It's not easy being an actor. It's one of the most competitive careers in the entertainment industry and it's full of judgment and hoops to jump through. All alongside the challenges of actually being talented enough. Even those that do have considerable talent don't always find their big break, so it's always a momentous occasion when somebody does get cast as the lead. It's even more significant when that actor is the tent pole of a franchise and the entire project depends on their worth.
Even though actors get cast as the lead in projects, that doesn't mean that they can always maintain that power. It can be a risky move, but sometimes situations are so tense or relationships get too volatile where recasting or more drastic measures need to be taken. It's always a major blow to an actor when they're forced to exit a high-profile project, especially when it's a result of their own actions.
20 Kevin Spacey (House Of Cards)
Netflix made considerable waves when they initially announced their original series, House of Cards, with movie star Kevin Spacey leading the pack. Spacey gave a memorable performance, but all of this goodwill was quickly erased after assault allegations were launched at him. In order to handle the fallout, Netflix didn't just fire Spacey from his own show, but his character, Frank Underwood, was written off and Robin Wright's character effectively took over.
19 Charlie Sheen (Two And A Half Men)
Two and a Half Men was one of CBS' most popular and prosperous sitcoms. The show ran for over a decade, but towards the end of its run, star Charlie Sheen became progressively unstable and unhinged. Charlie Sheen wasn't just let go from the program, but Ashton Kutcher came in to fill the void. The grudge against Sheen continued and even the series finale took some surreal shots at him. Winning.
18 Roseanne Barr (Roseanne)
There have been a handful of sitcoms from yesteryear that have been revived through modern reboots, yet the bulk of these experiments come and go without hooking a crowd. The revival of Roseanne was one of the few exceptions and it's still going strong. However, after Roseanne Barr took to Twitter with some highly controversial and prejudiced comments, the backlash began and it culminated with her dismissal. Roseanne was renamed The Conners, and it survives, in spite of the central character's exit.
17 Megan Fox (Transformers)
Megan Fox has been fortunate enough to mix up her career over the years. She's done horror films and even had a successful guest arc on New Girl. Despite the range that Fox has shown, most people discovered her through Michael Bay's Transformers franchise. Fox was the female lead and eye candy for the films, but after she publicly took Bay to task and talked about her difficulty working with the director, she was eventually pushed out of the movies. Rosie Huntington-Whitley took over, but it was maybe a blessing in disguise since the films in the franchise have only seen diminishing returns.
16 Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk)
In a post-Avengers: Endgame world, it's hard to think back to the humble time of the MCU's Phase One, where superheroes were a gamble and not the norm. The Marvel Cinematic Universe worked hard to set up its heroes' solo adventures before putting everyone together. This worked for the most part, but there's a hiccup in the form of The Incredible Hulk, which stars Edward Norton, not Mark Ruffalo (the current Hulk). Apparently Norton fought for too much editorial control and wasn't deemed enough of a team player, which is something that's fundamental for Marvel. Mark Ruffalo replaced Norton in The Avengers and most fans don't lament the change.
15 Sean Connery (James Bond: 007)
Now it's very much the norm for a new James Bond actor to step in every handful of films. Daniel Craig has been the face of 007 for this generation, but it all started with Sean Connery. Connery was ready to exit the franchise after You Only Live Twice, unless he received a massive increase in salary. The studio didn't bite and it set an important precedent for the films.
14 Clayne Crawford (Lethal Weapon)
It may not have seemed necessary, but FOX's television reboot of Lethal Weapon found a fun spin on the police procedural drama. Lethal Weapon is highly dependent on the chemistry of its two leads, so it was a huge deal when Clayne Crawford (Riggs) was fired from the series. Crawford has exhibited volatile behavior on set and was clashing with his co-star Damon Wayans (who would also try to leave the show in its following season). Crawford's character was replaced by Seann William Scott, who played a new character, rather than just taking over the role of Riggs.
13 Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy)
Plenty of actors clash with their co-stars and executive producers, but a lot of time it can be resolved in an amicable matter. Not only was Katherine Heigl's Grey’s Anatomy feud all over the place, but it seemed to permanently tarnish her reputation. Heigl candidly spoke about not submitting herself for an Emmy one year because she thought her character didn't have any worthy storylines. The show's creator, Shonda Rhimes, didn't like this ungrateful behavior. Heigl's character, Izzie, was forced out and Rhimes has been very vocal about her not returning before the end of its run (a courtesy that was extended to Isaiah Washington, who was also fired in 2007).
12 Eric Stoltz (Back To The Future)
Michael J. Fox delivers such a memorable performance in Back to the Future as Marty McFly, that it's bonkers to think that the role very nearly went to someone else. Originally, Eric Stoltz was cast and even filmed some of the role before director Robert Zemeckis decided it wasn't working and fired him. At the same time, Crispin Glover didn't reprise his role as Marty's father in the sequel. Allegedly, disputes over salary got in the way and led to Glover's dismissal. The series could have been very different if both of these roles weren't recast.
11 Daniel Dae Kim And Grace Park (Hawaii Five-0)
The reboot of Hawaii Five-O was designed as an ensemble crime procedural series, but many considered Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park to be the soul of the show. For over seven years the married couple delivered consistent performances, which made their dismissal all the more devastating. Kim and Park were renegotiating their salaries and apparently the show decided that they were no longer worth it and would rather award their co-stars more money. It led to a tense exit from a long-standing relationship.
10 Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead)
The Walking Dead has gone through so many changes and cast shake-ups that a character leaving the show is no longer the obstacle it once was. The Walking Dead has pivoted a number of times in big ways, but many fans thought it was a major mistake when Lauren Cohan was let go. With such a big cast, contract negotiations are always tricky and resulted in Cohan on the cutting room floor. Admittedly, Cohan is set to return to the show, so this kind of worked out in her favor. Chandler Riggs, on the other hand, wasn't as lucky.
9 Valerie Harper (Valerie)
Valerie Harper's dismissal from her own show, Valerie, is still a huge anomaly. Harper wasn't satisfied with what she was being paid, so she played hardball over negotiations and even refused to show up to set. This backfired and Harper was fired and her character was killed off. The show's name was changed to Valerie’s Family and then later to The Hogan Family. Harper was able to successfully sue for wrongful dismissal, but it was very much The Conners of its time.
8 Brett Butler (Grace Under Fire)
Grace Under Fire doesn't hold the same weight as other family sitcoms from the '80s and '90s, but it still made its mark and was an influential comedy for its time. Unfortunately, during the show's run, Brett Butler suffered from addiction problems, which eventually became too much to bear. Butler was deemed enough of a liability that she wasn't just fired, but her entire show was cancelled. It was a sobering moment for the comedian.
7 Thomas Gibson (Criminal Minds)
Thomas Gibson was a mainstay on television for years between the decade of work that he did on the comedy Dharma & Greg and then his work on the ultra-popular crime procedural, Criminal Minds. Criminal Minds has given actors a steady home for years, but Gibson is one of the few that left under unfortunate circumstances after he got too out of hand. Gibson launched into a fight with a producer on the series and even though he regretted and apologized for his actions, it looks like his star has greatly dropped in the television world.
6 Columbus Short (Scandal)
Scandal was a big hit for ABC and it showed Shonda Rhimes' growing stranglehold as a showrunner on the network. The series has gone through some changes over the years, but a crucial pillar to the show was Columbus Short. Tabloids raged when Short's wife accused him of threatening her safety and got a restraining order against him. The optics on Short's bad behavior were just too much and he was fired from Scandal.
5 Isaac Hayes (South Park)
During the infancy of South Park, Isaac Hayes’ Chef was one of the most popular characters on the show. He was one of the few adults in the series that shared a connection with the children, plus, more often than not, his vocal stylings helped compliment an episode. However, Isaac Hayes Scientology started to riff with Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s "nothing is off limits" attitude. A schism formed between them and eventually Isaac Hayes was removed from the show. Chef didn’t just leave South Park, but his character meets an incredibly vicious end, which presumably reflects Stone and Parker’s feelings at the time.
4 Suzanne Somers (Three’s Company)
Three's Company was one of the most popular sitcoms of the time. The show played with fairly cliched storylines, but the cast and their chemistry were so electric that the comedy always popped. Suzanne Somers was an important part of the Three's Company triangle, but issues arose when she asked for more money. Somers' thought that her request was just, but it led to her and her character being pushed out of the sitcom and replaced. It was an unfortunate end to the actress' role in the series.
3 Shannon Doherty (Beverly Hills: 90210)
Beverly Hills: 90210 was a major hit for FOX and helped put them on the map in many ways. The show was full of heart throbs, so it's not unusual that egos flared and rivalries built among the cast. Tori Spelling and Shannon Doherty butted heads in a big way. When push came to shove, Spelling was able to get Doherty out of the picture (Aaron Spelling being her father certainly didn't hurt either). The cast of Beverly Hills: 90210 has since repaired any bad blood due to their reunion in the meta BH90210 series. If only they could have been this cordial back in the '90s.
2 Lisa Bonet (The Cosby Show)
Lisa Bonet played the precocious Denise on The Cosby Show. The series focused on every member of the affluent Huxtable family, but different characters came in and out of focus. As Lisa Bonet got older, she rebelled against her character's innocent roots and looked for more mature opportunities. Bonet took on more aggressive roles and did risky photo shoots, all of which negatively reflected on her and led to her exit from The Cosby Show, which is a direction that she was probably already ready for.
1 Jaimee Foxworth (Family Matters)
Before Family Matters slowly morphed into "The Urkel Show," the members of the Winslow family were the show's focus rather than their ridiculous neighbor. Jaimee Foxworth did a great job as little Judy Winslow, but as the show went on she apparently was less of a comfortable fit.
Allegedly, Foxworth's mother pushed for her daughter to receive more money for the next season. The producers balked at this and decided to just get rid of her in lieu of an already high budget. As a result, very cryptically Judy Winslow goes up to her room in one episode and then just never comes back out.
Sources: Collider.com, IMDB.com, MentlaFloss.com