A-list stars bring a lot to a movie. First and foremost, they bring their considerable talents, which can go a long way toward making a project work. They also bring a level of prestige, alerting audiences to the fact that a movie is worth paying attention to. They even bring financial security. When a top actor appears in a new movie, their fans are very likely to run to the box office, ready to purchase a ticket.
Because of all this, A-listers add to the budgets of any film on which they work. They don’t come cheap. If you want all the benefits of Hollywood royalty, you’d better be prepared to pay them what they’re worth. After going to such an expense, the idea of cutting those same celebrities out of the movie altogether seems unwise at best, and catastrophic at worst. Yet this exact thing has happened more times than you might believe.
We’ve gathered some of the most remarkable examples of top-tier actors who did their work, collected their paycheck, and then watched as their performances were left entirely on the cutting room floor, with no trace of ever having been in the film. You’ll be surprised by some of the names on this list, as well as some of the reasons why they vanished.
Here are 17 A-listers Who Were Completely Deleted From Movies.
17. Jessica Chastain (The Death and Life of John F. Donovan)
Xavier Dolan is a Canadian director who’s already won the Grand Prix and Jury Prize from Cannes, at the tender age of 28. Later this year, he will release his latest project, entitled The Death and Life of John F. Donovan. The story of a young actor who reflects back on his correspondence with a major TV star, it features an all-star cast, including Natalie Portman, Jacob Tremblay, Susan Sarandon, and Kit Harington. But not Jessica Chastain.
Dolan’s initial cut of the movie ran four hours. He decided that the best thing was to omit a “villain subplot” featuring the actress. The director was apologetic on Instagram, saying the decision to cut Chastain out was “extremely difficult,” and emphasizing that it was done solely for “editorial and narrative” reasons.
16. Andy Garcia (Dangerous Minds)
Dangerous Minds was one of the biggest hits of 1995. Based on a true story, it stars Michelle Pfeiffer as LouAnn Johnson, a former U.S. Marine who takes a job as a teacher at an inner city high school. The students are initially resistant to her, but over time, she finds a way to inspire them. It’s an uplifting story about the value of a quality education.
A subplot in the movie had Pfeiffer’s character finding love with Andy Garcia.
Theoretically, it should have been great to see these two fine actors sharing the screen. However, it quickly became apparent that the real action was in the classroom, not the bedroom. Everyone involved, including Garcia, recognized that the romantic angle was a pointless distraction. The entire subplot was removed from the final cut.
15. Shailene Woodley (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Any self-respecting comic book fan knows that Peter Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy perished and that he later ended up with Mary Jane Watson. For The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the plan was to begin replicating this storyline onscreen. The movie would end with Emma Stone’s Gwen meeting her fate, then include a brief introduction to Mary Jane, played by Shailene Woodley.
The actress, who would have had a major role in the planned third installment, did a couple of days work.
Director Marc Webb found himself in a bind, though. Gwen’s death was so powerful onscreen that having Peter show an attraction to Mary Jane in the film’s final minutes made him seem callous.
14. Liam Neeson (The Hangover Part II)
The Hangover Part II represents a case where an A-lister was replaced by another A-lister, who was then replaced by a C-lister.
Director Todd Phillips initially hired Mel Gibson for a brief cameo in which he would play a deranged and possibly dangerous tattoo artist. Several members of the cast, most notably Zach Galifianakis, reportedly objected to Gibson’s casting, due to racist and anti-Semitic remarks he’d made in the past.
With that, Phillips fired Gibson and brought in Liam Neeson to play the role. By all accounts, he was very funny. However, reshoots were required later on to fix some issues with the movie. Neeson was busy making Wrath of the Titans, and therefore unavailable for the additional shooting. His cameo subsequently had to be tossed, with actor Nick Cassavetes brought in to play the tattoo artist.
13. Kevin Spacey (All the Money in the World)
All the Money in the World was supposed to give Kevin Spacey his third trip to the Oscar stage. In the months prior to its release, there was enormous awards buzz within the industry for his portrayal of legendary billionaire J. Paul Getty, the man who famously refused to pay ransom to save his kidnapped grandson.
Several months before it was scheduled to hit theaters, Spacey was accused of assault and other sordid behavior. Keeping him in the movie no longer seemed viable.
Director Ridley Scott did something unprecedented: he recast Christopher Plummer in the role, then went back and reshot all of Spacey’s scenes. Astonishingly, he did this at the last minute, still managing to make the film’s scheduled late-December release date. Making the situation sting even more for Spacey was that Plummer got nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars.
12. Josh Brolin (Suburbicon)
When Josh Brolin was announced as a cast member in the darkly comic thriller Suburbicon, the news was widely reported in the entertainment press. The movie came out, and the actor was nowhere to be seen, though.
He shot several scenes, playing a baseball coach.
Director George Clooney told Entertainment Weekly those sequences were humorous in nature and that, after the first test screening, he realized they “let the air out of the balloon, in terms of the tension in the film.” As such, Brolin’s part was entirely removed.
Clooney felt bad, but not as bad as his star, who felt perhaps his performance hadn’t been good enough. In response, the director sent him a copy of the scenes, so that he could see how strong his work actually was.
11. James Gandolfini (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
The late James Gandolfini earned fame playing mob boss Tony Soprano on HBO’s seminal series The Sopranos. His performance was often brutal and scary. For his movie endeavors, he liked to take roles that were polar opposites of his signature character, in order to show other sides of his talent. One of them was portraying a love interest to Sandra Bullock in the 9/11-themed drama Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Hitting just the right tone on a picture with such a sensitive theme — and one based on a complex novel, no less — was tricky. Test audiences weren’t buying into the romance, indicating that it was a distraction from the main story.
Director Stephen Daldry had no option but to cut it out, meaning audiences never got to see Gandolfini’s work.
10. Kevin Costner (The Big Chill)
Kevin Costner’s situation is a little bit different from the others on this list, as he wasn’t yet an A-list star at the time he was deleted. In some ways, that makes it even worse. He was an up-and-comer when he received what should have been his big break, playing the character whose passing brings a group of old friends back together in Lawrence Kasdan’s 1983 classic The Big Chill.
Aside from being the character who sets the entire plot in motion, Costner was to appear in flashback scenes designed to show his character’s personality prior to his death. During the editing process, Kasdan decided that those scenes interfered with the heart of the story, which was the reunion of those still living, so he removed Costner. All that remains are a few brief seconds of him in a lifeless state.
9. Mickey Rourke (The Thin Red Line)
Mickey Rourke is not one to shy away from speaking his mind. The actor was none too happy about being completely cut out of Terrence Malick’s 1998 WWII drama The Thin Red Line. It wasn’t just because the movie was critically praised, or because it was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
He was angry because he thought his work in it was the best he’d done.
Malick is infamous for shooting much more than he needs, then shaping everything in the editing room. Actors are routinely deleted from his films.
Rourke publicly groused about the situation, saying that there were “political” reasons for his excision – specifically his reputation for being a bit on the wild side.
8. Rachel Weisz (To the Wonder)
You have to give Rachel Weisz some credit. She knew what she was getting into when she signed on for a supporting role in Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder. “I did it for the experience of working with him, but one never knows with Terrence Malick,” she told SFGate. “You can shoot for three months and not end up being in the movie.” That’s exactly what happened to her.
Weisz shot scenes in which she portrayed a close friend of Neil, the lead character played by Ben Affleck. One of her primary functions in the story was to give advice to Neil’s new girlfriend.
As is par for the course with Malick, he shot a whole bunch of material, then decided what To the Wonder would ultimately become in the editing room. Weisz’s part didn’t fit his final vision. Incidentally, he also cut Jessica Chastain out of the same movie.
7. Tobey Maguire (Life of Pi)
Life of Pi represents a very unusual example of an A-lister being deleted. That’s because, for the most part, the movie was comprised of actors largely unknown to the general public. Direcot Ang Lee cut out Tobey Maguire, literally the most recognizable member of the cast. Even more interestingly, the actor’s recognizable face is the exact reason why he got cut.
Maguire originally played the writer who interviews the older incarnation of the main character. That writer is only in the film briefly, yet he’s instrumental in setting up the story. When he finished cutting Life of Pi together, Lee concluded that having a big star in a small role, especially when no one else in the cast was at his level of fame, was a huge distraction.
6. Uma Thurman (Savages)
In most cases, a famous actor is deleted for time constraints, or because their particular part of the movie slows the overall pace.
In the case of Savages, it was because of a studio mandate.
Oliver Stone hired Uma Thurman to play the mother of O, a hippie wild child portrayed by Blake Lively. The inclusion of the dysfunctional, much-married mother character was intended to provide context for O’s eccentric personality and “live life on the edge” choices. It wasn’t a huge part, but it’s absolutely one that helps some of the film’s more outrageous events make sense.
Stone, like many top directors, tends to make long movies. That proved to be a problem with executives at Universal Picture, who insisted that he shorten Savages. Stone fought them on the issue and lost. A 131-minute cut of the movie was made possible by cutting all of Thurman’s scenes out.
5. Paul Rudd (Bridesmaids)
Imagine that you’re making a great big comedy movie. You manage to land one of the funniest people on the planet for a small role. Why on earth would you then proceed to thoroughly eliminate that performer? For answers, ask director Paul Feig and star/producer Kristen Wiig, who cut Paul Rudd out of Bridesmaids.
Rudd played Dave, Wiig’s blind date. He seems like a nice guy until they go ice skating and a child accidentally runs over his finger. Suddenly, Dave becomes a hostile, profanity-spewing, grade-A jerk. He rants and raves, eventually even screaming obscenities at the child who injured him.
Wiig said that test audiences hated seeing the usually likable Rudd playing such an unrepentant creep.
4. Robert Pattinson (Vanity Fair)
Early in his career, before becoming a household name with The Twilight Saga, Robert Pattinson had some great luck. He was cast alongside major star Reese Witherspoon in Vanity Fair, a fancy film adaptation of the literary classic. You couldn’t ask for a more prestigious opportunity.
The actor, who was sixteen at the time, had a scene as the son of Witherspoon’s character, Becky Sharp.
That moment was deemed unnecessary for the movie and promptly excised. Although he was undoubtedly disappointed at the time, Pattinson learned to laugh off the situation later on. When accepting the Generation Award at MTV’s 2011 Movie Awards, he joked that his co-star may have been responsible for his Vanity Fair fate and teased her about being old enough to play his mom.
3. Ashley Judd (Natural Born Killers)
Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers was extremely controversial when it was released in 1994, but its depiction of media glamorization of violence and dysfunction seems absolutely prescient today. Based on a story by Quentin Tarantino, the movie tells the story of two lovers — Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) — who go on a sociopathic spree, becoming unlikely celebrities in the process.
Stone wanted to keep the movie lean and mean, which meant that certain sequences had to be let go in order to keep the running time at around two hours. The most notable omission is a 10-minute courtroom scene with Ashley Judd as a young woman testifying against the couple after seeing them take out a group of her friends. Mickey cross-examines her, then slays her.
2. Sienna Miller (Black Mass)
Black Mass brought together some of the biggest talent in Hollywood to tell the true story of infamous Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. Johnny Depp played Bulger, and the film also starred Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Dakota Johnson, Adam Scott, and David Harbour.
Technically, the cast included Sienna Miller – not that you got to see her.
Miller had a supporting part as Catherine Greig, one of Bulger’s girlfriends. The actress was so gung-ho about the role that she worked extensively with a dialect coach to master a credible Boston accent.
Unfortunately for her, director Scott Cooper felt the need to keep the movie focused on other things in order to maximize the drama, so Miller and her character were lost. “It came down to narrative choices,” he told the Boston Globe, while simultaneously praising her work as “fantastic.”
1. Harrison Ford (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial)
Harrison Ford is a good friend and great colleague of Steven Spielberg’s. He played Indiana Jones for the director, giving both of them one of their biggest cinematic triumphs. In that sense, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Ford did his pal a favor by shooting a very brief cameo for E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Not so coincidentally, the actor was also married to the movie’s writer, Melissa Matheson, at the time.
Ford played a principal who doesn’t see that Elliot is briefly levitated by the titular alien while lecturing him on appropriate school behavior.
The scene is clever, but Spielberg felt that it was also more jarring than he’d intended.
He feared audiences would get caught up in the story, then be distracted by having the man who played Indy and Han Solo suddenly appear. Despite their friendship, the sequence got the ax.
Which of these deleted A-listers surprises you most? Which one do you most wish hadn’t been cut? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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