Gary Oldman broke early and loudly with a tour de force performance as Sid Vicious in Alex Cox’s Sid and Nancy. It was only the fourth time the young actor appeared on screen, though it was very nearly the fifth. Years earlier, Don Boyd’s satiric Gossip ran out of money. It was to be Oldman’s screen debut, though production shut down long before they got around to filming any of his scenes.
One can only imagine the frustration of a young actor, hungry and game for anything. Having just come off the birthday clown circuit, awful experimental student films or the post-apocalyptic atmosphere of community theatre, they’ve risen through the ranks. They’ve fought their way past audition after audition, hallways lined with accidental lookalikes that seem more intimidating, more handsome, more camera-ready. And they’ve nailed it – their one or if they’re lucky two lines and thirty seconds of screen time in a two hour theatrical release. This is their moment to shine.
And all their effort is for naught, nixed at the whim of a tyrannical director or producer who found them superfluous, expendable.
And that ever-so elusive SAG card slips further out of reach. Here’s just a small sampling of actors, known or not, whose work was left in a heap of celluloid in the editing room.
16. Much of the cast of The Thin Red Line
Before filming his epic adaptation of James Jones’ autobiographical novel about the battle of the Guadalcanal, Terrence Malick took a long, contemplative walk across the entire Southwest. His only contact with the film’s producers were what could only have been ranting, barely coherent calls he made via pay phones during his trek. Malick may have discovered what he believed to be the meaning of his film, but he certainly didn’t figure out the structure or cast.
His 20-year absence from filmmaking attracted the biggest names in Hollywood, including an offer from Sean Penn to simply pay him one dollar and tell him where to show up.
As a result, the film plays like a series of lovingly photographed but borderline-schizophrenic vignettes. During filming, Adrien Brody appeared to have the most lines and scenes. When he showed up at the film’s premiere, he was shocked to see his role had been reduced to a few crowd shots and some mumbled dialogue. He wasn’t the only one. Billy Bob Thornton had recorded a voice-over that was never used, John Travolta and George Clooney appear in what amounts to cameos, and most famously, Mickey Rourke, Bill Pullman and Lukas Haas were cut entirely.
15. Michelle Monaghan – Syriana, Constantine
Michelle Monaghan seems to be an actress who can’t seem to find a fitting role that would lead her to stardom. After decent work in Ben Affleck‘s Gone Baby Gone and an endearing performance in the cult favourite Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, one would imagine she’d be on to bigger projects. Her trajectory, however, seems to have settled comfortably in between reputable television (True Detective, The Path) and small roles in major films (Mission Impossible III).
Neither of her two cut roles would have done much for her career that Monaghan hasn’t done since. In Constantine, she played a demon half-breed who served as a love interest for Keanu Reeves‘ demon slaying detective. In screenwriter Stephen Gaghan’s directorial debut Syriana, she was to play opposite George Clooney in an unspecified role.
14. Jena Malone – Batman V. Superman
Not being associated with Zack Snyder‘s long-anticipated superhero brawl almost seems like a small kindness to an actress. It’s a bloated, incoherent mess of a film, with a narrative flow that keeps taking bizarre segues and inexplicable character decisions. Malone, who established her indie cred early opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko, originally had a small role as a S.T.A.R. Labs researcher who analyzes a bullet for reporter Lois Lane.
13. Mick Jagger and Jason Robards – Fitzcarraldo
As if Werner Herzog’s ambitious, troubled production didn’t have enough problems from natives and an insane lead actor. Jason Robards was initially cast as the dreamer who would stop at nothing (including carrying a boat over a hill) to bring opera to the Amazon, with Mick Jagger as his assistant Wilbur.
Robards fell ill from dysentery early in production, and Jagger’s limited shooting availability before he had to return to tour with The Rolling Stones expired. Production was halted until Klaus Kinski agreed to fill in.
12. James Van Der Beek – Storytelling
Todd Solondz’s bleak, controversial and darkly funny film is broken up in two parts. In “Fiction”, Selma Blair plays a young creative writer destroyed by a professor with whom she sleeps and is subsequently shamed during class. “Non-Fiction” deals with a dysfunctional family and a failed documentary-filmmakers attempts to create a narrative.
A third, ultimately discarded story, entitled “Autobiographical”, involved James Van Der Beek as a gay football player who has a rather explicit affair with a man. This third segment was cut from the final release. Solondz continues to make upsetting, though thoroughly interesting films.
11. Paul Rudd – Bridesmaids
Comedies rely on timing, a momentum built on laughter and pitch-perfect delivery. So it’s somewhat of a surprise that the works of talent-wrangler Judd Apatow and his band of directors, writers and improv actors work as well as they do – particularly due to their length. Even without the extended cuts available on DVD (all of which run over 2 hours), an Apatow production is doubtlessly going to be overlong – the antithesis to a well-crafted joke.
Of his directors, Paul Feig seems to be the most skilled at brevity. Bridesmaids – while still 2 hours, knew when it was time to cut. Originally, as Kristen Wiig‘s Annie first attempts to get back in the dating world, she has a disastrous evening with an abrasive know-it-all played by Paul Rudd. Audiences didn’t take to Rudd playing against his charming, affable persona, and the film was already pushing it time-wise, so he was excised.
10. Chris Cooper – The Ring
When Chris Cooper accepted his role in Gore Verbinski‘s J-horror remake, he was months away from breaking big for his Oscar-winning performance as crazed orchid hunter John Laroche in Adaptation. Cooper played a convicted child killer interviewed by Naomi Watts‘ heroine. After Watts is tortured by outdated home entertainment, she meets with Cooper one last time to pass a copy of the cursed VHS tape along.
Cooper has always had a commanding on-screen presence and test audiences couldn’t get enough of his creepy villain. They demanded to know more about him. As a result, he would have to wait until that December of 2002 for Adaptation before he became a household name.
9. Ashley Judd – Natural Born Killers
Oliver Stone‘s turgid, over-stylized reworking of Quentin Tarantino‘s screenplay probably left more celluloid in the editing room than most films on this list, but perhaps the most well-known deleted scene is Ashley Judd‘s witness testimony. Judd plays a woman traumatized by serial killing couple Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis‘ slaughter of her friends during a sleepover.
Harrelson freely wanders the courtroom as she testifies, in a surreal turn, cross-examining her and parading his lunacy in front of the jury. Ultimately, he stabs her through the heart.
Stone had to cut this due to time constraints, not because its just really silly.
8. Harrison Ford – E.T.
Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg were a runaway blockbuster team up throughout the ’80s. Today, Ford’s place in that duo seems to have been usurped by Tom Hanks, with Ford happily staying home, muttering to children to get off his lawn, and recklessly landing planes on golf courses.
7. Uma Thurman – Savages
At a certain point in life, a cinephile will wake to a startling realization: Oliver Stone is sort of terrible. For many, this came after his best days of JFK, Nixon and Platoon were well behind him. Perhaps audiences expected too much from his dull, surprisingly hollow biopic W., released while its subject was still in office. Perhaps we hoped he would recapture the chaos and commotion of the modern financial era as he did for the ’80s with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Whatever the case, he failed on every account. Savages, a melodramatic, supremely silly film set in the world of marijuana dealing, only served as further proof that he…well, sucks.
6. Harvey Keitel – Eyes Wide Shut
Stanley Kubrick‘s eye for detail is well-known for being both compulsive and enthralling. His final film holds the Guinness World Record for longest continuous shoot – a total of 400 days all told. Unfortunately, Harvey Keitel‘s schedule didn’t allow for him to stick around that long, and his role as Victor Ziegler was re-shot with late actor/director Sydney Pollack.
Jennifer Jason Leigh managed to film all her scenes as Marion Nathanson, however when Kubrick decided to do more re-shoots, her commitment to David Cronenberg’s Existenz didn’t allow her to return. She was replaced with Marie Richardson.
5. Andy Garcia – Dangerous Minds
Dangerous Minds will forever be remembered as a pulse-pounding drama in which a former Marine whips a group of disadvantaged, criminal students (in Hollywood, that often translates to “ethnic minority”) and fight corrupt principal Ernie Hudson to the death.
No, wait, that’s The Substitute. Dangerous Minds is the one with the Coolio song.
Originally, Michelle Pfeiffer‘s tough as nails teacher had a husband played by Andy Garcia. Oddly, this was not in the script. The producers called Garcia and offered him a Pay or Play contract. He still was paid, despite his scenes being removed.
4. Rachel Weisz – To The Wonder
Apart from a cinema verite documentary, no filmmaker seems to know less about what his final product will look like than Terrence Malick. It’s possible that during that 20-year-gap, Malick turned into a rambling maniac with a camera who still has the self-control to put together provocative, often gorgeous films. His work before and after the gap is markedly different – from the quiet restraint of the brilliant Badlands to the sprawling, sometimes over-reaching opus of The Tree of Life.
Unlike the cast of The Thin Red Line, Rachel Weisz was aware of the director’s tendency to cut out entire performances, so she wasn’t shocked when her role as Dinah – a close friend of Ben Affleck‘s – was removed before final cut.
3. Kevin Costner – The Big Chill
Technically, Kevin Costner is in Lawrence Kasdan’s much-maligned whiny baby boomer film, if you count photos in the background. In a sense, Costner is to blame for an entire generation of vitriol directed at The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” as it is his character’s death that leads the group of crybabies to spend the weekend together in the first place.
2. John Lithgow – L.A. Story
One of the funniest scenes in Steve Martin‘s hysterical retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is referenced repeatedly throughout the movie, but was ultimately scrapped. During cocktail parties and expensive, earthquake-afflicted brunches, the name Harry Zel is dropped repeatedly. Zel is supposed to be some kind of super agent to the stars, one from whom Martin’s wacky weatherman seeks advice. And Zel doesn’t disappoint. He comes to the meeting floating from Heaven.
1. Much of the cast of Cursed
The history of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson‘s non-Scream collaboration makes its title both multi-layered and apropos. Williamson’s script was vamped by the Weinstein Bros. and Dimension films, claiming it would re-invent the werewolf film in the same way Scream breathed fresh life into the slasher genre.
And then they saw it. Production on the film stopped and started for over a year, with several characters written out and added. Actors were forced to drop out due to oncoming schedule conflicts.
In all, only ten percent of the original script was actually filmed. The film’s casualties included Johnny Depp impersonator Skeet Ulrich, Omar Epps, Illeana Douglas, Heather Langenkamp, Corey Feldman and Mandy Moore. Craig Kilborn was also supposed to appear in a cameo, however by the time the film was released, his late night talk show host gig had been cancelled, replaced by Craig Ferguson.