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18 Actors Who Were Fired and Replaced Mid-Filming (And Why)

18 Actors Who Were Fired and Replaced Mid-Filming (And Why)

Warning: Some entries mention drug and alcohol abuse.

Casting can be a long, arduous process, but the casting director’s choices can make or break a film. Sometimes, however, the filmmakers backpedal those decisions mid-production.

Here are 18 actors who got fired in the middle of filming a movie (and why):

Mariska Hargitay was supposed to play Queen Dulcea in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie in 1995. Filming was in Australia, but they kept her on hold for so long that, on December 21, she went home to the US for Christmas. After the holidays, she reached out to production, who told her she’d been fired.

In 2023, she told Late Night with Seth Meyers, “I call them and I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m ready!’ And they were like, ‘Sweetie, you’re good, don’t worry about it.’ They fired me because I wanted to go home for Christmas and be with my family. I watch my Ps and Qs on SVU now. And when they say, ‘We need you,’ I say, ‘I’m there and I’m ready!’ So far, so good.”

She was replaced by Gabrielle Fitzpatrick.

Eric Stoltz was initially cast as Marty McFly in Back to the Future, but his method acting and drama skills didn’t translate to screwball comedy as well as production hoped. So, a couple weeks into filming, director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale made a deal with studio head Sid Sheinberg behind his back — they’d keep filming with him until they could bring in the lead actor they really wanted.

According to the book We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy, Eric reportedly took the news pretty hard.

Ahead of the announcement, some cast and crew members allegedly felt that something was “off” on set.

Cinematographer Dean Cundey said, “There were signs, especially the last week or so. When we would set up a shot and we would shoot Chris Lloyd’s angle, but we wouldn’t do the reverse on Marty. I’d say, ‘Don’t we need the angle?’ and Bob would say, ‘No, no, no, let’s not worry about that.’ It didn’t take long for me to see that we were saving our energy for what would come next.”

He was replaced by, of course, Michael J. Fox.

When Eric Stoltz was replaced in Back to the Future, Melora Hardin was also recast as Jennifer Parker because she was taller than the new male lead. In 2022, she told Page Six that a pair of female execs “felt that it emasculated their lead character to have a taller girlfriend.”

She said, “There’s no doubt it was very painful…I feel like it’s an interesting sign of the times that it was the female executives that felt like they had to be protecting the masculinity of their lead character that way.”

Claudia Wells took over the role.

In The Lords of Flatbush, Richard Gere was the original actor cast as Chico. However, he “never hit it off” with his costar Sylvester Stallone. On a particularly difficult day, an argument over mustard led to a physical altercation, and the director decided to fire Richard and keep Sylvester.

During a 2006 fan Q&A, Sylvester said, “He would strut around in his oversized motorcycle jacket like he was the baddest knight at the round table. One day, during an improv, he grabbed me (we were simulating a fight scene) and got a little carried away. I told him in a gentle fashion to lighten up, but he was completely in character and impossible to deal with.

Then we were rehearsing at Coney Island and it was lunchtime, so we decided to take a break, and the only place that was warm was in the backseat of a Toyota. I was eating a hotdog, and he climbs in with a half a chicken covered in mustard with grease nearly dripping out of the aluminum wrapper. I said, ‘That thing is going to drip all over the place.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ I said, ‘If it gets on my pants, you’re gonna know about it.’ He proceeds to bite into the chicken and a small, greasy river of mustard lands on my thigh. I elbowed him in the side of the head and basically pushed him out of the car.

The director had to make a choice: one of us had to go, one of us had to stay. Richard was given his walking papers and, to this day, seriously dislikes me. He even thinks I’m the individual responsible for the gerbil rumor. Not true, but that’s the rumor.”

Perry King took over the role.

In The Truman Show, Christof was originally played by Dennis Hopper, but he was reportedly replaced because he couldn’t remember his lines.

Dennis told the Sabotage Times, “I was on the set for, like, two days, and got fired… Scott Rudin, the producer, had made an agreement with the director [Peter Weir] that…he didn’t want me to do the part, and if he didn’t like what I did after the first day’s dailies, then he would fire me. And they fired me.”

Ed Harris took over the role.

Initially, Ryan Gosling was set to play Jack Salmon in The Lovely Bones. He decided to gain 60 pounds to fit his personal vision for the character, but the director and producers didn’t see eye to eye with him. So, he was let go only a few days before filming started.

In 2010, he told the Hollywood Reporter, “We didn’t talk very much during the preproduction process, which was the problem. It was a huge movie, and there’s so many things to deal with, and [director Peter Jackson] couldn’t deal with the actors individually. I just showed up on set, and I had gotten it wrong.”

He was replaced by Mark Wahlberg.

The day before he was scheduled to shoot his scenes for Band of Brothers, Connor Ratliff was fired from a minor role by executive producer/director Tom Hanks, who felt he had “dead eyes.”

Twenty years later, Connor set out to investigate why Tom really fired him with his podcast Dead Eyes.

Appearing on Dead Eyes in 2022, Tom said, “Let me first take full responsibility for doing this to you. This was without a doubt the act of the director, and that was me… [It was] one of those very, very subtle sort of decisions that aims the story in the direction you want it to go.”

Sean Young was reportedly fired from her role as Tess Trueheart in Dick Tracy because she didn’t come off as “maternal enough” in the dailies.

However, Sean later alleged that she was fired from the role because she rejected lead actor Warren Beatty’s advances. He denied this and held that firing her was a creative decision.

She was replaced by Glenne Headly.

In Her, Samantha Morton was the original voice of Samantha. However, when the movie got to the editing stage, writer/director Spike Jonze “realized that what the character/movie needed was different from what Samantha and [he] had created together.”

He told Vulture, “I think, unfortunately, it’s pretty normal in terms of my not-quite-painless-for-everyone-involved ‘process’ of discovering what the movie is. Samantha was with us on set and was amazing… I love Samantha. I’ve been friends with her forever, and I hope we make lots of things together in the future.”

Scarlett Johansson replaced her.

In Valley of the Dolls, Judy Garland was originally set to play Helen Lawson. However, due to her contentious working relationship with director Mark Robson and complications from her struggles with alcohol abuse, she was fired.

At the 2009 event Marc Huestis Presents SPARKLE, PATTY, SPARKLE, her ex-costar Patty Duke said, “[Judy] was charming and funny — oh, very funny — but she was having a problem with alcohol, and I don’t know about other things. So the director, who was the meanest son of a bitch I ever met in my life…he kept [Judy] waiting and waiting. She had to come in at 6:30 in the morning, and he wouldn’t even plan to get to her until four in the afternoon. She was very down to earth, so she didn’t mind waiting. What I minded was that there were gentlemen around her who supplied her with wine and other things, so when she finally did get called to the set, she couldn’t function very well…and she crumbled.”

After being fired, Judy allegedly took all of her costumes from the set. She reportedly later wore one for a performance at the Palace Theater.

She was replaced by Susan Hayward.

Initially, Harvey Keitel was supposed to play US Army Captain Benjamin Willard in Apocalypse Now, but director Francis Ford Coppola famously replaced him a week into filming. Denying the director’s claims in Coppola’s Monster Film: The Making of ‘Apocalypse Now’, that he was fired because he “didn’t want to stay in the jungle,” Harvey told Insider, “Well, Harvey Keitel spent three years in the United States Marines Corps in the jungle.”

In the book, the director said, “I could see [Harvey] was very uncomfortable about conditions in the jungle. And I thought, Not only do I think he’s wrong casting, but what’s it going to be like for six months in these difficult conditions in the jungle for a city guy who’s afraid of it? I just decided to make this tough decision.”

Martin Sheen was actually the director’s original second choice for the role, after Steve McQueen, but he initially turned it down because he wasn’t available.

He was replaced by Martin Sheen.

A few days into filming Demolition Man, Lori Petty was fired from her role as Lenina Huxley. Producer Joel Silver blamed the decision on “creative differences,” but Lori attributed it to her personality clash with lead actor Sylvester Stallone, telling Entertainment Weekly, “Sly and I were like oil and water.”

She later told the Daily Beast, “It was the most uncool day in Hollywood for me. I just treat people the way I want to be treated, so I’d rather not gossip about [Joel’s]