Known for its very expensive production (originally $100 million which ballooned to $175 million – around $288 million in 2017 money), Waterworld also lost its director towards the end of production when he simply walked away from it.
The trouble with Waterworld (which has been echoed recently by Tom Cruise on The Mummy) was the star Kevin Costner had too much control, even re-writing the movie as it was in production and not letting anyone touching his edits. In the end, Joss Whedon was brought in to work on re-writes for one week, and ended up being there for seven. “When I was brought in, there was no water in the last 40 pages of the script,” Whedon told A.V. Club. “It all took place on land, or on a ship, or whatever. I’m like, ‘Isn’t the cool thing about this guy that he has gills?’ And no one was listening. I was there basically taking notes from Costner, who was very nice, fine to work with, but he was not a writer. And he had written a bunch of stuff that they wouldn’t let their staff touch. So I was supposed to be there for a week, and I was there for seven weeks, and I accomplished nothing.” In the end, director Kevin Reynolds became so frustrated with the movie he walked away, allowing Costner to finish the movie alone.
“I think we’ve reconciled, we’re both a little older and wiser,” Reynolds told Den of Geek in 2008 about his relationship with Costner. “We’ve put some things behind us and managed to sit down and talk about that project, so…it’s not as acrimonious as it was right after Waterworld, that’s for sure.”
The Island of Dr. Moreau, 1996
The production of The Island of Dr. Moreau is probably more infamous than the film itself.
Original director Richard Stanley was a huge fan of the original text, and spent three years convincing New Line Cinema to make the movie, who then went behind his back to offer it to Roman Polanski. Stanley met with Marlon Brando to star in the film, and with Brando’s backing Stanley retained the director’s chair. It did not last long. Bruce Willis was originally set to star, but his divorce from Demi Moore kept him away from the movie, and he was replaced with Val Kilmer, himself going through a divorce. On-set fights between Stanley and Kilmer were very public with Kilmer criticising everything Stanley was doing. Kilmer was making a lot of demands, including convincing New Line to give him a smaller role and reduce his on-set time by 40%. Unable to take the on-set hostility, exacerbated by Brando who wasn’t always present due to the suicide of his daughter, star Rob Morrow quit the movie during production and was quickly replaced with David Thewlis. Thinking he couldn’t keep Kilmer or any of his other cast in check, New Line fired Stanley by fax around a week into production and brought in John Frankenheimer to replace him. One of the movie’s stars, Fairuza Balk, was so upset with the decision she tried to escape the set and run away but was told by her agent that New Line would “ruin her” if she didn’t return. Filming with Frankenheimer was even worse than Stanley, with Brando and Kilmer refusing to work with him or together. The proposed six-week production actually lasted six months. David Thewlis didn’t attend the premiere and, reportedly, has said he’ll never watch the film.
One of the more humorous stories from the production of The Island of Dr. Moreau was that Stanley, who had a nervous breakdown after being fired, sneaked back onto the set of the movie dressed up as an extra and even appears in the background of some shots.
Exorcist: The Beginning, 2004
John Frankenheimer was set to direct Exorcist: The Beginning, but stepped down just before his death. In his place was Paul Schrader who wanted to direct a more physiological take on the material as opposed to the bloody horror the producers wanted. When Schrader presented his cut, the producers hated it and fired him, bringing in Renny Harlin to re-write and re-shoot the majority of the film.
Hilariously, Harlin’s Exorcist: The Beginning was received by critics so poorly that Morgan Creek gave Schrader $35, 000 to finish his version which was released as Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist the following year to critical praise. Original author and screenwriter of The Exorcist called watching Exorcist: The Beginning, “most humiliating professional experience.”
Although beloved by the majority of comic book fans who constantly demand a sequel, 2012’s Dredd had a reportedly rough time during its production. Pete Travis is credited as the film’s director, but there were rumours that screenwriter Alex Garland was looking to get co-director credit after Karl Urban asked him to oversee the production. In an L.A. Times article, it was said that the producers did not like Travis’ footage and locked him out of the editing room with Garland to re-cut the movie and handle the re-shoots.
In the end, a joint statement was released that said Travis had not been fired and tried to paint a positive picture. “During all stages of the filmmaking, Dredd has been a collaboration between a number of dedicated creative parties,” the statement said. “From the outset we decided on an unorthodox collaboration to make the film. This situation has been misinterpreted. To set the record straight, Pete was not fired and remains a central part of the collaboration, and Alex is not seeking a co-director credit. We are all extremely proud of the film we have made, and respectfully suggest that it is judged on viewing when its released next year.”
Pixar have a track record of replacing directors during production – including Cars 2, Ratatouille and The Good Dinosaur – but Brave is one of the most infamous. Originally set to be titled The Bear and the Bow, Brenda Chapman was set to be Pixar’s first female director and her take on the film was said to be much darker which was then changed when Chapman was fired over “creative differences” in 2010. Chapman was replaced by Mark Andrews, who lightened the tone and changed the snowy landscapes to lush greens (reportedly to please the Scotland tourism board).
In an article in The New York Times, Chapman wrote, “This was a story that I created, which came from a very personal place, as a woman and a mother. To have it taken away and given to someone else, and a man at that, was truly distressing on so many levels.” Brave won the Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, and both Chapman and Andrews share it as co-directors.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, 2016
While he wasn’t technically fired or left the project, it was heavily reported last year that Gareth Edwards lost almost all of his directorial control on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – and given today’s news it’s a good story to end on.
It was first reported in the summer before its release that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was getting extensive reshoots, with up to 40% of the film being redone including the ending. It was said that Lucasfilm did not like Edwards’ original cut, and brought in Tony Gilroy to oversee the rest of the production. The Hollywood Reporter then revealed that Gilroy’s original $200,000 a week to re-write the script was then upped to a flat $5 million rate when his role became much larger. The movie’s final credits lists Gilroy as a co-writer, which means the Writers Guild of America felt his contribution was much larger than a few re-writes.
So, it looks like Phil Lord and Chris Miller weren’t the only victims of “creative differences” on a Star Wars film.
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth, the co-host of the Flickering Myth Podcast and the author of Lights, Camera, GAME OVER!: How Video Game Movies Get Made (which you can pre-order from Amazon UK and Amazon US). You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.