Popular Actors Who Died, Quit or Were Fired During Production

From Shrek to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Fast and Furious, we’ve seen some of our favorite actors disappear from the screen without any explanations from the producers. Actors are fond of abandoning movie projects these days. And the reasons vary from time to time.

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They could have been sacked or left the show due to creative differences or monetary issues. Unfortunately, it could be worse; some have died while filming a movie leaving the executives to find a solution. Here are 22 actors that left movies and shows and why they did.

Ross Butler Quit Riverdale

Riverdale fans will remember Ross Butler playing Reggie Mantle in the first season, but he didn’t return for the second because he left to work on his other show, 13 Reasons Why. Reggie was replaced by Charles Melton in Season 2 and has remained in the role ever since.

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The writers reintroduced Ross Butler in Season 6 so that both Reggies could meet on the show. “Before season two was confirmed for [13 Reasons Why], I had to decide whether I wanted to focus on one character or split two characters…,” Butler told Vulture in 2018.

Paul Walker’s Tragic Death During Fast & Furious 7

Instead of recasting or reworking the film after Paul Walker died in a car accident while filming Fast & Furious 7, the studio spent $50 million to complete the movie using a combination of CGI and Paul’s younger siblings as stand-ins for his character, Brian. The famous scene below wasn’t Brian.

Source: YouTube

The FF7 production crew combined archival video of Paul’s voice with his brothers’ voices to fill in the gaps. A source revealed to TMZ that it would take both Caleb and Cody, Paul’s brothers, to “get everything to match up.” They had to combine them to make the dialogue work.

When Jesus Left the Show

Jake T. Austin played Jesus on The Fosters for two seasons before leaving after hearing that his role would be reduced. Season 2 ended with Jake’s Jesus in a near-fatal vehicle accident, leaving fans to wonder if the character survived. The third season begins with Jesus surviving the crash.

Source: ABC

But unlike what fans expected, he was being played by a different actor, Noah Centineo. Austin stated in a statement on his departure: “I’m honored to have been a part of such a groundbreaking series … Thank you for letting me be a part of your family; it’s been a pleasure.”

Nicole Kidman Quit Panic Room After 2 Weeks

Nicole Kidman was slated to star in Panic Room and worked on set for two weeks before leaving due to a “lingering” knee issue. Jodie Foster soon replaced Nicole. Kristen Stewart has had a tell-it-all interview with EW about her time with Nicole while on set.

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“We spent a couple of weeks rehearsing and like — I know you… I just felt like I was buds with you, which says so much. You were so nice to me …It was a short period…but I was always like, oh yeah, she’s one of my friends.”

Richard Harris in Harry Potter

Harry Potter fans, assemble! Richard Harris played Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; unfortunately, Richard died before completing the third film. Subsequently, Michael Gambon was cast as the new Dumbledore four months later.

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And he remained in the role for the following six Harry Potter films. Peter O’Toole was also close to replacing Richard. Still, director Christopher Columbus revealed, “[Peter] eventually decided that he didn’t feel it was right to step into those shoes because he was best friends with Richard.”

Fired Because He Froze

Ross Malinger had no choice but to replace the original child actor cast in Sleepless in Seattle because the first child froze in front of Tom Hanks during production. Quite frankly, this guy is all of us. Who wouldn’t freeze when you’re on the same set with Tom Hanks?

Source: YouTube

And will they be in the same movie?! Tom Hanks even remembered being shocked when he found out Nora Ephron was firing the original actor. In his words, “She just said, “Listen, we’re making a change. It’s not working out. I said, “You’re gonna fire the kid?!”

Janet Hubert Left Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

After being offered a “bad deal” during Season 3, Janet Hubert, who played Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, opted to leave the show. As a result, the show notably recast Daphne Maxwell Reid as Aunt Viv, who remained in the role for the remainder of the series.

Source: NBC

Janet spoke frankly about her departure from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and how “Hollywood disowned” her due to claims that she was difficult to work with. “But you know those words, calling a Black woman difficult in Hollywood, is the kiss of death,” she said.

Philip Seymour OD’ed During The Hunger Games

Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a heroin overdose while shooting The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 – he had only ten days left on set when he died. His body was found in his Manhattan apartment’s bathroom by a friend, screenwriter, and playwright, David Bar Katz.

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Instead of recasting, executives explored employing computer-generated imagery (CGI) to finish recording his parts. However, Woody Harrelson and Julianne Moore’s characters took some of his lines after some minor rewrites. Later, the studio used pre-existing footage of Philip in places where his character would have appeared.

Jim Varney in Toy Story

Jim Varney voiced Slinky in Toy Story and Toy Story 2. Varney had been a chain smoker for a long time. He developed a cough while filming Treehouse Hostage in August 1998. And in 2020, he passed away from lung cancer. Blake Clark then stepped in for him.

Photo by Jeff Kravitz, FilmMagic, Getty Images / Source: Pixar

Clark is known for playing Shawn Hunter’s father in Boy Meets World. He replaced Varney for Toy Story 3 and 4. When asked what the most challenging aspect of the role was, Blake told People, “Jim was a good friend of mine… I just try not to screw anything up.”

Santino Fontana Had Scheduling Conflicts

Guys, we don’t know if you’ll remember Greg in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but you should if you’ve seen the show. Santino Fontana played Greg on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for two seasons before quitting due to scheduling complications. Fontana’s departure from the popular TV series was announced on November 11, 2016.

Source: CBS

This came after the expiration of his one-year contract with the CW. Later in the show’s final season, Skylar Astin replaced Santino as the “whole new Greg,” The recasting was made into a joke about Greg appearing to be a completely different person after moving away in Season 2.

Lisa Robin Kelly in That ’70s Show

Lisa Robin Kelly played Laurie on That ’70s Show, and she had the role for Seasons 1, 3, and 5, but it was recast with Christina Moore for Season 6. In an interview with ABC News, Lisa revealed that losing a baby and abusing alcohol led her to leave the show.

Source: ABC

Kelly died in her sleep at Pax Rehab House in Altadena, California, on August 15, 2013, just days after voluntarily checking in. The Los Angeles Department of Coroner adjudged on January 3, 2014, that her death was caused by an undisclosed oral “multiple drug intoxication.”

Recast Without Her Knowledge

Rachelle Lefevre played Victoria, one of the franchise’s prominent villains, in Twilight and The Twilight Saga: New Moon. However, she was let go because of a 10-day commitment to Dustin Hoffman’s film Barney’s Version. Rachelle had signed a deal to return for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

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She was “fully committed” to the project, having turned down other opportunities. She was taken aback when she learned that the company had recast the character with Bryce Dallas Howard. She released a statement that strongly expressed her disappointment in Summit’s decision to recast her role.

Aaliyah in The Matrix: Reloaded

Aaliyah was originally cast as Zee in The Matrix: Reloaded, and she had even finished filming a portion of the film before dying in a plane crash in 2001. Aaliyah and the other eight people on board were killed. Following her death, the studio held tryouts for a successor.

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At the end of the tryouts, Marvin Gaye’s daughter, Nona Gaye, was cast to play Zee in The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions. Gaye had only begun her acting career the previous year when she debuted in Michael Mann’s Ali – the same year she re-recorded “What’s Going On.”

Oliver Reed in Gladiator

Oliver Reed died of a heart attack just as he finished filming his parts in Gladiator. Instead of replacing him, producers employed CGI to digitally graft his face onto a stand-in. He died in a pub after daring a bunch of sailors to a “drinking debauch.”

Source: Tumblr

Oliver had assured director Ridley Scott that he would only drink on weekends and not on production days. “One Sunday morning, he dropped down dead on the floor of a pub,” claimed Scott. “He probably had a couple of pints and said, ‘I don’t feel good,’ laid on the carpet and died.”

Assault Allegations on Chris D’Elia

After the entire film was completed, Chris D’Elia was sacked from Army of the Dead due to sexual assault claims against him. H was replaced with comedian Tig Notaro. In August 2020, it was officially revealed that D’Elia would be replaced in Army of the Dead by Tig Notaro.

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The film’s trailers were launched in April 2021, with Notaro replacing D’Elia. Tig had to reshoot all of her sequences in front of a green screen because she had never met the cast. Director Zack Snyder even paid “a few million” dollars to make the change appear seamless onscreen.

Lisa Kudrow Wasn’t Right for Frasier

Lisa Kudrow was cast as Roz in Frasier and worked on the pilot for three days before being replaced by Peri Gilpin, who portrayed the part for the duration of the series. She revealed to Howard Stern, “I wasn’t right for the part….”

Photo by Jesse Grant, Getty Images / Source: Twitter

…[or] for the chemistry of the group. So that wasn’t working, but I did think, ‘Oh, I am not [director James Burrows’] cup of tea.” She even auditioned for Friends again in front of James, saying, “I had one extra audition just for James Burrows.”

Jena Fisher in Man With a Plan

Jenna Fisher was originally cast in Matt LeBlanc’s sitcom Man With a Plan, opposite the Friends star. Fischer appeared in the pilot episode of “Man With A Plan,” which aired for four seasons between 2016 and 2020. She even filmed the pilot episode before being sacked.

Source: CBS

She was replaced with Liza Snyder. Jenna stated on her show that the TV couple did not go down well with focus groups. “They liked me, but they said — this is a literal quote — ‘I don’t believe Pam would marry Joey.’ The chemistry doesn’t work between these two,” she claimed.

Chris Farley Could Have Been Shrek

Chris Farley was initially cast as Shrek — the creators modeled Shrek and Donkey’s friendship on Chris and David Spade’s in Tommy Boy — and he recorded the vocals for virtually the entire film before dying in 1997. Farley died of an overdose of cocaine and morphine, often known as a “speedball.”

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This was according to an autopsy. Mike Myers then took over the part of Shrek and requested that the script be completely reworked for his brand of comedy. Over the next three years, he recorded the new script in his own and the character’s characteristic Scottish accents.

Kimberly J. Brown Doesn’t Know Why

Everyone on this list has a reason for leaving or being fired. Not Kimberly. IN THREE FILMS, Kimberly J. Brown played Marnie Cromwell in Disney’s Halloweentown franchise before being replaced by Sara Paxton in Return to Halloweentown. Even Kimberly was confused as to why she was recast and stated:

Source: Disney Channel

“Some people said that they heard that I was working on something, which was not the case at the time. I was available and ready to do it and had talked to them about possibly doing it, but Disney decided to go in a different direction and recast the role.”

Heath Ledger in The Imaginarium of Dictor Parnassus

Here’s another unfortunate story of a great actor who died during a film’s production. Heath Ledger died in the middle of shooting The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus, in which he was playing his final role as Tony. He was found unconscious by his housekeeper on January 22, 2008.

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After reimagining the character, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell were all called in to replace him. The narrative was rewritten to illustrate that when the main character journeyed through multiple universes, his appearance changed, as evidenced by the addition of Johnny, Jude, and Colin.

Kevin Spacey’s Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Kevin Spacey shot the entire film All the Money in the World before being fired due to sexual misconduct accusations. Actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making a sexual advance on him when he was 14 years old in 1986. Other men claimed that Spacey had made unwelcome advances.

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They also claimed he had sexually harassed and assaulted them. Christopher Plummer replaced him and had to reshoot the entire film, which took nine days and cost an additional $10 million on top of the film’s $40 million budget. Netflix also terminated connections with Spacey.

Mark Webber Wasn’t Handsome Enough

This one is weird. Imagine being fired because you weren’t good-looking enough. Mark Webber was initially cast in Stumptown, but Jake Johnson replaced him because he wasn’t “handsome enough for the executives.” He expressed his disdain for the film and TV industry in tweets.

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“Look, I’m a straight white male…I know my journey has been way less painful in this warped industry, but I’m being recast in a network television show because I’m not handsome enough for the executives. I need to share the real pain we endure in this industry.”