Top 20 Movies That Almost Made Actors Quit



Top 20 Movies That Almost Made Actors Quit

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
And you thought your job was bad! For this list, we'll be looking at films that pushed their stars to the brink for a variety of reasons, prompting them to consider leaving the production—or show business altogether. Our countdown includes “Robin Hood”, “Resident Evil”, “The Fast and the Furious”, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, “Batman”, and more!

Top 20 Movies That Almost Made Actors Quit

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Movies That Almost Made Actors Quit.

For this list, we’ll be looking at films that pushed their stars to the brink for a variety of reasons, prompting them to consider leaving the production—or show business altogether.

Which tough film production is the last one that you’d want to be a part of? Let us know in the comments.

#20: “Interview with the Vampire” (1994)

Brad Pitt
He kept it a secret at the time, but it turns out that Brad Pitt did not enjoy his time as Louis de Pointe du Lac. Fifteen years after the release of this influential gothic horror film, the leading man opened up to Entertainment Weekly and revealed some juicy details. As it turns out, the somber tone of the film, paired with the dimly-lit studio and depressing weather in London, had Pitt feeling down about the entire thing. As he tells it, he was “miserable” to the point that he actually tried to bow out mid-production. When he was told that it would cost him $40 million to do so, however, he opted to tough it out.

#19: “Robin Hood” (2010)

Russel Crowe
The story of Robin Hood has been told by Hollywood many times, but has yet to receive a proper modern re-telling. When production began in 2008 for this version, it was originally supposed to chronicle the Sheriff of Nottingham, but things went off the rails quickly. In addition to casting problems, the biggest issue was the script. Russel Crowe took issue with the tone, claiming it “read like CSI: Sherwood Forest”. Crowe and director Ridley Scott both requested rewrites, with the former explaining that without them, he was “not interested in that incarnation”. It seems like the writers here couldn’t decide who the movie was actually about, and as a result this revisionist tale got skewered by critics.

#18: “12 Rounds” (2009)

John Cena
Bad scripts, egos, and casting can figuratively push actors to the edge, but “12 Rounds” pushed John Cena to the edge - literally. This WWE Studios production saw Cena’s cop character Danny Fisher trying to save his fiancee from a criminal mastermind. In order to do so, Fisher has to complete 12 rounds of death-defying challenges, including one where he repels down the side of a building and dangles mid-air. The pro wrestler later explained on a DVD extra that he had a fear of heights and that the stunt nearly made him quit the project entirely. Can you blame him?

#17: “9 to 5” (1980)

Lily Tomlin
While certain stars can churn out bombs without the stink sticking to them, others have their careers derailed by one bad film. So when you find yourself feeling ridiculous during shooting, anxiety and self-consciousness can set in. Lily Tomlin is a legend of the big and small screen. As such, we like to think that no role, however silly, could tarnish her reputation. But when she saw her performance in the dailies for “9 to 5”, talking to birds had yet to be animated in, she reportedly offered to reimburse her salary to let her walk. Tomlin stuck it out however, and the film proved a major hit. She even expressed interest in a sequel.

#16: “Resident Evil” (2002)

Milla Jovovich
Before filming even began, star Milla Jovovich almost called it quits on “Resident Evil”. After Michelle Rodriguez was added to the cast, hot off her breakout role in “Girlfight”, the movie’s writer and director Paul W. S. Anderson rewrote the script. According to Jovovich, the rewrites gave all of her big action scenes to Rodriguez. She thought about quitting, but fortunately, she was able to sit down with Anderson and talk it over. It all worked out in the end, with Jovovich staying on as Alice – and going on to marry Anderson!

#15: “Fantastic Four: The Rise Of The Silver Surfer” (2007)

Jessica Alba
This 2007 sequel made Jessica Alba consider quitting acting altogether. According to Alba, during an emotional scene, director Tim Story told her that her crying looked “too real”. And that she should “cry pretty”. When she apparently failed to do so, Alba was told to skip the tears and that they’d CGI them in later. Ouch. The feedback undermined her confidence and she wondered if she should throw in the towel. Considering how poorly received the film was, maybe a little bit of genuine vulnerability is what the movie needed? People don’t generally cry pretty, that’s not really how crying works.

#14: “Rocky IV” (1985)

Carl Weathers
In the fourth Rocky installment, Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed goes toe to toe with Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago, in what proves to be the fight of a lifetime. But during filming, the scene got a little too rough for Carl Weathers’ tastes. In one take, Lundgren, getting into the role, threw Weathers across the ring, which the Apollo Creed actor didn’t take well. In fact, according to Sylvester Stallone, he stormed out of the ring, announcing that he was going to call his agent and quit! Fortunately, Stallone eventually managed to convince Weathers to return, and production was able to finish.

#13: “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003)

Zoe Saldana
Before she was Gamora in the MCU, Uhura in Star Trek, or Neytiri in Avatar, Zoe Saldana was Anamaria. Arguably her biggest role at the time, Anamaria was a pirate who was willing to stand up to Jack Sparrow. While Saldana made a big impression on viewers, she apparently didn’t get much respect on set. The experience was so bad, in fact, that she contemplated changing careers altogether. The disrespect came not from her castmates, but from others behind the scenes. As she told The Hollywood Reporter, “People [were] disrespecting me because they look at my number on a call sheet and they think I'm not important.” Thankfully, she persevered.

#12: “The Fast and the Furious” (2001)

Michelle Rodriguez
Numerous films and two decades into this franchise, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role of Letty Ortiz. But when Michelle Rodriguez saw what the screenwriters had planned for her character, she was ready to walk. The original plot had Letty being romantically torn between Brian and Dom. And based on the character’s personality and background, that didn’t sit right with Rodriguez. And so, at risk of getting off the ride before it ever began, she pushed back, even going so far as to threaten to quit. Thankfully, the powers that be recognized that she had the right instinct and adjusted the story to make Brian and Mia romantically involved. And the rest... is cinematic history.

#11: “The French Connection” (1971)

Gene Hackman
William Friedkin’s action-thriller is regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. But production was fraught with tension between Friedkin and star Gene Hackman. Hackman was uncomfortable with the role, due to his character, Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle’s, violent and racist nature. Friedkin hadn’t actually wanted Hackman to get the part, and sensing the actor’s reluctance to let loose, deliberately antagonized him, hoping to ignite the actor’s anger. After a scene where Hackman’s character has to beat up a drug pusher in an alley, he told Friedkin to consider replacing him. Fortunately, Hackman stuck with it, and ended up winning an Academy Award for Best Actor.

#10: “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” (2015)

Daisy Ridley
Most actors would kill for a role in “Star Wars”. But when you actually land one, as Daisy Ridley discovered when she got the part of Rey, you suddenly find yourself with a lot of weight on your shoulders. It is, after all, the lead role in one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. On her first day on set, director J.J. Abrams gave her the feedback that her performance was “wooden.” Upon hearing this, Ridley had a slight panic attack, and reportedly considered walking away from the project due to the pressure. Luckily she didn’t, and both Abrams and fans alike were delighted with her performance as the saga’s newest heroine.

#9: The “Harry Potter” Franchise (2001-11)

Emma Watson
Emma Watson and Hemione Granger will forever be linked in our minds. Although it was her first professional acting role, Watson came to embody the character. But it was what they had in common that almost drove them apart! Both are extremely intelligent and academically inclined, and Watson ended up wondering if she should quit the franchise to focus on school. She also described feeling uncomfortable with the fame that the role brought, having trouble recognizing herself in the mirror – and considering leaving acting altogether. Fortunately, Watson was able to juggle both interests, graduating from Brown University with a bachelor's degree in English literature in 2014.

#8: “The Godfather” (1972)

Al Pacino
Hard though it is to remember, there’s a time when the legendary Al Pacino did not have his pick of roles. And when filming Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather”, Pacino was not feeling the love from the producers involved, who wanted someone else to play the role of Michael Corleone. As the story goes, they actually wanted him fired after the first few weeks, and so Painco almost gave them what they wanted. Good thing he didn’t. The director encouraged him to persevere and his performance went on to garner universal praise. The role also earned him two Oscar nominations across the franchise.

#7: “Batman” (1989)

Michael Keaton
With so many comic book movies getting made these days, it’s safe to say that costume designers have perfected the art of the superhero outfit. Back when Michael Keaton played Batman for the first time, however, they had a long way to go. In an attempt to get away from the sillier aesthetic of the 1960s Batman, Keaton was outfitted with a sexy black number that helped give the actor more wow factor. Unfortunately, it also gave him crippling claustrophobia. To make matters worse, the actor didn’t get to try on the outfit until just hours before shooting began. Of his first time in the cape and cowl, Keaton remembers vowing that it would also be his last. Ultimately, however, he used that fear to drive his performance.

#6: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000)

Jim Carrey
There’s no denying that Jim Carrey was the perfect actor to bring Dr. Seuss’s Christmas-hating Grinch to life. But production hit an early snag that almost ended his involvement. The first time Carrey had the makeup applied, it took 8 and a half hours! He stormed back to his trailer in a rage, telling director Ron Howard that he would have to quit. Fortunately, he was persuaded to stay, although according to makeup artist Kazu Hiro, Carrey took out his frustrations on the crew. This led Hiro to leave production, although he eventually returned at Carrey’s behest. Although they would eventually get the process down to four hours, in the interim an expert from the CIA was brought in to teach Carrey to withstand torture.

#5: “The Abyss” (1989)

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
The set of “The Abyss” was a nightmarish experience for most people involved. With the crew and actors diving into a giant water tank, the days were long, exhausting, and wet. One of the straws that nearly broke the camel’s back fell while filming the scene in which Mastrantonio’s character drowns and needs to be resuscitated. As she lay soaking wet on a metal floor, being slapped and screamed at by Ed Harris, the camera ran out of film, but no one told the actors to stop. An understandably frustrated Mastrantonio stood up, shouted “We are not animals”, and walked off set. Fortunately, she didn’t quit the movie, but we can’t say we would have blamed her if she had!

#4: “Wayne’s World” (1992)

Mike Myers
When Mike Myers and Dana Carvey took this popular SNL sketch to the big screen, the end result was an absolute classic. But a disagreement while shooting one of the film’s most memorable scenes almost ended production. The “Wayne’s World” crew famously headbangs to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” while driving around, but the producers were not keen on licensing the iconic song. They wanted to go with something more recent and cheaper, like… Guns N’ Roses. Myers’ put his foot down though, threatening to walk unless the timeless Queen song was used. He got his way, but just imagine for a second… [Headbanging with “Welcome to the Jungle” over top] No, we didn’t think so.

#3: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (2012)

Ian McKellen
After appearing in the original “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Sir Ian McKellen returned to portray Gandalf the Grey in the Hobbit prequel series. While clever forced perspective techniques were used in the original trilogy to show the wizard interacting with characters nearly half his size, when shooting in Bag-end for “The Hobbit,” McKellen was shot separately on a green screen. Using some quick CGI magic, the actor was made to appear much taller than his co-stars. For McKellen however, the experience of acting without his co-stars was immensely frustrating and isolating. As a result, he contemplated not just quitting the movie, but the entire acting profession. Thankfully, Peter Jackson noticed and successfully encouraged McKellen to push through.

#2: “The Birds” (1963)

Tippi Hedren
Another demanding director on set, Alfred Hitchcock insisted that Hedren’s fear of the birds seem genuine in the film. To achieve his desired result, without Hedren’s knowledge, Hitchcock went back on his promise to the actress that the birds would be mechanical and instead used real ones. So, during takes, members of the crew actually threw live birds at the terrified actress. After five days of this treatment, she experienced a breakdown and only returned to set after a doctor-mandated week off to recuperate and rest. A word of advice to any directors, CEOs, managers or bosses watching: if you want your employees to stick around... probably a good idea to not throw live animals at them without their consent.

#1: Shelley Duvall

“The Shining” (1980)
So, you think your boss is a control freak? Try working with Stanley Kubrick. The legendary director was notorious for pushing his actors to their limits, and in keeping with that reputation, he drove Shelley Duvall so hard on the set of this 1980 horror film that her hair began to fall out. During filming of the second half of the film, Duvall was constantly dehydrated and exhausted from all the petrified running, screaming and crying. On top of that, in the horrifying scene in which she uses a bat to defend herself against a crazed Jack, Kubrick demanded 127 takes. Duvall has called the experience “almost unbearable.”