Even though actor salaries have ballooned into the millions of dollars, Hollywood is still a tough business. You have to compete for roles and often work long hours. Sometimes, even if you manage to get past those parts of the job successfully, your scenes still end up of the cutting room floor.
Over the years, there have been numerous cases of famous actors having their roles completely axed from some fairly big movies — some of the biggest, even — for various reasons. Sometimes it’s a matter of scheduling or simply trying to trim down a film’s running time. Other times, though, it’s a contract dispute or a clash of personalities.
Regardless of the reasons, here are 15 actors or actresses who were supposed to be in these movies. Except in the end, they weren’t.
15. Ashley Judd – Natural Born Killers
The deadly odyssey of Mickey and Mallory Knox in Natural Born Killers end with a bang, as the duo escape prison during a live television interview with egotistical reporter Wayne Gale (Robert Downey, Jr.). Before that, though, director Oliver Stone had filmed scenes that depicted part of their trial. Ashley Judd appeared as a witness for the prosecution, telling the story of Mickey and Mallory murdering her friends during a sleepover party. Somehow, Mickey manages to stab her in the heart in the middle of the whole thing, right in the court room. Stone ultimately cut the scene entirely, trying to keep the movie around the two-hour mark.
14. Liam Neeson – The Hangover II
True story: this role was actually recast twice — here’s the history. During production of The Hangover II, word leaked out that Mel Gibson was getting a cameo appearance as a crazy tattoo artist. That didn’t sit well with some of the principal cast members, since Gibson had recently gone on his now-infamous anti-Semetic rant. At the last minute, the producers managed to land Liam Neeson for the role and the Taken star filmed all his scenes in a single day.
When the director decided the scene needed to be reshot, Neeson was no longer available. So the role was recast (again) and given to Nick Cassavetes. What a shame.
13. Mickey Rourke (and others) – The Thin Red Line
The Thin Red Line is a piece of cinematic genius. The almost-three-hour-long World War II epic from director Terrence Malick featured a huge ensemble cast that included Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, George Clooney, and John Cusack. Perhaps even more amazing are the name that got left on the sidelines.
Bill Pullman, Mickey Rourke, and Lukas Haas all had scenes that were edited out of the film, and the original plan included scenes for Gary Oldman, Viggo Mortensen, Martin Sheen, and Jason Patric. Rourke was reportedly crushed when his scene wasn’t included in the final theatrical cut, but at it was included as a DVD extra!
12. Uma Thurman – Savages
Savages is a 2012 crime thriller by acclaimed director Oliver Stone. It already has a stellar cast that includes Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, John Travolta, Benicio del Toro, and Salma Hayek. However, the film almost included another Hollywood A-lister, as Uma Thurman was cast as the mother to Lively’s young hippie role of Ophelia “O” Sage.
Thurman’s scenes were designed to add context to O’s questionable life choices, as her character had gone through multiple divorces. Too bad that the studio demanded that Stone make Savages shorter (it still clocked in at over two hours), and Thurman’s scenes eventually were squeezed out.
11. Eric Stoltz – Back to the Future
Most people already know about this one, but one of the most iconic trilogies in movie history almost looked very, very different. Eric Stoltz was originally hired to play Marty McFly, and Back to the Future actually filmed for a month with him as the star. But director Robert Zemeckis just wasn’t feeling his performance, and eventually convinced Michael J. Fox to divide his time between driving to DeLorean and working on Family Ties, his television sitcom.
Thankfully, it all worked out in the end. Stoltz’s scenes were reshot, and Back to the Future would become an instant classic. Frankly, we couldn’t imagine anyone other than Fox playing Marty McFly.
10. Paul Rudd – Bridesmaids
Paul Rudd and Bridesmaids producer Judd Apatow have worked together on a handful of hilarious films, including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and This is 40. Rudd almost made an appearance in Bridesmaids, before test audiences crapped all over the scene and forced director Paul Feig to edit it out.
The problem was that Rudd played a rude jerk while on an ice skating first date with Kristen Wiig’s character. Test audiences weren’t used to seeing Rudd be a bad guy, and found his entire appearance in the film off putting. Sadly, Rudd’s scenes were axed from the film.
9. Chris Cooper – The Ring
The Ring was a great horror movie, featuring a mysterious videotape that killed anyone who watched it and a creepy vengeful little girl who crawls through TV screens. The movie, which was a remake of a Japanese horror flick, originally featured Oscar-winning actor Chris Cooper, playing a convicted child murderer. His character was interviewed by Naomi Watts’ journalist character at the start of the movie, and then appeared again at the end with Watts “gifting” him a copy of the cursed tape. However, his role ended up being distracting from the main plot line, and was edited out of the movie altogether.
8. Sienna Miller – Black Mass
The story of real-life Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger was immortalized on film in 2015’s Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp as the notorious gangster. The film focuses on the more criminal aspects of Bulger’s life, including being the leader of the Winter Hill Gang and fighting off rival groups, while trying to stay one step ahead of the FBI.
Sienna Miller was hired to play Catherin Grieg, Bulger’s longtime girlfriend (in fact, Grieg was with him when he was eventually arrested in California in 2011). In the end, though, director Scott Cooper cut Miller’s scenes out of the film, choosing to focus more on Bulger’s “professional” life, as opposed to his personal one.
7. Tobey Maguire – Life of Pi
Life of Pi was a surprise hit when it was released in 2012. After all, who thought that a bunch of unknown actors, starring in a movie about a young Indian boy being trapped on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger would catch on with audiences? The entire film is framed as a story that the main character tells to a Canadian novelist, played by Rafe Spall.
However, Spall’s role was originally filmed by Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man, Seabiscuit). Director Ang Lee eventually felt that Maguire was “too famous” to exist in a movie full of unknown actors, and reshoot his scenes with Spall instead.
6. Ghostface Killah – Iron Man
Long before Iron Man became a household name thanks to Robert Downey, Jr. and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ghostface Killah frequently would use Tony Stark an one of his aliases. He even called his debut solo album Ironman, as he seems a bit obsessed with the Marvel character.
When Marvel was making the first Iron Man movie and kicking off their sprawling fictional shared universe, they brought Ghostface Killah in to film a brief cameo, as a small reward for being a loyal fan. He played an arms dealer during a scene that included a party in Dubai, but the whole thing was eventually cut from the final edit. It did appear as a deleted scene on the DVD though.
5. Michael Biehn – Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The original savior of humanity in the Terminator series wasn’t John or Sarah Connor. Nor was it Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 robot. In the first Terminator movie, it was Kyle Reese (played by Michael Biehn) who was sent back in time by the Resistance to save Sarah Connor (and her unborn son) from being terminated.
Kyle Reese was originally planned to reappear in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, as part of a dream sequence (since his character was killed at the end of the first film). However, director James Cameron eventually decided the scenes didn’t fit well into the overall story and he left them out. Biehn did film the scene, though, and it’s available as a DVD extra and in the extended director’s cut of the movie.
4. Harvey Keitel & Jennifer Jason Leigh – Eyes Wide Shut
By all accounts, filming Eyes Wide Shut was a grueling and frustrating affair. Director Stanley Kubrick, in what would end up being his final film, kept production going for a record-breaking 400 days as he constantly ordered reshoots of multiple scenes in order to get them juuuuuuuuuust perfect.
Both Harvey Keitel and Jennifer Jason Leigh filmed numerous scenes, playing the roles of Victor Zeigler and Marion Nathanson, respectively. They thought their work on the film was complete, and moved on to other projects. When Kubrick demanded that their scenes be re-shot, neither actor was available. The film was forced to recast both parts, with Sydney Pollack and Marie Richardson.
3. Harrison Ford – E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg have a long, storied history together. After all, they combined to make Indiana Jones, one of the most iconic and successful adventure franchises of all-time. When Spielberg made E.T., he cast Ford as a school principal who reprimands Elliot after he set all the frogs free (which were about to be dissected by a science class). It was a bit part, for sure, but would have made for a cool cameo. Unfortunately, Spielberg was eventually forced to cut Ford’s scenes in an effort to make the film shorter.
2. Andy Garcia – Dangerous Minds
One of Michelle Pfeiffer’s most memorable roles was a heart-of-gold teacher tasked with helping a bunch of inner-city kids overcome their academic and social struggles in Dangerous Minds. Or maybe the movie is just remembered because of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” being on the soundtrack. We love that song!
Anyway, the movie originally gave Pfeiffer’s character a husband, played by Andy Garcia. Ironically, Garcia himself would proclaim that the movie didn’t even need his scenes to tell the story. He would eventually be proven right, as his role was cut from the film entirely, even though he put in the work and still got paid.
1. Ben Affleck – Elektra
There’s nothing good about Ben Affleck’s Daredevil movie. Yet, for some reason, Fox decided that there should be a spin-off/sequel that focused on Jennifer Garner’s character of Elektra. There’s nothing really good about Elektra either, but that’s not the point.
Affleck, who was dating Garner at the time, agreed to make a small cameo appearance as lawyer Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil’s secret identity). The scene was ultimately removed from the theatrical version of the movie, although it resurfaced as a DVD extra and as part of the director’s cut. Thank God for Netflix, who completely fixed both of these characters and banished Affleck off into playing… Batman. What the hell, Hollywood?