Most actors and actresses work for their entire lives in the hopes of making it big time, and many of them don’t wind up hitting it big despite working towards it for years. But once someone has made it to the highest echelon of success in the entertainment industry it seems like the industry is willing to give them dozens of chances in the hopes of recreating their initial successes, and often times they seem willing to put up with some pretty irritating and unsavory behavior in order to do that. However, even that tolerance for the sake of business has its limits, and sometimes a performer behaves so poorly that it doesn’t even make business sense to keep hiring them, regardless of their previous success or public profile.
But let’s be real, in a town full of divas and eccentrics you have to behave pretty darn badly for everyone in the entertainment industry to turn their backs on you. So out of those rare few who have managed to get themselves blackballed for their bad behavior, who are truly the worst of the worst offenders? Or on the flip side, who has gotten more than their fair share of second chances but still managed to blow them? It’s a pretty small and select list, but there are some pretty legendary firings in the Hollywood history books, and some of those firings feature some serial offenders. So which famous faces might wind up being remembered more for the work they were fired from than for the work they actually did?
15. Shannen Doherty
Shannen Doherty is a bit of a legend when it comes to on-set firings, since she has been canned twice from television shows that she was actually the lead actress for, and surprisingly it was the same boss to fire her both times. Doherty made a name for herself as a young actress on the hit teen soap opera Beverly Hills, 90210, playing the feisty Brenda Walsh. Apparently Doherty was really difficult to get along with though, and eventually her personal issues became such a problem that she was asked to leave the show. Aaron Spelling, the creator of 90210 actually wound up giving Doherty another chance, and he cast her as Prue Halliwell, the eldest sister on the WB hit show Charmed. Apparently Shannen wasn’t charming enough to make this gig work out either though, because eventually the animosity between Doherty and her co-stars Alyssa Milano and Holly Marie Combs became so great that Shannen was once again fired. And apparently Spelling knew he didn’t want her back this time, because her character was killed off and replaced with a long-lost half-sister instead.
14. Robert Downey Jr.
It’s kind of hard to imagine now that Robert Downey Jr. is at the helm of the most successful film franchise in Hollywood now, but there was a time that he was actually totally impossible to hire because of his serious drug and alcohol abuse problems. Robert had to be removed from multiple film and television sets, including his highly publicized firing from Ally McBeal. Downey Jr. actually wound up spending significant time in jail due to his addiction, and his career even got to the point where film and television studios were not willing to pay the super high insurance premiums required to have him legally work on set. After RDJ finally got clean Mel Gibson actually volunteered to front the insurance money so the actor could get working again. Obviously that was a pretty smart investment too, ever since his recovery Robert Downey Jr. has been one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood.
13. Lindsay Lohan
It honestly seems like Lindsay Lohan has been on a downward trajectory for almost half of her life now, and due to her more than decade long history of behavioral problems on set, most film and TV studios are unable or unwilling to pay the insurance premiums it would require to hire Lohan for any of their projects. It’s not as if Lindsay hasn’t had her fair share of chances, though. She had to be fired or quit about a half a dozen projects she was contracted for before hitting employment rock bottom. In one particularly notable incident Lindsay was even dressed down by screen legend and Georgia Rule co-star Jane Fonda in a letter the star wrote to admonish Lohan for her bad behavior and for constantly derailing the film’s shooting schedule. Her on-set and off-set behavior hasn’t improved much since, so now she doesn’t even have a set to be fired from.
12. Charlie Sheen
It might come as a shock, but Charlie Sheen, Mr. Winning himself, has actually been fired from jobs quite a few times because of his erratic behavior and substance abuse problems. In his most notorious firing he was canned from the CBS super smash sitcom Two and a Half Men, due to his bad behavior and feuding with show creator Chuck Lorre (a feud that actually continues to this day). Once Lorre was finished with Sheen’s shenanigans he decided to write him off in a particularly brutal and un-sitcom way, having his character actually get hit by a train. After his abrupt firing Sheen was almost immediately hired for another sitcom on FX called Anger Management, but the series didn’t last long either and considering its ratings it seems like FX vastly overpaid Sheen for the job. Sheen has really only made headlines for his nonstop antics, and his body of work has certainly suffered because of it.
11. Megan Fox
Megan Fox was a consistently working actor since her teenage years, but her big break came when Michael Bay cast her as the female lead character Mikaela Banes in his Transformers film franchise. Megan immediately started making waves because of her brash public attitude and wild statements in the press, and on the surface Bay seemed to be entertained by Fox’s antics. He may have just been holding his true feelings close to the vest though, because after one particularly shocking episode where Megan compared Michael Bay to Hitler, Fox’s character was pretty promptly written out of the film series and replaced with a new character played by Rosie Huntington Whiteley. Megan’s career hit the skids after her firing from Transformers, and she didn’t really start making films again until she kissed and made up with Michael Bay. It’s unclear how she got in his good graces again, but he cast her in his new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.
10. Edward Norton
Marvel seems to have always had a bit of trouble launching the Hulk as a character in their own movies and franchises, and Edward Norton was actually cast in the role of the character before Mark Ruffalo took over. Norton was the lead of The Incredible Hulk and apparently was under the impression that he’d be continuing with the franchise going forward. He even had discussions with The Avengers director Joss Whedon about what direction he wanted to take the character in for the upcoming films, but he was pretty abruptly fired and replaced with Mark Ruffalo. There has been no official explanation for the change, but Norton is a fairly notoriously difficult actor to work with, and The Incredible Hulk didn’t perform particularly well at the box office anyway. Not to mention, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk is really the first positively received film version of the Hulk that the MCU has managed to launch.
9. Anne Hathaway
Although the role wound up becoming Katherine Heigl‘s most iconic movie role (and even though Heigl wound up causing the film some trouble when she slammed it in the press) the role of Alison in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up originally went to Anne Hathaway. Hathaway was committed to the project, but apparently the super graphic childbirth scene was a little too graphic for Anne and she lobbied to have it removed. Apatow refused to edit it out, so Hathaway had to drop out of the project. Clearly Hathaway’s career didn’t suffer much because of the setback, and Knocked Up didn’t suffer because it lost Hathaway either. And wanting to avoid uncomfortably explicit scenes is understandable, but clearly Anne would have known about the scene when she initially signed on for the movie, right? Plus, I don’t think anyone was under the impression that they were actually watching Katherine Heigl give birth during that scene.
8. Taylor Momsen
Former child actress Taylor Momsen caught a pretty big break when she was cast as Jenny Humphrey on the CW teen soap Gossip Girl, but Taylor apparently didn’t appreciate it or was just not into acting anymore (after all, Momsen really hasn’t worked in film or TV since Gossip Girl), because she progressively became more and more of a problem for the show until ultimately the writers decided to write her character out. Momsen was openly critical of the show, her attendance record started becoming pretty spotty, and even when she would show up for her scenes she often times didn’t have her dialogue memorized. Perhaps Taylor was just dealing with some teenage angst while she was working on the show, but if not then clearly Momsen didn’t want to continue working as an actor or people just didn’t want to hire her, because Taylor has been almost completely absent from the entertainment industry since Gossip Girl ended.
7. Conan O’Brien
Conan O’Brien was unfortunate enough to get caught up in the middle of one of the biggest major network bungles in recent memory when he took over as host of NBC’s The Tonight Show as a replacement for Jay Leno, and was fired within months so that Jay could reclaim the throne of late night TV. When Conan initially took over the show for Leno the ratings took a bit of a dip, which many people speculated could have been a result of Leno having his own talk show in the 10PM hour that now aired before The Tonight Show (Leno’s new show was also doing very poorly). In a panic the network decided that they needed to switch things up quick, so they offered Leno his old spot at 11:30PM and were unclear about what they wanted to do with O’Brien. After a few days of confusion Conan was fired, offered a new job at TBS, and given a massive severance payment from NBC for the breaking of their contract. Leno actually didn’t improve the show’s ratings much anyway and wound up leaving his post after a few more seasons, Jimmy Fallon wound up replacing him, and NBC lost out on a massive amount of money.
6. Erinn Hayes
In one of the most highly publicized firings in Hollywood’s recent history we have the former female lead of the CBS comedy Kevin Can Wait, Erinn Hayes. Hayes was hired to play the wife of the sitcom’s male lead, Kevin James, and it seemed like things were going alright until James’ former King of Queens wife Leah Remini made a guest appearance on Kevin’s new show. Remini’s performance was very well-received and the network felt that her chemistry with James far outstripped Hayes’ chemistry with him, so the network actually offered Remini the position as the lead of the show instead. Leah accepted, which meant that Erinn was out. The show’s writers decided to abruptly kill off Hayes’ character and skip the show’s timeline ahead to explain why James’ character was suddenly spending all of his time with Remini’s character, and clearly Erinn was left out in the cold.
5. Lisa Bonet
Lisa Bonet rose to stardom in the mid-80s when she was featured as the oldest Huxtable sister on The Cosby Show. Bonet did well for quite a while, but after getting involved in projects that Bill Cosby thought were too sexy and unsavory for the family-friendly sitcom (really, the irony is almost too insane to be believed) he wound up getting her fired from the show. Bonet moved on to another successful sitcom called A Different World, but was eventually let go from that series too, supposedly once again because of Cosby. Initially Cosby wanted Bonet written out of The Cosby Show because she performed a fairly explicit scene in the film Angel Heart, and she was promptly written out of A Different World when she found out she was pregnant with her daughter, Zoe Kravitz. It was quite the scandal at the time, but obviously Bonet was vindicated in the end when Bill Cosby’s long history of assault was revealed.
4. Thomas Gibson
It would appear that CBS has a pretty solid zero tolerance policy when it comes to violence on their sets, because Thomas Gibson, the longtime star of the network’s hit show Criminal Minds was immediately fired when he got in a physical altercation with one of the show’s writers. Gibson’s interpretation of the incident clearly does him some favors, since he characterized his actions as a “tap” with his foot, but the official reason for his firing was for kicking writer Virgil Williams. Thomas was immediately placed on suspension after the fight, but two weeks after he was suspended he got the word that he was officially fired. Gibson was obviously upset with his firing, and was extra salty about the fact that the writers seemed to be trying to erase his character from the show completely, but given that the altercation was with a writer it’s no surprise that the writers would want his character to vanish.
3. Stuart Townsend
In a surprise bit of casting trivia, English actor Stuart Townsend was actually initially cast as Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Townsend went through months of preparation for the role, but just a few days before the first film was set to start shooting Jackson decided to replace Stuart with Viggo Mortensen. Jackson claimed that they pulled Townsend from the role because he was too young looking and not rugged enough for the part, but obviously the director would have known how old he was and what he looked like when he was initially hired, so it’s a mystery as to why Jackson waited so long to fire him. We’ll probably never know what exactly drove the last minute recasting, and it wasn’t even the only time that Peter Jackson switched out an actor just before starting to film (he pulled the same move with Ryan Gosling in The Lovely Bones), but obviously the role was a big loss for the relative unknown Townsend.
2. Judy Garland
Judy Garland’s problems with drug and alcohol abuse are well documented and were an issue for most of the star’s life. In fact Garland’s first experiences with drug abuse came when she was only a teen and the film studio would regularly give her amphetamines in order to get her to perform well throughout insanely long shooting days, and then give her depressants to take so she could actually sleep. Garland consistently used and abused drugs ever since her initial experiences, and eventually that abuse caught up with her in more ways than one. Judy was cast in a film about drug addiction called Valley of the Dolls (supposedly the character she was meant to play was even inspired by Garland herself) but her drug problem was so severe at the time that she had to be replaced shortly before the film started shooting. Garland never recovered from her addiction, and sadly she died of a drug overdose.
1. Brett Butler
In one of television’s most shocking and notorious firings we have comedienne Brett Butler, who at the time was the star of the ABC hit sitcom Grace Under Fire. Butler was dealing with a pretty serious alcohol problem, so serious that the network was actually willing to fire the main star of the show and effectively end it in one fell swoop. Brett was actually escorted off of the ABC lot by security when she was fired, and unfortunately she hasn’t had much work in Hollywood since. In recent years she has appeared to be taking a shot at a comeback, and she has managed to book semi regular roles on the long running soap The Young and the Restless as well as on Charlie Sheen’s sitcom Anger Management, but some attempts at other projects such as her own reality show have never gotten off the ground. But at least according to Butler she has been sober since the late 90s, which is a huge accomplishment on its own.
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