11 SF and fantasy jobs that ended badly. By Jayne Nelson
1 Eric Stoltz Back To The Future
Michael J Fox is Marty McFly – it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the guitar-torturing, skateboarding, match-making time traveller. But Eric Stoltz nabbed the role first, spending weeks filming Back To The Future before director Robert Zemeckis deemed his performance a little too serious (and the fact his first choice, Mr Fox, had finally managed to juggle scheduling difficulties with sitcom Family Ties also helped).
Stoltz hasn’t really discussed the firing but he’s hardly doing badly these days: not only is he headlining Battlestar Galactica spin-off Caprica , in the last fortnight alone he’s directed not just one but two US TV shows. (Oh, and Fringe fans might have spotted a reference to him actually starring in Back To The Future in their alternate Earth. Nice one.)
REASON? “That funny Michael J Fox is free? YOU’RE FIRED!”
2 Stuart Townsend The Lord Of The Rings
Townsend hadn’t really been up to much before being hired by Peter Jackson to play the gritty, grungy Aragorn, unless you count Queen Of The Damned (but we try not to think of that movie at all). A lead role in what looked to be one of the biggest film sagas in movie history must have made him a very happy chap, but after two months living and training in New Zealand to prepare for the part, he was sacked the day before principal photography began.
The problem, it seemed, was that he was too young. In the books Aragorn was in his (well-preserved) eighties, and Townsend’s 27 years simply didn’t carry enough gravitas. Step in Viggo Mortensen, 14 years his senior, and while he struggled to catch up on set after being a last-minute replacement, Townsend flew home without so much as a pay cheque.
REASON? “What did we hire you for? You’re just a nipper! YOU’RE FIRED!”
3 Richard Donner Superman 2
Superman: The Movie and Superman 2 were filmed concurrently by director Richard Donner. It wasn’t quite the first time it had been attemped – Richard Lester had done it for The Three Muskateers / The Four Muskateers (interestingly for the same producers, Ilya and Alexander Salkind) – but it was pretty rare in those days. However, after taking time away from the shooting of the second movie to get the first ready for release, a squabble broke out between Donner and the Salkinds and Donner was unceremoniously sacked. Richard Lester stepped in and finished filming Superman 2 using his own input, canning a ton of Donner’s material and making it an entirely new movie.
The Richard Donner cut of Superman 2 is now available on DVD with as much of the original footage restored as possible for those who’d like to see his original vision. But Donner’s still a bit peeved by his treatment to this day: in the extras, he refers to Lester as “the man whose name I can’t remember... on purpose.”
REASON? “Don’t agree with our creative vision? You’re just the director. We’re the producers! YOU’RE FIRED!”
4 Rachelle Lefevre (and Taylor Lautner... well, almost) Twilight
She played badass vamp Victoria in Twilight and Twilight: New Moon , but when it came to filming Eclipse Rachelle Lefevre hit a snag – and then hit the job centre. Scheduling conflicts resulted in Summit Entertainment deciding to sack her and replace her with Bryce Dallas Howard, and Lefevre, according to her official statement, was “deeply hurt”.
“I was stunned by Summit’s decision to recast the role of Victoria for Eclipse ,” said Lefevre, while Howard no doubt jumped for joy somewhere across town. “Given the length of filming for Eclipse , never did I fathom I would lose the role over a ten-day overlap.” More cynical industry types might posit that perhaps Howard was cheaper, but either way it’s sad that Lefevre never got to stick with the role.
REASON? “You’re taking ten days off? FANGS, BUT NO FANGS!”
Meanwhile, in an astonishing near-miss scenario, actor Taylor Lautner narrowly escaped being recast as Jacob Black in the second Twilight after being thought too weedy to reprise his role from the first movie. One Rocky training montage later, Lautner managed to keep the role by dint of having a chest the size of a mountain by the time filming commenced.
5 THE Colin Baker Doctor Who
Poor Colin didn’t have much luck after taking on the role of the universe’s most famous Time Lord, embarking upon his travels in the TARDIS just as the BBC management was undergoing all sorts of un- Who -friendly turmoil. As he played the Doctor as loud, proud and dangerous to know – a marked difference from his gentler predecessor, Peter Davison – viewing figures declined and Auntie’s higher-ups, most famously the Who -hating Michael Grade, decided this young upstart had to go. First they forced the show to go on hiatus for 18 months, but when it returned to even lower viewing figures, the BBC upper echelons forced the show’s producer to sack Baker. It may have seemed they were sacking the wrong guy, and that it was the producer who needed the push, but allegedly there was no other producer at the Beeb who wanted to take on the show.
A revamp followed, but Who was pretty much doomed in the public consciousness until a certain Mr Davies got out the defibrillator paddles in 2005.
REASON? “Who do you think you are? YOU’RE FIRED!”
6 Terrence Howard Iron Man 2
Tony Stark’s right hand man, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, didn’t get too much to do in the first Iron Man movie but – as any comics fan would have known – he had a great future ahead of him. It seemed inevitable that he’d be donning the War Machine get-up in Iron Man 2 ... which he did, and which was probably one of the reasons Terence Howard took the job, thinking about the meaty role that awaited. But instead, the producers decided this was a Rhodes left untaken, and Terrence Howard wasn’t invited back. Don Cheadle got to stomp about and fire weaponry instead.
At the time Howard kicked up a bit of a fuss, claiming that he was given no reason for his firing and that “apparently the contracts that we write and sign aren’t worth the paper that they’re printed on.” Ouch. Rumour has it that Jon Favreau and Howard didn’t get on that well on set; other conspiracy theorists claim that Howard demanded too much money.
REASON? “We’re not going to give you one. NYAH NYAH.”
7 Megan Fox Transformers
She wasn’t fired. She quit. At least, that’s what she says, and it could be true, of course, but we reckon this was a case of, “I’ll quit before I’m sacked!” And it’s not surprising. Fox, who shot to fame after the first Transformers film had her bending over in that famous pose, prompting the sexual awakening of an entire generation of boys, really wasn’t happy with the films themselves or their director. “He’s like Napoleon and he wants to create this insane, infamous mad-man reputation,” she said of Michael Bay in an interview with Wonderland magazine. “He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is. So he’s a nightmare to work for...”
Hmm. We don’t know about you, but badmouthing your boss like that? Doesn’t make for a good working environment, does it?
REASON? “You hate your boss that much? FOX OFF!”
8 Michael Keaton The Purple Rose Of Cairo
Jeff Daniels ended up playing the lead role in this charming fantasy about a silver screen actor who emerges from his movie and into the real world of today, but it was originally Michael Keaton’s gig. The film was three weeks into production when Woody Allen decided he didn’t like Keaton’s work and boom! He was gone.
REASON? “I’m Woody Allen and I can do what the hell I want! YOU’RE FIRED, SCHMUCK!”
(It’s not quite a “firing”, per se , but it’s worth noting that Viggo Mortensen also had a role in the movie which he was very proud of... but he ended up being completely cut out of the final print. Oh dear.)
9 George Lazenby James Bond
He’s the only actor to have played James Bond in only one Bond film – we’re not counting the ’60s version of Casino Royale – and rumours have circulated for years as to why, exactly, he didn’t return after making On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969. Did Lazenby get too big for his boots? Was it a dispute about money? Did nobody like him? And did he quit or was he pushed?
The actor gives a little insight into his thought processes in this intriguing contemporary interview...
REASON? “We think this should happen to that other fella. WE HAVE A LICENSE TO KILL YOU!”
10 James Remar Aliens
From the sound of it, Aliens was one hell of a troubled shoot. James Cameron found himself battling everything from disagreements with his cinematographer (he fired him) to the fact the British crew wouldn’t work the hours he wanted them to work due to union regulations. On top of everything else, the actor he cast as the one marine who would go on to survive the film, Colonel Dwayne Hicks, had difficulty remembering his lines and kept showing up late for work. Eventually James Remar was fired from the shoot over “artistic differences”, although depending on where you look you’ll also see rumours that he was fired for “personal issues” or a drug abuse problem.
Either way, Remar is in the final movie, seen from behind, for one tiny shot – and Michael Biehn filled in the rest.
REASON? “Can’t do the work? GET AWAY FROM US, YOU BITCH!”*
*Yes, we know he’s a man, but it’s a quote, so work with us.
11 Richard Stanley
The Island Of Doctor Moreau
The 1996 The Island Of Doctor Moreau is now more famous for its nightmre shoot than anything that ended up on screen. The main cause of that nightmare was its star Val Kilmer, famously cantankerous at best of times, but even more so during this shoot because he was going through a divorce at the time. When he failed to turn up for the first two days of filming, his agent dismissed his absence saying, “every Val movie loses the first two days.” But it wasn’t Kilmer that got the heave-ho, but the film’s writer/director Richard Stanley. He was sacked just three days into the shoot, mainly because, it was claimed, he couldn’t handle Kilmer, but there were also reports that he simply hadn’t planned the production very well. Whatever the case, when Newline saw the first few dailies, Stanley was “officially relieved from his duties”. He reacted by shredding every document pertaining to the film’s shoot that he could lay his hands on in a 48-hour period. Verteran director John Frankenheimer took over, and security was tightened on the shoot after Stanley allegedly made a joke about burning the set down. Nevertheless, Stanley claims, he did manage to sneak back on set, disguised as an extra, partly because he wanted to meet one of the film’s other stars, Marlon Brando.