Making movies is no easy task. From managing huge budgets to people on set just being divas, the pressure to spin a tale convincingly and get the fans in theaters to watch can be a big weight on anyone’s shoulder.
Movie sets are a haven for frayed nerves and flaring tempers. Film production companies are notorious for firing staff at the drop of a hat. Many celebrities have been kicked off the movies they were starring in.
Sometimes, people barely take notice as egos get kicked off the shoot early in production, and an astute director finds a way to work in a new actor. Other times, they are noticeably absent, and the movie finds a way to kill them off.
The age-old excuse is to ascribe such firing to ‘artistic differences’. A seasoned actor may have his own ideas while the consummate director has a script he is bent on sticking to, leading to an inevitable clash. In some cases, it’s just really bad form on one person’s part, thanks to some really dumb decisions.
Megan Fox lost her place in Transformers: Age of Extinction for comparing director Michael Bay to Hitler. The film’s executive producer, Steven Spielberg, was having none of that and got her booted off the movie. Lindsay Lohan got the heave-ho from Georgia Rule for constantly showing up late. Movies are on a very strict schedule and one person choosing to be a diva just won’t work.
Regardless of genre, many movies through cinematic history have had cast and crew replaced. The following are some of the directors that actually got the boot – often while shooting!
10. Richard Thorpe – The Wizard of Oz
This classic was steeped in controversy from the beginning. Snafus included the problem with getting over a hundred little people for the Munchkinland sequences, Margaret Hamilton being badly burnt during the making of the Munchkinland scene, a deletion of the “Over the Rainbow” score in post-production and so much more.
Richard Thorpe waded into the fray and took over filming in October 1938. He shot Dorothy’s meeting with the Tin Man and some scenes around the Wicked Witch’s castle. He was booted off nine days in, due to ‘creative differences’
The producer felt Thorpe was rushing through the scenes and hindering the actors performances. One major difference was that he had Dorothy looking more mature, with heavy makeup and a blond wig.
After two more directors, The Wizard of Oz became the classic we know and love.
9. Richard Stanley – The Island of Dr. Moreau
Following a decade-long career as a director, Richard Stanley was given the chance to bring H.G Wells’ novel to life. He even got the chance to write the screenplay for the remake. However, his directorial duties didn’t last past the first three days of shooting.
This wasn’t because he suddenly started to badger actors like Stanley Kubrick did Robert Duvall on the set of The Shining. On the contrary, Stanley was canned because he didn’t seem to be able to keep actors in line, especially one actor, Val Kilmer.
Soon after resuming on set, Kilmer decided he just didn’t feel like reading much and wanted less screen time. Other kooky behavior included turning up on set two days late and asking for unrelated props to be used in scenes.
Stunned by the demands of Kilmer, other actors, most notably Marlon Brando, wouldn’t stand for it. Frequent arguments on set led to complaints to New Line Cinema. With deadlines looming, New Line opted to fire Stanley for not keeping the actor in line.
8. Alex Cox – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Repo Man director Alex Cox was hired by Rhino Studios in 1992 to direct an adaptation of the Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo novel.
Writing the screenplay went smoothly, until the movie got to pre-production. He had creative differences with producer Laila Nabulsi. This stemmed from Cox’s desire to recreate the ‘wave speech scene’ in an animated format.
Thompson strongly rejected this idea. Shooting the movie was also ‘hampered’ by the presence of Nabulsi, who had an arrangement with the author to produce the movie. The amount of disagreements led to Cox getting booted off the set. The movie was finally made with Terry Gilliam at the helm.
7. John G. Avildsen – Saturday Night Fever
John Travolta‘s 1977 American dance film came to life under the guidance of John Badham. However, it was originally supposed to be shot under the watchful eye of John Avildsen.
Fresh from directing Jack Lemmon to an Oscar for 1973’s Save the Tiger, Avildsen was keen to do another morally charged blockbuster. However, producer Robert Stigwood wanted a less cynical and more upbeat tone to the disco movie. Rather than develop a workaround to the script, Stigwood had Avildsen fired three weeks into post production. The Saturday Night Fever fans grew to love was very narrowly a completely different movie.
6. Philip Kaufman – The Outlaw Josey Wales
People get fired for dumb comments and silly actions. Misguided interests can be added to the list. This 1976 western was adapted for the big screen by Philip Kaufman and Sonia Cherrus.
Creative differences between lead actor Clint Eastwood and Kaufman led to the director being relieved of his duties. Kaufman wanted to stick as closely to the character in the book as possible, while Eastwood had other ideas. Matters came to a head when it was discovered that they both had an interest in leading lady, Sondra Locke.
One day, whilst Kaufman went to get the ideal prop for a scene, Eastwood shot the scene without him and left Kaufman stranded on location. The frequent arguments finally culminated in Kaufman getting booted off set after two weeks.
The fact that Kaufman had completed all pre-production, shot most of the movie, and still got fired for ‘no reason’ led to a major clamor in the industry. This resulted in the passing of ‘the Clint Eastwood Rule’ to protect directors by fining movies for unfair dismissal.
5. Dick Richards – Jaws
The tale of the giant man-eating great white shark that terrorized Amity Island was brought to life by Steven Spielberg, but it didn’t start out like that. Jaws was scheduled to be directed by newbie director Dick Richards.
Maybe it was nerves, maybe he genuinely didn’t know, but Richards continuously referred to the great white as a whale. He called it that on set so much that the producers Zanuck and Brown fired him, replacing him with a very eager Steven Spielberg.
In 1986, Richards was brought in to replace another director on Burt Reynold’s movie Heat. Having run through five different directors within the first 30 days, the movie seemed close to never getting made. When he replaced Robert Altman, Richards found that he didn’t get along with lead Burt Reynolds. This animosity was so strong, that they supposedly came to blows on set at one point.
Richards returned to the set a while later, but fell off a camera crane. This landed him in hospital, unable to shoot, effectively getting himself fired again.
4. Kevin Jarre – Tombstone
Bringing the story of Wyatt Earp, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the Earp Vendetta Ride to life required a bunch of movie heavyweights. And with any gathering of the minds, egos will get in the way. This was no exception. It was further hampered by the fact that it was being shot by a first-time director, Kevin Jarre.
Despite the abandonment of the project by Kevin Costner, Jarre was determined to bring his screenplay to life. But there was one problem: everyone thought it was too long. So long in fact, that about 100 actors quit during the production. Insisting on maintaining the complexity of the movie and going over schedule, Jarre was finally fired from the project.
3. James Cameron – Piranha II: The Spawning
Another first time director, James Cameron was drafted to shoot the flying killer fish movie, but fell out with producer Ovidio Assonitis .
One early scene involved a closeup of actress Carole Davis. The weather around Jamaica, the location the movie was being filmed, led to him ‘wasting’ a whole day and still not getting the perfect shot. Assonitis promptly fired him (the same reason he fired the first director, Richard Miller).
The movie was plagued with other incidents, such as the language barrier between Cameron and the largely Italian cast and differences in opinion between Cameron and Assonitis.
2. Brenda Chapman – Brave
Vengeful producers and annoying actors aren’t solely found in the realm of old Westerns and horror movies. Animated movies have had their fair share of directors being fired. Pixar’s movie about a Scottish princess also had a directorial change.
Brenda Chapman developed the concept and story for Brave, and was slated to direct the movie, making her Pixar’s first female feature director. Citing creative differences a year into production, Pixar removed Chapman from her role and replaced her with director Mark Andrews. It all turned out well as she won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, though recognition as the director would have been the icing on the cake.
1. Josh Trank – Star Wars Spinoff
With the success of his first feature film, Chronicle, director Josh Trank became one of the youngest directors to have a film premiere at number one in the US box office. Mirroring greats like Spielberg and Cameron, his career as a director seemed set in stone.This feeling was echoed by 20th Century Fox when they announced that he would direct a Star Wars standalone movie about fan-favorite character Bobba Fett.
One year down the line, with production underway, Trank ‘left’ the production. Speculations were rife with stories about erratic behavior on the set of the Fantastic Four and his work directing both movies clashing. Trank says he left to “…do something original…”
People get fired ‘all the time’. Fear not, it happens to the best.