14 Movies That Recast An Actor In The Middle Of Filming (And Why)
Warning: Some entries mention drug and alcohol abuse.
No matter how magical or glamorous acting may seem, it’s still a job at the end of the day, and actors can (and do!) get fired.
Here are 14 actors who got fired in the middle of production:
1. Sean Young was reportedly fired from her role as Tess Trueheart in Dick Tracy because she didn’t come off as “maternal enough” in the dailies.
However, Sean later alleged that she was fired from the role because she rejected lead actor Warren Beatty’s advances. He denied this and held that firing her was a creative decision.
She was replaced by Glenne Headly.
2. In Chicken Little, the titular character was originally a little girl voiced by Holly Hunter. However, after her lines were recorded, Disney’s then-CEO reportedly said, “I don’t want it to be a girl, I want it to be a boy.” The movie ended up getting a full overhaul.
Director Mark Dindal told Collider, “I remember being told, ‘Girls will go see a movie with a boy protagonist, but boys won’t see a movie with a girl protagonist.’ That was the wisdom at the time, until Frozen comes out and makes $1 billion.”
Holly was replaced by Zach Braff.
3. The day before he was scheduled to shoot his scenes for Band of Brothers, Connor Ratliff was fired from a minor role by executive producer/director Tom Hanks, who felt he had “dead eyes.”
Twenty years later, Connor set out to investigate why Tom really fired him with his podcast Dead Eyes.
Appearing on Dead Eyes in 2022, Tom said, “Let me first take full responsibility for doing this to you. This was without a doubt the act of the director, and that was me… [It was] one of those very, very subtle sort of decisions that aims the story in the direction you want it to go.”
4. In The Truman Show, Christof was originally played by Dennis Hopper, but he was reportedly replaced because he couldn’t remember his lines.
Dennis told the Sabotage Times, “I was on the set for, like, two days, and got fired… Scott Rudin, the producer, had made an agreement with the director [Peter Weir] that…he didn’t want me to do the part, and if he didn’t like what I did after the first day’s dailies, then he would fire me. And they fired me.”
Ed Harris took over the role.
5. In Valley of the Dolls, Judy Garland was originally set to play Helen Lawson. However, due to her contentious working relationship with director Mark Robson and complications from her struggles with alcohol abuse, she was fired.
At the 2009 event Marc Huestis Presents SPARKLE, PATTY, SPARKLE, her ex-costar Patty Duke said, “[Judy] was charming and funny — oh, very funny — but she was having a problem with alcohol, and I don’t know about other things. So the director, who was the meanest son of a bitch I ever met in my life…he kept [Judy] waiting and waiting. She had to come in at 6:30 in the morning, and he wouldn’t even plan to get to her until four in the afternoon. She was very down to earth, so she didn’t mind waiting. What I minded was that there were gentlemen around her who supplied her with wine and other things, so when she finally did get called to the set, she couldn’t function very well…and she crumbled.”
After being fired, Judy allegedly took all of her costumes from the set. She reportedly later wore one for a performance at the Palace Theater.
She was replaced by Susan Hayward.
6. Eric Stoltz was initially cast as Marty McFly in Back to the Future, but his method acting and drama skills didn’t translate to screwball comedy as well as production hoped. So, a couple weeks into filming, director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale made a deal with studio head Sid Sheinberg behind his back — they’d keep filming with him until they could bring in the lead actor they really wanted.
According to the book We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy, Eric reportedly took the news pretty hard.
Ahead of the announcement, some cast and crew members allegedly felt that something was “off” on set.
Cinematographer Dean Cundey said, “There were signs, especially the last week or so. When we would set up a shot and we would shoot Chris Lloyd’s angle, but we wouldn’t do the reverse on Marty. I’d say, ‘Don’t we need the angle?’ and Bob would say, ‘No, no, no, let’s not worry about that.’ It didn’t take long for me to see that we were saving our energy for what would come next.”
He was replaced by, of course, Michael J. Fox.
7. Initially, Harvey Keitel was supposed to play US Army Captain Benjamin Willard in Apocalypse Now, but director Francis Ford Coppola famously replaced him a week into filming. Denying the director’s claims in Coppola’s Monster Film: The Making of ‘Apocalypse Now’, that he was fired because he “didn’t want to stay in the jungle,” Harvey told Insider, “Well, Harvey Keitel spent three years in the United States Marines Corps in the jungle.”
In the book, the director said, “I could see [Harvey] was very uncomfortable about conditions in the jungle. And I thought, Not only do I think he’s wrong casting, but what’s it going to be like for six months in these difficult conditions in the jungle for a city guy who’s afraid of it? I just decided to make this tough decision.”
Martin Sheen was actually the director’s original second choice for the role, after Steve McQueen, but he initially turned it down because he wasn’t available.
He was replaced by Martin Sheen.
8. A few days in filming Demolition Man, Lori Petty was fired from her role as Lenina Huxley. Producer Joel Silver blamed the decision on “creative differences,” but Lori attributed it to her personality clash with lead actor Sylvester Stallone, telling Entertainment Weekly, “Sly and I were like oil and water.”
She later told the Daily Beast, “It was the most uncool day in Hollywood for me. I just treat people the way I want to be treated, so I’d rather not gossip about [Joel’s] unkindness.”
She was replaced by Sandra Bullock.
9. Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally cast as the titular role in Predator. However, he told the Hollywood Reporter that producer Joel Silver fired him because it was impossible for him to safely move around the way the filmmakers wanted him to in the uncomfortably hot and cumbersome rubber costume on stilts.
He said, “My head was in the neck. My hands were in the forearms, and there were cables [attached to my fingers to move the creature’s head and jaws]. My feet were in his calves, so I was on [stilts]. It was a disgusting outfit… When Joel asked me to jump, I knew it was gonna be a bad one. I said, ‘This is impossible, Joel. I think we’re gonna have a problem.'”
However, some crew members denied this version of events. First AD Beau Marks said, “We shot some [footage with the original suit], sent it back to the studio, and the decision came back that we were to shoot everything we could without the creature in the suit, and we were to go back and redesign [the creature]. And when we went back to redesign it, we went to Stan Winston. And Stan decided that the way to do the suit is to start with the tallest, biggest guy he could find, not someone who was the agile mover that Van Damme was.”
He was replaced by Kevin Peter Hall.
10. Initially, Lee Coleman was cast as Sean Robertson in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. However, he reportedly spent one week on set and filmed a single scene before he was replaced because his performance simply didn’t line up with the filmmakers’ vision. You can see a photo of him in the role here.
However, an injury he sustained outside of filming was likely another contributing factor. While out for a nighttime jog, he reportedly tripped, scratching up his face.
He was replaced by Scott Reeves.
11. Due to The Good Dinosaur needing “a different perspective to get the idea out,” director Bob Peterson was removed, leaving his co-director Peter Sohn to head the “Pixar Brain Trust.” Most of the animated movie’s star-studded voice cast was replaced as well, including John Lithgow, who was supposed to re-record all his lines as Poppa before being ultimately replaced by Jeffrey Wright.
Additionally, Lucas Neff was replaced by Raymond Ochoa as Arlo. Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer, and Bill Hader’s roles as Arlo’s siblings were reduced to one role, which went to Marcus Scribner. However, another sibling role later went to Maleah Padilla.
The only original voice actor who remained was Frances McDormand as Momma Ida.
12. In Her, Samantha Morton was the original voice of Samantha. However, when the movie got to the editing stage, writer/director Spike Jonze “realized that what the character/movie needed was different from what Samantha and [he] had created together.”
He told Vulture, “I think, unfortunately, it’s pretty normal in terms of my not-quite-painless-for-everyone-involved ‘process’ of discovering what the movie is. Samantha was with us on set and was amazing… I love Samantha. I’ve been friends with her forever, and I hope we make lots of things together in the future.”
Scarlett Johansson replaced her.
13. Initially, James Remar was going to play Dwayne Hicks in Aliens. However, he was let go a month into filming because he was arrested for drug possession after police raided his apartment in London.
On The Movies That Made Us, James said that he regretted “screwing over so many people,” namely Alien screenwriter Walter Hill, because of his struggles with addiction.
However, there was another likely contributing factor to his firing. On the Aliens set, James reportedly found a prop gun and fired it into theThe Little Shop of Horrors set next door. There were no injuries, but he left a hole in the wall of the other set.
He was replaced by Michael Biehn.
14. And finally, Kel O’Neill denied longstanding rumors that he was fired from the role of Eli Sunday in There Will Be Blood because he was intimidated by lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis’s method acting tactics. However, he attributed it to his working relationship with writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson not being as good as the other actors’ and to his fading interest in being an actor.
Kel told Vulture, “Some directors I’ve worked with — who very few people would say are better directors than Paul — just had a way of making me feel comfortable. For some reason, even though every other actor I know had a relationship with Paul that was super positive and where they did their best work, that just didn’t happen with me. I would attribute that primarily to a failure on my side: An actor should, with every ounce of their humanity, be attempting to give the director what he or she wants. And I recall going in and out on whether I could really do that.”
He went on to be a director.
He was replaced by Paul Dano, who also played Paul Sunday, the role he was initially cast in.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and find more resources here.
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