20 Major Movie And TV Projects That Ousted Their Original Directors

There are many ways that a film production can go south, from financial troubles to performer issues to COVID-19 outbreaks that threaten to shut the whole shoot down.

Rick Dalton has a freak out in his film trailer in "Once Upon A Time in Hollywood"
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However, one of the most devastating and jaw-dropping moves that a production can make is dropping a filmmaker altogether, which in itself can mark a film or television series with an unbeatable stigma.

Rob Riggle plays a color commentator
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Nevertheless, this is far from a rare occurrence in Hollywood, as evident by these 20 times when film and television directors found themselves on the chopping block.

Lily-Rose Depp blows a kiss to an unseen watcher

1.Season 3 of True Detective (2019)

Mahershala Ali walks through the woods in "True Detective"

Season 3 of True Detective was lauded by fans and critics alike as a return to form for the series after a shaky second season nearly put the anthology crime series into the ground for good. However, we're all lucky the show wound up as good as it did, as conflicts between series creator, Nic Pizzolatto, and series filmmaker, Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room), forced HBO to part ways with the director after helming only two of the eight episodes in a "tough" shoot. Veteran TV director, Daniel Sackheim, was tasked with completing the series, while Saulnier moved on to Netflix's Rebel Ridge, which itself faced a shocking exit during production.

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2.Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)

Stellan Skarsgaard stands before a large terrifying demon statue

First Reformed filmmaker, Paul Schrader, has been experiencing somewhat of a career renaissance as of late, but the legendary screenwriter and director wasn't bulletproof when it came to his efforts on the Exorcist prequel in the early 2000s. Despite offering a brutal and dark vision for the film, which felt more like an eerie character piece, Morgan Creek Entertainment was displeased with the final product's lack of conventional scares and gave Schrader the ax. The production company later screened the film for Renny Harlin, who told the studio that for the cost that it would take to "fix" the film with minor reshoots, he could re-shoot the entire film with some new actors and a script rewrite. Unbelievably, the studio agreed, but the re-shot and reconfigured Exorcist: The Beginning didn't fare much better at the box office. Surprisingly, fan demand for Schrader's cut has turned his version into somewhat of a cult film, which Morgan Creek eventually released in full as Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist.

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3.Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Diego Luna kneels on a beach near resistance fighters in "Rogue One"

Filmmaker Tony Gilroy has not held his tongue regarding his involvement with Rogue One, the first theatrical Star Wars spin-off that takes place prior to A New Hope. The film went into production with Monsters director, Gareth Edwards, behind the camera, but Lucasfilm was far from satisfied with the end result. By the summer of 2016, Gilroy was paid millions to "rework" the film, including rewriting the ending, directing reshoots, and overseeing postproduction on the film, while Edwards was shown the door. While Edward's cut will likely never see the light of day, Gilroy was later recruited to return to Star Wars with Andor, which many fans and critics cite as the best Star Wars content since...well, Rogue One.

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4.Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Rami Malek dances in his role as Freddy Mercury

Many were not surprised that controversial director, Bryan Singer, abandoned the production of Bohemian Rhapsody, as troubling allegations resurfaced during the biopic's shoot in late 2017. Star Rami Malek personally contacted Dexter Fletcher, who was in pre-production for another musical biopic, Rocketman, to complete the film, as Fletcher had been initially attached to the film before leaving due to creative differences. Inspired by the opportunity to establish himself as a reliable director, Fletcher accepted the gig, completing three weeks of shooting, and later reshoots, while Singer's involvement has been all but scrubbed outside of his contractually required credits.

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5.The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

David Thewlis is touched on the neck by a goat-human hybrid

The 1996 adaptation of The Island of Doctor Moreau should be listed in the dictionary under "snakebit," as the film dealt with major weather issues, a revolving door cast, personal tragedies, and unprofessional on-set behavior leading to the film's initial director, Hardware filmmaker, Richard Stanley, to be fired by fax after only three days of filming. Stanley was paid out of his contract with a non-disclosure clause while veteran filmmaker John Frankenheimer was hired to "right the ship" in exchange for a three-picture deal. Stanley would later return to the set after recovering from an emotional breakdown and secretly performed as an extra after sympathetic and loyal production staff disguised him as a "dog-man" in full make-up and costume.

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6.Superman II (1978)

Christopher Reeve stands in the Fortress of Solitude in “Superman II”

When Warner Brothers developed their first live-action Superman movie, the film's producers decided to task director Richard Donner to direct the movie and its sequel simultaneously, with principal photography lasting more than 18 months. But as Donner and the producers continued to collide during the film's extraordinary film shoot, the filmmaker was ultimately booted from the film after completing both the first film and 75% of Superman II. Replaced by filmmaker Richard Lester, who legally had to reshoot a bulk of the film with Donner's footage only being used for key scenes that could not be restaged, the eventual film was a smashing success at the box office, though Warner Brothers would later remaster and re-instate Donner's original footage for Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut nearly 30 years later.

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7.Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Alden Ehrenreich and Chewbacca stand next to one another on a wintry planet

In retrospect, it is a little odd to think that both Star Wars spin-offs had to excise their original filmmakers, but it was true nonetheless as Lucasfilm fired directorial duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) months into filming, with Ron Howard quickly announced as their successor. The reasoning behind their unceremonious exit? Allegedly, the pair's vision for a more comedic tone and an improvisation-friendly shooting process rubbed their creative partners the wrong way, though the final film eventually underperformed at the box office while the pair moved on to the acclaimed Apple series, The Afterparty, a reboot of their MTV series, Clone High, and production duties on the subsequent Spider-Verse animated flicks.

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8.WarGames (1983)

Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy smile while playing with a vintage computer

After directing Going in Style in 1979, Martin Brest found himself as an in-demand studio filmmaker, with United Artists tasking him with directing the science-fiction thriller WarGames. However, Brest was ultimately fired after 12 days of shooting, having disagreed with the producers about certain story elements and the visual tone of the film, with the director allegedly leaning deeper into the thriller element than they would have liked. Brest was soon replaced by Saturday Night Fever director John Badham; WarGames later became a massive hit, but Brest would find his own success with Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run, and Scent of a Woman in the years that followed.

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9.Dredd (2012)

A number of "Judges" walk through an industrial wasteland

In 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported that filmmaker Pete Travis was fired from Lionsgate's Dredd reboot, with Travis being essentially removed from the film's post-production process over creative disagreements with the producers and studio. The studio subsequently brought in the film's screenwriter, Alex Garland, to lead the new edit, and reshaped the film so extensively that rumors swirled that he may seek a co-director credit. In fact, Garland's DNA was so ingratiated in the final cut of Dredd that star Karl Urban later outright told JoBlo.com in an exclusive interview: "A huge part of the success of Dredd is in fact due to Alex Garland and what a lot of people don’t realize is that Alex Garland actually directed that movie."

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10.Tombstone (1993)

Val Kilmer holds Kurt Russell after the latter fell in a river

Tombstone initially began rolling cameras with the film's screenwriter, Kevin Jarre, at the helm, but his methodical and slow-paced filming style was at odds with the film's schedule and the overwhelming demands of the production. With Jarre fired after three weeks of shooting, star Kurt Russell's friend, Sylvester Stallone, allegedly recommended George P. Cosmatos, who directed Rambo: First Blood Part II and Cobra, to fill the director's chair. While Cosmatos accepted the job and arrived on set merely two days after Jarre's exit, costars Val Kilmer contends that Russell himself was a crucial behind-the-scenes asset for Cosmatos.

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11.The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins holds a walking stick and backpack in the first "Hobbit" film

You could write a book about the many unrealized projects of Guillermo del Toro, from Justice League Dark to The Haunted Mansion to At the Mountains of Madness, yet none are as heartbreaking as del Toro's experience with The Hobbit. Boarding the film while New Line Cinema was wrapped in legal conflicts with the Tolkien estate, del Toro signed on to the franchise when it was originally conceived as a two-part film, with the original Lords of the Rings creative team of Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens joining to aid del Toro on the screenplay. However, after a languishing writing process and financial difficulties throughout pre-production with MGM, del Toro reluctantly resigned from the franchise despite animatics, creature design, and set and wardrobe design having been already completed. Nearly one month later, Jackson would enter negotiations to take over directorial duties, and the filmmaker would once again be locked in for a trilogy in Middle Earth in short order.

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12.The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Scarecrow, Tin Man, Dorothy Gale and the Cowardly Lion walk down the yellow brick road

The Wizard of Oz not only has the distinction of being one of the most-watched movies in history, but also a film with more than one directorial replacements throughout its production. Less than a month after shooting began, the film's initial director, Richard Thrope, was dismissed by producer Mervyn LeRoy, who replaced him with George Cukor, whose campy take on the product cost him the job one week later. Victor Fleming, the film's credited director, took over and shot about 80% of the film before being pulled to take over the helm of another massive production, Gone with the Wind, leaving filmmaker King Vidor to shoot all of the The Wizard of Oz's Kansas-based sequences.

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13.Ant-Man (2015)

Ant-Man poses in a futuristic laboratory filled with unconscious guards

Oddly enough, Shaun of the Dead filmmaker was attached to Ant-Man even before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was set in stone in 2006, providing frequent updates on the project as well as test footage to Marvel die-hards at San Diego Comic-Con over the years. So fans were certainly surprised when Marvel parted ways with Wright in mid-2014, citing creative differences before hiring eventual Ant-Man franchise helmer, Peyton Reed, though Wright's efforts in pre-production were so unmistakably in his style that the filmmaker and longtime creative cohort, Joe Cornish, received screenplay and story credits on the final film.

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14.Jane Got A Gun (2015)

Natalie Portman points a rifle in a dusty western get-up

When the independent Western, Jane Got a Gun, entered production, many assumed that the height of the film's troubles had come and gone when their revolving door of leading men — Jude Law, Michael Fassbender, and Bradley Cooper — all departed from the film in quick succession before Ewan McGregor landed the villainous role. However, We Need to Talk About Kevin filmmaker, Lynne Ramsay, no-showed the first day of production after exhibiting reportedly bizarre behavior and clashing with the crew, sending the producers in a rush to replace her with Warrior director, Gavin O'Connor. The producers would later sue Ramsay for "dereliction of duties" and "generally disruptive" behavior, which was settled out-of-court in the following year.

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15.Moneyball (2011)

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill discuss their options in "Moneyball"

With only days before production was supposed to begin, acclaimed filmmaker, Steven Soderbergh (Traffic), discovered that his next directorial effort, Moneyball, was put into turnaround, effectively canceling the adaptation of Michael Lewis's bestseller over concerns that the film was too "arty" after Soderbergh's last-minute rewrites and a desire to interview real players in the story amidst the dramatizations. However, star Brad Pitt and Sony decided the project should move forward after Aaron Sorkin was brought in to revise the script, and launched Moneyball with Capote filmmaker Bennett Miller in and Soderbergh out.

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16.Brave (2012)

A red-headed woman bears a sword near a bear in a forested area

It's not exactly a secret that Pixar had a history of replacing filmmakers mid-production, with films like The Good Dinosaur, Cars 2, and Toy Story 2 playing musical director's chairs with their respective helmers. But the termination story hit differently when it came to Brave, as the film had been heralded within the company as a fresh, female-oriented, new story from Pixar's first female director of a feature film, Brenda Chapman. While little has been said of the reasoning behind her firing and replacement by Mark Andrews, Chapman was nevertheless devastated by the process, especially as the film remained so near and dear to her heart.

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17.Caligula (1979)

Malcolm McDowell makes a mischievous face during a ancient ceremony

Caligula remains one of the most controversial films ever made, with the film evolving from a Gore Vidal-penned historical epic to a critically-panned and bloated drama marred by the most sexually explicit content to be included in a mainstream film release. Though the Penthouse-produced film enlisted experimental filmmaker Tinto Brass to bring the salacious and twisted story of Caligula to life, Brass refused to film explicit sequences of graphic, unsimulated sex, forcing producer/financier Bob Guccione to cut Brass from the post-production process and film the pornographic scenes himself, cementing Caligula's near-universally negative reaction upon its release.

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18.The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Clint Eastwood holds dual pistols in a classic cowboy get-up

Screenwriter Philip Kaufman was Warner Bros.'s first choice to direct The Outlaw Josey Wales, having adapted the source material (Forrest Carter's Gone to Texas) alongside Sonia Chernus. Alas, Kaufman's meticulous attention to detail quickly eroded star Clint Eastwood's patience, spurring Eastwood to demand Kaufman's firing by producer Bob Daley and Eastwood's appointment as his replacement. The firing sent shockwaves throughout the film industry during the time, going as far as to motivate the Director's Guild of America to pass "The Eastwood Rule," which dictates an actor or producer cannot fire a director and personally replace them in their stead.

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19.Under the Cherry Moon (1986)

Prince sits behind a piano in black-and-white

For his follow-up to the smash success of Purple Rain, Prince decided his follow-up would be a stylish romantic comedy with longtime music video director Mary Lambert recruited after Jean-Baptiste Mondino was unavailable. Though it was her feature directorial debut, Lambert's vision didn't quite work with what Prince had anticipated and she was axed after 16 days of shooting, with Prince making his directorial debut (bypassing the aforementioned "Eastwood Rule" due to the film's European production). When all was said and done, Under the Cherry Moon was a critical and commercial fiasco while Lambert would cement her cinematic legacy as a horror filmmaker, directing Pet Sematary as well as the first season finale of Tales from the Crypt.

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20.The Idol (2023)

Lily Rose Depp and The Weeknd cozy up near a notepad

In November of 2021, HBO announced The Idol, a dark and highly-sexualized drama series from Euphoria's Sam Levinson and Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye surrounding the music industry, would be greenlit and have She Dies Tomorrow filmmaker, Amy Seimetz, directing all six episodes of the first season. With Seimetz imagining the show about the predatory nature of the business as viewed through a feminist viewpoint, Tesfaye and Levinson decided to force out Seimetz after seeing a rough cut of the series, which had been 80% complete. Levinson would later be ushered into the director's chair for the series, which scrapped nearly all of Seimetz's contributions as the show moved into a "new creative direction" while "adjusting its cast and crew accordingly."

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