Five times directors were fired from their movies

Ben Arnold
Contributor

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller will likely be doing a bit of soul searching today, after it was announced they’d be leaving the production of the Han Solo ‘Star Wars’ spin-off movie mid-way through filming.

More reports have emerged since that they clashed with Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy, and were summarily fired after months of on-set tensions.

From the dizzying highs of ‘The Lego Movie’ and ’22 Jump Street’, they’re likely at a bit of a low point, but they’re far from the first directors to be removed from the helm of a major movie…

(Credit: Marvel)

Edgar Wright – Ant-Man

Comic book fans were consistently excited about the prospect of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Scott Pilgrim’ director Edgar Wright taking on ‘Ant-Man’ for Marvel. And indeed, a Marvel movie with an indie vibe did seem most enticing. But he was shockingly ousted in May, 2014, after having worked on the project since as far back as 2006. Peyton Reed took over and the movie was a moderate success, by Marvel standards. It was later claimed that Marvel’s ‘Creative Committee’, the brains trust that oversees the MCU, was the leading factor in driving Wright out, with ‘pedestrian’ notes clashing with his more esoteric vision.

(Credit: Rhino Films)

Alex Cox – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

The edgy ‘Repo Man’ director was sacked from the psychedelic Hunter S. Thompson adaptation, which eventually emerged in 1998, after also clashing with producers about his vision for the project. Cox’s ideas, which included having animated segments in the movie, alienated both Thompson, and the movie’s star Johnny Depp. “Alex had some dream that he could make Thompson’s work better,” Depp said in an interview. “He was wrong.” Instead, they drafted in Terry Gilliam to replace him, hardly a safe pair of hands in Hollywood, but it all turned out OK in the end.

(Credit: Warner Bros)

Richard Donner – Superman II

Sensationally, Donner, who had directed the first – and best – ‘Superman’ movie was given the boot from ‘Superman II’ after he’d finished filming; both the first and the second movies were shot at the same time. Expecting to come back to the post-production stage of the sequel, he was fired by producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind. It was said this was partially for budget reasons – the first movie had gone hugely over budget – and partially because they wanted to the make the sequel a more camp and lightweight proposition the second time around. So in came Richard Lester to finish the movie, but it wasn’t plain sailing, as Lester had to re-shoot more than half the movie in order to be credited solely, because of union regulations. Gene Hackman sided with Donner, and refused to attend the re-shoots, so all of his footage is from Donner’s lens.

(Credit: Relativity Media)

Lynne Ramsay – Jane Got A Gun

Whether she technically quit or was fired, the tale behind Natalie Portman’s first production project, the western ‘Jane Got A Gun’, was explosive. Scottish director Lynne Ramsay was all set to helm the project, but she failed to turn up on the first day of filming after a ‘three day stand-off’ with Portman’s fellow producer Scott Steindorff. The consequent recriminations got very nasty indeed, a lawsuit alleging that she was ‘abusive’ and ‘under the influence’ while in pre-production, and ‘failed to adhere to proper safety protocol for handling weapons on set, when she pointed a prop gun directly at a camera and, in turn, at the camera crew’. Ramsay denied all allegations, and the lawsuit was settled ‘quietly’. Though the drama continued once new director Gavin O’Connor signed up, with Michael Fassbender quitting the film, then his replacement Jude Law, and then Bradley Cooper too. The movie was a box office disaster, making just $3 million.

(Credit: New Line)

The Island of Dr. Moreau – Richard Stanley

Reputedly one of the most dysfunctional film sets of all time, the disastrous 1996 version of H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi novel was cursed from the off. South African director Richard Stanley struggled to corral his wayward stars, namely Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, the latter’s then-wife Joanne Whalley filing for divorce while he was on set. Kilmer was said to have been uncontrollable, insisting on having his role cut in half. He was supposed to play the lead role of the UN negotiator who crash lands on Moreau’s island, but instead ended up swapping roles with David Thewlis (who said he re-wrote most of his role himself). Kilmer’s performance in his new role was said to be so awful it was virtually unusable. Stanley took the fall for Kilmer’s behaviour and was fired, veteran director John Frankenheimer then being drafted in at great expense to take over. However, things continued to deteriorate. The script was re-written, with Frankenheimer refusing to accept Kilmer’s behaviour. Kilmer was reportedly feuding viciously with Brando too. On shooting his last scene with Kilmer, Frankenheimer reportedly spat: “Cut, Now get that bastard off my set.” The resultant film was a singular disaster, commercially and critically.

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