Yep, I know. I’ve read lists like this too, and I know that Eric Stoltz was cut out of Back to the Future. If it’s all well and good, I’ll leave that example out.
What I’ve tried to find instead here is a mix of reasonably known and less known instances of an actor being cut out of a film after they’ve filmed sequences for it. I’ve also tried to get to the reason they were left out as well.
While all this may still sound like an exercise in clickbait, being cut out of a production does have a consequence beyond an assault on one’s ego. For the side effect of being cut out of a movie for an actor is it denies them residuals. That they’ll get paid their upfront fee for appearing in the production concerned, but when the film is sold for television and the like, they won’t get any kind of kickback that they might otherwise be entitled to.
Death Becomes Her
Robert Zemeckis’ fantasy comedy Death Becomes Her is a movie we’ve written about before with some fondness. But it was also a film that underwent substantive re-edits following test screenings. One of those edits led to the removal of Tracey Ullman’s character named Toni.
Toni was to be a bartender, and at the website AllAboutTracey, they’ve gotten a hold of the pages of the script that feature Ullman’s character. The site argues that “Toni was pinnacle to the film’s moral. Removing her expunges the point it’s trying to make. Unfortunately, this would be the result.” The full post is here.
Material was shot, including the part of the finale that would have seen Ullman and Bruce Willis in ageing make-up. But Ullman’s character did appear in the trailer for the movie, and you can see her here.
Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone
Ah, the late, great Rik Mayall. How the world misses him. Mayall was one of the many, many British actors who was cast in the Harry Potter series of movies, landing the role of Peeves in the first film, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone. Mayall duly recorded his part, and the plan was for Peeves to be a recurring character in the films, as he is in the books.
Mayall talked about his time on the film in an interview that surfaced again shortly after his death. He recalled that “I got sent off the set because every time I tried to do a bit of acting, all the lads who were playing the school kids kept getting the giggles, they kept corpsing, so they threw me off.”
He worked on the movie for three weeks, but a month afterwards, he got a phone call telling him that his role in the movie was being chopped out. Director Chris Columbus would go on to say that he wasn’t happy with the design of the character.
Mayall was subsequently asked what he thought of the finished film. “The film, with respect … no, with no respect at all… the film was shit,” he said. We miss you, Rik. The full story and interview is here.
World War Z
Matthew Fox was still at the height of his Lost powers when he landed what was set to be his highest profile movie role to date in 2013’s World War Z. But Fox appears only very, very briefly in the final cut of the movie, having originally filmed a far more substantive role. He was set to play a soldier, who in turn would end up having a relationship of sorts with the wife of Brad Pitt’s character, played by Mireille Enos.
The problem though was that his character’s main moments were set to be in the final third. And that was the part of the film that was heavily retooled by, ironically, Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof, along with Drew Goddard. After Paramount was unhappy with the shape of the movie, the pair were brought in to change the ending around, and Fox found his character, save for an early appearance in the movie, on the cutting room floor.
Fox most recently appeared in the underrated Bone Tomahawk, starring Kurt Russell.
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
Steven Spielberg had come off the back of putting Harrison Ford in a fedora for the role of Indiana Jones when he cast him in a small role in E.T. E.T., of course, was supposed to be Spielberg’s smaller, more intimate production, after the challenges of shooting Raiders of the Lost Ark, but would for some time be the highest grossing film ever at the U.S. box office.
Ford’s role in E.T. saw him cast as the head of Elliott’s school, a small part that most notably sees him having to admonish Elliott following the incident with the frogs. It’s a cameo that’s come to light on YouTube (see below), and it’s one that ended up cut simply for reasons of time.
Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines
A surprisingly little known fact is that Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to have a second role in 2003’s Terminator 3. As well as portraying the T-800 himself, Schwarzenegger also played William Candy in a scene that never made the final cut. Candy–speaking with an accent that was dubbed on–is revealed to be the human that the Terminator models are based on by Cyberdyne Systems.
It’s one of those sequences that’s a fun extra, but does the thing of answering a question that never really needed to be answered (ask James Kirk about that). It’s a fascinating curio though. Just take a look…
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Eyes Wide Shut
The near year-and-a-half that Stanley Kubrick spent shooting what would be his final movie, Eyes Wide Shut, had some notable ramifications. It indirectly led, after all, to Hugh Jackman being cast as Wolverine in the X-Men movies. Dougray Scott originally had the role, but Eyes Wide Shut’s delays meant Tom Cruise was late getting to make Mission: Impossible 2, to which Scott was already committed.
A further casualty of the prolonged Eyes Wide Shut shoot though was the involvement of both Harvey Keitel and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Both were set to play patients who have affairs with Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s psychiatrists in the movie. In the case of Keitel, he reportedly quickly became aware that the film was going to take a long time to make and had commitments to another project. He thus suggested his scenes were shot first, but that request got nowhere. Keitel departed the project after shooting just a few scenes, and Sydney Pollack stepped in instead.
Jennifer Jason Leigh, meanwhile, had completed her work–or so she thought–as Marion Nathanson in the movie. However, Kubrick wasn’t content, and wanted to redo all of her scenes. The problem was that Jennifer Jason Leigh was already committed to making eXistenZ for David Cronenberg, and couldn’t spare the time to redo her Eyes Wide Shut part. As such, the role was recast with Marie Richardson taking over the role.
Johnny Depp earned his best reviews of recent time for his appearance as Whitey Bulger in the gangster biopic Black Mass. Directed by Scott Cooper, the film also cast Sienna Miller as Bulger’s late girlfriend Catherine Greig. She had a significant impact on Bulger’s life, and was a notable part of the story that the film was planning to tell. After all, Greig and Bulger went on the run together. But after shooting Miller’s work in Black Mass, Scott Cooper had a rethink. He reshaped the film in editing to focus exclusively on Bulger’s Boston life before he went on the run, leaving Dakota Johnson’s Lindsey Cyr as Bulger’s sole love interest in the film.
Miller did four days of shooting in all on Black Mass, arriving on set straight after filming American Sniper for Clint Eastwood. She said in an interview with Slashfilm that her role was only ever intended to be a cameo, and that after two days of filming, they added a little more material. Yet when it was all cut out, there were clearly no hard feelings here.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
In hindsight, Sony was in a bit of a muddle with its Spider-Man movies, and in the midst of putting The Amazing Spider-Man 2 together, it was also seeding spin-off films that were designed to be part of a Spider-Man movie universe. Only now, with Marvel help, is it in a position to set one up with any confidence.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was supposed to include Shailene Woodley, cast in the role of MJ. She was seen on set, and filmed several scenes for the movie. Then director Marc Webb and his team opted to take MJ out of the movie, to keep the focus on Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. The plan was then to bring MJ into the series for The Amazing Spider-Man 3, which was due in 2016. Even then though, there were murmurings that Woodley would be recast.
Following the comparably disappointing box office returns of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 though, Sony abandoned its plans for further movies–in part also due to the cyber terrorism attack on its servers, and the subsequent leak of information–and the Marvel deal was ultimately done. Woodley herself has thrived since, and would land the lead role in Divergent, becoming the MVP of that particular franchise. She also now stars on the popular Big Little Lies on HBO.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Jena Malone was announced as part of the ensemble for Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but when the director had to fashion his theatrical cut, he was struggling to fit everything in. Notwithstanding the fact that the final cut came in at two and a half hours, he could find no room for Jena Malone.
This was interesting, given the fervent speculation as to who Malone would be playing in the movie. Barbara Gordon was the strong suggestion, which considering that her alter-ego in the comics is Batgirl would have been some pretty strong seeding for a future DC movie.
Snyder was afforded the luxury of an extended cut of the film for its Blu-ray release however, and with the extra half hour, he was able to put back Malone’s role. That put the end to the Barbara Gordon rumors too, as instead, Malone was revealed to be playing Jenet Klyburn, a minor DC character who’s a lead scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs.
When it comes to comic book movies, Sean Young is perhaps best known for not being in Batman films. She was originally cast as Vicki Vale in Tim Burton’s 1989 movie, only for an injury forcing her to drop out before Kim Basinger stepped in. Then when the role of Catwoman came up for 1992’s Batman Returns, she dressed up as the character and went looking for Tim Burton on the Warner Bros. lot. It didn’t work out. Annette Bening was cast, although discovered she was pregnant before filming began. Michelle Pfeiffer ultimately played the role.
Sean Young though was also cast in Warren Beatty’s 1990 Dick Tracy movie. She took on the role of Tess Trueheart, the love interest for Tracy. However, things didn’t quite go to plan. She’d shot for a few days when she was replaced with Glenne Headly taking on the part instead. Young would go on to tell the Los Angeles Times that she was fired without anyone telling her “what the problem was, either before or after, or giving me a chance to improve the performance, because it wasn’t about the performance.” Instead she put it down to “sexual politics.” Her material has never seen the light of day.
Did you know that Mick Jagger, long before Freejack, was set to take on a significant role in a Werner Herzog movie? The film in question was Fitzcarraldo, a generally overlooked two and a half hour German drama starring Klaus Kinski. Released in 1982, the film was based on Carlos Fermin Fitzcarrald, a Peru-based rubber baron. Not unusually for Werner Herzog, it would prove to be a troubled production.
Jason Robards was originally set to take on the role of Fitzcarraldo, but his involved was cut short when he contracted dysentery while filming. Doctors blocked him returning, and as such, Herzog brought in Kinski to take over the role. Unfortunately, that meant starting over.
And that’s what ended Mick Jagger’s involvement. Jagger was set to play Fitzcarraldo’s assistant Wilbur, but the delays to production overlapped with commitments he had to the Rolling Stones tour of the time. Jagger departed and the entire role was dropped from the film.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
James Cameron originally brought back Kyle Reese himself, Michael Biehn, for his acclaimed Terminator sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The plan was for Reese to appear in a dream sequence in the movie, and Cameron filmed the scene. It takes place when Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is medicated and locked up at the start of the film, and as a side effect of her medication, she duly has a nightmare. In said nightmare, Kyle Reese appears.
It got the cut partly for time, but also, as creative supervisor Van Ling explained, because “Sarah describes it so vividly in the next scene, making the dream itself unnecessary.”
The scene did appear in an extended cut of Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
The Big Chill
A famous example, this, but one that led to an ongoing professional friendship. In Lawrence Kasdan’s acclaimed ensemble drama The Big Chill, a group of college friends are brought back together for the funeral of one of their own. That friend is Alex, played by Kevin Costner. Costner shot some flashback scenes as Alex to help flesh out the movie too, but none made it to the final cut. Instead whilst Costner is technically still in The Big Chill–and he rehearsed with the cast for weeks–it’s just him as a corpse. His speaking part was chopped and you never see his face. But that dead body you see? It’s his. His role was lost in edit though.
That said, Costner kept in touch with Kasdan, and when the former’s star rose, the pair were able to work together again. Costner asked Kasdan to dust down his script for The Bodyguard–originally penned for Ryan O’Neal and Diana Ross–which he duly did. The resultant movie, starring Costner and Whitney Houston, would be a gigantic success. Kasdan and Costner would then work together on the western Wyatt Earp, a better film than it’s generally given credit for.
The Purple Rose Of Cairo
Fans of the underrated Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle The Last Action Hero should really check out Woody Allen’s terrific The Purple Rose of Cairo, which has a lot more fun with the central concept.
If all had gone to plan, a young Viggo Mortensen would have been in the impressive ensemble too. But all did not go to plan. Mortensen recalled in an interview last year how he bumbled through an audition for the movie, yet landed the role.
That said, he was never told exactly what that role was, and thus when it came time to shoot a party scene, he asked Allen what he was supposed to do. “You just follow his lead. You’ll be alright,” Allen replied. A bit of improvisation later, and Mortensen’s work was in the can. Yet he wouldn’t find out that Allen had cut him from the film until the movie came out. His name didn’t even make the end credits.
The Thin Red Line
Terrence Malick has a habit of notably altering his movies in the editing suite to the point of removing characters altogether, or substantively reducing the screentime of performances. The Thin Red Line–at the time, his first movie in 20 years–attracted a bevvy of big name performers. Some, such as George Clooney and John Travolta, had previously more sizeable parts cut down. In the case of Lukas Haas, Bill Pullman, and Mickey Rourke though, their parts ended up chopped out of the film altogether.
Rourke in particular didn’t take this particularly well. “There were political reasons why I was out of the movie,” he argued in a subsequent interview. “Just because of the temperature of me and the industry, my scenes were cut,” he argued.
This doesn’t sound too likely though. Malick, particularly on The Thin Red Line, was hardly known as a director to toe the party line, refusing to hold test screenings of the film and spending many, many months locked away to come up with a final cut. As this Indiewire article charts, him cutting away roles from his films continues to be one of his trademarks.
As we covered in our look back at the film here, disgraced singer Gary Glitter had a four-minute cameo role in the Spice Girls film, Spice World: The Movie.
Glitter filmed a sequence where he and the band sing “I Am the Leader of the Gang.” The Spice Girls were set to sing the song, and then come the finale, Gary Glitter appeared in a gold costume. As late as a month before the release of the film, Glitter’s cameo was in place, and ready to go. But then the revelations about Glitter’s life came to prominence, and he was arrested following the discovery of indecent images of children on his computer.
It didn’t take long at all to make the decision to cut Glitter from the movie, although given how late in the day all this happened, the Spice Girls singing “Leader of the Gang” remains in the final cut. As editor Andrea McArthur told Yahoo, “We found we could just remove him rather neatly without knowing he was ever there.”
Ricky Gervais, Billy Crystal
The delightful 2011 resurrection of The Muppets on the big screen continually leaves us pining for more adventures for Jim Henson’s finest. The film, in Muppet tradition, had no shortage of famous faces amongst its ensemble cast. Yet also a fair few of them shot material and then had it excised in the final cut of the film.
Amongst those who were set to appear in The Muppets were Rob Corddry, Billy Crystal, Danny Trejo, and Ricky Gervais. Their involvement was announced and their scenes shot. Nothing sinister here, just the demands of getting the edit right.
Still, director James Bobin held out a Muppet lifeline for the latter two. Gervais would take the lead role in the underrated Muppets Most Wanted whilst Danny Trejo would take a smaller supporting role, getting a song–that he told us about here–and in turn setting up the best line of the movie for Tina Fey.
Natural Born Killers
Oliver Stone’s controversial 1994 feature had significant ramifications for how Coca-Cola dealt with product placement, but it also originally had a nine-minute sequence featuring Ashley Judd in its original cut.
Judd appeared in a courtroom sequence in the movie, playing a young girl who survived an attack from Mickey and Mallory. Judd’s character is a witness in the trial, and Woody Harrelson’s Mickey–acting as his own counsel–cross-examines her. He then promptly stabs her in the ear with a pencil. The scene was ultimately excised from the final cut by Oliver Stone, but it has subsequently surfaced.