In the high stakes, big budget world of professional film and TV, there isn't much room for mistakes. The recent high profile firing of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller from the upcoming young Han Solo film is a grim reminder that both casts and crews don't enjoy a whole lot of job security. On the whole, though, directors are considerably safer than actors, and are frequently the ones doing the firing themselves.
Even the brightest, most talented stars in the business have found themselves on the wrong side of the wrong person, and subsequently ended up out of a job, but expert PR teams on both sides means it can often take years for the true details of a firing to come out. When they finally do, they are often shocking, hilarious, or downright bizarre.
We've all seen the "creative differences’" euphemism, and there have been some pretty unbelievable clashes of personalities, arguments over pay, and difficulties with substance abuse. But did you know that a Hollywood A-Lister once got sacked for a fight over a half-chicken lunch?
Read on for the weird and wonderful 15 Actors Who Were Fired For Shocking Reasons.
15 Robert Downey Jr.
The Iron Man star famously had some turbulent years in the middle of his career. Long before he was flying around in a high tech suit handing out other high-tech suits to teenagers, Robert Downey Jr was sacked from the 2001 Joe Roth film America's Sweethearts due to drug charges.
The movie was intended to form part of his acting comeback: he spent a considerable amount of time in prison in the late '90s due to struggles with cocaine and heroin addiction, something that he’s since been fairly candid about. Unfortunately, the comeback had to wait until after his 2003 stint in rehab. He was also sacked from television series Ally McBeal in 2001.
It's worth noting that as well as being Iron Man, Downey Jr has an iron will: he's been clean for years now, and we can safely assume that if he stops playing the character, it won't be because he's ended up back behind bars.
14 Jean Claude Van Damme
As if Arnie wasn't supplying enough buff, the original cast of Predator also included Jean Claude Van Damme and his absolutely outrageous physique. The “Muscles From Brussels” (yes, that's really what Jean-Claude was known as: it was the '80s, don't try to understand), was cast as the titular bloodsport-loving alien, but was sacked after a short period by producer Joel Silver.
There are various legends as to how and why this happened, but the most entertaining by far is a tale involving Van Damme's love of kickboxing. Supposedly, Van Damme was determined to make the Predator some sort of intergalactic kickboxing monster, an idea which Silver profoundly disagreed with. You can see why: it's hard to imagine Arnie’s final, desperate battle with the Predator being a mass of flailing legs and roundhouses.
Regardless, Silver reportedly sacked Van Damme for refusing to drop the idea, and Van Damme responded with the maturity of all of his 27 years and told the producer to kiss his balls. Ultimately, it's probably just as well he was fired, as between Carl Weathers and Schwarzenegger there were too many bulging biceps on board in any case.
13 Rebel Wilson
Pitch Perfect actress Rebel Wilson recently launched and won a legal challenge against Australian magazine publishers Bauer Media, who published articles about her that were found to be defamatory. She claimed that the articles caused her to be effectively fired from a major role in Kung Fu Panda 3, as well as a role in Trolls.
Supposedly Willis was told by producers that she had become "divisive" and that therefore Dreamworks had deemed her unsuitable for animated films aimed at children. It's an unpleasant situation that highlights the importance studios often place on a performer's public image: regardless of the outcome of Wilson’s case, those jobs have gone.
Dreamworks, however, aren't saying much about the situation and it’s perfectly possible that Wilson was sacked for another reason entirely. Either way, at the moment, she's a Rebel with a cause, and it will be interesting to see her next move following her win.
12 Marcus Chong
Marcus Chong is best known for his exceptional performance in the original Matrix film, in which he played an important supporting role. His character, Tank, saves all of the protagonists lives and gets to brutally murder one of the main villains while spitting on his corpse. It's fairly awesome, and should have been Chong’s springboard onto other projects, most obviously at least one of the Matrix’s sequels. But it was not to be: the Wachowskis, alongside producers including Joel Silver (again), reportedly fired Chong from the follow ups and replaced him with Harold Perrineau.
The details have never been entirely clear, but it appears to be a combination of a dispute over salary and reports that Chong was making threatening phone calls, stealing food, and generally making a nuisance of himself. To make matters weirder, as the above article notes, Chong sued the production team for not only allegedly breaking their promises to recast him, but also for portraying him as "a terrorist" in the press. No wonder they pulled the plug. On a positive note, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that anyone told Joel Silver to kiss anyone's balls at any point in the process.
11 Jamie Waylett
Jamie Waylett rose to fame as Draco Malfoy’s portly little henchman Vincent Crabbe, appearing in the first six Harry Potter films. He provided general bullying backup, ate drugged cupcakes, and followed his blond boss around the place looking intimidating. Then abruptly, Waylett was conspicuously absent from the two film adaptation of the Deathly Hallows.
Given the mass hysteria and hype surrounding the Harry Potter franchise, it didn't take long for the reasons behind his firing to come out: Waylett was arrested in 2009 on cannabis possession charges, and was dropped for the final two movies. Perhaps after his on screen experiences, he had developed a liking for space cakes, as he had 10 suspicious plants growing in his home. The police decided that gillyweed it was not, and the incident effectively ended his career. He was later arrested again and jailed during the 2012 London Riots.
10 Terrence Howard
The gifted actor Terrence Howard picked up an important supporting role in 2008’s Iron Man, alongside the previously mentioned Robert Downey Jr. He played James “Rhodey” Rhodes, a friend of the eponymous hero and the eventual wearer in Iron Man 2 of an adapted Iron Man suit, featuring lots and lots of guns. Only Howard never donned the “War Machine” suit because he was dropped for the film's sequels, and was replaced by Don Cheadle.
At first glance the firing seemed to be over a simple contract dispute: Howard wanted more money for the sequels than Marvel were willing to pay. However, as we reported a few years back, the details of the issue are fairly shocking, with Howard asserting that Downey Jr “took the money that was supposed to go to me and pushed me out.”
If true, it's a sad tale of betrayal that would make for an interesting Marvel movie subplot. At the very least, it does make this clip pretty funny, in a sad sort of way.
9 Megan Fox
Megan Fox formed a major part of the first two Transformers films, serving as the love interest of Shia LaBeouf’s awkward Sam Witwicky, as well as being tasked with making complex mechanical repair operations sexy. The enormously successful franchise has since spawned a further three films, the latest of which Transformers: The Last Knight opened on June 22nd. None of these featured Fox, who was fired after 2009’s Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen.
Why? She made some extremely ill-advised comments to British magazine Wonderland, in which she compared the franchise’s director Michael Bay to Hitler. While it doesn’t seem as though she was trying to offend, it seems obvious in hindsight that comparing your employer with a central European dictator who was responsible for a holocaust is a bad idea. It was Transformers executive producer Steven Spielberg who supposedly took particular issue with the comments, and when Spielberg says go, you go.
8 Charlie Sheen
Charlie Sheen’s departure from Two and A Half Men is perhaps the most infamous firing in recent years. His bizarre, erratic, and insulting behavior toward the show's producers and creators in the run up to his eventual dismissal have become legendary, with the actor unleashing rambling torrents of insults towards producer Chuck Lorre in particular during several interviews.
After Sheen was finally dropped, Lorre revealed that the decision was a “moral one” due to the fact that Sheen was so heavily reliant on cocaine that the producers felt his life was at risk. He was replaced by Ashton Kutcher until the show eventually ended in 2015.
Sheen is apparently clean now, and revealed that part of his meltdown was related to his diagnosis as HIV positive. He thinks the best thing to come out of the whole firing process is some great quotes and catchphrases. Winning?
7 Lindsay Lohan
The talented former child star Lindsay Lohan had a series of legal issues, health problems and major PR nightmares following her rise to superstardom in the early 2000s. It’s widely known that she partied hard and was frequently unreliable on various filming projects.
Back in 2013, she was reportedly fired on the first day of filming The Canyons, an erotic thriller written by American Psycho’s Bret Easton Ellis. Ellis has stated that he was against hiring her in the first place, but she was rehired and eventually managed to complete the film. But not before she had reportedly shown up to set exhausted after wild parties with Lady Gaga. Or before she had cost the production $46,000 on a hotel room. To put that into perspective, the film grossed $56,825. In this particular case, perhaps firing Lohan outright would have been a better decision.
6 James Remar
James Remar was originally cast as the heroic, capable, alien blasting Corporal Hicks in James Cameron’s 1986 film Aliens, but he was rapidly replaced by Michael Biehn under mysterious circumstances. This probably turned out for the best, as the excellent on screen chemistry between Biehn and Sigourney Weaver contributed massively to the success of the film.
In the years since its release, various stories have emerged about why Remar was booted so quickly: initially he said that he had “urgent matters” to attend to back in the United States, and therefore had to leave the filming location in England. Later, he revealed that he was in fact struggling with a serious drug habit, which cost him his job when James Cameron busted him for possession.
Remar has since stated that he managed to get past his problems, and has gone on to have a long and successful career.
5 Isaiah Washington
With a major part in long running television series Grey’s Anatomy as overbearing neat freak Dr. Preston Burke, Isaiah Washington had what most actors can only dream of: a steady job working with a talented cast. He was one of the shows early stars, but after 2007’s third season he has appeared only once, having been fired after losing his cool backstage and allegedly assaulted fellow cast member Patrick Dempsey.
Even then, as such a mainstay of the series, Washington probably would have gotten away with the scuffle had he not also reportedly insulted another cast member, T.R Knight, with a homophobic slur. He hung on for a few months, issuing an apology and patching things up with Dempsey, but no amount of surgery could save this particular patient: network ABC announced in mid 2007 that Washington wouldn't return for series
4 Thomas Gibson
Criminal Minds owes a great deal of its phenomenal success to its star of 11 seasons, Thomas Gibson. His portrayal of Aaron Hotchner as a grim, gruff, complicated boss with a heart of gold helped to win the show fans all over the world. Things haven't always been so straightforward, though.
Over the years, Gibson has repeatedly found himself in trouble with the producers of the show, for anything from DUI charges to scuffles with cast and crew members. Everything came to a head in mid 2016, when Gibson allegedly kicked writer/producer Virgil Williams on the shins after demanding he alter a line Gibson was unhappy with. Gibson claims it was nothing serious, and that his dismissal came as a complete shock.
3 Judy Garland
Garland’s story is a sad one of that revealed a vain, ruthless underbelly beneath the shining veneer of the mid 20th century Hollywood image. Having become hooked on drugs following draconian, borderline inhumane control of her diet and weight throughout the filming of The Wizard of Oz, Garland was never the same, with her personal and professional life spiralling out of control.
Over the following years she was fired repeatedly from various MGM Studios projects that she was meant to star in. Garland would show up late or not show up at all, or would arrive strung out on pills and alcohol. Ultimately MGM fired Garland entirely, releasing her from her contact and essentially throwing her to the wolves. This seems extremely cold considering her substance abuse problems were arguably precipitated by the earlier actions of major MGM figures. Sadly, Garland died from a overdose of barbiturates at the age of 47, having never managed to overcome her addictions.
2 Sylvester Stallone
Sometimes an actor being fired can lead to significant changes to the overall tone and direction of a project. This was certainly the case for 1984’s action comedy Beverly Hills Cop. The film starred Eddie Murphy as a Detroit police officer who ends up investigating a crime in Beverly Hills. Considering that important moments of the unbelievably successful film are based on Murphy’s improvisation, it may come as a surprise to some that the film wasn't written for him. He was actually a replacement for Sylvester Stallone, for whom the movie was initially intended.
It seems like things worked out for the best, as Stallone and Murphy crack wise in very different ways. Stallone was dismissed from the project because he refused to use the original script, reportedly believing that there was too much comedy and not enough action. He took things to the next level by actually rewriting the script to better fit his vision, but nobody was satisfied and Stallone had to go. He supposedly used some of the ideas formed in the failed rewrite for his 1986 film, Cobra. That movie was nowhere near as good as Beverly Hills Cop but still made a whole lot of money. So everybody won.
1 Richard Gere
Yes, that's right. The suave, poised, and sentimental gentleman of '80s and '90s screen stardom got fired from a film he was cast in back in 1974, The Lords of Flatbush. Apparently the young Richard Gere was getting into fights with his co-star… Sylvester Stallone. According to an account Stallone gave in an online Q & A, he and Gere never got along and had already gotten into fights while improvising. The flashpoint that finally led to dismissal though, is utterly ridiculous.
Stallone claims that while he was having lunch in the back of a car, Gere climbed in with a meal of his own: a half-chicken, smothered with mustard and held in aluminium foil. The evidently hygiene conscious Stallone warned Gere that his chicken was going to drip everywhere, and that if he dripped anything onto Sylvester’s pants there were going to be consequences. Gere ignored him and subsequently covered Stallone in mustard. Stallone says he proceeded to elbow Gere in the head, push him out of the car, and demand his dismissal. This demand was met, and Gere was replaced. Apparently there's still bad blood between them.
Whoever knew that a little chicken could lead to so much beef?
Are there any other shocking actor firings you can think of? Let us know in the comments.
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