Though women struggle for equality in every line of work, Hollywood may be one of the most egregious examples of the gender divide. Procreation is a literal fact of life, and yet, pregnancy undeniably effects the type of work actresses are able to land.
There are all sorts of ways a production can hide a pregnancy including wardrobe, and shot angles. TV shows with established characters will often make such concessions for their actresses, or a film will delay production to wait for its lead to give birth. But it’s not uncommon for a producer to make a different call.
When a 1996 jury ruled in favor of pregnant soap actress Hunter Tylo for wrongful termination, the defense attorney had no remorse, saying, "If nothing else, this decision will cause producers to pay even more attention to the wording of their contracts.”
The actresses on this list all lost a role because they decided to bring a new life into the world. No matter how you slice it, it’s never going to be something that a male actor will have to deal with.
Here are 16 Actresses Who Lost Roles Due To Pregnancy.
16 Lisa Bonet - The Cosby Show/A Different World
Because of her character's wry, bohemian demeanor, Denise was a fan favorite on The Cosby Show. Cosby was already steamed at Bonet for doing a love scene in the Mickey Rourke drama, Angel Heart. This prompted Cosby to ship Denise off to “College” on the spin-off, A Different World.
But when 23-year-old Bonet decided to start a family with her then-husband Lenny Kravitz, the controlling Cosby patriarch reportedly felt that a baby for Denise would further disrupt the wholesome family image he had cultivated. Though A Different World showrunner Debbie Allen suggested that Bonet’s pregnancy would make a relatable story arc for Denise, Cosby disagreed. Denise dropped out of college and Cosby gradually wrote her out of the Huxtable universe.
15 Hilary Duff - The Story of Bonnie and Clyde
In 2011, the Lizzie McGuire actress was slated to co-star in a new Bonnie and Clyde biopic. But during pre-production, Duff discovered she was pregnant with her son, Luca.
The film had already been in development hell for several years so producers told her they were eager to get the ball rolling. 23-year-old Duff was still keen to play the role if they agreed to shoot around the pregnancy or wait until after the baby was born, but director Tonya S. Holly insisted it wasn’t possible. However, because she was technically being fired from the project, Duff was still paid $100,000 per her contract.
As of 2018, the film is still in development so it looks like things worked out in Duff’s favor. They could have waited after all.
14 Isla Fisher - Now You See Me 2
Now You See Me, was a surprise hit, in part because of Fisher’s portrayal of escapist Henley Reeves. As the sole woman in a group of bank robbing magicians known as the Four Horseman, Fisher had even put her life on the line for the film. She nearly drowned during an underwater stunt gone wrong.
But when it came time to shoot the sequel in 2013, Fisher had just learned she was pregnant with her 3rd child with actor Sacha Baron Cohen. Montgomery joined the Fisher Baron Cohen family alongside 8-year-old Olive and 4-year-old Elula.
Meanwhile, producers replaced Fisher with Party Down’s Lizzy Caplan, creating a new token female character for the Four Horseman. There is no word on whether or not Fisher will return for the upcoming 3rd installment of Now You See Me.
13 Robin Wright - Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves
Wright has no regrets about turning down roles in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Firm to focus on her growing family with then-husband Sean Penn. She also turned down the female lead in Batman Forever with Val Kilmer (though let’s be honest, she dodged a bullet there) in favor of staying home with her two children.
Wright voluntarily took a break from acting and is glad she did. “I don't look back and think, 'F***, I missed putting my kids to bed for four straight years because I was in the theater.’”
Now that her daughter Dylan, and son, Hopper are grown up, Wright has been enjoying a killer comeback, kicking metaphorical butt in the White House on House of Cards and literal butt on Themyscira in Wonder Woman.
12 Nicole Kidman - The Reader
Kate Winslet received her long overdue Best Actress Oscar for the 2008 WWII drama The Reader. But the juicy role was originally promised to Nicole Kidman before she learned she was pregnant with her first biological child, Sunday Rose. Even though the role didn’t require much physical labor, the 46-year-old explained that her method acting would have a negative influence on the fetus.
She told Mail On Sunday, “The way I work, it would penetrate my baby.” Producers were still keen to keep her on, but Kidman stepped down saying she simply could not work pregnant.
Screenwriter David Hare later claimed Winslet was always his first choice, but she had initially been unavailable. By the time Kidman dropped out, Winslet’s schedule had cleared.
11 Charisma Carpenter – Angel
Audiences consider Joss Whedon a feminist storyteller, but as it happens, his outlook is contingent on his control of the narrative. Whedon wanted to flesh out Carpenter’s cheerleader/princess/warrior character on Angel, and Cordelia soon became the heart of the Buffy spinoff.
But when Carpenter got maternal in real life, her character paid dearly. If Whedon must work a pregnancy into his grand plan, it would be the most ill-conceived, torturous, demonic pregnancy imaginable.
Initially, Carpenter called the split amicable but later admitted that despite Whedon graciously accommodating her male co-stars, he was bitter about altering his arc for Charisma. In 2009, she said, “I think Joss was, honestly, mad… It’s a very complicated dynamic working for somebody for so many years, [but] you gotta live your life. And sometimes living your life gets in the way of maybe the creator’s vision for the future. And that becomes conflict, and that was my experience.”
10 Jamie Lynn Spears - Zoey 101
Britney’s little sister, was poised to rival her sister’s success with her Emmy-winning Nickelodeon series, Zoey 101, which ran for four seasons.
But when 16-year-old Jamie Lynn took a pregnancy test in a gas station bathroom, her whole life changed. Producers didn’t want a teen pregnancy plotline, giving both the series and Jamie Lynn the axe.
In the TLC documentary Jamie Lynn Spears: When the Lights Go Out, the now 26-year-old discussed the weight of the ordeal in regard to her fans. “I knew I would have to make a decision as a young girl myself, to do something that I could sleep with at night… I was going to have my little girl, even if I had to raise her on my own, which is what I did.”
9 Janet Hubert-Whitten - The Fresh Prince of Bell Air
There’s some controversy about what led to the firing of the original Aunt Viv. By the time the actress became pregnant in the show’s 3rd season, her co-stars were eager to replace her. Will Smith claims she was jealous. “She said once, 'I've been in the business for 10 years and this snotty-nosed punk comes along and gets a show.'" Alfonso Ribeiro helpfully added, "Basically, at the end of the day, the b**** was crazy. She went nuts!"
Though producers incorporated Witten’s pregnancy into the narrative, they weren’t happy about devoting more screen time to her character. Near the end of the season, Viv had her baby and when the show returned, there was a new Viv in town. Daphne Maxwell Reid stepped in and became the sweetly inconsequential matriarch for the remainder of the show’s run.
8 Catherine Zeta-Jones - Beyond Borders
This poorly received social justice romance underwent a great deal of changes before finally making it to the big screen in 2003. In 1999, Oliver Stone was set to direct with Kevin Costner and Catherine Zeta-Jones playing aid workers in Ethiopia who fall in love while saving impoverished children. But when the Zorro star learned she was having a baby with then-fiancé Michael Douglas, she backed out of the project. Costner quit shortly thereafter, and they almost shelved the film entirely. Meg Ryan was briefly attached but the role ultimately went to Angelina Jolie, starring opposite Clive Owen under the direction of Martin Campbell.
Jolie would herself become a mother thanks to her involvement with the film. She adopted her first child, Maddox, while shooting in Cambodia.
7 Jodie Foster - Double Jeopardy
The 1999 action thriller Double Jeopardy was originally meant to star Jodie Foster as the woman whose husband framed her for murder. But when Foster found out she was pregnant with her first son, Charles Bernard, she felt the physical stunts required for the role would prove too much for her.
Ashley Judd stepped into the role, opposite Tommy Lee Jones as her relentless parole officer. Foster wasn’t on maternity leave for very long, however. Later that year, the Silence of the Lambs star returned to the silver screen as the titular lead in the less taxing historical romantic drama, Anna and the King.
Said Foster of the pregnancy, “I enjoyed being pregnant with Charlie and I look forward to this experience again.”
6 Annette Bening - Batman Returns
It’s hard to imagine anyone else delivering the line, “Life’s a b****. Now so am I." But for a time, it was Bening and not Michelle Pfeiffer who was set to play Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns.
Bening found out she was pregnant and decided that it was too hard to hide a baby bump in skintight pleather. According to Burton, they were well into pre-production, and had done “wardrobe things," when she got the news. Said Burton, “We were really close to shooting, maybe a couple of weeks before, I got a call one morning and there was a long pause on the phone and [Bening] said she was pregnant. I’ve never had such a split, mixed feeling – I was extremely happy for her but dropping down a dark abyss at the same time.”
5 Audrey Hepburn - West Side Story
Directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins originally wanted to cast Audrey Hepburn as the Puerto Rican Juliette in their 1961 film adaptation of the popular Shakespearean Broadway musical. The Breakfast at Tiffany’s star considered their offer, but learned she was pregnant before production began. Hepburn was concerned about the physical demands required to play Maria and decided to take a year off work to focus on her pregnancy. The My Fair Lady actress had previously suffered two miscarriages, one of which occurred on the set of the film The Unforgiven.
Wise and Robbins replaced Hepburn with Rebel Without a Cause star Natalie Wood. West Side Story went on to receive 12 Academy Award nominations, and brought home 10 of those golden statues.
4 Melanie Griffith - As Good As It Gets
The 1998 Oscar Bait dramedy underwent several casting changes before settling on the female lead. Among those considered were Uma Thurman (who, in a rare move for Hollywood, was cut for being too young), and Courtney Love (what a missed opportunity there).
Producers then campaigned for 39-year-old Working Girl star Melanie Griffith but she ultimately turned them down because she had just learned she was pregnant with Stella, her daughter with then-husband Antonio Banderas. Griffith also turned down the 1990 drama, The Sheltering Sky, when she found out she was pregnant with her daughter, Dakota, from her marriage to Don Johnson. Helen Hunt went on to win the Best Actress Oscar for her role as the love interest to Jack Nicholson's endearingly bigoted curmudgeon.
3 3 Rebecca Budig, Kari Wuhrer, Lesli Kay, & Teresa Castillo - General Hospital
You might think that a daytime soap opera would have no trouble working pregnancies into their dramatic narratives, but the long-running ABC series does not take kindly to their actresses getting knocked up. To date, they have reportedly written off four pregnant actresses.
Kari Wuhrer, claims that producers stated outright that they were killing her off because of her pregnancy. Lesli Kay was named as a witness in Wuhrer’s lawsuit against the network. Rebecca Budig and Teresa Castillo made open statements to ensure that fans knew they had not left the show on their own accord. For a while, Castillo was among the lucky few who received support from producers. They had written her two previous pregnancies into the script, but declined to do so a third time.
2 Hunter Tylo - Melrose Place
In 1996, soap actress Hunter Tylo won $5 million in a groundbreaking lawsuit against Aaron Spelling’s powerful production company when she was fired for becoming pregnant.
A Los Angeles jury comprised of 10 women and 2 men found the producers of Melrose Place guilty of wrongful termination. Jurors agreed that even pregnant, Tylo was capable of effectively portraying a “vixen, seductress and adulteress" on the primetime soap. The defense had argued that her 47-pound weight gain was a "material change" to her appearance and a violation of her contract.
For much of the trial, a glamorous Tylo concealed her pregnancy under suits and long jackets until she hit the witness stand, at which point she pointedly revealed her 3rd trimester belly. Spectators in the courtroom reportedly gasped at the sight.
1 Dana Plato - Diff’rent Strokes
The actress played the biological daughter of Mr. Drummond, a wealthy philanthropist who adopts two African-American boys. Plato was herself adopted, but there was no real-world parental savior for her.
Though the NBC sitcom Diff'rent Strokes frequently tackled more acceptable moral dilemmas like alcoholism and abuse, producers felt that it was no place for a teen pregnancy plotline. So, when Plato became pregnant in real life while shooting season 6, Kimberly Drummond went to school in Paris, never to be seen again.
For Plato, being fired exacerbated a downward spiral of addiction, and petty theft, culminating in a suicidal overdose at age 34. Prior to her death, Plato lost custody of her son to her ex-husband, Lanny Lambert.
Do you know of any other actresses who were lost their jobs because they were pregnant? Let us know in the comments!
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