitted himself to a treatment facility for substance addiction.”

Thirty years old at the time, he had been open about his past struggles with addiction, but to many people, this news still came as a shock. Series creator Ryan Murphy later revealed that Monteith’s admission to rehab came after an emergency intervention by himself and others from Glee.

Less than a month later, reports stated that Monteith had completed his treatment and reunited with Lea Michele, with the assurance that he would be allowed to return to his role as long as he maintained his sobriety.

But Monteith didn’t stay sober, and less than three months after he checked out of rehab, another bombshell dropped: Cory Monteith was found dead.

Cory Monteith’s Death And Legacy

It was about noon on July 13, 2013 when Cory Monteith was found dead in his room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver. He had been out clubbing with some friends the night before, but he returned to his hotel room alone, where, an autopsy would later reveal, he died of “mixed-drug toxicity, involving heroin and alcohol.” He was 31 years old at the time.

Cory Monteith’s death was ultimately ruled an accident. It was also found that his final trip to rehab — just months before he died — was likely the reason why his tolerance was so low when he relapsed and overdosed.

Cory Monteith Outside ABC Studios

WENN Rights Ltd/Alamy Stock PhotoCory Monteith outside the ABC studios posing with fans for pictures.

His death marked the tragic end to a story full of highs and lows. His loss was, of course, most difficult for the people who knew him, including his family members, friends, co-stars, and his romantic partner, Lea Michele. A tribute was paid to him on Glee in the form of the death of his fictional character, Finn Hudson, in the season five episode “The Quarterback.”

A decade later, one of Monteith’s former roommates spoke with Newsweek about his friend’s passing and what life has been like without him.

“It feels like two lifetimes ago, and sometimes it feels like yesterday,” the roommate, Justin Neill, said. “I just completely remember that night that I got the call. Just how confusing and how fast it was all going. It’s still very confusing, because so much was coming at me all at once.”

Neill was one of many people who were featured in the 2023 docuseries The Price of Glee, which explored Cory Monteith’s death along with other tragedies and controversies associated with the show.

He added, “I would say he definitely changed the direction my life in several ways. I don’t even know where I would be if I didn’t meet Cory.”

After reading about the life and death of Cory Monteith, explore the tragic story of Corey Haim, the child actor who died after a lifelong battle with drug addiction. Then, learn about the death of Bernie Mac.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.