Casting changes are not uncommon in Hollywood, with just about every big role circled by a selection of A-listers before somebody finally signs on the dotted line. But even that sometimes isn’t the end of the process, whether it’s a star being sacked from the project or deciding to walk away as a result of scheduling or, more often, the old chestnut of “creative differences”.
Read more: Actors who quit Hollywood altogether
Armie Hammer is the latest actor to step away from a high-profile project at the very last moment — in his case, following a social media scandal — but there are numerous cases throughout Hollywood’s recent history of eleventh hour casting switches.
Here are some of the most notable examples...
Armie Hammer (Shotgun Wedding)
Until this week, Armie Hammer was on the verge of jetting off to the Dominican Republic to shoot action-comedy Shotgun Wedding with Jennifer Lopez. Under normal circumstances, that’s something close to a dream job. However, Hammer has recently found himself at the heart of a bizarre social media storm after violent and explicit DMs allegedly sent by the star were leaked on Twitter.
Watch: Jennifer Lopez stuns in new swimsuit photo
Read more: Hammer discusses losing Batman role
The 34-year-old star dismissed the controversy as “bulls*** claims” in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, but has opted to step aside from the film as a result. He said he was not prepared to leave his family for four months in the midst of this chaos. The production is due to start imminently, so a replacement will have to step in urgently.
Johnny Depp (Fantastic Beasts 3)
Johnny Depp’s decision to abandon the role of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts franchise was the prime example of jumping before being pushed. In fact, Depp was open in admitting he was asked to vacate the role by Warner Bros.
Production on the Wizarding World sequel was already underway when Depp’s libel verdict led him to step aside, leaving the film with a headache. The 57-year-old had shot one scene for the new movie, but he will now be replaced by Mads Mikkelsen.
Jason Statham (The Man From Toronto)
In March 2020, Jason Statham was just four weeks away from getting started on the action-comedy The Man From Toronto, appearing alongside Kevin Hart. However, Statham departed the project with little clear explanation, though Deadline speculated he was unhappy with the idea of the film — which would have seen him play the world’s deadliest assassin — being made for a PG-13 rating rather than an R.
It wasn’t all bad news for the movie, though, with Woody Harrelson signing on to replace Statham and Hart remaining on board. The film is still targeting a November 2021 release. Statham, meanwhile, is reteaming with Guy Ritchie for heist tale Wrath of Man, which is completed but undated due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dougray Scott (X-Men)
In one of the most famous near-misses in the history of blockbuster cinema, Dougray Scott was all set to take on the role of adamantium-clawed mutant Wolverine in the 2000 movie X-Men. Russell Crowe had already said no and suggested his then-unknown friend Hugh Jackman for the part, but director Bryan Singer went the way of Scott instead. Sadly, with production underway, Scott’s commitments to Mission: Impossible 2 proved insurmountable and he had to step aside.
Read more: Ranking the X-Men franchise
The rest, as they say, is history. A whirlwind audition process allowed Jackman to join the cast a few weeks into filming. He was still playing the role almost two decades later when he received some of his best ever critical notices for the exceptional Logan.
Charlie Hunnam (Fifty Shades of Grey)
By the time its film entered production, Fifty Shades of Grey was a bona fide literary phenomenon. EL James’s saucy Twilight-fanfiction-turned-bonkbuster had become the go-to read on beaches and train carriages all over the world. Speculation was feverish about potential leading men, with Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam eventually cast alongside Dakota Johnson. A month before cameras rolled, though, it was announced that Hunnam had exited the project.
Hunnam has since revealed that scheduling was the problem, rather than the critically reviled material of the book and its adaptation. He was committed to Sons of Anarchy and had also pledged to work with Guillermo del Toro again on Crimson Peak. In 2015, Hunnam said quitting the role was “the worst professional experience of my life”.
Annette Bening (Batman Returns)
The role of Catwoman is now in the hands of Zoe Kravitz, with the star set to don the iconic costume alongside Robert Pattinson’s title character in The Batman. One of the character’s most impressive appearances, though, was in the 1992 Tim Burton blockbuster Batman Returns, in which it was Michelle Pfeiffer who played the feline femme fatale.
Pfeiffer had been a Catwoman fan since her childhood and was reportedly devastated to learn that Annette Bening had been cast by Burton for his movie. Shortly before production, Bening fell pregnant and this left the door wide open for Pfeiffer to slink through and into one of her most memorable performances.
Scarlett Johansson (Rub & Tug)
Back in the summer of 2018, Scarlett Johansson was announced as the producer and star of the drama Rub & Tug. The story was set to be based on the real life of transgender man Dante ‘Tex’ Gill — a massage parlour owner with links to organised crime.
Campaigners balked at the idea of a cisgender woman playing the role and Johansson ultimately stepped aside. The fate of the movie is now uncertain, without one of the highest-paid stars in Hollywood at its centre. Johansson had originally been bullish about other cisgender actors playing trans roles, but has since acknowledged that she handled the situation poorly at the time.
Ed Skrein (Hellboy)
Controversy around Hollywood’s lack of diversity was also at the heart of Ed Skrein’s departure from Neil Marshall’s reboot of Hellboy. The Brit was cast to play Ben Daimio in the movie — a character depicted as Japanese-American in the comic books. Skrein issued a statement on social media saying he had been unaware of the character’s ethnicity when he took the job, revealing that he now would not play the role.
Read more: Skrein and Daniel Dae Kim bond over Hellboy
Asian-American actor Daniel Dae Kim ultimately replaced Skrein in the finished movie. The less said about the critically reviled mess that the film became, the better. At least the potential white-washing of the cast was avoided.
Brad Pitt (Almost Famous)
The freewheeling coming-of-age tale Almost Famous is remembered as a hazy homage to the 1970s, but it almost had one of the coolest movie stars of the last few decades in one of its key roles. Brad Pitt, then coming off the back of some of his strangest and most unusual work, was originally cast to play the role of Stillwater lead guitarist Russell Hammond in the movie.
Read more: The best coming-of-age movies
Pitt got to the stage when he was attending rehearsals for the film before he and director Cameron Crowe came to a joint decision that the role was not the right fit for him. Billy Crudup would go on to play the character in the eventual film, which won critical acclaim across the board and an Oscar for its script.
Winona Ryder (The Godfather Part III)
Sofia Coppola received savage reviews for her performance in mob epic The Godfather Part III, but she wasn’t originally supposed to be acting in her father’s movie. Winona Ryder had been cast to play the role of Al Pacino and Diane Keaton’s daughter in the film, but she withdrew from the project on the very first day of shooting. She was at the height of her late-1980s fame and was arriving in Rome for Godfather immediately after wrapping production on Mermaids.
Francis Ford Coppola was left with a hole in his movie and very little time to fill it. Preferred choice Julia Roberts was almost available if the production was willing to hold its horses, but the budget was already ballooning and so Coppola plumped for his daughter.
Colin Firth (Paddington)
If you’re talking about eleventh hour exits, they don’t get more eleventh than this one. Colin Firth had recorded most of his vocal performance for the first Paddington movie when he and the production came to a mutual agreement that he should step aside. He was replaced with Ben Whishaw and it’s now difficult to imagine any other voice for the Peruvian protagonist.
Read more: Paddington 3 needs a new director
This is a rosier example of an actor’s departure than many on this list, which perhaps reflects the generally sunny tone of the Paddington movies. You suspect the bear himself would be very pleased with how this all panned out.
James Purefoy (V For Vendetta)
This was another case of an exit that arguably came even later than the eleventh hour. James Purefoy was six weeks into filming as the masked anarchist V when he left the movie. It was originally reported that Purefoy quit as a result of the discomfort of wearing the character’s signature Guy Fawkes mask.
The star has since debunked that rumour, citing the far more vague “creative differences” in terms of how he and director James McTeigue wanted to approach the character. Whether he quit or was fired is almost certainly a matter of who you speak to. Regardless, Hugo Weaving stepped into the hat, cloak and mask. He took over the role and redubbed the scenes which Purefoy had already shot.
Watch: Armie Hammer departs Shotgun Wedding after DM scandal