The amount of work, passion, and commitment that goes into making a movie is monumental. And as films are created, sometimes changes are needed to be made. While in some cases it might be a problem with the director or the writer or the producers of any given film, it can also be the fault of the on-screen talent. Sometimes an actor just isn’t the right pick for the role, and another star has to be brought in to really make the movie shine. Sometimes it can be something as simple as time constraints getting in the way of a gig, or even life changes like becoming pregnant.
In some cases, it can even be because of the off-screen antics of the actor, ranging everything from drug possession to much worse crimes. But whatever the case, some of the biggest movies of the last thirty years were originally going to be radically different. It’s crazy to imagine how things might have played out differently if these original choices for the films had remained a part of the production, and audiences hadn’t introduced to different kinds of stars. We could have lost out on some of the biggest stars that the world has grown to love over the last couple of decades, all thanks to one actor getting a specific role at the last second in lieu of someone else. Here are smash hit films that ended up firing actors from major roles and replacing them at the last second.
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15 Dougray Scott – X-Men
Hugh Jackman may have been semi-famous in his home Australia during the early days of his career, but playing Wolverine (a.k.a. the guy with knife-hands who constantly punches ninjas and robots in the name of equality because X-Men is the best thing ever) ended up turning Jackson into an overnight bonafide global movie star. But the role didn’t initially go to Jackman, or was even offered to him. Producers only learned about him when they approached Russell Crowe for the role. Crowe turned the role down after learning he wouldn’t be paid his ideal rate, but suggested Jackman. But the producers ended up casting Dougray Scott instead. Everything looked like it would work out, until Scott revealed he had already been cast in the second Mission Impossible film and could therefore not sign onto to the scheduled X-Men sequel. Fox fired him on the spot, and gave the role to Jackman.
14 Anne Hathaway – Knocked Up
Knocked Up was one of the biggest successes of Judd Apatow in the mid-2000s. It shot Seth Rogen to the top of the comedy world, and helped the world realize how much it did not care for Katherine Heigl. But Heigl actually only got the part because a much more popular actress ended up being let go from the production. Anne Hathaway was actually the original actress cast for the romantic comedy about a lazy schlub and an ambitious entertainment reporter who ends up pregnant after a drunken one-night stand. Hathaway ultimately didn’t care for how graphic the climactic birthing scene was being set up to be, and had a fall out with writer/director Apatow over the issue. Apatow ended up cutting her from the film, and her role went to Heigl.
13 Megan Fox – Transformers 3
Megan Fox rose to prominence in large part due to the success of the first two Transformers movies. Despite the fact that they are all horrible, the movies were instant successes, and made a ton of money when they released in the 2000s. Fox became a s*x symbol in record time, and was plastered across teenage bedrooms all around the world. But not content with the working conditions with director Michael Bay, Fox became increasingly candid in interviews. She revealed she’d gotten the role only after she agreed to wash Bay’s car in her bikini, and she even went so far as to compare Bay to Hitler. This didn’t exactly sit well with Steven Spielberg, who was an executive producer on the series. So when it came time for the third film, Fox's character was cut and replaced by the more agreeable Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
12 Sylvester Stallone – Beverly Hills Cop
Sylvester Stallone has been a major factor in Hollywood ever since the little boxing movie he wrote and starred in, Rocky, became one of the most famous sports films in the world. It was a massive success when it first came out, and helped transform Stallone into one of the premier film stars of the 1980s. Stallone was considered for everything back then, even films that now seem ridiculous to consider him for. Take Beverly Hills Cop, which was always meant to have some touches of lightness and comedy. But Stallone (and his image) tried to force the movie to become a harsher, more violent and serious film. The producers disagreed with the take and split up with Stallone over the differences in opinion. In the end, they refocused more into the comedic elements when they cast then-upcoming comedy actor Eddie Murphy and ended up with a massive film on their hands for their work.
11 Edward Norton – Avengers
Edward Norton is an incredibly gifted actor and creator. He’s also notoriously difficult to work with. The stories of his feud with American History X’s director Tony Kaye became the stuff of Hollywood feud legend, and his antics behind and in front of the camera have gotten him quite the reputation in Hollywood. This reputation extended all the way to Incredible Hulk, the second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Norton brought a lot of intensity and pathos to the character, and while the movie itself might be fairly boring, it’s never because of Norton. But, as always, it was reported that he was a bit of a terror behind the scenes of the movie, bickering with Marvel over their direction of the film. So when Joss Whedon arrived to direct the first Avengers and heard all the stories about Norton, he decided the actor wasn’t worth the trouble and fired him, replacing him with Mark Ruffalo in the part.
10 William H. Macy – Finding Nemo
William H. Macy has been a proverbial “Hey, it’s THAT guy” actor for years. He often fills supporting roles in major films and transforms the character into something bigger than it could have been. But he doesn’t usually get that many lead roles, with one of the saddest breaks for him coming with 2003’s Pixar smash hit animated film, Finding Nemo. Macy was initially cast as Martin, the lead clown fish who heads off on a cross-ocean search to find his missing son. But Macy proved to be too much of a straight man in the early days of pre-production, and he was let go from the part. He was replaced with Albert Brooks, who used his extensive voiceover experience from The Simpsons to turn in a fun but emotionally resonant performance as the fish. Poor Macy. At least he’ll always have Thank You For Smoking.
9 Terrance Howard – Iron Man 2
During the first Iron Man movie, Robert Downey Jr. blasts off for the climatic battle thanks to the help of his close friend and USAF Colonel, Jim Rhodes (played by Terrance Howard). Rhodes turns to another suit, and bemoans “Next time, baby.” Only, for Howard, next time never came. He demanded that his salary be raised up and beyond that of even Downey for the sequel, so Marvel removed him from the film and replaced him with Don Cheadle, who’s been in the part ever since. Too bad for Howard – the next film did see Rhodes get his own suit in the form of the War Machine armor, and the character has gone on to play some strong supporting roles in the following Avengers and Captain America films.
8 Samantha Morton – Her
British actress Samantha Morton has appeared in a variety of impressive and well-received films and series over the course of her career. She’s appeared in everything from historical dramas to indie flicks to big budget action adventures. But one role she never got to complete was Her, the odd romantic story of a man falling in love with an operating system. Created by Spike Jonez, the film was an immediate smash, with Scarlett Johansson in the role of the computer system that learns love through her experience with a lonely man. But Morton was the original pick for the part, and even went as far as to record dialogue for the role. But as the movie was being produced, it was decided that she just wasn’t the right pick for the role and the entire film was redone to fit in Scarlett. But Morton left on good terms with Jonez, and remains an associate producer on the film.
7 Tim Curry – Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm
This one also applies to the animated television series. Spinning off the successful animated series, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is one of the best takes on the character ever attempted, and even manages to give him a love interest who’s actually engaging, a historical challenge of the Batman films. Chief to the plot is (of course) the Joker, who was initially meant to be played by Tim Curry. Curry’s sinister yet theatric delivery of every line would have been beautiful, but it wasn’t meant to be. It turned out the maniacal laugh Curry wanted for the Joker just ruined his throat, and made it difficult to record any further dialogue for the day after he belted it out. And since he was playing, you know, The Joker, his ability to laugh a lot was paramount to the role. So Curry was (reluctantly) let go from the production and replaced by Mark Hamill, whose own take on the character ended up becoming so iconic that he still voices him to this day.
6 Lindsay Lohan – The Other Side
Lindsay Lohan has had a – let’s be charitable – very scattershot career. She was a very successful child actress and set expectations high as she entered her teenage years. But her attempts to go rebellious backfired and she found herself on bender after bender, losing what goodwill she had managed to get from the general populace. In the late 2000s, she attempted a comeback and was slated to appear in a number of films – many of which fell apart. One of them was her role in The Other Side, which would have seen her as a grad student stuck on a desert island. The financial backs for the film ultimately didn’t think she was bankable enough to endorse, and she was removed from the production.
5 Christian Bale – American Psycho
This one might seem strange, what with the final film actually starring Christian Bale. But it turns out it was a bit of a bumpy road that led Bale to finally getting the part. He was the first person cast in the role. It was an exciting prospect for the budding movie star, until all of a sudden it wasn’t. Producers fired him after learning they might have a chance to nab Leonardo DiCaprio for the part. Bale was booted, and DiCaprio briefly considered taking the part. In the end, though, he had some fundamental problems with the script and ultimately decided that he didn’t want to take the part. This left the producers in a bind. They attempted to get Ewan McGregor for the part, but he wasn’t even all that interested in the story. This left them forced to return to Bale (presumably with their tails between their legs) to try and get him back onto the picture. Bale signed back on, and it turned out to be one of the scariest movies about Yuppies ever made.
4 Stephen Collins – Ted 2
Sometimes, actors are fired from films due to scheduling conflicts. Sometimes, it’s for creative differences or even disrespect on set. And sometimes, it’s because that actor turned out to be all kinds of horrible. Take Stephen Collins, the former patriarch of 7th Heaven. He was originally slated to appear in Seth MacFarlane’s Ted 2. But in 2014, audio leaked that implied Collins had abused a minor. The LAPD investigated the matter, and it came to light that Collins had committed the crime with at least three different underage girls over the course of thirty years. He was quickly dropped from Ted 2 (as well as pretty much everything else he was set to be involved in), which sounds about right for a guy who did that.
3 Annette Benning – Batman Returns
Batman Returns had a surprisingly hard time casting Catwoman, all things considered. But considering this was following the success of the 1989 Batman film (which broke just all the records when it released), it’s to be expected that the producers of the movie would want the sequel to be perfect. Sean Young, who’d been cut from the first film, even showed up at the Warner Bros. lot in a homemade Catwoman costume in an ill-conceived attempt to win the role. The part was finally offered to Annette Benning, who was by far director Tim Burton’s favorite actress for the part. But then Benning found out she was pregnant, and broke the news to Burton. Rather than work around it, Warner Bros ended up firing her from the role and were able to finally pressure Burton into casting Michelle Pfeiffer (their pick for the character) in the film.
2 Eric Stoltz – Back To The Future
Back to the Future has become one of those movies that everyone knows about, even if they haven’t seen it. Everyone has seen the DeLorean, after all. But one of the most important elements of the movie was almost completely different. Director Robert Zemeckis always wanted the lead role of Marty McFly to go to Michael J. Fox. But due to his prior responsibilities to the television series Family Ties, the studios pressured Zemeckis to instead cast Eric Stoltz in the role. Four weeks into production, though, Zemickis was convinced that Stoltz just didn’t have the comedic timing for the role and had him removed from the film. Zemeckis replaced him with (the now available) Michael J. Fox, and the two turned out a sci-fi/comedy masterpiece.
1 James Remar – Aliens
Aliens is the sequel to Ridley Scott’s perfect sci-fi horror, Alien. And instead of trying to replicate the scares of the original, new director James Cameron went bigger and louder instead. The sequel turned out to be much more of an action film than its predecessor was, and was plain old awesome in its own unique way. One of the main new roles in the film is Col. Hicks, one of the few reasonable space marines in the film and sorta-love interest to our heroine, Ripley. James Remar was initially cast in the role, but lost it before filming ever began. While training with the stage guns, Remar accidentally shot off his shotgun and put a hole in the set of another filming next door, Little Shop of Horrors. And when he was caught in possession of drugs, he was quickly fired from the role and replaced with Michael Biehn, who’d previously worked with Cameron on the first Terminator.
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