Being an actor isn’t as easy as it looks. Sure, there’s the glamour, but film-making can be damn hard. It takes a lot of work (and a few lucky breaks) to make it to the big time. Actors go through a lot of stuff to keep their fame up, and that includes making sure they can handle the big movies. Many actors have gone from just another face to a blockbuster mega star with a role in the right film. Some of these roles aren’t even starring but rather a supporting role, which can lead to bigger stuff as well. All of this is, as long as you actually get into the movie.
It’s no secret that movies can change a lot as production goes. There are shifts in story-lines, some subplots being all together cut. Terrance Malick is infamous for shaping his movies as they go, so folks who signed to what they thought were major roles find out they’re almost nothing by the time the film comes out. You can understand the frustration – You show up, put up with makeup, costume, and rehearsals, shoots and reshoots, sometimes for months on end and it turns out to be all for nothing.
At least DVDs have given some of these performances a chance to be seen, but it must still be annoying that, for so many actors, their attempts to do a good job end up being nothing in the final product. A famous case is Eric Stoltz, who was the original choice for Marty McFly in Back to the Future but was replaced by Michael J. Fox. It varies from case to case. Some actors were cut massively, while others never showed up at all save for DVD or “extended cuts.” They range from actors little known at the time to true mega-stars in movies that run among the biggest imaginable. Here are 20 of cases of actors who found their work hitting the cutting room floor, and how getting ahead in the entertainment industry doesn’t always work if you can’t get in the picture itself.
20. Christopher Lee – The Return of the King
One of the best casting coups of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was getting veteran bad-guy actor Christopher Lee to play the evil wizard Saruman. With his deep voice and sinister build, Lee was great in the role. This was built up to be a major deal, as Saruman organizes orc armies to attack humanity. Thus, it was a bit jarring that in The Return of the King, he never appears, with the explanation of Saruman simply held prisoner in his tower. It was more baffling that images had surfaced online years before of Lee seemingly impaled, leaving fans believing his death scene should have been in the theatrical cut. Peter Jackson would make it a highlight of the extended version DVD, but it still seems off that a character built up big in the first two movies can be dismissed in the third.
19. Ashley Judd – Natural Born Killers
A movie exploding with controversy before it even hit theaters, Natural Born Killers took shots (literally and metaphorically) on modern society, the judicial system and the media with Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as a pair of killers glamorized for fame. The movie underwent numerous edits, not just because of Oliver Stone’s famed pickiness but due to studio concerns about getting a less brutal rating. Among the cuts was Ashley Judd, who’d shot several scenes as a waitress who testifies about the brutal murder spree of the main characters. This was a major bit that lasted nearly ten minutes. While it was good showing their antics, Stone ultimately decided to cut it out for time. He also cut a scene of Denis Leary as a conspiracy nut. Judd went on to have a great career afterward, but it is still notable how one of her early bigger parts in a major film was left out.
18. Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain and Amanda Peet – To The Wonder
Terrance Malick is acclaimed as a fantastic director and storyteller so a role in his movies is something many actors want to score. Of course, keeping said role is something else, as Malick is also famous for shaping his movies as they go and prone to dropping entire plotlines mid-production. To the Wonder is a great example, as the romance is hailed for its visuals but slammed for its story about various people connecting around the world. It has a great cast of Javier Bardem, Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams but the original cast was even bigger. Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain, and Amanda Peet all filmed scenes, but all of them were dropped from the final film. Given the movie’s poor reception, Malick might have been better off giving some of those roles a second chance.
17. Linda Hunt – Maverick
In one of his books, famed screenwriter William Goldman talks about his favorite scene in the western Maverick being when Linda Hunt, as a wild Indian savage woman who turns out to be a smart gal, helps Mel Gibson’s title character out with an adventure. Goldman then goes, “Oh, you don’t remember her?” He then launches into a discussion of how and why you can go to the trouble of shooting a scene only to have it dropped. He hated to do it as he really like the Oscar-winning Hunt and thought her performance was great but agreed the movie needed a bit of trimming to flow better. Still, it showed how Hunt is capable of making any role her own nicely.
16. Sam Kinison – Three Amigos
Dying far too soon in a car accident in 1992, Kinison was known for his wild comedic style of screaming out and winning fans over with his craziness. After stealing the show with his cameo in Back to School, Kinison was signed onto a role in Three Amigos. The comedy stars Steve Martin, Martin Short and Chevy Chase as movie actors mistaken for their on-screen heroes of a Western adventure. Kinison was cast as a wild mountain man who runs into the trio and turns out to be a cannibal, giving them a chase. While his performance was said to be hysterical, it, as well as scenes of Fran Drescher, were cut from the final film and sadly, the footage appears to have been lost completely. Had he been included, Kinison’s film career might have been bigger before his sad end.
15. Rob Lowe – Austin Powers
The fun of the Austin Powers movies is how it sends up the conventions of the James Bond-style spy films. The first movie was intended to skewer the tendency to kill off the flunkies of the bad guy with scenes showing the loved ones of those unnamed goons reacting to their deaths. One such case was a guy simply named “John Smith” dropped into an acid pool. It then cuts to a Hooters restaurant as Lowe would be leading a bachelor party waiting for “Smitty” to send him off on his wedding day. Lowe gets a call telling him of Smith’s death and breaks the news to the others who toast their friend. Like the other “loved ones” scenes, it was cut from the final movie. The good news is that Lowe made such an impact he was cast in a big part in the sequel, to make this a “lost role” that led to bigger things down the line.
14. Sienna Miller – White Mass
White Mass was seen as Johnny Depp’s return to more “serious” work as he played infamous mobster Whitey Bulger. The supporting cast was top notch with Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, and Sienna Miller as Catherine Greig, the woman who spent 16 years on the run with Bulger. Miller talked of studying up on a proper Boston accent to make it work and enjoying the part, even if it was smaller than others. As it turned out, director Scott Cooper elected to cut her scenes totally, not wanting to focus on Bulger’s time as a fugitive and thus Miller’s preparation was for nothing. A shame to lose a sexy presence in any case and after her hard work for it.
13. Genevieve O’Reilly – Revenge of the Sith
She only had a few minutes of screen time in Return of the Jedi but Mon Mothma became quite popular with Star Wars fans as the stern leader of the Rebellion. In Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas did scenes where Padme is leading resistance to Palpatine’s move to dictatorship and, naturally, had a younger Mothma, played by O’Reilly who bore a striking resemblance to original actress Caroline Blakiston. But perhaps pushed by fan complaints of “too much politics,” the scenes were cut, showing up on the DVD. Apparently, someone at Lucasfilm has a long memory, as O’Reilly will be playing the role in the upcoming Rogue One film, showing good things do come to those who wait.
12. Kevin Costner – The Big Chill
A pretty famous example was back in 1981 when Costner was nowhere near the big star he would become. 1983’s The Big Chill has a group of former friends reuniting when a classmate, Alex, commits suicide. Much of the movie has them talking about the guy and his impact but he’s never shown. Originally, however, Costner was cast as Alex with a framing device of him slashing his wrists and the idea of popping up now and then in flashback. The latter was dropped although the opening of his suicide was filmed by Lawrence Kasdan. Kasdan decided it would be better to just have Alex talked of and not shown. While a shot of his body from afar was Costner, the rest of his footage was scrapped. For years, fans have begged for a DVD release to have those deleted scenes but Kasdan has refused and thus, this remains the great unwatched role of Costner’s career and legendary among deleted performances.
11. Paul Rudd – Bridesmaids
Bridesmaids has taken on the mantle of a modern-day comedy classic with great performances all around to provide tons of laughs. The Blu-Ray is even more prominent for having deleted scenes and extended cuts that show it was even wilder in its original going. This includes a scene of Kristin Wiig’s character set up on a blind date with Rudd, who appears a nice and quiet guy. As the date goes on, Rudd starts to lose his temper more and more, flying off the handle in a massive rant at children, as Wiig just stares baffled. It’s hysterical and such but easy to see why it was cut for pacing. It does showcase how, even in an already funny film, Rudd manages to totally steal the show.
10. Nicolas Cage – Fast Times At Ridgemont High
Cage’s career has been built on various quirky and odd roles, yet one of the bigger ones was never shown to the public. In the classic comedy Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Cage was cast as “Brad’s Bud,” one of the co-workers at a fast food joint for Judge Reinhold’s character. Originally, Cage (credited as “Nicholas Coppola”) had some funny stuff showing the guy as a goofball slacker of the highest order and getting some attention. In the end, director Amy Heckerling decided to drop it all as a distraction. Cage can be seen a bit in the final product with a single shot of him in the background when Brad gets into a fight with his boss, but the future Oscar-winner’s career could have had a much more prominent start if this role had been kept in.
9. Uma Thurman – Savages
Savages was mostly ignored by audiences but recognized as one of the better latter efforts of Oliver Stone. The storyline focused on Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as drug dealers who get massively in over their heads, and Blake Lively as the girlfriend soon dragged into this. Thurman had several big scenes as Lively’s mother, a drug addict herself who gets into her own trouble. Much was made of her reuniting on film with John Travolta and boosted the early promotion. The final film had none of her scenes, as Stone felt they were better cut off to keep the movie’s length a bit leaner. It’s a shame as Thurman and Lively together would have been one of the hotter mother/daughter duos on film in recent years.
8. Shailene Woodley – The Amazing Spider-Man 2
After coming to fame in the TV series The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Woodley started moving to movie fame with The Descendants and then the blockbuster Divergent series. Thus, she seemed to have the star power to join the cast of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Mary Jane Watson, who Spidey fans know to be Peter Parker’s future girlfriend. Woodley shot several weeks of scenes of Mary Jane at school, setting up a possible love triangle with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. However, all of her scenes ended up being cut from the overly long movie with the announcement they would be integrated into the planned third film. That, of course, never happened as ASM2 under-performed so much that Sony soon sold the rights back to Marvel to get their own Spider-Man going with Tom Holland. Thus, Woodley has nothing to show for taking time out for several weeks but hey, the entire series was pretty much doomed so maybe she’s better off.
7. Tom Hiddleston – Age of Ultron
From the moment he first took on the role of Loki in Thor, Hiddleston was stealing the show as a wicked villain who fans loved to hate. He was the main foe in The Avengers to help rocket it to stardom and continued to dominate in Thor the Dark World. So it makes some sense that during a scene in Age of Ultron, where Thor sees a vision of Asgard, Loki would pop in briefly. The idea was him just passing by Thor to taunt him but give an important clue on the Infinity Stones to push the plot up. However, Joss Whedon felt that Loki had been too big a deal already and his appearance might muddle the storyline, making fans think he was more involved than he was, so it was cut. You can be sure Hiddleston will be making a return down the line much bigger than this cameo.
6. Chris Cooper – The Ring
2002 saw the veteran character actor finally reaching the big time, winning an Oscar for his role in Adaptation and entering the limelight, but Cooper could have added a big box office hit to his resume had his role in The Ring been kept in. A remake of a Japanese smash, the horror movie starred Naomi Watts, as a reporter who starts the film interviewing Cooper, who plays a twisted serial killer in jail, bragging about his deeds. After barely escaping a cursed tape that kills whoever watches it, the movie would end with Watts handing the tape to Cooper’s character to watch, finding it a fitting fate for the murderer. It was cut for pacing but still worth tracking down to imagine Cooper amid this horror classic.
5. Jena Malone – Batman v Superman
One of the biggest complaints of Batman v Superman is how it attempts to cram so many DC Comics characters into one go. Amazingly, the original cut had even more, as Malone was cast in a “mystery role” that was meant to be a big deal only to have it announced she was cut from the final movie. It’s now come out that Malone would be playing Barbara Gordon with the idea of her becoming Batgirl in a spin-off movie. Photos have been shown and the planned “extended cut” of the movie will integrate those scenes but some might argue that Malone got a break being left out of what’s seen as a major fan and critical disappointment and her future work in this franchise up in the air.
4. Tobey Maguire – Empire Records and Life of Pi
Maguire has two entries on this list. First, he was cast in a small role in the 1995 cult movie Empire Records, as a nutty customer. That didn’t make it into the final film, which was not a huge deal as the role was small and Maguire wasn’t a name then.
Much different was 2012’s Life of Pi, as Maguire was filmed as a reporter in the framing device to set up the main storyline. However, after filming was done, Ang Lee decided to scrap all that footage, thinking Maguire’s star power would be too much of a distraction for the part. He reshot the scenes with Rafe Spall. He may have been a good Spider-Man but that hasn’t saved Maguire from ending up cut out of several movies.
3. Leonardo DiCaprio (And Others) – The Thin Red Line
To The Wonder was one thing but The Thin Red Line might well be the ultimate example of why you never trust Terrance Malick with a role. This World War II epic was in development for years, only to be a grueling shoot for those involved as Malick still shaping the storyline as it went.
The first cut was five hours long so no surprise some edits had to be made. In the process, Malick cut out numerous performances, Adrien Brody watching as his starring role was cut down to only a few minutes of screen time. At least he got in, though! Bill Pullman, Lukas Haas and Mickey Rourke saw their roles totally cut out. Rourke is the only one included in the movies’ Blu-Ray releases. Also, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Robert Redford, and Leonardo DiCaprio were among the bigger names who shot scenes that never made it into the final cut either. If this director’s cut is ever released, expect to see one of the biggest casts who never made the final product ever.
2. Michelle Monaghan – Unfaithful, Syraina and Constantine
A lovely and talented actress, Monaghan earns a high spot for how she had not one but three big roles in movies cut out of the final film. First, her role in Unfaithful as Richard Gere’s secret paramour was dropped from the final film to focus the plot elsewhere. Then, she was cast in the Oscar-winning Syraina, as a pageant queen who gets involved with an Arab oilman. That was cut for complicating the already complex plotline. The topper is Constantine, as she played a half-demon with an on/off relationship with Keanu Reeves’ title demon hunter but it was cut to nothing for the final picture. While she’s had success in various movies, Monaghan had some bad luck with sexier roles on the editing room floor.
1. Harrison Ford – E.T.
One would think Steven Spielberg would do most anything with Harrison Ford again after making Raiders of the Lost Ark a massive hit. To that end, Spielberg cast Ford in a role as the principal for E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The part would have Ford shot from behind, his face hidden as Spielberg wanted this more a child’s movie, but his voice would be unmistakable as he talks to Elliot about his issues in school and tries to give warm advice. It ended up cut and something of a legend until the 20th anniversary Blu-Ray finally showed it. Interesting how Ford could have added yet another major blockbuster hit to his impressive resume.