Getting fired, quitting a job hastily, “mutually agreeing” to exit…no matter how it’s phrased, being removed from any project is never fun as almost anyone who has ever worked a day in their life can attest. The recent debacle with “Jane Got A Gun” — director Lynne Ramsay was a no show for work on the first day of filming apparently having clashed with the producers — is an unfortunate peg with which to take a look back at filmmakers who were fired, replaced or walked off a film, but history is full of interesting tales of films gone awry thanks to the regrettable loss of a film’s director.
Studio conservatism, wild filmmakers, battling producers, actors and directors not seeing eye to eye, “creative differences,” etc. — there’s myriad reasons why a director may fall out, fall off, abandon ship or get pink slipped off a movie. It’s life, people are extremely passionate, and it happens.
Let it be said, and just to be clear, we are not suggesting Ramsay got fired or that she is at fault here. The director herself has yet to speak on the events of the past week, while the reported story seems to change daily as to what actually went down, depending on the sources. But those in the midst of the situation may be mildly comforted to learn that this isn’t the first time this has happened (nor is it the last). Here’s 15 such examples.
“Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas” (1998)
Original director: Alex Cox
Replacement: Terry Gilliam
What happened: Yes, Terry Gilliam, ironically a director with his fair share of storied problems on films thanks to his unwaveringly quirky vision usually clashing with the powers that be, did direct this adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson‘s seminal gonzo-journo roadtrip nightmare. But he actually came onboard very late in the game because Alex Cox, the filmmaker behind “Repo Man” and “Sid & Nancy,” apparently did not see eye to eye with the film’s producers and eventually was fired. It didn’t hurt that he had managed to alienate Johnny Depp and Hunter S. Thompson, who hated Cox’s screenplay and ideas about animated sequences. “Alex had some dream that he could make Thompson’s work better,” Depp said in an interview. “He was wrong. He had this idea about animation in the film.” Thompson can be seen ripping into Cox’s script (and some of the animated ideas) in Wayne Ewing‘s 2003 documentary “Breakfast With Hunter” (ironically, Gilliam’s version has animation in it as well). Cox surprisingly never brought it up in many interviews afterwards though he briefly talks around it in this 2001 interview — but considering where his work went afterwards (“Repo Chick” is just a painful nadir), it’s difficult to argue that the dismissal didn’t damage his career. An draft of Cox’s version of the script can be read here. “It was a piece of crap,” Gilliam said of that script at the Cannes Film Festival in 1998. Gilliam and writer Tony Grisoni banged out a new script in 10 days.
“Superman II” (1980)
Original Director: Richard Donner
Replacement: Richard Lester
What happened: One of the more infamous cases of a director being replaced during production, the first two “Superman” movies were originally intended to be shot at the same time (at the insistence of producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind; questions persist as to whether or not he broke contract with this plan), with original “Superman” director Richard Donner getting through about 75% of the sequel before having to turn his attention to the arduous post-production process on the first film. Donner assumed he would return to finish the sequel, with additional funding from Warner Bros. (who had stepped up considerably when “Superman” went over-budget and were making a pretty penny off of that film’s success). Instead, Donner was summarily dismissed, due to what he perceived as not only budgetary concerns but also the producers’ intent on making the second film lighter and campier. For the task they brought in “Hard Day’s Night” auteur Richard Lester who, due to DGA regulations, had to personally film at least 51% of the movie in order to receive sole credit, so he went back and reshot much of what Donner had already completed. (Gene Hackman, as Lex Luthor, sided with Donner and refused to return for reshoots; all of his scenes in “Superman II” were from the original Donner shoot.) Much later, for the deluxe DVD and Blu-ray reissue, a “Richard Donner Cut” was assembled, using as much of his footage as possible (some Lester stuff remains as connective tissue); while not radically different from the finished project, it is a more coherent, cohesive piece, very much in tune with the first movie (the nuclear detonation from the end of the first film is what frees the villains from the Phantom Zone, the Marlon Brando footage was reinstated, etc.). The “Richard Donner Cut” righted many of the wrongs made by the Richard Lester version, but still exists more as a curiosity than anything else (because it remains unfinished and scattershot). Somewhere between the two there’s a pretty decent “Superman” sequel.
“Piranha II” (1981)
Original Director: Miller Drake
Replacement Director: James Cameron
What happened: This sequel to director Joe Dante‘s estimable cult classic, a kind of smart-ass rip-off of “Jaws” that featured visitors to a Texas water park getting snacked on by killer fish, was far dumber and plagued with production woes. Drake was, along with Cameron, a protégé of filmmaker and cult icon Roger Corman, who produced the original “Piranha.” Drake got his start, like Dante, cutting trailers for Corman before moving on to become Corman’s unofficial head of post-production. Drake’s version of “Piranha II” concerned Kevin McCarthy, who had miraculously survived getting eaten in the first movie and was now set up at an abandoned oil rig, creating piranhas that could fly. Because. You know. (He also had loosely committed to bringing back Barbara Steele from the first movie, if only to kill her off in spectacular fashion.) The film’s new executive producer, Ovidio G. Assonitis, fired Drake unceremoniously and replaced him with Cameron, who was already working on the movie as a special effects supervisor (Cameron also heavily rewrote the script). Things didn’t fare any better with Cameron, who was fired two weeks into his stint. Cameron was supposedly locked out of the editing room, to the point where, when the producers were at Cannes trying to sell the movie, Cameron physically broke into the editing room and pieced together his original cut (a version that was released in some foreign markets years later). Since then Cameron has distanced himself from the film even further, first claiming that he didn’t really direct it, and then taking some halfhearted pride in his accomplishment on what he described as “the finest flying killer fish horror/comedy ever made.” Cameron would have greater success later on in his career with the unparalleled “Aliens” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” He is currently at work on “Avatar 2.” Maybe the seas of Pandora are filled with flying killer fish?
“The 13th Warrior” (1999)
Original Director: John McTiernan
Replacement Director: Michael Crichton
What Happened: In 1997 and early 1998, a teaser trailer was shown in North American and European cinemas for a movie called “Eaters of the Dead.” The trailer tantalizingly promised a horrifically intense new movie from “the writer of ‘Jurassic Park‘” and “the director of ‘Die Hard.'” That movie never came to pass, and in the summer of 1999, the film, now anonymously re-titled “The 13th Warrior,” was quietly released into theaters (the studio didn’t even pay for a glitzy premiere). While the “Eaters of the Dead” shoot was far from smooth (it started with an inability to cast Nordic actors, essential for the film’s plot, which concerns a Muslim emissary abducted by a tribe of Vikings, and continued through the grueling 10-month-long shoot), by all accounts at the end of the day McTiernan and Disney had an intense, epic adventure, at least initially conceived as a kind of historically accurate retelling of the “Beowulf” story. The movie was shot in nearly complete secrecy, so the first time Disney saw the film was during a pair of lukewarm test screenings, at which point they installed Crichton as the chief creative voice on the project. Since McTiernan’s shooting style didn’t accommodate for much coverage, Crichton began chopping away at the original “Eaters of the Dead” cut (a scene that happened at the 20-minute mark in the original now occured something like four minutes in), deleting whole subplots like a romantic thread for Antonio Banderas‘ part and minimizing the character’s Islamic qualities (a more conventionally rousing score, courtesy of Jerry Goldsmith, replaced the original music, which was a more Arabic-leaning affair by Graeme Revell,) Eventually Crichton replaced McTiernan in the director’s chair, with both filmmakers filming new versions of the film’s ending, on different stages of the same lot. All of Crichton’s material won out and the McTiernan version remains, for now, a tantalizing what-if. The problems on “The 13th Warrior” also soiled plans for a proposed and hugely expensive adaptation of Crichton’s novel “Airframe.” Disney had paid handsomely for the rights and had installed McTiernan in the pilot’s seat… Until his experience on “The 13th Warrior” left him with a bitter distaste for all things Crichton.
“Gone With The Wind” (1939)
Original director: George Cukor
Replacement: Victor Fleming
What Happened: For one of the landmarks of American cinema, everything about “Gone With The Wind” on the page suggested a movie that could have turned out to be a disaster. Adapting Margaret Mitchell’s novel itself was no mean feat, with a variety of writers all taking a stab at it to try and get the story into reasonable shape. But that indecisiveness carried over to the movie itself. Despite spending two long years in pre-preproduction — a chunk of which was spent trying to find the right actress Scarlett O’Hara — George Cukor was dismissed three weeks into the filming, either due to clashing with Selznick over the script and rate of production, or with lead Clark Gable for personal reasons. Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland both tried to get Selznick to change his mind, but Victor Fleming, under contract to MGM and already working on “The Wizard Of Oz,” was then hauled in to take over on a movie that was behind schedule, and being rewritten as they were shooting. The intense working conditions eventually forced Fleming to exit temporarily citing exhaustion, with Sam Wood getting behind the camera for two weeks. However, by time production wrapped, Fleming’s contribution had been the most extensive among the three, and he ultimately received sole credit on the film.
“The Wizard Of Oz” (1939)
Original director: Richard Thorpe
Replacement: Victor Fleming
What Happened: While the resulting film is a joyous classic for the ages, the production was close to nightmare almost from the start. Richard Thorpe initially got things rolling on the Technicolor film, but after ten days filming was halted when Buddy Epsen — the orginal Tin Man, eventually replaced by Jack Haley — became critically ill due to the makeup being used. This temporary shutdown allowed producer Mervyn LeRoy to look over the footage and he decided he didn’t like Thorpe’s work, and George Cukor was brought in as a creative advisor. His major contribution was completely overhauling the makeup and costumes for Dorothy and The Wicked Witch, forcing all their scenes to be reshot. Victor Fleming was brought in when Cukor went to work on “Gone With The Wind,” but as you’ve just read, their paths would cross again. Fleming stuck with the creative direction Cukor had put together, and completed most of the filming until he was called into help on the Civil War epic. So to finish up the movie, King Vidor stepped in, shooting the sepia bookend sequences and “Over The Rainbow,” but like a true gent, stayed mum on his work until Fleming passed away.
“The Island of Dr. Moreau” (1996)
Original Director: Richard Stanley
Replacement Director: John Frankenheimer
What Happened: Stanley, a South African music video director and cult sensation for a pair of high-minded genre oddities (“Hardware” and “Dust Devil“), had been developing a new version of “The Island of Dr. Moreau” for more than four years, finally securing a green light from New Line Cinema and the participation of Marlon Brando, who had agreed to play the titular doctor who created a colony of animal/human hybrids on his own private island. Val Kilmer, who was originally scheduled to play the role that wound up being portrayed by David Thewlis, was even more difficult than normal (he was going through a divorce) and, after demanding his role be cut by 40% (he was reassigned to play the doctor’s assistant), delivered lines of dialogue that were garbled and unusable, in a performance said to be even more bizarre than what Brando’s ended up being. The studio, blaming Stanley for Kilmer’s insubordination, fired him, and brought in John Frankenheimer, who was drawn to the project because of the material and the chance to work with Brando. The problems, of course, didn’t stop there – Rob Morrow, originally cast in the role of the marooned UN ambassador, left with Stanley, and Frankenheimer saw a complete script overhaul, with pages being rewritten on the fly (Thewlis claims to have scripted most of his scenes himself). Kilmer, meanwhile, continued to terrorize everyone on set, which seemed to be a place of general unease, with the studio unhappy with the new direction Frankenheimer was taking but, at that stage in the game, unable to set things right. The finished movie showcases the hotbed of neuroses and creative second-guessing that permeated the set, although there are some things to admire, particularly Stan Winston‘s creature work and elements of Brando’s bug-nuts performance (the scene where he has an ice bucket on his head is some kind of madcap classic); appropriately animalistic.
“Ratatouille”/“Brave”/“Toy Story 2”/“Cars 2” (2007/2012/1999/2011)
Original Directors: Jan Pinkava/Brenda Chapman/Ash Brannon/Brad Lewis
Replacement Director: Brad Bird/Mark Andrews/John Lasseter/John Lasseter
What Happened: Pixar is often painted as a kind of idyllic creative utopia where people ride rainbow-powered scooters to their offices and nobody ever argues about anything. But that simply isn’t the case. In fact, there are just as many large-scale creative disagreements (if not more so) inside the hallowed halls of Pixar as there are in any other studio. Take, for example, the directorial change-overs that befell four large-scale Pixar projects. With “Ratatouille,” the project was under the creative leadership of Jan Pinkava, who had won an Oscar for his short film “Geri’s Game.” His original version of “Ratatouille” was more ethereal (lengthy sequences were set in a kind of sensory fantasy realm; holdovers from this idea can be seen in the film’s videogame adaptation) and lacked a concrete story. Pixar, worried about the film’s commercial chances, especially given that “Ratatouille” was to be the first Pixar movie released outside of their partnership with Disney (Disney later bought the studio for a staggering sum), fired Pinkava and replaced him with Brad Bird, who had to overhaul the script, animation and character designs in a condensed 18-month period. Thankfully, it turned out to be one of Pixar’s most satisfying masterpieces and a sly commentary on Disney/Pixar relations at the time. On “Toy Story 2” and “Cars 2,” Pixar bigwig John Lasseter stepped in when the ship was being steered into unsteady waters. “Toy Story 2” was supposed to be a direct-to-video sequel, but when Lasseter and others got a look at some of the footage they realized that a) the good stuff was really good, good enough in fact for a theatrical release and b) the story was unsalvageable and needed to be restarted from scratch. Again, 18 months out, Lasseter and his team turned it around. On “Cars 2,” the franchise was left in the hands of producer and inexperienced director Brad Lewis, who wasn’t turning things around in a satisfying way in the eyes of the higher-ups, so Lasseter, who was also dealing with his newfound responsibilities as the creative head of all things Disney, had to try and get it into shape. The saddest and most acrimonious creative disagreement happened over last year’s “Brave,” which was set to be the first Pixar film to be directed by a woman. A self-styled “feminist fairy tale,” one that was deeply personal to director Brenda Chapman (it was based on her relationship with her daughter), but Disney removed Chapman as director and installed Mark Andrews in her place, a little more than a year before the movie was due in theaters. Out went the movie’s dark tone and snowy setting, in went broad physical comedy and a lush green landscape that the Scottish tourism board plans on milking for the next decade (seriously). Chapman and Andrews shared the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, but perhaps most tragically Chapman decamped from Pixar to head Lucas’ Lucasfilm Animation, only to have it gobbled up a few months later by Disney…
Original Director: Anthony Mann
Replacement Director: Stanley Kubrick
What Happened: After first choice David Lean turned the film down, star Kirk Douglas (who was also executive producing) hired veteran Anthony Mann to direct “Spartacus,” the tale of the gladiator who leads an ill-fated rebellion of slaves against the Roman Empire. But after a week of shooting in Death Valley, Douglas was unhappy with the way that Mann was lensing the picture, later writing in his autobiography, “He seemed scared of the scope of the picture.” Though it’s always been suspected that there was more going on: the scope of the surviving scenes that Mann shot seems fine, and as if to prove Douglas wrong, the filmmaker went on to direct epics “El Cid” and “The Fall Of The Roman Empire.” In his place, Douglas hired the then 30-year-old Stanley Kubrick, who’d previously directed him in “Paths of Glory.” It was a far bigger project that Kubrick had ever tackled before, and it caused some unrest among the crew, with DoP Russell Metty particularly objecting. But the results, as we all know by now, turned out pretty well.
“Exorcist: The Beginning” (2004)
Original Director: John Frankenheimer, Paul Schrader
Replacement Director: Renny Harlin
What Happened: One of the more fascinating, and baffling, instances of a director switch-up came on the prequel to horror classic “The Exorcist.” Fourteen years on from “The Exorcist III,” and with a then-recent re-release of the original having proven a hit, Morgan Creek Productions were keen to give the franchise a new lease of life, and commissioned a script from novelist Caleb Carr (later rewritten by William Wisher) that would tell the story of Father Merrin’s first encounter with the demon Pazazu. And it was clear that they weren’t just after a cheap knock-off; they first approached the legendary John Frankenheimer to direct, and when he pulled out due to health problems (he passed away only a month later, sadly), they replaced him with Paul Schrader, the writer of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” a man hardly known for commercial fare. The film was shot and completed, with Stellan Skarsgard stepping in for Max Von Sydow as the young Father Merrin, but when Schrader turned in his cut to Morgan Creek, the studio thought the film would be too uncommercial, and took the almost unprecedented step of shelving Schrader’s near-complete take, which had cost them $30 million, and bringing in a new writer (Alexi Graham), and director (“Die Hard 2” helmer Renny Harlin) to make another film of essentially the same story, with many of the cast, including Skarsgard, returning. Predictably, Harlin’s version, which cost an additional $50 million, was eviscerated by critics when it was released in August 2004, and it took only $78 million worldwide, less than the combined production cost of the two films. Desperate to squeeze some additional coin out, Morgan Creek then relented, letting Schrader complete his version, and putting it into limited release in May 2005, under the title “Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist.” . It’s a more thoughtful film than Harlin’s, certainly, but not all that much better, if we’re being honest. So Sean Durkin, who’s developing a TV version of the story, should be very careful….
“American History X” (1998)
Original Director: Tony Kaye
Replacement Director: Edward Norton (sort of)
What Happened: Probably the most notorious such story from the 1990s, Tony Kaye wasn’t exactly fired from his searing 1998 American racism drama “American History X,” but he was replaced in the editing room by his star Edward Norton (something that’s affected both their reputations since). Kaye was by all accounts a total mess even from the casting stage, he apparently shot a million feet of film and some reports say Kaye struggled for months trying to come up with a final edit. A Vanity Fair piece from 2003 reported that Kaye delivered an edit that New Line liked, but also let Norton into the editing room to try out his own version. Much to Kaye’s chagrin, the move backfired and New Line liked Norton’s cut better and wanted to release that one. Kaye “overreacted monstrously,” one of the producers recalled and, “decided that, oh no, now enormous changes have to be made in the film. Throw out half the movie, create a new character, go back to filming, take another year to work on it-stuff that he knew was a cartoonish reaction.” New Line gave Kaye eight weeks to figure things out and Kaye instead responded with deeply childish reactions, including eventually putting out ads in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter attacking the producers and demanding his directorial credit be changed to “Humpty Dumpty.” All of his attempts at sabotaging his own film failed, though the very solid-drama was almost overshadowed by all the controversy around the movie which is now the stuff of legend (Kaye even brought a rabbi, a Catholic priest, and a Buddhist monk to a New Line meeting wherein he begged for more time; the same time he wasted causing publicity stunts). The absurd spectacle that Kaye made of himself definitely damaged his career, but the filmmaker has released films since (the powerful abortion documentary “Lake of Fire,” though his thriller “Black Water Transit,” is still in limbo due to the Capitol Films/David Bergstein fiasco of 2010). As for Norton, he gained a reputation for being…hands on…. He tangled with Marvel over his rewrite of “The Incredible Hulk,” and is said to have largely rewritten chunks of Julie Taymor‘s “Frida” as well, but his recent efforts with strong writers like Tony Gilroy and Wes Anderson suggest he’s more than willing to respect a talented scribe.
“Queen Kelly” (1929)
Original Director: Erich von Stroheim
Replacement Director: Gloria Swanson
What Happened: In 1928, Gloria Swanson was one of the biggest stars in the silent movie world, and Erich Von Stroheim was one of the biggest directors. So you would think that a film that teamed them up would have been a giant hit, but in fact, it was never released in the U.S. The story of a prince who kidnaps a convent girl, who ends up in an unhappy marriage in Africa, and eventually running her own brothel, the film was intended as a vanity project for Swanson, financed by her then lover, Joseph P. Kennedy (the father of John F. and Bobby). But the film went over budget, and Swanson started to object to the racy material that she claimed von Stroheim was trying to sneak in — later saying that the brothel had been a dance hall in the script. As such, the director was fired, and the entire part of the storyline set in Africa scrapped, with Swanson herself directing an alternate ending where her character kills herself. But due to a clause in von Stroheim’s contract, the film couldn’t be released in the U.S., and Swanson and Kennedy could only release it in Europe and South America. Swanson’s star faded as the talkies became more and more prevalent, while von Stroheim mostly gave up directing after being fired from another project, “Walking Down Broadway,” mostly focusing on acting, most notably in Renoir’s “La Grande Illusion.” But their paths would cross again: Billy Wilder cannily cast them both in “Sunset Boulevard,” with Swanson playing faded silent star Norma Desmond, von Stroheim cast as her butler (and ex-husband and ex-director). Supposedly, von Stroheim himself suggested that they use a clip from “Queen Kelly” as an extract from one of Desmond’s film, and Wilder agreed; it was the first time that U.S. audiences had seen a frame of the film (which was finally shown on TV in the 1960s and is now available on DVD).
“Promises Written In The Water” (2010)
Original Director: Pete Red Sky
Replacement Director: Vincent Gallo
What Happened: Uglier than most examples on this list — though many of them aren’t very pleasant — is the “Promises Written In The Water.” It was touted out of nowhere as Vincent Gallo’s first directorial effort since “The Brown Bunny.” When it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010, renaissance man/jack of all trades Gallo was listed as the writer, director, producer, star, editor, music composer and art director (and it actually drew laughs from the audience), but reports (that have never been refuted mind you) surfaced in 2010 that alleged that “Promises Written In Water” started out as “The Funeral Director” made by filmmaker Pete Red Sky (“The White Horse Is Dead”). Evidently Red Sky was unsure of himself throughout, and the more experienced and obviously frustrated star gave the producers an ultimatum: make him director or he’d walk. So Gallo essentially made the project his own and then? Well, he shelved it. The reaction at Toronto was mixed and the film’s website says it is “not currently planned for release.” Gallo told the Danish Film Institute in 2011 that he had no desire for an audience to see the film. “I do not want my new works to be generated in a market or audience of any kind,” he said. The filmmaker actor also said he had started working on a new film and the fate of ‘Promises’? “This film [should be] allowed to rest in peace, and stored without being exposed to the dark energies from the public,” he said. Unless you caught it at TIFF or Venice in 2010, chances are you’re never going to see it, period.
Original director: Steven Soderbergh
Replacement: Bennett Miller
What happened: Apart from this Ramsay situation, the Steven Soderbergh/”Moneyball” fiasco of 2009 is probably the most recent and well-known case of director dismissal. We covered this story closely over the years and heard a ton of dirt that’s probably not best to repeat here — though if you look through the old archives, you’ll find plenty of things we heard — but suffice it to say at the very best this was a case of left hand not talking to the right hand. Soderbergh had already started going about his version of the film the way he wanted it — a documentary-style drama of sorts that was more realistic and would feature actual life athletes playing themselves (interviews with reals pros were even shot) — and evidently not making the studio and producers happy in the process, but no one had the cojones to say anything. You’ll recall Academy Award-winning screenwriter Steve Zaillian, who was first hired to write the script, was replaced Aaron Sorkin, only to be called in to work on the film again. Suffice to say, this is just one example of the exorbitant development money that was (ironically) spent and wasted on the film. “Moneyball” made it out fine in the end because Bennett Miller knocked the movie out of the park, but two directors and three screenwriters (Zaillian twice) got paid, and the plug on the Soderbergh production was pulled three days before crew was ready to shoot and then rescheduled for months later. You do the math on what was spent before a frame of film was shot and it’s staggering (we’ve heard the figures and it was painful). A Vanity Fair profile documenting the behind-the-scenes dirt was rumored and then reportedly killed when a certain A-list actor didn’t want his name besmirched in print, but this has never been 100% proven. Suffice to say when someone wants to print the behind-the-scenes story, give us a call, we’d be happy to help.
“Rumor Has It…” (2005)
Original Director: Ted Griffin
Replacement Director: Rob Reiner
What Happened: Having won acclaim for his screenplays “Ravenous,” “Best Laid Plans,” “Matchstick Men” and, above all else, the huge hit “Ocean’s Eleven,” screenwriter Ted Griffin was granted the chance many writers dream of: his own directorial project. And that project was “Rumor Has It…,” an original screenplay by Griffin that focused on a young woman, soon to be married, who discovers that her grandmother may have been the basis for Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate,” and ends up sleeping with the inspiration for Dustin Hoffman‘s character, who’s now been with three generations of the same family. Griffin’s “Ocean’s Eleven” director Steven Sodebergh agreed to executive produce it through the Section Eight company he ran with George Clooney, and the project attracted a starry cast, including Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Shirley MacLaine and Mark Ruffalo. But almost immediately, there were problems. Aniston was unhappy with the film’s look and tone, Costner was reported to have led a mutiny against Griffin on set (this was denied by the director’s agent in the New York Times, saying that the actor hadn’t started filming on the project yet). DoP Ed Lachman was fired by Griffin two weeks into shooting. And in general, the film was running behind, and Soderbergh in particular was unhappy with the dailies that were coming in. So, on August 6th, Soderbergh fired Griffin from the project, with Rob Reiner brought in to replace him (the filmmaker went on to make cast changes, with Charlie Hunnam, Lesley Ann Warren, Tony Bill and Greta Scacchi all fired and recast). Regardless, the film turned out to be a train wreck, picking up savage reviews, though whether Griffin would have done a better job is a harder question to answer — he did a fine job of directing on his TV series “Terriers,” but the damage may already have been done on the miscast, tonally odd “Rumor Has It…”
And Many More: Again, it’s unfortunate, but other examples do exist. Nicholas Jarecki got the boot from “The Informers,” but that turned out to be for the best. The Bret Easton Ellis adaptation was reviled at Sundance in 2009, while Jarecki bounced back fine with last year’s “Arbitrage.” Martin Brest got kicked off the Matthew Broderick ‘80s drama “War Games.” “I remember talking to the original director, who was going to be Martin Brest. Hell of a director and a hell of a guy, but they fired him after a couple of weeks,” Dabney Coleman said in 2012. Brest would go on to direct “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Midnight Run,” and “Scent of a Woman,” only to eventually have his career iced by “Gigli.” “The Outlaw Josey Wales” was supposed to be directed by Philip Kaufman, but it’s star Clint Eastwood eventually took over. “Clint decided we had some creative differences. He was the producer. He was the biggest star in the world. One of us had to go,” Kaufman laughed self-depricatingly in a 2008 interview.
The firing apparently promoted the Director’s Guild to institute what became known as the “Eastwood Rule,” prohibiting a star to replace a director on a film (whether that still applies is doubtful, that was 1976). John G. Avildsen, the director of “Rocky” was the original director for both “Serpico” (1973) and “Saturday Night Fever” (1977), but was fired over disputes with producers Martin Bregman and Robert Stigwood, respectively. “Waterworld” may have been directed by Kevin Reynolds, but it’s star Kevin Costner famously took over and did the film’s final cut. Pete Travis was reported to have been kicked off “Dredd” by the Los Angeles Times (as an exclusive no less in 2011), by the writer Alex Garland. While something seemed to be amiss, Garland and Travis released a joint statement insisting all was well and Travis kept his director’s credit in the end when the film was released. Howard Hughes’ 1943 Western “The Outlaw” was directed and produced by the tycoon, aviator-turned filmmaker, but Howard Hawks evidently served as an uncredited director on the film. Hawks alleges he quit to go make “Sergeant York” with Gary Cooper, but the cinematographer on the movie, Lucien Ballard said he and Hawks were fired by Hughes who took over himself (some of Hawk’s ideas for it allegedly surfaced in “Red River”).
Trivia note: Anthony Mann (replaced not only by Kubrick on “Spartacus”) but also on “A Dandy in Aspic” but not for any creative reasons…he passed away in the middle of production. The pic was finished by lead actor Laurence Harvey. Max Ophuls also died halfway through his last film “The Lovers of Montparnasse.” But we suppose that’s and idea for another feature…
As usual, feel free to sound off. – Oliver Lyttelton, Drew Taylor, Rodrigo Perez, Kevin Jagernauth