Top 10 Directors Who Got Fired From Their Own Movie
Top 10 Directors Who Got Fired From Their Own Movie

Top 10 Directors Who Got Fired From Their Own Movie

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Um… that's a wrap? Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Directors Who Were Fired Before They Had Finished the Movie. For this list, we're taking a look at directors who were let go from movies they signed on to make.

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Top 10 Directors Who Were Fired Before They Had Finished the Movie

Um… that’s a wrap? Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Directors Who Were Fired Before They Had Finished the Movie.

For this list, we’re taking a look at directors who were let go from movies they signed on to make.

#10: Alex Cox
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998)

The narrative in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is all over the place, which is fitting given the drugged-out nature of the movie’s protagonists. The filmmaking process was every bit as chaotic as the finished product. Alex Cox, who rose to prominence with cult classics like “Repo Man” and “Sid & Nancy,” was tapped to write and direct this adaption of Hunter S. Thompson's novel. When Cox and producer Laila Nabulsi became divided over creative differences, however, production company Rhino Films hired Terry Gilliam to take over his directorial duties. Gilliam and Tony Grisoni additionally rewrote Cox and Tod Davies’ script, although the original writers were still given credit following a legal dispute.

#9: Richard Stanley
“The Island of Dr. Moreau” (1996)

Poor Richard Stanley had been an admirer of H. G. Wells’ classic novel since childhood and spent four years trying to get this adaptation off the ground. Then when he was finally given the green-light, Stanley found himself in a perfect storm of problems. When actor Bruce Willis suddenly dropped out, Stanley was forced to replace him with Val Kilmer, who made his availability limited. Stanley thought he could work around this by expanding Marlon Brando’s role, but that idea blew up when Brando went AWOL following his daughter’s suicide. The difficult cast, harsh weather, and a skyrocketing budget amounted to Stanley’s unceremonious terminator, leaving replacement director John Frankenheimer to helm this inevitable bomb.

#8: Paul Schrader
“Exorcist: The Beginning” (2004)

Speaking of John Frankenheimer, the late filmmaker was originally set to direct this “Exorcist” prequel, although Paul Schrader eventually took over. The producers didn’t care for Schrader’s psychological approach, however, desiring more shocking violence. Thus, director Renny Harlin and writer Alexi Hawley were hired to rework the whole movie. “Exorcist: The Beginning” was such a massive financial and critical bomb, though, that the studio decided to release Schrader’s completed film the following year. While “Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist” received better reviews, it was still viewed by many as a pale imitation of the 1973 classic. Honestly, the behind-the-scenes story of Schrader’s firing is a lot more interesting than either of the films we got.

#7: Richard Thorpe
“The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

It’s a miracle that “The Wizard of Oz” ended up being a perennial classic, as it went through five directors. While Norman Taurog was technically the first director brought onboard, he only shot a couple Technicolor tests. It was Richard Thorpe who got production rolling, filming Dorothy meeting the Scarecrow and a few scenes at the Wicked Witch's castle over two weeks. Producer Mervyn LeRoy felt Thorpe’s filmmaking methods were too hasty, however. George Cukor was briefly enlisted to replace Thorpe while Victor Fleming became the primary director. Even Fleming didn’t see the film to the end, since he left to rescue another troubled production, and King Vidor put the finishing touches on “Oz.”

#6: Bryan Singer
“Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018)

This Queen biopic had its fair share of problems even before Bryan Singer signed on. Clashing over creative differences, star Sacha Baron Cohen exited the film. Dexter Fletcher also eventually left production due to disagreements with co-producer Graham King. The project finally got back on track with Rami Malek playing Freddy Mercury and Singer directing. In late 2017, though, it was reported that Singer had become “unexpectedly unavailable.” Whether this was due to “a personal health matter” or Malek’s frustration with Singer's behavior has been heavily debated. In any case, Singer was fired and Fletcher returned to finish the final weeks of principal photography, although Singer still received the sole directing credit per DGA rules.

#5: Anthony Mann
“Spartacus” (1960)

Given his surreal, unconventional style, Stanley Kubrick might’ve seemed like an odd choice to direct an American epic like “Spartacus.” It not surprising that Kubrick wasn’t the first choice to direct Kirk Douglas’ passion project. Anthony Mann initially landed the directing gig, but Douglas fired him after only a week of filming, arguing that Mann couldn’t helm such a large-scale picture. The job subsequently went to Kubrick, who had previously directed Douglas in “Paths of Glory.” While Kubrick reportedly wasn’t the happiest camper throughout production, the final film was a universal success. Mann, meanwhile, would go on to direct other historical epics like “El Cid” and “The Fall of the Roman Empire.”

#4: George Cukor
“Gone with the Wind” (1939)

Remember when we said Victor Fleming left “The Wizard of Oz” to take over another struggling film? Well, that film just so happened to be “Gone with the Wind,” which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. What’s especially ironic is that the film’s original director was George Cukor, who made several creative choices on “The Wizard of Oz” before leaving to direct “Gone with the Wind.” Although Cukor had spent two years developing the Civil War epic, he was let go after only three weeks of filming due to quandaries with actor Clark Gable and producer David O. Selznick. Nevertheless, Cukor continued to secretly coach actresses Vivien Leigh and Olivia De Havilland.

#3: Richard Donner
“Superman II” (1980)

Since he did such a great job with the first “Superman,” you may be wondering why Richard Donner was fired from the sequel. Basically, the studio gave Donner a seemingly impossible task: asking him to simultaneously make two “Superman” movies that would both come out the same year. Although the first film was completed in time for its 1978 release, Donner was let go from “Superman II” because of delays, a high budget, and other factors. Although Donner had already filmed 75% of “Superman II,” replacement director Richard Lester reshot a fair deal in order to receive credit. At least Donner’s vision would finally see the light of day with the 2006 re-edited director’s cut.

#2: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” (2018)

On the heels of “The Lego Movie,” Phil Lord and Christopher Miller seemed like ambitious choices to direct this Han Solo origin story. Well, apparently they were too ambitious for Lucasfilm, who felt the directing duo over-relied on comedy and improvisation. Of course, actress Emilia Clarke also suggested that the two didn’t give the most detailed directions and lacked the necessary experience. As interesting as their version might’ve been, Lord and Miller were fired in June 2017 and the studio turned to Ron Howard, who ironically had declined the chance to direct “The Phantom Menace.” Colin Trevorrow followed in Lord and Miller’s footsteps when he was let go from “Star Wars: Episode IX” months later. (xref)

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Miller Drake
“Piranha II: The Spawning” (1981)

Dick Richards
“Jaws” (1975)

#1: James Gunn
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (2020)

For the longest time, the idea of doing a third “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie without James Gunn seemed unthinkable. Several months before “Vol. 3” was set to commence shooting, though, it was announced that Disney had fired Gunn over a series of offensive tweets he posted between 2008 and 2012. Although Gunn apologized for his ill-conceived jokes regarding rape and child abuse, Disney severed their ties with the director nonetheless. The “Guardians” cast strongly disapproved of Gunn’s firing, especially Dave Bautista, who threatened to quit if Marvel didn’t at least use Gunn’s “Vol. 3” script. Gunn has additionally received support from various fans, journalists, and artists who wish to see him reinstated. Still, Disney has refused to budge.