On Second Thought…
Hollywood Stars that were Fired and Replaced by another Actor. Subsequently their movie/tv show went on to exceptional financial success!
Actors will tell you that they are always worried about their next paycheck and landing a big budget movie or long-running tv series is their dream. Well, not exactly. Remember that actors are fragile with tremendous egos that are shielded by insecurity. Basically, they can be a basket case of bundling emotions going in different directions. Not all but most are inwardly self loathing and like to give the appearance of being confident. They’re a mess. On a limited level I experienced this as a thespian in community theater. It can be frightening the amount of self importance creative people put on themselves even when not getting paid?
Where this takes a funny turn is when a borderline actor/actress with some prior success, finally lands that big movie or are on their first hit tv show. All of a sudden they “act” as if they had a million offers prior and do not need this job? Or, an established actor/actress is so over confident that they think they can (in their head) direct, produce and re-write the entire project making it impossible for anyone around them to make any progress toward finishing. It can be maddening for the ancillary actor who is the rare sain person on set that enjoys their craft and wants to do a good job. And finish on time! At some point the Director and cast cannot tolerate the lone diva anymore and they do the inevitable and fire the actor a month or two into the project. A collective sigh of relief can be felt and many times, the project goes on to super financial success!
Not Feeling It-”Back to the Future”-Please!
Life imitated Art for the creators and Directors of “Back to the Future”. Trying desperately to see their own future with the current lead to their future lead. Before Michael J. Fox was cast in the iconic role of Marty McFly, Eric Stoltz began the movie’s production as the character. Stoltz was fired from Back to the Future and eventually replaced by Fox after the creators decided to go another route with Marty’s character approach as well as changes to the content. One of the reasons Stoltz was let go was because of the intense way he interpreted and portrayed Marty, which wasn’t how the movie’s writers intended the story to be played, despite the fact that Back to the Future’s ending is depressing.
Marty McFly, a typical American teenager of the Eighties, is accidentally sent back to 1955 in a plutonium-powered DeLorean “time machine” invented by a slightly mad scientist. During his often hysterical, always amazing trip back in time, Marty must make certain his teenage parents-to-be meet and fall in love — so he can get back to the future.
I Am Ready for my Close-up Mr. Zemeckis!
For starters, Stoltz’s Marty McFly was much more serious and affected. According to accounts from cast and crew on the movie, Stoltz approached Marty in a “method” acting style and lacked the comedic lightness of touch Zemeckis and his co-writer/co-producer Bob Gale wanted for the part. This was almost a daily battle between Stoltz and Zemeckis and waited a long time before bringing the issues to the studio. The movie was flat and lost it’s innocents under Stoltz who is a very good actor but was in the wrong movie for the wrong reasons. Stoltz later admitted that he took the role because his agent told him it would change his career. It is easy to say that the agent was right but we are judging the success of the movie off of the performance of Fox and not Stoltz. Had Stoltz stayed the movie feel would have taken on a different direction and may not have been as successful.
The Back to the Future series is the 14th-highest-grossing trilogy of all time at the domestic market (adjusted for inflation), 17th-highest-grossing trilogy of all time at the domestic market (not adjusted for inflation), and the 13th-highest-grossing trilogy of all time, worldwide (not adjusted for inflation).
Oh you mean “Apocalypse”-Right Now!
“Apocalypse Now” was plagued by numerous production headaches. Among the many, director Francis Ford Coppola had to fire his leading man, Harvey Keitel, shortly after the film started shooting. Reports claim the two disagreed with the portrayal of Keitel’s character (Willard). Keitel was replaced by Martin Sheen. Creative differences that drag on for weeks costs the studio money and beats-down morale on the set.
Coppola held exhaustive audition sessions for his primary cast, but the part of Willard proved to be a problematic one for Coppola. He first offered the part to actor Steve McQueen, who turned down the role because he didn’t want to shoot in the jungle on location. Al Pacino, James Caan, and Jack Nicholson all turned down successive offers from Coppola until he gave the role to Harvey Keitel. Coppola then fired Keitel six weeks into production because he thought the actor’s performance wasn’t as introspective as he needed for the character. So he called Martin Sheen, who had previously auditioned for the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather and passed on Apocalypse Now because he was shooting The Cassandra Crossing in Rome. By the time Coppola fired Keitel Sheen was available and took the role.
It is the height of the war in Vietnam, and U.S. Army Captain Willard is sent by Colonel Lucas and a General to carry out a mission that, officially, ‘does not exist — nor will it ever exist’. The mission: To seek out a mysterious Green Beret Colonel, Walter Kurtz, whose army has crossed the border into Cambodia and is conducting hit-and-run missions against the Viet Cong and NVA. The army believes Kurtz has gone completely insane and Willard’s job is to eliminate him.
Apocalypse Now was honored with the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, where it premiered unfinished before it was finally released on August 15, 1979, by United Artists. It performed well at the box office, grossing $40 million domestically and going on to gross over $100 million worldwide. The change from Keitel to Sheen was transparent and did not get in the way of the movie’s success.
Today, the film is widely regarded as a masterpiece of the New Hollywood era. It is on the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies list at number 28. Kilgore’s quote
“I love the smell of napalm in the morning” was number 12 on the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes list.
In 2002, Sight and Sound magazine polled several critics to name the best film of the last 25 years and Apocalypse Now was named number one. It was also listed as the second best war film by viewers on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest War Films, and ranked number 1 on Channel 4’s 50 Films To See Before You Die. In a 2004 poll of UK film fans, Blockbuster listed Kilgore’s eulogy to napalm as the best movie speech. The helicopter attack to the song of Ride of the Valkyries was chosen as the most memorable film scene ever by the Empire magazine.
‘Sister’ you want me to be that character? My fans expect more from me…
Sometimes Actors can be blinded by their success and overlook the intelligence of their fans. Midler was perfect for “Sister Act” and the story was written for her in mind. However, the lounge-singing type of comedy was a huge disconnect for the classically trained Midler. But the writing process dragged on for over a year, with Rudnick, Midler and Disney execs struggling to find a way to approach the material, and Midler increasingly uneasy about the project. Although not technically fired from the project there was a mutual parting of ways. A decision Midler would come to regret, noting;
“Sister Act…was written for me, but I said: ‘My fans don’t want to see me in a wimple.’ I don’t know where I got that from. Why would I say such a thing? So, Whoopi did it instead and, of course, she made a fortune.”
Released in the summer of 1992, Sister Act starred actress-comedian Whoopi Goldberg as struggling nightclub performer Deloris Van Cartier, who is forced into hiding after witnessing her gangster boyfriend committing murder and poses as nun Sister Mary Clarence while staying at a San Francisco convent. Despite a rocky road to the screen, the film was an instant hit, as audiences warmed to Goldberg’s on-screen comradery with co-stars Kathy Najimy, Maggie Smith, Kathy Najimy and Wendy Makkena, powered by a soundtrack that spent more than a year on the Billboard charts.
“Sister Act” was a box office hit, bringing in $231 million worldwide against its $31 million budget. Disney moved quickly to secure the cast for a sequel, and offered Goldberg a reported $7–12 million dollar salary, making her the highest-paid actress in Hollywood at the time.
Change that Dial
Television shows are just another avenue where Actors and Actresses can prove their craft. 30years ago if you were a film star you never went to television unless you were old and desperate. Today, with all the streaming services and the fluidness in which actors move about all the facets of viewing choices there is no more stigma. However, the actor is still the same.
Fresh off her “Office” success, Jenna Fisher had a wide open field to choose her next project. Teaming up with “Friends” Alum Matt LeBlanc was a great choice. Everything seemed to move along as “planned” and Fisher filmed the pilot episode with LeBlanc without a hitch. However the test audiences, who liked Fisher the actress could not separate her “Pam” character from “The Office” and place her as married to “Joey” from friends. Even though both shows had nothing to do with the sitcom they were filming. Therefore, Fisher was fired. Fisher went on to work with Oliver Hudson in a short-lived series “Splitting-up Together” and runs her own “Office” pod cast.
Splitting Up Together was based on a Danish sitcom, follows a young couple with three kids who decide to get divorced. However, because of financial constraints, they’re unable to move out of their home and instead take turns exploring their new single lives in a garage apartment. It was a different take on a family sitcom premise which seemed to work largely because of the chemistry between the two actors. However, it was finished after two seasons as the ratings reflected a different view. The second season was the second lowest rated scripted series for the network, averaging 2.77 total million live viewers and a 0.66 in the 18–49 demographic.
“Frazier” starring Kelsey Grammer was a spin-off of another hugely successful show “Cheers”, where one of the faithful patrons of the “Cheers” bar was Dr. Frasier Crane. Portrayed as a successful Boston therapist who moves to Seattle Washington to get a new start on life. Frasier has a radio talk show which he uses to relay his wit and wisdom to others. At times he struggles with his own problems with his salt-of-the-earth father, played by the late John Mahoney, and his pretentious brother brilliantly played by David Hyde Pierce, along with his friends and co-workers.
Lisa Kudrow of “Friends” later fame was originally cast for the role of Roz working on the pilot for three days. Before the first show, Kudrow was fired and replaced by actress Peri Gilpin giving the character a little more of an edge in which Gilpin had the raspy voice to match.
“I wasn’t right for the part [or] for the chemistry of the group. So that wasn’t working but I did think, ‘Oh, I am not [director James Burrows’] cup of tea.”
Ironically, Kudrow ended up auditioning again in front of James Burrows for Friends, and shared,
“I had one extra audition just for James Burrows. I did it and he went, ‘No notes.’ I left going, ‘That either means she’s beyond help and helpless, just like I always knew,’ or ‘Yeah, it’s perfect. I have no notes.’”
As long as there will be feature films and television shows there will be conflict and strife among actors. Mostly within themselves and sometimes permeating against the success of a given project. However, for every bad apple there are countless stories of great collaboration among the creative. Every project that the late director Gary Marshall was on was one of joy and happiness reported by all that were involved. “Lavern and Shirley” which included a cast with his own sister, Penny Marshall, and her co-star Cindy Williams, were notorious for their personality problems. Gary still managed to run the show for 8 seasons before pulling the plug. James Burrows and Gary David Goldberg all report minimal issues with them as directors and collaborators. Replacing or firing of Actors is not new and will forever be part of the entertainment landscape. If you are an actor, know your lines, be on time and leave directing to the directors. Input is important but don’t try and re-write the script!
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