17 Stars Who Were Fired From Major Movies
These big-name actors lost their jobs in the middle of filming.
You might think that celebrities have it easy when it comes to job security. But while it's true that famous actors enjoy a certain level of privilege, there are no guarantees in the entertainment business, which means they can lose work just like the rest of us. We're not talking about the actors who chose to leave a project, but about the ones who were asked to go, leading men and women who got replaced because—for one reason or another—they weren't working out. Read on to see 17 stars who were fired from major movies, and for celebrities who nearly missed out, check out these 50 Iconic Movie Roles That Almost Went to Someone Else.
Julianne Moore, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Julianne Moore has repeatedly talked about being fired from the starring role in biopic Can You Ever Forgive Me?, telling Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live, "[Original director Nicole Holofcener] fired me. So yeah, that's the truth. I think she didn't like what I was doing. I think that her idea of where the character was, was different than where my idea of where the character was, and so she fired me." Marielle Heller later took over directing duties of the movie, which ended up starring Melissa McCarthy as infamous literary forger Lee Israel, a role that earned her an Oscar nomination.
Colin Firth, Paddington
Paddington is one of the most beloved characters of all time—with Paddington 2 now named the greatest movie ever—but imagine if the bear had been voiced by Colin Firth instead. While Firth's departure from the first Paddington was portrayed as mutual, it's clear that he didn't work out in the role. Director Paul King told Entertainment Weekly, "As the actual visual of the character emerged, you suddenly go, 'This is just a young, fluffy creature.' Somehow, it just didn't have [Firth's] voice. I remember him saying, 'I'm struggling to find the voice.' I was going, 'Is it younger? Is it more enthusiastic?' It slowly just became clear that Paddington does not have the voice of a very handsome older man, who has the most beautiful voice on the planet." Ben Whishaw ended up voicing Paddington instead.
Ryan Gosling, The Lovely Bones
Ryan Gosling drank melted ice cream to gain the weight he felt was necessary to portray Jack Salmon in The Lovely Bones. Director Peter Jackson had a different (read: slimmer) vision of the character in mind, Gosling told The Hollywood Reporter. "We didn't talk very much during the preproduction process, which was the problem," the actor said. "It was a huge movie, and there's so many things to deal with, and he couldn't deal with the actors individually. I just showed up on set, and I had gotten it wrong. Then I was fat and unemployed." Mark Wahlberg took on the role of the grieving father.
Edward Norton, The Avengers
At this point, Mark Ruffalo is the only Bruce Banner-slash-Incredible Hulk that Marvel Cinematic Universe fans care about, but the series debuted the character with Edward Norton in the role. It wasn't until 2019 that Norton revealed what really happened in an interview with The New York Times, explaining why Hulk was recast for The Avengers. There were creative differences, he said, noting that he expected a "long, dark, and serious" journey for the character. But it was also a financial decision on Marvel's part, which is why Norton called the statement released about his departure—one that denied any "monetary factors"—"cheap … brand defensiveness."
Megan Fox, Transformers: Dark of the Moon
It's perhaps not surprising that Megan Fox was let go from the Transformers franchise after saying director Michael Bay "wants to be Hitler on his sets." But it's a little surprising that the ultimate decision came from executive producer Steven Spielberg, Bay told GQ in 2011. "The Hitler thing," he recalled. "Steven said, 'Fire her right now.'"
Terrence Howard, Iron Man 2
Like Edward Norton, Terrence Howard says he was let go from the MCU over a salary dispute. In an appearance on Watch What Happens Live, Howard told his side of the story: "It turns out that the person I helped become Iron Man … when it was time to re-up for the second one, [he] took the money that was supposed to go to me and pushed me out." Robert Downey Jr. has never commented on the role Howard believes he played in the recasting of James "Rhodey" Rhodes, but Don Cheadle took up the mantle in Iron Man 2, and has played War Machine ever since. And for more MCU history, discover 13 Marvel Movie Facts Even Massive MCU Fans Don't Know.
Judy Garland, Valley of the Dolls
Iconic star Judy Garland's firing from The Valley of the Dolls is well known Hollywood history. Lead Patty Duke—who played Neely O'Hara, a troubled actor-singer inspired by Garland herself—blamed director Mark Robson, and the "gentlemen around [Garland] who supplied her with wine and other things." As Duke recalled, "When she finally did get called to the set, she couldn't function very well … and she crumbled." The role of Helen Lawson ended up going to Susan Hayward.
Eric Stoltz, Back to the Future
Another one of the most infamous cinematic firings: Eric Stoltz had the indignity of filming for five weeks as Marty McFly before he was canned from Back to the Future and replaced by Michael J. Fox. According to Caseen Gaines' book on the making of the film, We Don't Need Roads, Stoltz simply took the role too seriously—going "method" in a way that irked the rest of the cast, and not bringing the humor and charm needed to make the movie work. And for more memorable departures, here are 13 TV Shows That Lost Their Stars.
Natalie Portman, Romeo + Juliet
A 1996 New York Times interview with Natalie Portman depicts her departure from Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet as a mutual decision, but it was brought on by 20th Century Fox studio executives deciding she looked too young for the part of the doomed Capulet. "Fox said it looked like Leonardo DiCaprio was molesting me when we kissed," Portman recalled, so she was replaced by Claire Danes, who was two years older.
Samantha Morton, Her
Scarlett Johansson memorably provided the voice of operating system Samantha in Her—essentially the film's romantic lead, alongside Joaquin Phoenix. But as director Spike Jonze revealed to Vulture, Samantha Morton had actually recorded the part, and was replaced in post-production. "Samantha was with us on set and was amazing. It was only in post production, when we started editing, that we realized that what the character/movie needed was different from what Samantha and I had created together," Jonze wrote. "So we recast and since then Scarlett has taken over that role."
Harvey Keitel, Apocalypse Now
Harvey Keitel was notoriously fired from Apocalypse Now a full six weeks into production, with the role of Captain Benjamin L. Willard going to Martin Sheen. Keitel said the experience led to him almost quitting acting entirely, given that he was "bad news in Hollywood. In fact, I found it hard to get any work at all." According to the film's editor Walter Murch, Keitel can actually be seen in one shot of the finished film. And for more notable firings, check out these 6 Celebrities Who Were Fired After Being Accused of Racism.
James Remar, Aliens
Character actor James Remar was cast in the role of Hicks in Aliens, but before the film could propel him to action movie stardom, he was fired. "I had a terrible drug problem, but I got through it. I had a great career and personal life, and messed it up with a terrible drug habit," Remar revealed on the podcast Sidebar, as reported by IndieWire. "I was initially cast as Corporal Hicks, and I was fired after a couple weeks of filming because I got busted for possession of drugs, and Michael Biehn replaced me."
Holly Hunter, Chicken Little
Zach Braff ended up voicing the title character in Disney's Chicken Little, but back when the character was conceived as female, acclaimed actor Holly Hunter had the part. Former chairman and CEO of Disney Michael Eisner simply said, "I don't want [Chicken Little] to be a girl, I want it to be a boy," producer Randy Fullmer told Collider. With that change, Hunter had to be let go.
Richard Gere, The Lords of Flatbush
In a 2006 interview with Ain't It Cool News, Sylvester Stallone explained what led to Richard Gere's firing from the set of The Lords of Flatbush. After a physical altercation, Stallone recalled, "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." And for more entertainment content delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Kevin Spacey, All the Money in the World
In one of the most notable firings of all time, Kevin Spacey was replaced in All the Money in the World after he'd already filmed the entire movie. Following sexual misconduct allegations against the actor first reported by BuzzFeed News, director Ridley Scott told The Guardian, "My decision was almost immediate. I said, 'We need to redo this.' I didn't agonize. I never dwell on a problem, only the solution." Scenes featuring J. Paul Getty were reshot with Christopher Plummer in the role, and the late actor ended up earning an Academy Award nomination for his performance.
Stuart Townsend, The Lord of the Rings
Aragorn could have looked a lot different in Peter Jackson's acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy. Irish actor Stuart Townsend was originally cast in the role before being replaced by Viggo Mortensen. "I was there rehearsing and training for two months, then was fired the day before filming began," Townsend told Entertainment Weekly (via the Irish Independent). "After that I was told they wouldn't pay me because I was in breach of contract due to not having worked long enough. I had been having a rough time with them, so I was almost relieved to be leaving until they told me I wouldn't be paid." According to Townsend, Jackson changed his mind and decided he needed an older actor to play the part.
Lori Petty, Demolition Man
While Demolition Man wasn't exactly a critical success, it was a showcase for up-and-coming star Sandra Bullock. However, Bullock wasn't the first actor to play Lieutenant Lenina Huxley. That would be Lori Petty, who was fired because of "creative differences," producer Joel Silver told Variety at the time. In his memoir, co-star Nigel Hawthorne wrote that Petty was cast when Bullock was unavailable. "Petty was then kept on standby for six weeks, following costume fittings and make-up tests, and then she was promptly fired," Film Stories summarized. And for more notable recastings, revisit these 16 TV Actors Who Were Replaced Like It Was No Big Deal.