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11 Movie Stars Who Were Fired In The Middle Of Filming — And Who Replaced Them

Hollywood can be a cruel, cruel place.

1. Lori Petty was originally the female lead in Demolition Man but was replaced by Sandra Bullock in her first major role.

Lori Petty and Sandra Bullock
20th Century Fox/Warner Bros. / Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

After starring in the early '90s hits Point Break and A League of Their Own, Lori Petty was cast in the big-budget sci-fi action film Demolition Man opposite Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes. Just three days into filming, however, she was let go and replaced by a largely unknown young actor by the name of Sandra Bullock.

According to Petty, part of the problem was that she and Stallone got along like “oil and water,” but there were also reports that the studio didn’t like the dailies of her scenes. Whatever the truth is, she may have dodged a bullet. Nigel Hawthrone, who co-starred in the movie, called the production a “miserable experience” and claimed the egos of the stars and producer Joel Silver were out of control. Years later, Petty (who recently starred on Orange is the New Black) had this to say about Silver: “I just treat people the way I want to be treated, so I’d rather not gossip about his unkindness.”

2. Jean-Claude Van Damme played the title character in Predator — briefly — before being replaced by Kevin Peter Hall.

Van Damme shirtless and fighting in "Bloodsport" and the scary alien from "Predator"
Warner Bros/20th Century Fox

Before Jean-Claude Van Damme was an action star in the ‘90s famous for his acrobatic martial arts skills in hits like Time Cop and Universal Soldier, he was a hungry, aspiring action star in the ‘80s with one measly credit to his name. That seemed about to change when he was cast as the title character in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Predator.

Things quickly descended into a comedy of errors. What exactly happened isn’t clear (this Hollywood Reporter deep dive is the closest we may ever get to the truth), but it seems Van Damme arrived on set expecting to show off his martial skills as the deadly alien but was instead fitted with a gigantic alien mask that limited his mobility and restricted his air so much that he kept passing out. Van Damme either quit, was angrily fired by producer Joel Silver (the same guy Lori Petty had such glowing things to say about above), or was no longer the right fit for the role when the costume was redesigned for a 7-foot man.

Whatever the truth, the disappointment was short-lived for Van Damme. Eight months after the release of Predator, the Muscles from Brussels scored a hit as the star of Bloodsport, which allowed him to show off his moves and not wear a poorly designed, potentially suffocating mask.

3. Dennis Hopper originally played Christof in The Truman Show, but was quickly replaced by Ed Harris.

Hopper in "Speed" and Harris in "Truman Show"
20th Century Fox/Paramount

Easy Rider legend Dennis Hopper was having a career revival thanks to his role as the baddie in 1994’s hit Speed when he was cast in The Truman Show as Christof, the director who pulls the strings behind the scenes. Unfortunately, after a couple days of filming, things weren’t working out. Hopper, it seems, was either too showy in the role or guilty of forgetting his lines.

After briefly considering recasting the director in the film with the film’s actual director Peter Weir (which certainly would have been meta), the production hired Ed Harris, who was just about perfect and earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

4. Kel O'Neill spent weeks playing Eli Sunday in There Will Be Blood until he was fired and replaced by Paul Dano.

Michael Buckner / Getty Images

Kel O’Neill was an up-and-coming but largely still unknown actor when he received amazing news: He’d landed the role of Eli Sunday opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. This feel-good story didn’t have happy ending, though, as he was fired from the film after a few weeks of filming.

If you dig around the internet, you will likely see people claim O’Neill lost the job because he was intimidated acting opposite a powerhouse like Day-Lewis. But that’s a claim that has been denied by Day-Lewis, Anderson, and O’Neill himself. According to O’Neill, he could tell after a couple days of filming that something wasn’t working. “You know,” he told Vulture. “You just know.” He wasn’t jibing with Anderson, which he took responsibility for, saying, “An actor should, with every ounce of their humanity, be attempting to give the director what he or she wants.” Being fired put O’Neill off acting and he soon transitioned into a successful career as a documentarian.

As for recasting the role of Eli Sunday, Anderson found his replacement right there on set. He asked Paul Dano, who was already playing Eli Sunday’s brother Paul, to play Eli as well. To facilitate this, slight tweaks were made to the script to make it clear the brothers were identical twins.

5. Julianne Moore was fired from Can You Ever Forgive Me? by director Nicole Holofcener just six days before filming was scheduled to start.

Julianne Moore and Melissa McCarthy
Bravo/ Fox Searchlight / Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

While this firing didn’t quite happen on set, it was truly shocking for an Academy Award–winning star to be let go from a lead role so close to filming. Moore told Andy Cohen, “Nicole fired me. So yeah, that’s the truth. I think she didn’t like what I was doing. I think that her idea of where the character was, was different than where my idea of where the character was.” She added it was the first time she'd been fired since she was let go from a yogurt shop at age 15.

Co-star Richard Grant added some more detail, saying one big conflict between the director and star was that Moore wanted to wear a fat suit and false nose to more closely resemble the real-life person, Lee Israel, she would’ve portrayed.

In the end, the film was made after a year’s delay, but without Moore or Holofcener. Marielle Heller took the reins as director and Melissa McCarthy played the lead role…and earned a Best Actress Academy Award nomination in the process. (No word on whether Moore can ever forgive Holofcener.)

6. Colin Firth was the original voice of the title character in Paddington but had his work scrapped at the eleventh hour.

Tim P. Whitby / Getty Images

Colin Firth was originally cast as the voice of everyone’s favorite Peruvian bear and had actually recorded all of his lines when it was decided he wasn’t right.

The problem wasn’t Firth’s acting (he is an Academy Award winner after all); but when his voice was finally matched up to the animation, it seemed too mature. Firth himself said, “It’s been bittersweet to see this delightful creature take shape and come to the sad realization that he simply doesn’t have my voice.”

Paddington’s line were eventually re-recorded by the younger actor Ben Whishaw.

7. Samantha Morton originally voiced "Samantha" in Her, but like Firth, she was replaced after she'd completed her entire part.

Samantha Morton and an image of the virtual assistant in the film, which bears the text "Call from Samantha"
Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images / Warner Bros

In Spike Jonze’s Her, Joaquin Phoenix plays a lonely guy who falls in love with a Siri-like artificial intelligence virtual assistant named Samantha. The AI assistant is named Samantha because she was originally voiced by two-time Academy Award nominee Samantha Morton (from Minority Report and In America. She’s also the IRL mom of Esme Creed-Miles from Hannah). Morton really threw herself into the performance, even appearing on set to act her lines in the moment with Phoenix. In postproduction, though, Jonze decided she wasn’t right and instead brought in Scarlett Johansson to voice the part.

Jonze complimented Morton, saying she really gave Phoenix a lot to work with as a performer, but added, “When we started editing, we realized that what the character/movie needed was different from what Samantha and I had created together. So we recast and since then Scarlett has taken over that role.”

8. James Remar played Hicks in Aliens for two weeks before being fired by director James Cameron and replaced by Michael Biehn.

Twentieth Century Fox

A lot of movie fans see Michael Biehn as Hicks in James Cameron’s Aliens and think, That makes sense. He played Kyle Reese in Cameron’s Terminator. But the truth is he wasn’t originally cast in the role. James Remar (48 Hours, Sex and the City, Dexter) originally played Hicks for two weeks before being let go for what was described at the time as “creative differences.”

Many years later, Remar told Sidebar, “I had a terrible drug problem, but I got through it. I had a great career and personal life, and messed it up with a terrible drug habit.” He added about his role in Aliens: “I was fired after a couple weeks of filming because I got busted for possession of drugs.”

9. Nicole Kidman was the original star of David Fincher's Panic Room but was replaced by Jodie Foster after an unfortunate incident.

Nicole Kidman and a still of Foster hugging her onscreen daughter in "Panic Room"
J. Vespa / WireImage / Getty Images / Columbia / Courtesy Everett Collection

Nicole Kidman was 18 days into filming the thriller when she injured her knee on set. She’d injured the same knee the previous year while filming Moulin Rouge!, and X-rays revealed she'd now suffered a hairline fracture. This meant she needed to be off her feet for months. So, while she wasn't fired, she did have to drop out of the film.

This was bad news for the studio, which would incur big insurance penalties if it didn’t recast quickly without suspending production. Unfortunately, this was early 2001 when everyone was anticipating a writers’ strike, so almost every big-name actor was already engaged filming one last movie before Hollywood shut down.

Enter Jodie Foster, who was available because a film she was about to direct, ironically enough, had to be shut down when its star Russell Crowe suffered an injury. She stepped into the role with only a week’s preparation and had to perform it on a set — including the titular panic room — that had been designed for the much taller Kidman. Oh, and she was pregnant! Big sweaters and a few post-baby reshoots got them around that, though; and in the end there was no need to, ahem, panic, as the movie was a big hit.

10. Kevin Spacey had completed his entire role as oil tycoon J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World when he was cut out of the film and replaced by Christopher Plummer.

Spacey and Plummer each performing as Getty
Sony

When sexual assault allegations broke against Kevin Spacey just six weeks before the film was scheduled to be released, director Ridley Scott quickly brought on 88-year-old Christopher Plummer to meticulously reshoot every scene Spacey appeared in.

Amazingly, though time was short, all of the locations they needed to return to (and all of the film's other actors) were available for reshoots. Only one shot — originally filmed in the desert of Jordan — had to be recreated with green screen. In the end the film, which was supposed to be a big contender at the 2018 Academy Awards, only managed to nab one nomination for...you guessed it...Christopher Plummer.

11. And lastly, Eric Stoltz played Marty McFly in Back to the Future for seven whole weeks before he was fired and replaced by Michael J. Fox.

Stoltz and Fox each performing as Marty McFly
Universal

This is probably the most famous story of an actor being fired after production began. Filmmakers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale originally wanted Michael J. Fox to play Marty but weren’t able to cast him because he was busy filming the hit sitcom Family Ties. So, Eric Stoltz, who the head of Universal Sid Sheinberg was a fan of after his dramatic turn in Mask, was cast as Marty. Sheinberg was so convinced Stoltz was the right guy that he told Zemeckis he could reshoot with someone else if it didn’t work out.

Stoltz filmed almost all of the classic scenes from the film but eventually there was no denying he wasn’t right. While Stoltz was a fine actor, his performance was too dramatic and lacked the comedic touch the role required. The filmmakers reached out to Fox again (was he really, really not available?), and arranged a deal where he would film Back to the Future at night after he wrapped that day’s shooting of Family Ties. Zemeckis broke the news to Stoltz himself and said it was “the hardest meeting I've ever had in my life and it was all my fault. I broke his heart." Interestingly, the role of Jennifer — which had gone to Melora Hardin (later Jan fromThe Office) in the Stoltz version — was also recast.

Stoltz probably doesn’t love missing out on a massive franchise, but he has had a long, successful career since famously appearing in Pulp Fiction.

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