Actors Who Were Fired From Blockbuster Films

Photo by Rob Latour/REX

Everyone has regrets, and most adults have been fired or let go of at least one job they’ve had. But what if you were an actor who was fired from a leading role in a blockbuster movie? Or worse, a blockbuster movie that also became an honored and beloved classic film. This is the situation that has befallen many actors—sometimes with tragic results. Even some of the biggest stars in the world have been fired from movies that went on to be extremely popular and set up lucrative franchises. And while we’ll never know exactly how these actors feel about the fish that got away, it is worth considering some of the most shocking firings in movie history.

20. Colin Firth, Paddington (2014)

Best known to American audiences for his Academy Award-winning performance in The King’s Speech and starring in the Kingsman series, English actor Colin Firth was initially signed on to 2014’s Paddington to voice the adorable title bear. Firth actually completed voice-over work for the entire film but once producers saw the finished product, they concluded that Firth’s mature vocal tone just wasn’t the right fit for the character. Fortunately, it sounds like both parties were in agreement, as Firth reportedly felt the same way about his performance and consented to Ben Whishaw (Skyfall) being brought in as his replacement.


19. Annette Bening, Batman Returns (1992)

Michelle Pfeiffer’s sultry performance as Catwoman is arguably the thing Tim Burton’s 1992 film Batman Returns is best remembered for now, which makes it all the more surprising to learn that she wasn’t the first choice! Annette Bening was first in line to play the femme fatale and would have completed work on the film had she not had to drop out because she was pregnant. This prompted a huge search for a replacement, with such actresses as Jennifer Jason Leigh, Madonna, Raquel Welch, Susan Sarandon, Ellen Barkin, Bridget Fonda, and even Cher being considered. But the role ended up going to Pfeiffer and even though we’re sure Bening would have been a great Catwoman, it’s hard not to be happy with the way things played out given how electric Pfeiffer was in that rubber catsuit.


18. Chloe Grace Mortez, Bolt (2008)

Production on Disney’s Bolt was reportedly contentious all around, with original director Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch) being removed from the project early on, prompting Sanders to jump ship entirely and join Disney’s rival Dreamworks Animation. It’s fitting then that Bolt also saw the recasting of its 11-year-old star Chloe Grace Moretz. Disney decided to bring in Miley Cyrus to play the role of Penny, as Cyrus was one of the studio’s big teen stars at the time and also wrote a song for the film, “I Thought I Lost You.”

The silver lining for Moretz is that Disney kept her voice for scenes featuring Penny’s younger self, meaning that she remains credited in the film as Young Penny. While losing the lead role was likely quite devastating for an 11-year-old actress just starting her career, Moretz has since gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after young talents, landing her breakout role in 2010’s Kick-Ass as Hit-Girl not long after her time on Bolt.


17. Lori Petty, Demolition Man (1993)

Lori Petty was originally cast in the role of Lieutenant Lenina Huxely in the 1993 Sylvester Stallone action flick Demolition Man. According to a Variety report from that year, Petty was fired after only two days on set because of “creative differences” with producer Joel Silver. Petty reportedly had taken issue with certain aspects of her character. In an interesting turn of events, Sandra Bullock would be hired on to replace Petty and Demolition Man is often cited as Bullock’s breakout role, with the actress landing an even bigger role the next year in Speed opposite Keanu Reeves.


16. Samantha Morton, Her (2013)

Samantha Morton (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) was originally cast in Spike Jonze’s Her (2013) as Samantha, an advanced operating system that falls in love with a lonely man played by Joaquin Phoenix. Morton had actually completed all of her work on the film when she was informed that her role had been given to Scarlett Johansson instead. According to Jonze, he decided that Morton wasn’t quite right for the part during post-production, telling The Daily Beast,”In post is when we decided that what we did wasn’t working, and we ended up recasting with Scarlett {Johansson].”

While disappointing for Morton and her fans, Her isn’t the first film Jonze has “found” in the editing room. The director also recast Michelle William’s role in his previous film Where the Wild Things Are after deciding that her voice performance didn’t fit the character she had been hired to play and ultimately replaced her with Lauren Ambrose.


15. Christian Bale, American Psycho (2000)

“Wait a minute,” you’re probably wondering aloud right now. “Christian Bale was the star of American Psycho, so how could he have been fired?” Well, in a strange turn of events, Bale technically ended up replacing himself in the Mary Harron-directed dark comedy/thriller. Bale was originally offered the role of Patrick Bateman but Lionsgate wanted a bigger name and pushed to hire Leonardo DiCaprio instead. The studio went so far as to announce DiCaprio’s involvement at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1998, leaving Bale understandably taken by surprise considering he’d been offered the role first.

According to The Guardian, DiCaprio was dissatisfied with the film’s direction, script, and plot (in other words, pretty much everything) and eventually decided to quit. Bale was once again offered the script and recast as the killer New York investment banker.


14. Judy Garland, Valley of the Dolls (1967)

Judy Garland was one of the greatest actresses of old Hollywood, perhaps best known for playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately, while she was often a revelation onscreen, her offscreen personal life was anything but glamorous, highlighted by a string of failed marriages and heavy substance abuse. By the time Garland was hired to play Helen Lawson in Mark Robson’s adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s novel Valley of the Dolls, she was spiraling out of control and often missed rehearsals or showed up drunk. This led to her dismissal from the production. Sadly, Garland’s career never recovered after this unfortunate humiliation and she passed away only a few years later at the age of 47 from a Barbiturate overdose on June 22, 1969.

C. Maher/Stringer

13. Richard Gere, The Lords of Flatbush (1974)

The Lords of Flatbush is sort of like Grease, if it abandoned the songs and focused only on the T-Birds. Starring Henry Winkler in full-on Fonzie mode and Sylvester Stallone as members of a group of leather jacket-wearing Brooklyn teens, Richard Gere was also supposed to have a starring role, but an onset feud with Stallone got him the boot. Really, the words of Sly himself are the only ones you need to hear on the matter:

We never hit it off. He would strut around in his oversized motorcycle jacket like he was the baddest knight at the round table. One day, during an improv, he grabbed me (we were simulating a fight scene) and got a little carried away. I told him in a gentle fashion to lighten up, but he was completely in character and impossible to deal with. Then we were rehearsing at Coney Island and it was lunchtime, so we decided to take a break, and the only place that was warm was in the backseat of a Toyota. I was eating a hotdog and he climbs in with a half a chicken covered in mustard with grease nearly dripping out of the aluminum wrapper. I said, “That thing is going to drip all over the place.” He said, “Don’t worry about it.” I said, “If it gets on my pants you’re gonna know about it.” He proceeds to bite into the chicken and a small, greasy river of mustard lands on my thigh. I elbowed him in the side of the head and basically pushed him out of the car. The director had to make a choice: one of us had to go, one of us had to stay. Richard was given his walking papers and to this day seriously dislikes me.

Unsurprisingly, the two actors would never work together again.


12. Harvey Keitel, Apocalypse Now (1979)

Harvey Keitel, perhaps best known for his work in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, was initially hired to play the lead role of Willard in Francis Ford Coppola’s infamous war epic Apocalypse Now. Coppola had been impressed by Keitel’s work in Martin Scorcese’s Mean Streets, but after a few weeks of filming, Coppola made the decision to send him packing, as he felt that Keitel “found it difficult to play him [Willard] as a passive onlooker.” Martin Sheen, Coppola’s original choice, was able to take the job and the rest is history. While Keitel harbors no ill-will towards Coppola for his dismissal, considering that Sheen almost died while making the film from the stress of it all, his firing may have been a blessing in disguise.


11. Terrence Howard, Iron Man 2 (2010)

While Terrence Howard wasn’t exactly fired from his role as Lt. Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes in Iron Man 2, the behind-the-scenes turmoil between him and Marvel Studios was so messy, he might as well have been. Howard initially signed on for a three picture deal with Marvel and was actually earning more than Robert Downey Jr. at the time (remember, this was before Downey could command a $50 million payday, like he did for The Avengers). Once Iron Man blew up at the box office, Marvel reportedly went to Howard and offered him 1/8th of what he was supposed to earn for Iron Man 2, claiming that the film would be a success with or without his involvement. An understandably jilted Howard walked from the project and claims that the money that was supposed to go to him was instead offered to Downey. Given Marvel’s reputation for being very frugal when it comes to actors’ salaries, it’s no surprise that this wasn’t the last time an actor was forced off one of their films, as you’ll see later in this list.


10. Anne Hathaway, Knocked Up (2007)

Directed by Judd Apatow, Knocked Up was a huge hit when released in 2007. The R-rated comedy grossed more than $200 million worldwide. The success of the film helped the careers of everyone involved in the production, including actress Katherine Heigl, who plays an independent journalist who becomes pregnant after a drunken one night stand with slacker Ben Stone (played by actor Seth Rogen). So we can only assume that actress Anne Hathaway was kicking herself for being fired from the movie. Originally cast as journalist Alison Scott, Hathaway was let go by director Judd Apatow after she complained about the birthing scenes in the movie being too graphic. Katherine Heigl was brought in and the rest is history. However, despite this career set back, Anne Hathaway bounced back by winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the movie Les Misérables released in 2012.


9. James Remar, Aliens (1986)

James Remar is a character actor best known for playing the bad guy Albert Ganz opposite Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in the 1982 movie 48 Hours. And while James Remar has had a solid career in supporting roles—notably on TV shows such as Sex and The City and Dexter—he never achieved leading man status or stardom. However, things might have been different for James Remar had he not been fired from the 1986 blockbuster movie Aliens. Cast as heroic Corporal Dwayne Hicks, Remar was fired after clashing on the set with director James Cameron. He was replaced in the role of Hicks by actor Michael Biehn, who had previously worked for James Cameron on the original Terminator (1984). James Remar has since blamed a drug problem he had back in the 1980s for his behavior on the set of Aliens. As for actor Michael Biehn, he continued his fruitful relationship with James Cameron in 1989’s The Abyss.


8. Anthony Michael Hall, Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Director Stanley Kubrick is famous for taking extensive time to both film and complete his movies. He took a full year to film his 1975 epic Barry Lyndon before dragging the miles of footage he shot into an editing room. And Kubrick was known for bringing actors to tears by making them perform dozens of takes of a particular scene. Some scenes in the 1980 film The Shining were filmed more than 50 times. However, it appears that Stanley Kubrick lost patience with actor Anthony Michael Hall after he took more than eight months to negotiate his contract to play Private Joker in the classic Vietnam set war film Full Metal Jacket. One would think that Anthony Michael Hall, who up until that point had been cast as nerds and losers in films such as Sixteen Candles and Weird Science, would have jumped at the chance to star in a war movie directed by Stanley Kubrick. But his repeated changes to his contract were too much for Kubrick, who let Hall go and hired actor Matthew Modine to replace him. Anthony Michael Hall has since gone on to have minor roles in films such as The Dark Knight, where he played a television reporter.


7. Jean-Claude Van Damme, Predator (1987)

The “Muscles from Brussels,” as he is often called, was an unknown martial artist and wannabe movie star when he was cast to play the alien opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1987 summer blockbuster movie Predator. Given his lack of experience and anonymity at the time, one would assume that Jean-Claude Van Damme would have been thrilled to play the alien in Predator. But after repeatedly complaining about the costume he was required to wear to play the alien, and the fact that audiences wouldn’t see his face, producers fired Van Damme and replaced him with character actor Kevin Peter Hall, who also famously played the big foot character in the movie Harry and the Hendersons. Van Damme initially recovered well from this set back by starring in the successful film Bloodsport in 1988, as well as a succession of other action movies in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But in recent years he has struggled to replicate his earlier success and has starred in his own reality television series.


6. Megan Fox, Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Teenage boys everywhere are thankful that director Michael Bay cast Megan Fox in the first two installments of the live action Transformers movies. Her role in the movies catapulted Megan Fox to A-list actress and pin-up status. However, Fox was quickly fired from Transformers: Dark of the Moon during production after she compared director Michael Bay to Adolph Hitler in an interview with a British journalist. While Michael Bay took the comments in stride, the movie’s producer, Steven Spielberg, took exception to the remarks and apparently ordered Bay to let Megan Fox go. While she hasn’t completely disappeared from movie screens, and was seen last year in the Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, it is fair to say that Megan Fox’s star trajectory in Hollywood was hurt by her poorly conceived comments.


5. Ryan Gosling, The Lovely Bones (2009)

Based on a critically-acclaimed and popular novel, and directed by Peter Jackson (The Lord of The Rings trilogy), The Lovely Bones was a highly anticipated movies when it went into production. Ryan Gosling was cast as a grieving father whose teenage daughter is murdered in the film. A true method actor, Ryan Gosling went so far as to gain 60 pounds for the role, as well as grow a massive beard. However, after clashing with director Peter Jackson, Gosling was fired from the movie and replaced by the more affable Mark Wahlberg. In hindsight, Gosling may have dodged a bullet by being dumped from the production. The Lovely Bones was largely panned by critics upon its release and did not do well at the box office—making it a rare miss for director Peter Jackson.


4. Sylvester Stallone, Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Nobody knows the value of a movie franchise like Sylvester Stallone who counts Rocky, Rambo and The Expendables as his bankable film series. So it must be with some chagrin that Stallone looks back on his experience with Beverly Hills Cop. Originally cast as wise cracking Detroit police officer Axel Foley who is transplanted to posh Beverly Hills, Stallone took issue with the comedic elements in the movie. This should not be surprising if anyone has seen Stallone’s attempts at comedy—“Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot” anyone? Director Martin Brest reportedly tolerated Sylvester Stallone’s requests up to a point. But when Sly took it upon himself to rewrite the script, he was fired and replaced by funnyman Eddie Murphy. Beverly Hills Cop was the top grossing movie of 1984 and spawned two sequels. A fourth Beverly Hills Cop film was announced earlier this year, and a television show based on the movies is now in production.


3. Edward Norton, The Avengers (2012)

Blockbuster movies don’t come much bigger than 2012’s The Avengers. Featuring an all-star cast playing Earth’s mightiest heroes, the first Avengers movie grossed $1.5 billion at the global box office and more on home video. So we can only imagine how actor Edward Norton felt when he wasn’t cast in the movie as scientist Bruce Banner, a.k.a. The Hulk. After all, Edward Norton had successfully played the character in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk, which earned nearly $265 million in global ticket receipts. But with reports circulating that Edward Norton was difficult to work with, and regularly threw temper tantrums on the set of The Incredible Hulk, director Joss Whedon opted instead to cast actor Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Edward Norton can take some consolation in the fact that actor Eric Bana, who played the title character in the 2003 misfire Hulk, was also not asked to reprise the role.


2. Stuart Townsend, Lord of the Rings (2001)

Most moviegoers don’t know the name “Stuart Townsend.” However, the Irish actor might be more familiar to audiences had things worked out differently on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Arguably one of the biggest and most beloved movie trilogies in history, the three Lord of the Rings films broke box office records when released consecutively between 2001 and 2003. The third film in the series, The Return of the King won the Academy Award for Best Picture. But it is probably a fair bet that Stuart Townsend doesn’t like to be reminded of the trilogies’ success, after he was fired from the role of heroic Aragorn and replaced by actor Viggo Mortensen. With a contract inked, Stuart Townsend was fully preparing to play Aragorn, taking sword fighting and horseback riding lessons. However, at the last minute, producers of the movies decided the then 29-year-old Townsend was too young for the part and cast Viggo Mortensen, who is 14 years older than Townsend, in the key role of Aragorn. Stuart Townsend has since worked mostly in television.


1. Eric Stoltz, Back to the Future (1985)

While not a household name or major star, Eric Stoltz is a well-regarded actor who has been in some decent movies during his career, including Mask, Jerry Maguire, and Pulp Fiction. However, Stoltz never really achieved leading man status after he was fired from the iconic role of Marty McFly in Back to the Future and replaced by Michael J. Fox. What makes Eric Stoltz’ firing from the film so egregious is that a good portion of the movie had been filmed when he was let go—requiring cast and crew to go back and reshoot nearly half the movie once Michael J. Fox was hired. Director Robert Zemeckis acknowledges that Eric Stoltz gave the part all that he had, but when producers (who included Steven Spielberg) saw early footage of the film, they concluded that Eric Stoltz just wasn’t funny, and ordered that he be fired and replaced with Michael J. Fox, who was then starring on television comedy Family Ties. Two Back to the Future sequels followed and Michael J. Fox never looked back. If only Eric Stoltz had his own time machine…


Fame 10 Staff

Fame 10 Staff