Kevin Spacey’s removal from All the Money in the World after it was already completed is a tale we all know well. Spacey’s sexual assault allegations, once whispers and legends, began to surface with specificity and vengeance. Director Ridley Scott made the decision to remove Spacey completely from the film and re-shoot scenes with the exquisite Christopher Plummer. Though the decision was based on bad publicity and Scott publicly applauded Spacey’s performance and his on-set behavior, it was still an anomaly in its scope and cost for erasing the actor from the movie. There have been several other cases where an actor began preparation for a role or even completed some filming before being replaced, but none as publicized as Spacey and Plummer (except for Eric Stoltz in Back to the Future. RELEASE THE SCENES!)
Colin Firth - Paddington
Well-received and successful enough for a sequel, the British bear was originally voiced by Firth. In fact, he recorded the entire role before being replaced with Ben Whishaw. Firth’s take on the talking bear with a taste for marmalade was deemed too serious and deep for such a whimsical character and Whishaw took over.
Ryan Gosling - The Lovely Bones
Jack Salmon was the father of main character Susie (Saoirse Ronan) in the dark and unsettling film based on Alice Sebold’s novel of the same name. Gosling believed Jack would be overweight and haggard after the rape and murder of his young daughter, but director Peter Jackson disagreed with the actor’s 40 pound weight gain for the role. After the old standby “creative differences” was thrown around, Mark Wahlberg took on the role of Jack just before production began.
Stuart Townsend - The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Townsend, probably best known for his portrayal of Lestat de Lioncourt in Queen of the Damned, was the original Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s epic films. After training and bonding with the rest of the cast for a couple of months, Jackson decided Townsend was too young and fresh-faced to play Aragorn and fired him. Townsend claimed that Jackson refused to pay him for the training he had done, while the director claims the parting of ways was friendly. Of course, Viggo Mortensen took over the role and moistened lions all over the place while doing so.
James Purefoy - V for Vendetta
Based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name, the lead anarchist in the film is the anonymous V; a man hidden always behind a Guy Fawkes mask as he seeks to take down his enemies while destroying the dystopian government of the United Kingdom. Purefoy filmed scenes for the Warner Bros. film before dropping out because there were no scenes without the iconic mask. Purefoy filmed for six weeks before deciding he could not remain unseen in a role that requires anonymity and Hugo Weaving stepped into the mask.
Some of Purefoy’s physical performances remained in the final cut of the film, altered only with Weaving’s voice dubbed into the scenes.
Samantha Morton - Her
English actress Morton recorded all of her lines as the AI “Samantha” in the Spike Jonze film before being replaced in post-production. Jonze praised Morton’s work before admitting that he felt the movie they created wasn’t what he intended. Scarlett Johansson took over the role, re-recorded all of the finished dialogue, and filmed additional scenes for the movie.
Stuart Townsend - Thor
Townsend is either kind of a git or very unlucky, because here he is again. Townsend was originally cast as Fandral, one of Thor’s Warriors Three. After “creative differences,” Townsend was sent packing and Josh Dallas (Once Upon A Time) replaced him. Due to scheduling commitments for his television show, Dallas was then replaced by Zachary Levi.
James Remar - Alien
Another film where the cast spent time together before filming, Alien originally had Remar in the role of Corporal Dwayne Hicks. Due to drug addiction and an arrest for possession, James Cameron let Remar go and brought in Michael Biehn at the last minute.
Dennis Hopper - The Truman Show
Two days into filming, Hopper was fired by director Peter Weir for the popular “creative differences” in the role of showrunner Christof. Ed Harris obviously took over the role and earned himself an Oscar nomination that likely delighted Weir.
Tobey Maguire - Life of Pi
Director Ang Lee wanted a cast of unknown and unrecognizable actors for his 2012 film. In stark contrast to this desire, Lee cast Maguire as the book’s author Yann Martel. The entire movie filmed before Lee decided Maguire’s presence in the movie was too jarring and took viewers out of the world he had created. Rafe Spall took over as Martel and the film went on to earn 11 Oscar nominations and four awards.
Image sources (in order of posting): TriStar Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Reddit/Imgur