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Whether or not you’re willing to believe it, famous Hollywood actors can be just as expendable in their place of work as the rest of us. Even during a movie’s shooting, actors can be replaced for a myriad of reasons, be they creative differences, incompetence, miscasting, bad blood or illness. Don’t believe us? Here are 15 instances of a well regarded actor or actress being replaced in a production.
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Stacey Dash’s replacement is a fairly recent entry on this list. The Clueless star was booted off the set of the race-based drama Supremacy (starring Danny Glover and Julie Benz) and replaced by actress Lela Rochon (Any Given Sunday). Rumor has it the switch-out was based on Dash’s difficult, Diva-like demeanor on set.
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Nicole Kidman was originally cast in Panic Room (which co-starred Kristen Stewart). Eighteen days into filming, Kidman was forced to leave the film thanks to a knee injury she had sustained previously while filming Moulin Rouge. Jodie Foster was brought into replace her.
James Purefoy was originally cast as “V” in the blockbuster hit V For Vendetta, but left production due to “creative differences” with filmmakers. He was replaced by Hugo Weaving, but many of his scenes remain in the film with Weaving’s voice overdubbing the dialogue.
The Numb3rs star was originally cast as the supporting villain in The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) opposite lead Val Kilmer. When Kilmer requested to switch roles with Morrow, the actor agreed. Then, four days into shooting, director Richard Stanley was fired and replaced with John Frankenheimer. Morrow departed with Stanley only to be replaced with English actor David Thewlis.
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Like all rock stars, Mick Jagger would take a stab at an acting career in the 1970s. Unfortunately for him, one of the projects he chose was Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo. The film, about a baron who decides to build an opera house in the middle of the jungle, became one of the most notoriously troubled productions in history (as documented in the documentary Burden of Dreams). The film originally starred Jason Robards as the title character, but he was forced to drop out when he fell ill with dysentery. Jagger, who was playing his sidekick, soon followed suit, as the production delay caused by Robard’s departure meant the expiration of his contract. Klaus Kinski would replace Robards character, while the Jagger role would be scrapped altogether.
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Early in his career Richard Gere was cast as the lead in the 1970s gang film The Lords of Flatbush. Gere and his co-star, a then-unknown Sylvester Stallone, apparently clashed on set. When disputes became all out fist-fights, the producers chose to let Gere, rather than Stallone, go. Perry King would replace him.
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It seems Sean Young just wasn’t meant to be in superhero movies. The actress was originally cast as the romantic lead, Vicky Vale, in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). Unfortunately, she was forced to drop out early in production when she sustained an injury in a horse riding scene with Michael Keaton. The scene was tossed out altogether and Young was replaced by Kim Basinger.
A year later (1990), Young would be fired from the package Tracy role of Tess Trueheart. Young would publicly accuse director/star Warren Beatty of terminating her because she “wouldn’t sleep with him.” Deborah Ruf, mother of Tracy child star Charlie Korsmo, claimed she was let go for her difficult on-set antics. Beatty later admitted he thought she was miscast and “felt very bad about” having to let her go.
This Dexter actor was originally cast as Lt. Corporal Hicks, the male lead character of James Cameron’s Aliens. Remar was fired from the part a few days into production due to “artistic differences.” Cameron brought in Terminator star Michael Biehn to replace him.
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In a similar scenario, raspy voiced Point Break star Lori Petty was fired from Demolition Man a few days into filming. Reasons are typically vague, but point to creative differences between Petty and producer Joel Silver over the direction of her character, Lt. Lelina Huxley. Sandra Bullock was brought on to replace her.
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Domino actor Kel O’Neil was fired from the There Will Be Blood role of evangelical preacher Eli Sunday after the filming had already commenced. He was replaced by Paul Dano, who had been cast in the small role of O’Neil’s brother. When director Paul Thomas Anderson made the decision to make the brother twins, Dano was cast in both roles.
Jean Claude Van Damme
Way before they would go toe-to-toe in The Expendables 2, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme nearly squared off in Predator. However, the young Van Damme was not happy playing the “invisible” version of the monster and quit after two days. A sliver of his performance remains on the retrospective DVD documentary If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It.
Four days into shooting The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Stuart Townsend was fired from the role of the film’s most heroic human, Aragorn. Peter Jackson defended his choice, stating he realized Townsend was too young to play the character. Viggo Mortenson was brought into replace him. Townsend would later express bitterness to the press not being paid due to contractual stipulations, but accepted an indirect apology from Jackson.
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Harvey Keitel was originally cast as Captain Willard, anti-hero assassin of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Two weeks into shooting he was replaced with Martin Sheen. Coppola attributed the switch to Keitel’s acting style, stating the actor “found it difficult to play the part as a passive onlooker.”
This Irish actor was forced to, um, depart his role in The Departed four days into shooting for reasons never released. In a strange coincidence with Keitel, McSorely was also replaced by Martin Sheen.
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In perhaps the most infamous recasting on this list, Eric Stoltz was originally set to play Marty McFly in Back To The Future. After shooting began, however, it became evident to Stoltz and the directors the Mask star just wasn’t right for the part. Stoltz was let go four weeks into shooting and replaced with Michael J. Fox. The change came at a price for Universal, who ponied up an additional $3 million for the re-shoots.