Generally, when an actor is cast in a role, they can breathe a sigh of relief; in Hollywood, true job security is a rare luxury afforded to a lucky few. Sometimes, even after casting is officially complete, an actor can be replaced at the last minute. Even more rarely, an actor can have begun work on a film before the director or producers conclude that they’re just not right for the part.
We put together a list of 12 actors who were cast in a role and begun, or even completed, work on their project before they were replaced by someone else. Here are 12 Actors Who Were Fired And Replaced During Production.
12. Stuart Townsend and Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in Lord of the Rings
Irish thespian Stuart Townsend is a lovely and talented performer, but he could never break out into the big leagues of truly A-list actors. The biggest blow to his budding career came when, after months of intense training and preparation, he was fired from the role of Aragorn just as filming was commencing on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Director Peter Jackson decided at the literal last minute that the 26-year-old Townsend was too young for the role, and actor Viggo Mortensen, who is 14 years Townsend’s senior, was hired as a replacement, and went on to become iconic in the role as the rightful King of Gondor.Townsend went on to drop out of another blockbuster role when he vacated the role of Fandral in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor film.
The actor maintains a cult following due to his roles in shows like Revenge and Salem, as well as his turn as the lead character in the pulpy spy series, XIII, based on the beloved graphic novel. XIII: The Series, as well as its miniseries predecessor, XIII: The Conspiracy, can be streamed on Netflix. Perhaps ironically, The Conspiracy stars Stephen Dorff, who was replaced by Townsend for the series proper.
11. Eric Stoltz and Michael J Fox as Marty McFly in Back to the Future
When casting began on Back to the Future, Michael J. Fox was director Robert Zemeckis’s first choice for the role of the teenage time-traveler caught in a love triangle with his parents. Trust us, it’s funnier than it sounds.Unfortunately, Fox proved to be unavailable, as the schedule for his hit sitcom, Family Ties, was too tight for him to take on other work. Eventually, producers settled on their next choice, Eric Stoltz, another teen heartthrob, famous for dramatic roles in films like Mask and 1987’s Some Kind of Wonderful. After several weeks of filming, however, everyone realized that Stoltz was simply not right for the part; his take on Marty McFly was a bit too dramatic, and Zemeckis needed a more comical approach to the totally radical teen and his zany time-traveling antics.
Eric Stoltz amicably parted ways with Back to the Future, and Fox was brought in, working an ungodly number of hours on both Family Ties and Back to the Future. Despite adding millions to the production budget, producers begrudgingly allowed Zemeckis to go back and reshoot five weeks worth of Stoltz’s scenes with Michael J. Fox, whose rigorous schedule during that period has since become the stuff of legend.
Fun Fact: Christopher Lloyd, whose performance as Doc Brown is arguably the most iconic element of the Back to the Future trilogy, was not the first choice for that role: the part was initially offered to John Lithgow (Cliffhanger, 3rd Rock From the Sun), who ultimately proved to be unavailable.
10. James Remar and Michael Biehn as Hicks in Aliens
After starring in films like The Warriors and 48 Hrs. (as well as a guest spot in “Buddies,” a phenomenal Season 2 episode of Miami Vice), James Remar was cast as Corporal Dwayne Hicks in James Cameron’s Aliens, the action-packed sequel to the horror classic, Alien. Aliens would go on to be one of the few sequels held in equally high esteem as its progenitor.
After just a week of filming, however, Remar was dropped from the project and Michael Biehn, who had starred in Cameron’s The Terminator, was brought in to replace him. For many years, the cast and crew of Aliens remained tight-lipped on the circumstances surrounding Remar’s departure from the film, until the actor himself admitted it was due to his out-of-control drug habits, which culminated in his arrest for possession, and ultimately cost him the role. A couple of shots of Remar remain in the finished film, though his face is never seen in close-up and most of the shots are from behind, anyway.
Remar was able to kick his bad habits and bounce back as an actor, winning universal acclaim for his role as an ethical serial killer mentor and father figure in Dexter, as well as not one, but two roles in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
9. Colin Firth and Ben Whishaw in Paddington
Paddington Bear is a beloved British character who universally appeals to children of all ages. Created by author Michael Brown for his 1958 book, A Bear Called Paddington, the character went on to appear in many stories and animated adaptations for BBC television. However, it wasn’t until 2014 that the character made his film debut in Paddington, which was to star a middle-aged Colin Firth as the voice of the youthfully adorable diminutive bear.
After completing his work on the film, Firth and the producers concluded that his voice was not right for the character. Firth’s regal and mature tone did not match the wide-eyed naive innocence of Paddington Bear. Firth consented to being replaced, and Ben Whishaw (Q in the Daniel Craig James Bond films) was hired to replace Firth’s completed performance. Paddington went on to earn rave reviews and even became a surprise hit in the United States, where it grossed $76 million, despite its January release date and underwhelming marketing campaign.
Whishaw’s performance as the title character was singled out as a particularly strong aspect of the film. A sequel is currently scheduled for November 2017; it would definitely be cool to see Firth make an appearance, a nod to his would-be status as the original film’s lead actor.
8. Chloe Grace Moretz and Miley Cyrus as Penny in Bolt
The production of Disney’s Bolt was contentious, with original director Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch) being removed from the project (then called American Dog) and ultimately quitting Disney, opting to join Dreamworks Animation. While Bolt retains some of Sanders’s high-concept vision and road trip aspects, the final film is much more accessible to general audiences than American Dog could ever have been, for better or worse.
The role of Penny, Bolt’s human owner, was fully recorded by an 11-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz before Disney decided to recast the role with one of their star teen talents, Miley Cyrus, who also wrote a song for the film, “I Thought I Lost You.” At least Moretz’s role partially remains in the film; Disney kept her voice for Penny’s younger self, and, indeed, Moretz remains credited in the film as Young Penny.
In the years following Bolt‘s release and critical success, Miley returned to music and generally leaves acting to the actors. Meanwhile, Chloe Grace Moretz is one of the most in-demand young actresses working today, earning acclaim for her role as Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass and its sequel, as well as other films, such as If I Stay, the remake of Carrie, and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.
7. Harvey Keitel and Martin Sheen as Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now is one of the most legendary troubled productions in Hollywood history. Regardless of the fact that the film is revered as one of the greatest war odysseys of all time, the fact that it was ever even completed is nothing short of a miracle in and of itself. Shooting lasted for 14 gruelling months in the Philippines. Sets were destroyed by typhoons, the heat was oppressive, and star Martin Sheen had a nearly fatal heart attack, just to scratch the surface of the intensity and insanity of making the war film to end all war films. It was so infamous, there’s even an excellent and insightful documentary, Hearts of Darkness, all about the craziness of Apocalypse Now’s development and production.
Francis Ford Coppola’s first choice for the lead role of Captain Willard was Martin Sheen, who proved to be unavailable, so he settled for Harvey Keitel, a world-class actor himself. After less than a week, however, Coppola knew that Keitel wasn’t right for the role of a “passive onlooker” to the horrors of Vietnam, and replaced him with a now-available Martin Sheen, who, between his hard drinking ways and aforementioned heart attack, barely survived the process of making the film.
6. Holly Hunter and Zach Braff in Chicken Little
Chicken Little holds a special place in the hearts of Disney fans; it was Disney’s first all-CGI feature, and their last animated film before Pixar’s John Lasseter became the creative head of Disney Animation. It’s not a particularly beloved film, but it certainly has its fans, for its unique visuals, off-the-wall final act, and strong voice cast, especially Zach Braff as the title character…
But this wasn’t always the case. Chicken Little was originally envisioned as a girl, and the great Holly Hunter (The Incredibles, Raising Arizona) spent months recording dialogue for the character. Even from the start, the pressure was on to turn the film’s title character into a boy; as the story was gradually re-written into more of an action flick, producers agreed to change the lead character’s gender. Hunter was out, and Braff was in.
This wasn’t the first time an actor was recast in a Disney/Pixar film: William H. Macy was cast as Marlin, the father fish in Finding Nemo, but he lacked the comedic timing to make the film snappy and fast-paced, and was subsequently replaced by comedic genius Albert Brooks, who helped to lead Nemo to be one of the most enduring animated classics of all time.
5. Buddy Ebsen and Jack Haley as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz
1939’s The Wizard of Oz, based on the 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum, is easily one of the most revered family films of the 20th century. The classic songs, the vibrant color, the boundless and unadulterated imagination, the timeless performances by the entire cast… There is nothing in The Wizard of Oz which doesn’t hold up stunningly well by today’s standards.
Jack Haley as the Tin Man is often singled out as an iconic character; his silver visage and armored body, combined with his tough-guy lumberjack axe and sweetly paternal voice make for an incredibly memorable character whose appeal is universal across all demographics.
Actor Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Scarecrow, but agreed to switch roles with Ray Bolger, who had been cast as the Tin Man. Unfortunately for Ebsen, he was nearly killed by the aluminum-based makeup he was required to wear, and, after spending some quality time confined to an Iron Lung, had to drop out due to obvious health concerns. Jack Haley was brought in as Ebsen’s replacement, and the rest is Hollywood history. Don’t weep for Ebsen, though; over twenty years after recovering from his ordeal, in 1962, Buddy was cast as the lead in The Beverly Hillbillies, which went on to become one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1960s.
4. Jean-Claude Van Damme and Kevin Peter Hall in Predator
When Jean-Claude Van Damme, AKA “The Muscles From Brussels,” first arrived in Hollywood, his mission was to show off his martial arts skills to the world and become a movie star. After being cast in 1987’s Predator, he was excited at the prospect of engaging in hand-to-hand combat with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but instead found himself wearing a clunky lobster suit which nearly crippled him in the Mexican heat. Additionally, Van Damme was not pleased with the idea of hiding his face for the entire film, and was relieved when director John McTiernan (Die Hard) dropped him from the project.
The titular alien was redesigned, moving from being a thin and agile fighter to a bulky hulk of a monster, and actor Kevin Peter Hall, who stood at over seven feet tall, was brought in to portray the kind of monster who could conceivably wipe out a squad of elite soldiers played by such actors as Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, and Bill Duke. As for Jean-Claude Van Damme, he went on to star in some very popular action flicks such as Blood Sport, Timecop, and Double Impact; before re-emerging in middle age with strong performances in JCVD and The Expendables 2.
3. Richard Kiel and Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk
Long before Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Bryan Singer’s X-Men films, arguably the first mature, adult take on a Marvel Comics superhero was The Incredible Hulk, which ran for five seasons on CBS, starting in 1978. After the series’ cancellation, three made-for-television movies aired on NBC, culminating with the grand finale, The Death of the Incredible Hulk, in 1990, in which, if the title didn’t give it away, The Hulk dies.
Arnold Schwarzenegger auditioned for the role of the transformed Doctor Banner, but was rejected for being too short. Eventually, producers settled on Richard Kiel, who played he towering henchman, Jaws, in two 1970s James Bond films, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. After shooting the pilot, however, it was decided that Kiel lacked the muscle-bound physique required of the character, and was subsequently replaced with body-builder Lou Ferrigno, who, along with the late Bill Bixby as the Hulk’s human form, helped the character become a national icon.
Ferrigno would go on to cameo in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk film starring Edward Norton, and collaborate on providing the voice of The Hulk in that film, as well as The Avengers and its sequel, Age of Ultron. We can reasonably expect for a bit of Ferrigno’s DNA to be present when The Hulk makes his next appearance, in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok.
2. Tim Curry and Mark Hamill as The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series
After spending three films playing Luke Skywalker, one of the most iconic heroes in cinema history, Mark Hamill shocked audiences with his stunning portrayal of The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. While a voice-only role, Hamill’s performance won universal acclaim, and he went on to reprise the role in such projects as the Batman Arkham games, the pilot of the television series, Birds of Prey, and the upcoming animated adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke. Hamill, to this day, is one of the most in-demand voice actors of his ilk, and much of his fame is owed to his transcendent performance as Batman’s greatest foe.
But he never would have landed the role if Tim Curry hadn’t lost his voice. The Clue and It star had been cast as the Clown Prince of Crime, and even completed work on several episodes, but was ultimately replaced. It’s been said that Curry’s take on The Joker was far too scary for a children’s show, but no audio of him in the role has ever been released. The other, more reasonable theory, is that The Joker’s voice was just too stressing on Curry’s vocal chords, and he just couldn’t maintain the voice long enough to reliably work on the show.
1. Peter Dinklage and Nolan North as Ghost in Destiny
Peter “That Wizard Came From the Moon” Dinklage was highly contentious as the voice of Ghost, the player’s robot buddy and guiding hand in Bungie’s multiplayer cooperative shooter, Destiny. While not quite as annoying as Navi from Ocarina of Time, even Dinklage’s most loyal fans couldn’t help but to feel his performance was phoned-in, at best. At worst, Dinklebot was considered to be one of the worst characters in a game filled with otherwise excellent voice acting from an all-star cast which included James Remar, Bill Nighy, Nathan Fillion, and Lauren Cohan.
A year after its initial launch, Destiny was given new life with its expansion, The Taken King. In addition to new levels and enemies, The Taken King also revamped the main game and all of its systems, essentially resulting in something of a Destiny: 2.0 Edition. Among the many, many changes to the base game was the complete excision of Peter Dinklage from the experience. Nolan North, better known as the voice of Uncharted‘s Nathan Drake, not only recorded new dialogue as Ghost for The Taken King, but also recorded over all of Dinklage’s lines in the base game, essentially erasing his performance from the game, as if he had never been there at all.
Fans universally accepted the change, as North imbues Ghost with a unique mix of vulnerability and charm, whereas Dinklage’s version of the character had all the charisma of a bored dad reading an encyclopedia.
Did we miss any other post-production cast changes? Would you kill to hear Tim Curry’s take on The Joker? We would! Sound off in the comments below!
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