A movie isn't a product of one person or even one group of people. Every film has several hundred moving parts and thousands of stories that led to its eventual production and release. One of the most important and contentious elements of any movie is the casting process. The decision to go with a certain actor and actress can be torturous for everyone involved, but at least a decision is made.
Yet just because someone lands a job doesn’t mean they keep one in Hollywood. There’s countless examples of actors just missing out on a role. The more painful stories are those of actors who had a job but were replaced during the actual making of the movie.
The reasons for actors getting replaced in the middle of production are varied. Yet it’s never an easy or welcome decision to change course with a role when the movie has already gotten underway. There's not only the human element of the decision but it can be very pricey. Sometimes there is no other choice.
The replacements on this list fall into that camp. For one reason or other, these actors (most of them recognizable names) had to be replaced for the movie’s benefit. It doesn’t mean they’re bad actors or they're difficult to work with but in a lot of these cases these actors were surprisingly miscast and wrong for their roles.
Here are 15 Movie Actors Who Were Shockingly Replaced In The Middle Of Production.
15 James Purefoy in V for Vendetta
Hugo Weaving has built a career on playing slightly menacing and definitely imposing figures. The title character from V for Vendetta is no different and one of the actor’s most famous roles. Yet V was nearly played by a completely different actor.
James Purefoy, known for his TV roles as Mark Antony in Rome and Joe Caroll in The Following, was first had the role of V. Purefoy went through six weeks of filming before it was decided, by everyone involved, that he couldn’t make the character work. The reason being that Purefoy felt he couldn’t emote properly behind the character’s iconic mask. Why this didn't come up right away is anyone's guess.
Interestingly, footage from Purefoy’s performance is still in the film. The scenes with Purefoy as V are either silent or have Hugo Weaving re-recording the lines.
14 Harvey Keitel in Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now is widely considered as one of the best movies ever made ... with the most tumultuous production. The actor who played the lead role in the film, Martin Sheen, took his method acting to extremes. To the point that Sheen nearly killed himself playing the drunk and broken Captain Benjamin L. Willard. While Sheen was always the movie’s first choice to play Willard, he didn’t always have the role.
Director Francis Ford Coppola wanted Sheen to take the role, but the actor was busy at the start of production. Instead Harvey Keitel, who worked with Coppola in Mean Streets, was cast as Willard. However, Keitel didn’t last more than a few weeks. Coppola was dissatisfied with the actor’s performance and that he couldn’t be introspective or passive enough.
The call was put back into for Sheen, who was now free. The movie basically made the (then) young actor’s career.
13 Samantha Morton in Her
In the love story between a man and a disembodied AI, the voice of said AI is probably the most important role. Director Spike Jonze had a big task ahead of him in casting the role of AI Samantha in his Oscar nominated movie, Her. It’s hard to imagine Her without Scarlett Johnson as the titular character but she wasn’t always in the role.
The entire movie was, in fact, filmed with Samantha Morton, known for her roles in Minority Report and Fantastic Beasts, playing the computerized Samantha. Yet once it came time for post-production, it was decided that Morton’s voice didn’t “fit.”
Johansson was brought in to re-record the entire movie. This resulted in Johnasson earning several (and well deserved) acting nominations. Morton’s contributions to the movie are absent in the final product. Well, besides the fact that the AI bears her name.
12 Buddy Ebsen in The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz is a pop culture cornerstone and a practically perfect movie. Everything, including the casting, just works. Yet a different nearly played one of the movie’s most important roles. In the finished product it’s Jack Haley who plays Dorothy’s friend The Tin Man. Haley is, however, a replacement.
Buddy Ebsen, best known for his role as Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies has a complicated history with The Wizard of Oz. He was initially cast as the Scarecrow. However, Ray Bolger managed to convince the studio that he should play the Scarecrow and Ebsen the Tin Man.
Everything seemed set to go until it was discovered that Ebsen was highly allergic to the make-up needed to bring The Tin Man to life. Ebsen was hospitalized for two weeks after inhaling the aluminum dust from the make-up. As a result he had to be replaced with Haley.
11 Jean-Claude Van Damme in Predator
During the 1990s, Jean Claude Van Damme and Arnold Schwarzenegger battled for action hero supremacy at the box office. It wasn’t until The Expendables 2 where they appeared in the same movie. However, earlier in their careers they did almost face off, on-screen, in Predator.
Van Damme was cast as the famous titular alien during the 1987 movie. Everything went awry though when the actor realized how much of his face would be covered by prosthetic and make-up. Jean Claude van Damme didn’t want to appear in the movie and be virtually unrecognizable. He quit the role and The Predator became much less agile and mobile as a result.
Kevin Peter Hall, who towered over van Damme at seven feet and two inches, was eventually cast in the role.
10 Dougray Scott in The X-Men
The role of Wolverine put Hugh Jackman on the map and defined the character on the big screen. It’s impossible to think of anyone else as Wolverine or to imagine a time when Jackman wasn’t a household name. ?Nevertheless, Jackman’s breakout role originally belonged to someone else.
Dougray Scott, a relatively obscure British actor, was first cast as Wolverine. 1999 was a big year for Scott as he was cast as the villain in Mission Impossible II and was lined up to play Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s X-Men. Yet production on Mission Impossible ran longer than expected. While X-Men waited for a month for Scott to become available, they eventually had to recast. Hugh Jackman landed the role instead and spandex history was made.
It’s probably safe to say Wolverine isn't Dougray Scott’s favorite superhero.
9 Colin Firth in Paddington
The character of Paddington Bear has been around since the 1950’s but it took a while for him to receive a proper cinematic adventure. In 2014, Paddington finally received his own live-action movie. Although he is primarily a CGI creature, actor Ben Whishaw, who played Q in Skyfall, voices the role. Although Paddington had another posh British voice to start out.
Colin Firth was the original voice of Paddington. Despite the actor’s popularity and recognizable voice, it was decided that he wasn’t right for Paddington. Firth and the people making the movie agreed that his voice was too proper and mature for the cute bear.
However, the decision to switch Firth out for Whishaw was made very late into production. Firth left the project in June 2014 but the first Paddington movie premiered in November of that same year.
8 Ryan Gosling in The Lovely Bones
Peter Jackson’s fame as a director might be in adapting fantasy epics. Yet the man who directed The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies also adapted a much smaller novel for the silver screen. Jackson directed The Lovely Bones, a movie about child abduction. The director is also responsible for one of the key roles being replaced.
Ryan Gosling was initially cast to play the father of the abducted little girl at the movie’s center. The typically svelte actor had, without telling Jackson, put on 60 pounds for the role. Gosling felt that this was the right look for a man whose children was missing, but Jackson disagreed.
Following the disagreement, Gosling was fired from the movie. In his stead, Mark Wahlberg was brought onto the project and he, unsurprisingly, did nothing to change his body weight or shape for the role.
7 Sylvester Stallone in Beverly Hills Cop
Sylvester Stallone’s talents as an actor are best used as a rough-and0tumble action hero. Yet at the height of his popularity in the early 90s, Sly was determined to make a comedy. This resulted in some truly terrible movies like the infamous Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Yet Stallone also had Eddie Murphy’s famous role in Beverly Hills Cop.
When production for Beverly Hills Cop first started it was Stallone, not Murphy, who was playing Axel Foley. The original script was very much the comedy the movie became but Stallone had different ideas. He stepped in to rewrite parts of the movie, as Stallone turned Axel into more of action hero. That take was rejected and Stallone was subsequently removed from the film.
This, thankfully, allowed Eddie Murphy to take the role and become a comedic superstar.
6 James Remar in Aliens
A lot of actors on this list parted in mostly amicable ways, even if the reasons for their removal and replacement are a little strange. James Remar's time and removal on James Cameron’s Aliens was anything but good-natured. When Aliens began production, Remar had the role of Coroporal Hicks, the character that would eventually be played by Michael Biehn.
Remar was reportedly very difficult on set. He had live ammo in his shotgun during one scene and he blew a hole in a neighboring set, Frank Oz’ Little Shop of Horrors. He was eventually removed from the movie entirely because he was busted for drug possession. Thankfully, the actor is now clean and regrets his actions.
Yet this was all kept a secret for years from fans and the crew of Aliens. Remar was simply gone one day without explanation, with Biehn standing in his place.
5 Anne Hathaway in Knocked Up
It seems like it was destined for the leading lady of Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up to be dissatisfied with her role. The actress who played Alison in the finished movie, Katherine Heigl, infamously trashed the film and her character in public. Heigl isn’t the only famous actress who had problems with Allison.
It was Anne Hathaway who first signed onto Knocked Up to play Allison. Shortly into production Hathway quit the role when she found out one very specific detail of the movie.
When Hathway discovered that footage of a real birth would be used in the film's climax, with the accompanying nudity, she backed out. The actress felt that the graphic shot was unnecessary and unneeded. Even though the nudity in question wouldn’t even have involved Hathaway but another person entirely.
4 Kevin Spacey in All the Money in the World
The underage sexual abuse scandal hit Kevin Spacey’s career like a destructive (and long overdue) tsunami. The reports that Spacey had tried to get intimate with a teenage Anthony Rapp (and several other young men) destroyed the actor’s reputation. In the wake of the news, Spacey was removed from several projects. The most notable example is that he was completely erased from Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World.
One of the biggest roles in the movie is J. Paul Getty, the man that Spacey played. In light of the news surrounding the actor, Scott recast the role with Christopher Plummer and re-shot all of Spacey’s scenes, which are numerous, a few months before release.
It worked in the movie’s favor as Plummer’s performance is highly praised, but it was a crazy and expensive undertaking.
3 Annette Bening in Batman Returns
Michelle Pfeiffer played Catwoman over 20 years ago. Yet for many people her portrayal of Selina Kyle is the definitive cinematic version. Catwoman didn’t make Pfeiffer’s career but it did give her a boost, especially with certain segments of the movie watching audience. Surprisingly, the role nearly went to another famous blonde actress.
Annette Bening was first cast Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman sequel. Yet when the movie really began to ramp up, Bening discovered she was pregnant and had to drop out.
This allowed Pfeiffer a chance to land the role, something she desperately wanted. After Bening left, Pfieffer convinced Burton that Selina Kyle belonged to her and he evidently agreed. Still Bening ’s oldest son with Warren Beatty, Stephen, is to blame for her losing out on the role of Catwoman.
2 Eric Stoltz in Back to the Future
The case of Marty McFly is probably one of the most infamous examples of a major movie recasting. Though Marty is one of Michael J. Fox’s most famous roles, the movie didn’t start with him playing the time-traveling teen. It was Eric Stoltz, whose career was on the rise at the time, who was first cast as Marty.
Director Robert Zemeckis and crew filmed five weeks with Stoltz before realizing they had made a huge mistake. Looking at the compiled footage, Zemeckis and executive producer Steven Spielberg agreed that Stoltz wasn’t as charming and funny as the movie needed.
Zemeckis went to Fox. Zemeckis had always wanted the actor but Fox was busy with his sitcom Family Ties. This time shooting schedules were worked out. Now, all that remains of Stoltz is one shot of Marty’s hand punching Biff.
1 Stuart Townsend in Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a monumental undertaking and huge gamble for director Peter Jackson and crew. It’s a gamble that (obviously) paid off resulting in one of the most acclaimed and successful movie trilogies of all time. It might not have been so successful if one of the key roles hadn’t been replaced.
When the massive production of Lord of the Rings got off the ground, it was 27-year-old newcomer Stuart Townsend who playing Aragorn, the future king of Gondor. Townsend went through months of training but only managed to only film a couple days. Jackson quickly decided Townsend was far too young. Townsend was replaced with Viggo Mortenson, who is 14 years his senior.
Sadly, Townsend’s career has yet to really give him a breakout role. Although, to be honest, Mortenson hasn’t exactly done much either since Aragorn.
Do you know of any other famous movie replacements? Did we miss any really shocking examples? Sound off in the comments below!