Actors often become synonymous with the roles that they play, sometimes to the point where we cannot separate the real person from the character they’re portraying.
But casting movies is of course a fickle process, with numerous big-name Hollywood stars often being considered for a part before producers and filmmakers finally settle on their leading man or lady.
But there are occasions when actors are sacked after being cast, and sometimes even after filming has begun, 20 of the most extreme examples of which we’ve detailed below.
20. Eric Stoltz (Back To The Future)
Eric Stoltz, who went on to be nominated for a Golden Globe award for his performance in the 1985 movie Mask, was originally cast as Marty McFly in the 1985 classic Back to the Future.
Unfortunately, Stoltz was sacked after filmmakers decided that he didn’t have the comedy chops required to pull off the role.
Apparently, Stoltz was a keen method actor, even going so far as to ask his co-stars to refer to him as ‘Marty’ off the set.
Despite the fact that Stoltz’s were almost entirely reshot with Michael J Fox in the role, it is believed that Stoltz may well still appear in at least two shots of the first Back to the Future movie.
For example, there is a shot where Marty dives into the DeLorean near the beginning of the movie that many think is Stoltz rather than Fox.
19. Harvey Keitel (Apocalypse Now)
Following the success of the Godfather films, legendary director Francis Ford Coppola offered the role of Willard in his 1979 masterpiece Apocalypse Now to Harvey Keitel.
The actor, then best known for Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, accepted, but unfortunately things did not go smoothly from there.
Coppola soon decided that Keitel’s performance wasn’t “introspective” enough, so the actor was fired three weeks into the movie’s production and replaced with Martin Sheen.
Keitel wasn’t first choice for the role, and it had been offered to several actors before him.
Coppola’s list included Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and Steve McQueen, the latter of whom turned down the part because he didn’t want to shoot on location in the jungle.
18. Jean-Claude Van Damme (Predator)
Action legend Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally cast as the Predator in the 1987 movie of the same name.
Filmmakers hoped that Van Damme’s martial arts skills would help the alien – then designed to look more bug-like – to appear extremely agile.
Unfortunately, Van Damme had issues with the suit being too hot and causing him to faint.
The actor also got a little too into kickboxing, and according to his co-stars, could often be seen kickboxing freestyle around the set.
It was soon decided that a larger man was needed to make the Predator appear more threatening, so Van Damme – then still pre-fame – was quickly replaced with Kevin Peter Hall.
17. Natalie Portman (Romeo + Juliet)
Natalie Portman, who was only 14 years old at the time, was originally given the female lead in Baz Luhrmann’s stunning Romeo + Juliet.
Luhrmann himself, however, quickly became worried that she was far too young for the role.
His fears proved to be correct when it was felt that rehearsal footage made it look like DiCaprio was “molesting” Portman, and she was replaced by Clare Danes.
Luckily, Portman held no grudges, and later revealed that she was complicit in this decision.
‘I think the film came out really, really beautifully and Claire Danes did a really, really wonderful job,’ said Portman later.
16. Stuart Townsend (The Lord of the Rings)
Before Viggo, Stuart Townsend was cast as Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and even filmed four days as the character before Jackson made a dramatic u-turn.
Jackson simply came to the conclusion that Townsend was too young for the role, so he was replaced by Viggo Mortensen.
Mortensen was an older actor who of course made a name for himself with his fantastic performance in the Oscar-winning trilogy.
There were however other rumours surrounding Armitage’s unexpected departure.
This included the old Hollywood rumour that Townsend was deemed to be ‘difficult behind the scenes’.
15. James Remar (Aliens)
Michael Biehn was cast as Hicks a week after filming on James Cameron’s 1986 movie Aliens had already started, as original Hicks actor James Remar was originally cast in the role.
Remar has since claimed that he was replaced due to being fired after he was arrested for drug possession.
A few shots of James Remar remain in the film, including when the team first enters the alien hive (although only his back is seen).
This was because those sequences were too expensive to re-shoot.
According to Remar, the incident seriously damaged his relationship with director Walter Hill, who apparently refused to cast Remar again for 12 years.
14. Dennis Hopper (The Truman Show)
Late movie legend Dennis Hopper was originally cast in the role of Christof, the creator of The Truman Show in the 1998 movie of the same name.
However, at the last minute the Easy Rider star was sacked and replaced by Ed Harris.
The official reason for Hopper’s departure was given as “creative differences”, but Hopper had a different story.
He later claimed that he was sacked because the movie’s director Peter Weir and its producer Scott Rudin didn’t approve the performance he was giving during the initial days of the shoot.
Weir wanted a more understated performance, and reportedly felt that Hopper had a tendency to ‘overact’.
13. Sean Young (Dick Tracy)
Sean Young has alleged that she was fired from the set of the 1990 movie Dick Tracy when she declined Warren Beatty’s sexual advances.
Young has said of this time: “basically, he sacked me because I did not want to go to bed with him. He tried to kiss me. I was unresponsive and kept joking with him about it. But I drew a clear line for him that I was not interested.”
Other sources dispute this claim, some explaining that Young was actually fired because she was ‘too difficult’ on set. Sensing a theme here?
Director Beatty was also quick to dispel the rumours, claiming that she was actually fired as she wasn’t ‘maternal enough’ for the part.
He added that he ‘made a mistake casting her in the part and felt very badly about it’.
12. Richard Gere (The Lords of Flatbush)
Have you ever seen the Sylvester Stallone movie The Lords of Flatbush?
Us neither, but we do know that it was originally meant to also star Richard Gere, that is until Stallone got him thrown off the project.
Stallone has said that ‘we never hit it off. He would strut around in his oversized motorcycle jacket like he was the baddest knight at the round table.’
‘The director had to make a choice,’ he continued. ‘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.’
Apparently Gere didn’t stop at ‘strutting around’, and reportedly ate a mustard chicken in front of Stallone, subsequently allowing the mustard to drip over Stallone’s trousers. Oh, the horror!
11. Dougray Scott (X-Men)
Whilst we can’t imagine anyone else but Hugh Jackman in the role of X-Men’s razor-clawed Wolverine, the part was originally given to the Scottish actor Dougray Scott.
However, there is far less controversy surrounding this star’s departure.
Unfortunately, delays on the filming of Mission: Impossible 2, in which Scott played the villain, meant that he had to be removed from Brian Singer’s original X-Men movie and replaced with Jackman.
To complicate matters further, Scott also suffered an unfortunate motorcycle accident during filming on M:i-2.
We’re betting Scott still received a pretty hefty sum for his troubles.
10. Julianne Moore (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Julianne Moore was originally cast in the starring role of writer Lee Israel in the biographical 2018 movie Can You Ever Forgive Me?.
Unfortunately, Moore didn’t get far into the production before she was replaced, six days before shooting began.
The director cited ‘creative differences’, although Moore was quick to dispute this claim.
According to the actress, director Nicole Holofcener fired her due to disliking Moore’s portrayal of the character.
Moore’s former co-star Richard E. Grant shed a little more light on the situation, revealing that Moore wanted to wear a fat suit and fake nose to look more like Israel, but Holofcener felt this would detract from the role.
9. Michael Keaton (Purple Rose of Cairo)
Michael Keaton is one of the most prominent actors of our time, but his talent hasn’t always been quite so appreciated…
Keaton was originally cast in the lead role for Purple Rose of Cairo, but things didn’t go to plan.
He was on the set for just ten days before director Woody Allen decided it just wasn’t working out.
He felt that Keaton was ‘too contemporary’ for the period film, and that he just didn’t fit in.
Keaton was consoled with the promise of appearing in another Allen movie, a promise which has failed to come to fruition as of yet.
8. Thora Birch (Election)
Election was a smash hit 1999 comedy-drama that took the world by storm.
One cast member who didn’t get to revel in the movie’s success, however, was Thora Birch.
On just the third day of filming, the young actress was fired from the production.
This was due to the classic ‘creative differences’ between Birch and the film’s director, Alexander Payne.
Birch was just 17 at the time, and she would go onto gain fame through her starring role in American Beauty.
7. Samantha Morton (Her)
Her is the quirky, heartwarming tale of a man who falls in love with an operating system which was set to be played by actress Samantha Morton.
However, things didn’t quite go to plan as the director, Spike Jonze, had issues with Morton’s performance.
Jonze’s grievance wasn’t over Morton’s acting skills, however, but her voice, which is all Joaquin Phoenix had heard on-set during filming.
Halfway through post-production, Jonze realised that Morton didn’t have the kind of voice the lead character could have fallen in love with, and decided Scarlett Johansson was a better fit for the part.
Jonze subsequently re-dubbed Morton with Johansson’s voice, and all that remained of Morton was the name of the operating system: Samantha.
6. James Purefoy (V for Vendetta)
V for Vendetta is a dystopian thriller film featuring an ominous masked man.
This masked man was initially supposed to be played by James Purefoy, an up and coming but relatively unknown actor at the time.
However, after six gruelling weeks on set, Purefoy was fired by producer Joel Silver and replaced by Hugo Weaving.
The official line was, once again, ‘creative differences’, and the last minute change of plan cost the movie some vital scenes.
Purefoy has officially spoken out to dispel rumours that he was fired because he ‘refused to wear the mask’.
5. Ryan Gosling (The Lovely Bones)
Ryan Gosling was supposed to play the dad in the 2009 supernatural thriller drama, but the part ultimately ended up in the hands of Mark Wahlberg.
This was despite Gosling’s commitment to the role, the Canadian actor reportedly piling on the pounds prior to filming, putting on a total of over 60lbs.
Unfortunately for Gosling, the director, Peter Jackson, was not so keen on his leading man’s new look when showed up to the set.
Gosling claimed that he put on the weight because he envisaged the character as heavy set, even going so far as to drink melted Haagen Dazs ice cream when he was thirsty.
It was only once he showed up to the set that Gosling realised he had the character all wrong. He was fired, Wahlberg replaced him, and Gosling was left, in his own words, “fat and unemployed”.
4. Judy Garland (Valley of the Dolls)
Wizard of Oz star Judy Garland landed herself in the lead role of Helen Lawson in the 1967 drama Valley of the Dolls before she was fired and replaced by Susan Hayward.
Garland had a natural talent for acting, and her genuine passion shone through onscreen.
However, behind the scenes, Garland had been experiencing issues with substance abuse since a teenager.
As a result, her behaviour on the set was erratic, and she would often show up on set in a state of severe inebriation.
Sadly, just a few years after she was removed from Valley of the Dolls, Garland passed away following an overdose.
3. Colin Firth (Paddington)
Paddington tells the story of an adorable young bear and his exploits in the big city.
Colin Firth might have been an unusual choice to voice the character, and it seems he failed to impress the film’s directors.
Firth’s cool, mature tone was deemed too ‘inappropriate’ to play the demure, child-like bear.
Firth actually completed the voiceover for the film, and it was only after production was complete that directors decided Firth just wasn’t a good fit for the role.
Firth was reportedly complicit in his decision to stand back from the part, and agreed Ben Whishaw would make a good replacement.
2. Kevin Spacey (All the Money in the World)
All the Money in the World was in the post-production stages when all hell broke loose, forcing producers to fire Kevin Spacey and reshoot his scenes over.
This came after Spacey was the subject of several allegations of sexual abuse, and threatened to put the whole production at risk.
Spacey was relatively nonchalant regarding the claims, attempting to defend himself by coming out as gay – a rather bizarre move considering the circumstances.
By the time Spacey was fired, there was less than two months until the film’s release date, putting the producers in a serious tough spot.
They replaced Spacey with Christopher Plummer, and decided to completely reshoot the role. Certainly no easy feat!
1. Holly Hunter (Chicken Little)
Chicken Little is the spectacularly unmemorable 2005 animated film about, well… a chicken.
What you might not have known about the film is that originally the title character was intended to be a female chicken (AKA a hen).
After eight months of hard work, Hunter discovered her efforts were all in vain.
The studio wanted the film to be more of an action-packed adventure and of course, adventures are for boys only.
She was replaced by Scrubs actor Zach Braff, whose voice was pitched up during post-production.