There are a lot of factors that go into making a movie or television show. It’s such an intense display of luck and talent to bring some projects to life that it’s seriously devastating when a wrench can be thrown into the production. Casting is such a crucial aspect of any film or TV show and the recasting of a major role doesn’t just change the vibe of a production, but it can sometimes completely derail projects.
There are times when the recasting of roles can happen before filming is underway, but it’s even more of a difficult process when actors are already in front of the camera. Even though these times of transition can be difficult on production, sometimes they can be for the best and even save the project. It all depends on the circumstances of their dismissal. Accordingly, Here’s Why These 20 Actors Were Replaced.
20 Rachel Dratch - Network Retooling (30 Rock)
This one definitely has to be a tough blow. When Tina Fey started production on 30 Rock, she was eager to make her fellow Saturday Night Live compatriot, Rachel Dratch, into a cast member of her series. Dratch played a version of Jenna in the show’s original pilot, but the network was interested in someone else. The character became a more exaggerated attention hog and Jane Krakowski took over the part (although Dratch would still appear in a limited capacity).
19 Kevin Spacey - Harassment And Assault Allegations (All The Money In The World)
Kevin Spacey’s past caught up with him in a number of ways and what was once a cherished acting career was quickly torn to shreds. Spacey experienced a lot of losses after news of his alleged harassment and assaults went public. His character was straight up killed in House of Cards, fired from upcoming projects, but a very significant example was when he was replaced in All the Money in the World. Here Spacey had already shot his scenes, but they reshot the relevant scenes with Christopher Plummer in place of Spacey, just so his association with the film was removed.
18 Ryan Gosling - His Appearance Radically Changed (The Lovely Bones)
Method acting can be a glorious thing and a terrific insight into a character, but it's typically something that you want to run by your director first. Ryan Gosling was supposed to play the grieving father in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones and his interpretation of this sad wreck was someone who had let himself ago and gained a ton of weight in depression (he actually went on an ice cream diet and gained sixty pounds). This shows serious commitment, but it completely surprised Jackson and it wasn't what his vision for the character was. He had to replace Gosling with Mark Wahlberg as a result.
17 Stuart Townsend - Looked Too Young (Lord Of The Rings)
It’s always crushing when someone gets recast for a role, but it’s even more difficult when they’ve gone through intense training and preparation for the role. Believe it or not, Stuart Townsend was actually Peter Jackson’s initial choice to play Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Townsend trained and was far along, but just a few days before production Jackson had to go with his gut. He thought Townsend didn’t look old and rugged enough for the role, which would instead go onto Viggo Mortensen.
16 Eric Stoltz – Wasn’t The Right Fit (Back To The Future)
Director Robert Zemeckis had Eric Stoltz ready to go as Marty McFly and even got as far as a few weeks into shooting before he had to go with his gut and decide that Stoltz wasn’t the right fit for the film. He was replaced with Michael J. Fox and the rest is history and becomes one of his most iconic performances.
15 Cameron Diaz – Broke Her Wrist (Mortal Kombat)
There are plenty of regrettable video game feature film adaptations and while Mortal Kombat is far from a cinematic gem, it’s surprising entertaining as far as video game films are concerned. The film might have been even better if the original casting for Sonya Blade went through. A budding Cameron Diaz was set to play the role until she broke her wrist while she was training for the part. She was replaced with Bridgette Wilson, who does a great job, but Diaz’s take would have been interesting.
14 Gillian Anderson – Left The Series In Solidarity (American Gods)
Starz’s television adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is a series that’s just as heady and cosmic as the original text. The work isn’t for everyone, but the production was all plagued with plenty of behind the scenes drama. When the series’ showrunner, Bryan Fuller, left over creative differences and budgetary issues, some of the show’s cast that were longtime collaborators of Fuller also left in solidarity. Most significantly was Gillian Anderson, who played the transformative Media. The series pivoted and had Kahyun Kim take over the role in the slightly different New Media.
13 Nicole Kidman - Suffered A Knee Injury (Panic Room)
Panic Room is one of David Fincher’s more underrated pictures, but it’s a film that also had to cope with a bunch of last-minute changes. Initially Nicole Kidman was set to star in Fincher’s film, but after 18 days of filming she had to drop out due to lingering pain from an injury to her knee that she suffered while filming Moulin Rouge! Fincher just wanted to shut down and production and wait, due to his meticulous nature, but the studio forced him to soldier on, which led to the recasting of Jodie Foster. It's worth noting that through all of this retooling, the role of the daughter was also recast so as to better mesh with Jodie Foster. Hayden Panettiere was the original choice, but Kristen Stewart replaced her when Kidman was replaced.
12 Charlie Sheen - For Being Charlie Sheen (Two And A Half Men)
In what's one of the more recent, but also one of the most publicized and ridiculous examples of a major cast member being recast in a popular network sitcom. Charlie Sheen was the star and the face of Two and a Half Men for a decade, but he began to publicly break down in 2011, which led to a slew of problems and a lengthy stint in rehab. Sheen started to take out his aggression on the show and its creator, which led to the current season wrapping early and Charlie Sheen being fired and replaced by Ashton Kutcher for the remainder of the series.
11 Edward Norton - Not A Team Player (The Avengers)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has done a surprisingly consistent job of avoiding major misfires or mistakes when it comes to casting. That being said, they’re not perfect and during the formation of this connected universe there was still a learning period. Edward Norton was set to be Marvel’s face for the Incredible Hulk. However, apparently due to Norton’s necessity to rewrite his dialogue and mettle with the material, Marvel thought he was too difficult to get along with and replaced him with Mark Ruffalo when The Avengers rolled along.
10 Janet Hubert - Drama Amongst The Cast (The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air)
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a show that heavily fostered a feeling of family and community where outsiders were included and as much as that was true behind the scenes, there were still conflicts that cropped up amongst certain individuals. Janet Hubert, who played Will's Aunt Viv, apparently didn't get along with Smith and their constant feuding led to her dismissal from the show in 1993. Daphne Maxwell Reid became the new Aunt Viv in the series and her recasting almost turned into a joke within the series.
9 Lara Flynn Boyle – Creative Differences (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me)
Audiences were crushed back in the 1990s when David Lynch’s formative television series was cancelled. Lynch was given the chance to wrap up some loose ends with the follow-up feature film, Fire Walk With Me, but instead decided to go the prequel route. The majority of the cast returned, but the part of Laura Palmer’s best friend Donna Hayward was changed from Lara Flynn Boyle to Moira Kelly. No official reason was given here, but speculation is that Lara Flynn Boyle wasn’t comfortable with the darker nature of the film’s script and the heavy amount of nudity that was required of her character, especially now that she was a larger television star.
8 Erinn Hayes - New Direction For The Series (Kevin Can Wait)
In one of the more bizarre and ridiculous pieces of recasting in sitcom history, the recent Kevin James family sitcom decided to eliminate Kevin’s wife from the equation. Erinn Hayes is a formidable comedic actress, so this sudden dismissal of her character seems very vindictive. The reason was cited as the show wanting to push Kevin’s character to new places as a single dad, but very quickly Leah Remini took an increased presence in the show and it felt like she was a tacky replacement to conjure that old The King of Queens magic.
7 Megan Fox - Speaking Out Too Candidly (Transformers 3)
Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise may not exactly be challenging pieces of cinema, but they were very helpful in terms of putting Megan Fox on the map. The films may sexualize her and not use the actress to her full potential, so it’s understandable to see why she was a little frustrated with the movies. Between the second and third films, Fox spoke negatively about her experience working with Michael Bay and was quickly fired and replaced by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in a very similar role.
6 Saïd Taghmaoui – Changing Nature Of The Role (Legion)
Legion is one of the most inventive and mind-bending takes on a superhero narrative. Back during the show’s first season, the character of Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King, is more so a nebulous force that plagues David Haller’s mind. Saïd Taghmaoui plays him in the first season, but from season two onwards, he’s replaced with Navid Negahban. It’s unclear why Taghmaoui exactly was replaced, but it likely had to do with the changing nature of Farouk’s role in the series and how he evolves from an intimidating monster to an actual character.
5 Crispin Glover – Salary Requirements (Back To The Future: Part II)
Crispin Glover makes a strong impression in the original Back to the Future film as Marty McFly’s father, George McFly. Glover was supposed to reprise his role in the sequels, but then was removed when he allegedly balked at a salary that didn’t meet his expectations. To make matters worse, Zemeckis reuses old footage of Glover to make it seem like his character is in the sequel, to some degree, which Glover actually fought him for.
4 Jamie Waylett - Troubles With The Law (Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2)
Crabbe may not be the most popular character from the Harry Potter franchise, but he's a loyal member of Draco Malfoy's gang of delinquents. His importance fluctuates throughout the course of the series, but he's actually supposed to play a large role in the final chapter, Deathly Hallows: Part 2. However, in the film Crabbe is entirely absent and his purpose instead goes over to the character Blaise Zabini. The story here is that Waylett got arrested for cannabis possession after he got caught growing marijuana. He's struggled with the law since, but unfortunately it cost him this role.
3 Sean Young – Horseback Riding Injury (Batman)
Tim Burton’s Batman is an iconic piece of cinema, but it could have been a very different film if some of its casting turned out differently. Vicky Vale is in many ways the heart and soul of the picture. Kim Basinger does a solid job in the role and is a great foil for Michael Keaton, but Sean Young was supposed to play the character until she suffered an a horseback riding injury that took her out of commission for a while.
2 Terrence Howard – Salary Negotiation Disputes (Iron Man 2)
Don Cheadle has fit in so naturally in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as James Rhodes that it’s still surprising to remember that he wasn’t the first actor in the role. Terrence Howard debuts the character in the original Iron Man. However, when negotiations came around for the second movie Marvel wanted Howard to receive less money than Robert Downey Jr. Howard apparently was not okay with this. He refused and was replaced accordingly with Don Cheadle.
1 Santino Fontana – Actor Moved Onto Broadway (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)
One of the more brilliant handlings of the recasting of a character in television history is how Crazy Ex-Girlfriend goes about its different actors for Greg. Santino Fontana originally plays the part, but due to scheduling conflicts he left the show during its second season. During the series’ final season, the character returns, but Fontana had moved on entirely to Broadway commitments at this point. Accordingly, the series recasts the role with Skylar Astin and uses Greg’s new look as a meta commentary on how Rachel and the audience’s perception of the character has changed.
Sources: ScreenRant.com, CheatSheet.com, IMDB.com