20 Movies That Went Through Radical Changes At The Last Minute

Film making is an almost unimaginably complicated process that requires months, and sometimes years, of planning before cameras start rolling in order to efficiently make the project a reality. In an ideal situation casting, scripts, storyboards, shooting locations, and many more facets should be firmly decided on prior to shooting. However, even the best laid plans are prone to disruption for any variety of reasons. Given the countless moving parts that make up a movie, one of them is highly likely to act irregularly and disturb the natural order of a production.

This list will be taking a look at these interruptions that happened at the eleventh hour. In some cases these occurrences spelled doom for the project, leaving a film that is only a disappointing reminder of what could have been had operations ran smoothly. Other times the movie still turned out to be a hit, or at least a quality product-something one would not expect when such a gargantuan change takes place at the last minute.

Whatever the reason for the need to do last minute work, all of these examples just go to show the creative or, often times, drastic measures people or studios will go through to complete a movie. With the fragile nature of films, its a miracle these last minute adjustments resulted in a completed product at all, whether it was good or not. Only people who have actually made movies can imagine the type of pressure it is to actually make these works of art.

Here's 20 Movies That Went Through Radical Changes At The Last Minute.

20 Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad Theatre Scene

2013's Gangster Squad fell victim to unfortunate timing, as its trailer was already out in the public when The Dark Knight Rises was released. The latter film's opening weekend was plagued with tragedy, when an armed man took the lives of twelve people and injuring dozens more during a screening in Aurora, Colorado.

Gangster Squad's trailer featured an eerily similar scene, with a group of gangsters spraying bullets in a movie theater. As a result of the attack, the trailer was immediately pulled from circulation and the movie itself removed the controversial scene from the final product. The release date was also pushed back from September 7th,  2012 to January 11th, 2013. The change did not negatively affect the movie, as it still received solid reviews and grossed over $105 million worldwide from a $75 million budget.

19 All The Money In The World Recasts A Month Before Release

Sometimes an actor does something so egregiously bad it makes it difficult to ever watch them on screen again. When the accusations roll in during a film's production it is possible to save the movie from eternal uneasiness.

All the actors involved in the film were onboard to re-shoot the scenes, commending Ridley Scott for his decision. 

Kevin Spacey was initially set to portray J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World before numerous people came forward with assault allegations against the actor. Because of this, the filmmakers made the decision to recast the character with Christopher Plumber and re-shoot the scenes. Plumber shot his part from November 20 to the 29,  less than a month before its intended release. Miraculously, the film still was released on schedule in a completed state.

18 Justice League Fell Into Joss Wheadon's Hands During Post

Justice League polarized audiences upon its release and generally invited the ire of critics. It is difficult not to compare it to the other large superhero team up, The Avengers, whose first film grossed over $1.5 billion worldwide, while its DC equivalent made over $657 million worldwide.

Joss Whedon, who directed the first two Avenger's films, took over for Zack Snyder in May 2017 after Snyder exited to the project to deal with a family tragedy. The last-minute changing of hands also meant several re-shoots, resulting in one of the movie's more infamous moments. Henry Cavil had a mustache for his role in Mission Impossible: Fallout. The facial hair was removed with visual effects, and the result is less than stellar.

17 Apocalypse Now Changes The Villain's Name, Then Changes It Back

Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now

The number of eccentric things Marlon Brando was said to have done in his later years could fill a book. There was one time he retracted one of his ridiculous demands, causing extra work for the producers of Apocalypse Now after filming had finished.

When Brando was first cast as Colonel Kurtz, he insisted the character's name be changed. The director, Francis Ford Coppola, gave in to the actor's demand and his name was Leighly during the shoot. After reading Heart of Darkness, the book the movie is loosely based on, Brando insisted his name be reverted back the Kurtz. It's hard to say if the change would have had any impact on the end result, but either way Apocalypse Now is now considered one of the greatest films ever made.

16 Solo Switched Directors After Most Of It Was Filmed

Nobody needs an explanation of how careful studios have to handle the Star Wars franchise.  When things start going wrong in the middle of a particular production, drastic measures must be taken to rectify the situation. This was the case with the recently released Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Behind the scenes drama caused many fans to become skeptical about the final project. But, Ron Howard was able to deliver an entertaining movie. 

The Han Solo side story was originally being helmed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller,  before being fired by Lucasfilm and replaced with Ron Howard. It is said that most of the film was already completed and that Howard re-shot approximately eighty percent of it. Some actors were also re-cast due to scheduling conflicts. While it's current box office intake is underwhelming, one has to the remember that the re-shoots potentially doubled the movie's budget.

15 Rogue One Went Through Extensive Reshoots

Diego Luna as Cassian Andor Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso in Rogue One A Star Wars Story Rebel Scarif

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story made a strong showing as the first of the Star Wars anthology films. Part of what makes it so memorable is its tragic ending, which had to be re-tooled before its completion. Disney grew concerned that the last sequence was not going as planned under director Gareth Edward's control. To remedy this, the company had screenwriter Tony Gilroy lead the re-shoots, mainly working to give the movie a stronger conclusion.

We're pretty sure the characters in Rogue One don't like sand anyway. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it just gets everywhere.  

This is the principle reason why so many of the trailers had footage not shown in the final release. Audiences will probably never see how the original ending played out, but the one they have now is certainly a mesmerizing one.

14 First Blood Was Originally Much Longer

Sylvester Stallone in First Blood

First Blood, from its first moments until its heart-wrenching conclusion, is a masterpiece of action cinema. However, it started out as an unbearable three-hour long mess.

When Stallone saw the first cut of the film, he wanted to prevent its release because he thought it would ruin his career. While he thankfully did not do that, he did suggest cutting out a significant portion of his scenes in order to cut the run time in half. The editors followed the advice and the finished product is the legendary film moviegoers love and still enjoy to this day. One has to give credit to Stallone for this suggestion, as most other actors would probably not advise taking out a majority of their work for the betterment of the film as a whole.

13 Shrek Had A Canadian Accent

Shrek and Donkey

Michael Myers performance as the lovable green ogre is as memorable a character as Austin Powers or Wayne Campbell. Not only was he not the original actor to play him, but he also recorded most of the dialogue in a completely different voice.

It hard to think of Shrek without his trademark Scottish accent, seems a little weird. 

Chris Farley was cast as the title character, recording much of his part before tragically passing away. When Myers was brought on board, he recorded a significant amount of his role in a strong Canadian accent, before redoing the part with the trademark Scottish accent the character is now known for. While recording the dialogue almost three times in its entirety certainly caused some inconvenience for the crew, it was ultimately worth all of the effort.

12 Annie Hall's Plot Was Radically Different

Annie Hall

Despite the deterioration of Woody Allen's reputation in recent years, one cannot deny the quality of his body of work, with Annie Hall sitting near the very top. It is remembered for being one of the most real, melancholy love stories put to film. Had the movie been released in its original form, however, it would have been an entirely different beast.

Shifting the focus of the film from Alvy's life made a more compelling film. 

The film was originally intended to focus solely on the life of Allen's character, Alvy, with just a small portion focused on his relationship with Diane Keaton's character, Annie. After a disappointing rough cut of 2 hours and 20 minutes, significant re-editing took place with the focus shifting over to the relationship. Work on the new version was arduous and done quickly, with certain segments being completed mere hours before test screenings.

11 Richard Donner Is Fired Before Finishing Superman II

Superman bows to Zod in Superman II

The 1978 Superman film is a landmark moment for the genre, whose blueprint can still be seen in the superhero movies of today. Richard Donner set out to make a grounded version of the story and the idea paid off big time.

In 2006, the Richard Donner Cut of Superman II was released.

Despite the success, Richard Donner did not return to finish the sequel, which was being filmed simultaneously and nearly complete. Stories range from Donner refusing to return because of conflicts with producers to him being fired. Richard Lester was brought in to finish the film, giving viewers a much more comedic and inane Superman II than originally envisioned. The film was still a huge success with audiences.

10 Payback Needed A Nicer Protagonist

Brian Helgeland's 1999 crime film, Payback, was met with mixed reviews, but has since garnered more favor from audiences. This recent spurt of good faith mostly comes from the director's 2006 re-edit, which was his original vision.

When test audiences reacted negatively to Mel Gibson's character, the studio forced re-writes and re-shoots in order to make the main character more sympathetic. The end result is a tamer movie that leaves less of a mark on the viewer.

After seeing Helgeland's original cut, it becomes easy to understand why the studio was nervous about it. In the first version, the protagonist is more ruthless in his quest for vengeance. For those interested, both cuts are fine movies in their own right. So just watch both.

9 Stanley Kubrick Changes The Shining After It Is Released

Nearly all of Stanley Kubrick's works are masterpieces, with The Shining often topping lists of the greatest horror films ever made. The legendary director's penchant for perfection was legendary. It was exemplified by him changing this movie a week after its theatrical debut.

Sometimes it takes one final run through, after a movie's release, to find the perfect ending. 

Kubrick had decided the last scene of the movie was unnecessary, so all theaters showing the film were ordered to take out the last scene and return it to the studio. Most fans agree it was a smart move by Kubrick, with the current ending having a more abrupt impact on the viewer. Stanley did a lot of extraordinary things during his career. It is not surprising to hear he edited one of his movies while it was still having its theatrical run.

8 Back To The Future Changes Leads Mid-Production

Back Future Eric Stoltz

Of the several roles Michael J. Fox is famous for, Back to the Future's Marty McFly is perhaps the most well-known. What some people may not know is that Eric Stoltz filmed several weeks worth of footage, before being replaced by Fox.

Michael was always the first choice for Marty, but scheduling conflicts with Family Ties prevented him from signing on. Partway through production, all parties, including the actor himself, agreed that Eric Stoltz was not working out in the role. Fox was brought back on with a schedule that allowed him to film the movie and fulfill his television duties.

Despite the approximately $ 3 million added to the budget (for a total of $19 million), the re-casting was ultimately a smart move.

7 Lord Of The Rings Replaces A Lead While Filming

Viggo Mortensen and Orland Bloom in The Two Towers

For a relatively unknown actor, being a part of Peter Jackson's The Lord of The Rings' trilogy meant a significant elevation of their status. What a disappointment it was for Stuart Townsend then, as he was replaced by Viggo Mortensen in the middle of The Fellowship of the Rings.

Townsend had not yet filmed any scenes, but he had completed months of training before Jackson decided he wanted an older actor to play Aragorn. Mortensen was not familiar with the source material but was convinced to take on the role by his son.

Mortensen is now a highly respected actor. It is difficult to say if Townsend would have become an A-lister if he had stayed in the role.

6 The Island Of Dr. Moreau Fired Its Director As Filming Starts

Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer didn't get along on the set of The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Based on the classic H.G. Wells novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau was a dream project for South African director Richard Stanley. Unfortunately for the filmmaker, his dream was taken away from him when he was fired after only three days of filming.

Stanley was devastated by this and the film was put into the hands of John Frankenheimer. While Frankenheimer was an accomplished director himself, he could do nothing to save the troubled production or curb the erratic behavior of the two stars, Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. The resulting film was a disaster, earning dreadful reviews and abysmal box office returns. For Stanley, it must have been traumatic to see his baby ripped from his control.

5 Clerks Ending Was Changed

Kevin Smith's Clerks

Clerks was produced for $27 thousand and ended up changing the life of its writer and producer, Kevin Smith. It is a laid-back comedy, whose realistic dialogue still resonates with people to this day. While it is a fairly light affair, it originally had a much darker ending.

Always stick with your gut feeling, even if you're unsure. That's what Kevin Smith did. 

The film was planned to end with the main character, Dante, being fatally wounded by robbers, putting an end to any possibilities for sequels. Smith has said the ending was filmed because he was unsure how to finish the story, but thankfully he decided to change it to the conclusion we know and love today. Would the movie have become such a phenomenon had the original ending stayed? We'll never know.

4 I Am Legend Had A Way Better Ending

I Am Legend Will Smith Zombie

I am Legend is a mostly forgotten Will Smith film from 2007. Had it followed its original ending, staying closer to the themes of its source material, the film might have stayed in audiences minds longer. The film was meant to conclude with the protagonist discovering the monsters, or Darkseekers, are intelligent and realizing the implications of his experiments on them. Once that ending was disliked by test audiences, they changed it for the flashy, explosive ending that was put in theaters.

While the alternate ending can be seen on home releases, the initial reception was definitely hurt by the new and generic conclusion. It goes to show that test audiences are not always right.

3 Casablanca's Ending Was Not Decided On Until The last Minute

Casablanca Ending

Casablanca has stayed in the public's mind for over seventy years. This can be largely attributed to its iconic ending. It may be surprising, then, that the last scene was not decided on pretty much until it was filmed.

Sometimes rules that hinder a person's creativity creates a better outcome. 

The Hays Code in place at the time prevented producers from having Ilsa leave her husband for Rick, as adultery was strictly forbidden on film. So, as a result, they opted for the bittersweet resolution that has become a part of film history. There was also an epilogue meant to be shot, but scheduling conflicts squashed this idea. While the Hays Code was certainly a travesty against artistic freedom, at least it produced this moment of cinematic excellence in Casablanca.

2 World War Z's Last Act Was Done In Reshoots

Max Brooks' novel World War Z is a gripping look at a zombie apocalypse, while the film adaptation is a mindless action romp that confuses quality and quantity, with the amount of undead they can fit on screen at one time.

The strongest part of the film is arguably the last act, which tones down the scale and actually gains some semblance of a horror movie. The reason for its wild change in tone is because the last act was mostly done in re-shoots after the rest of the film was completed. The re-shoots did nothing to save the overall product, but there is still hope for the sequel, set to be directed by David Fincher.

1 Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Had An Incongruous Ending

Scott Pilgrim vs the world

While somewhat of a box office dud, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World has found life as a cult classic on home video and streaming. Its small legion of fans argue that it is a perfect film, but they may not have felt the same if Edgar Wright, the director, had kept his ending.

It was a right call to have Scott and Ramona end up together. Having him get back with Knives would make it feel like his character did not mature throughout the film.

Wright filmed a conclusion that differed vastly from the graphic novel, having Scott Pilgrim end up with Knives, his girlfriend from the beginning of the story. When test audiences reacted negatively to this, they ultimately decided to make the ending closer to its source material.


What other movies do you know went through wild last minute changes? Let us know in the comments

More in Lists