14 Times A Director Got Fired During Filming, But The Movie Still Turned Out Okay

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Vote up the movies that succeeded despite a major change behind the camera.

Directors are regularly replaced during the preproduction process, with “creative differences” often cited as the reason for the change. Less common are instances in which a director is fired during filming, and even more rare are the times the movie still manages to turn out okay despite the troubled production. Whether the success is due to efforts made by the first director prior to being fired or the production is saved by the replacement director, the end results are praiseworthy. A majority of audience members may be unaware of the switch when the film comes together in the end.

There are a number of reasons a director could be fired during filming, though details are commonly kept from the public until after the film’s release. Disagreements with movie stars, failure to keep up with the shooting schedule, and being absent from the set are some common reasons producers may make the controversial decision to fire a director. Some fired directors still manage to retain credit for their work, while others are given an alternative title on the production, depending on the decisions made by the Directors Guild of America. Regardless of who received credit as director, these films all turned out well. Some are even great. 

Which films turned out the best, despite mid-production changes behind the camera? Vote up your favorites below!

  • 1
    93 VOTES

    Original Director: Kevin Jarre

    Replacement Director: George P. Cosmatos (or Kurt Russell)

    Reason for Switch: Tombstone was intended to be screenwriter Kevin Jarre’s directorial debut, though it didn’t end up working out that way. When Jarre failed to get the coverage executives felt was necessary to make the film they imagined, producer Andrew Vajna fired the fledgling director one month into filming. George P. Cosmatos was brought on as a replacement, though many accounts suggest star Kurt Russell played a large enough role in the production to be considered the film’s ghost director.

    End Results: Given that Russell’s claims about his contributions to the production came after Cosmatos's passing, and the conflicting information provided by those who were involved in the production, it is unlikely we will ever truly know who was primarily responsible for Tombstone’s success. Regardless of who is credited, Tombstone was embraced by many as a modern Western classic, reviving the genre for a new generation.

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  • 2
    87 VOTES

    Original Director: Ash Brannon

    Replacement Director(s): John Lasseter (and Lee Unkrich)

    Reason for Switch: Toy Story 2 was originally intended as a direct-to-video sequel and was not initially given the same attention as other Pixar films. The primary animation team was busy working on A Bug’s Life, including John Lasseter. When that film was completed, Lasseter turned his attention to Toy Story 2, which was behind schedule. The story also lacked the type of heartfelt content that had made the original a success. As a result, Lasseter took over control and added co-director Lee Unkrich to help with the process of reworking the material.

    End Results: Grossing nearly $500 million and earning an impressive 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Toy Story 2 surpassed the success of the first film, despite the troubled production. Many consider Toy Story 2 one of the best animated films of all time, which is impressive considering that Pixar initially had to convince Disney to release the film theatrically at all.

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  • Original Director: Philip Kaufman

    Replacement Director: Clint Eastwood

    Reason for Switch: Star Clint Eastwood disagreed with the meticulous approach to filmmaking that Philip Kaufman was implementing and took control of the production himself. After filming a scene behind the director’s back, Eastwood convinced producer Bob Daley to fire Kaufman, allowing the star to step into the role officially.

    End Results: The Outlaw Josey Wales was highly acclaimed by critics, who praised Eastwood’s direction as well as his acting. At the same time, Kaufman’s firing resulted in the Directors Guild of America fining Eastwood and Warner Bros., along with creating a new rule preventing a movie star from replacing a director on a film. It was known as the “Eastwood Rule.”

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  • The Wizard of Oz
    Photo: MGM

    Original Director: Richard Thorpe

    Replacement Director(s): Victor Fleming (and King Vidor)

    Reason for Switch: Richard Thorpe shot nine days of The Wizard of Oz before he was reassigned because the producers didn’t feel he was capturing the fantasy elements of the story. He had also infamously dressed Judy Garland in a blond wig and makeup that aged the actress, which was quickly discarded by George Cukor, who temporarily came on as a technical advisor before moving on to film Gone with the Wind. When Fleming had to exit the production to replace Cukor on that film also, King Vidor stepped in to film the early Kansas sequences in The Wizard of Oz, including the iconic “Over the Rainbow” musical number.

    End Results: Considering how many directors were assigned to The Wizard of Oz, it is miraculous how unified the final film ended up being. Of all the films in need of defending, The Wizard of Oz is near the bottom of the list. It's a masterpiece that has brought joy to generation after generation for decades. As toxic as many aspects of the studio system were, it is difficult to argue with these results.

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  • 5
    52 VOTES

    Original Director: Anthony Mann

    Replacement Director: Stanley Kubrick

    Reason for Switch: Anthony Mann was fired one week into the film shoot by star and executive producer Kirk Douglas, who later claimed the director struggled with the scope and controlling the large movie star personalities on set. Kubrick stepped in to complete the film, and it would be the only project in his career for which the filmmaker did not retain complete creative control.

    End Results: Not only was Spartacus a historical epic matching 1959's Ben-Hur - which Douglas had hopes of starring in until director William Wyler chose Charlton Heston instead - it also provided Kubrick the opportunity to show what he could do with a larger budget. Even more significantly, when Douglas openly credited Dalton Trumbo as the film’s screenwriter, it essentially ended the Hollywood Blacklist, which had impeded Trumbo's career since the 1947 investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

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  • Original Director: Gareth Edwards

    Replacement Director: Tony Gilroy

    Reason for Switch: Although Gareth Edwards was never wholly fired from the position as director on Rogue One, Tony Gilroy was brought on to write and direct scenes for the reshoots. While the extent of Gilroy’s contributions isn’t entirely clear, the fact that Disney paid him $5 million for the job suggests it was extensive.

    End Results: Edwards was listed as the director of Rogue One, with Gilroy receiving a screenwriting credit. Along with receiving praise from critics and fans alike, the Star Wars standalone spin-off earned over a billion dollars in ticket sales.

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