Some people are lucky and go their entire life without experiencing the pain of being sacked from their job. Getting fired or being so fed up that quitting seems like the only option isn’t anything new. Sometimes getting replaced is the way the tenure of employment is savagely ended. It appears in specific industries one people are more expendable than others — one defiant example of switching out roles in that of the glamorous world of movies.
There are many excuses used to showcase that there are no hard feelings when a studio decides to part ways with its picture’s production boss. Whether it was a scheduling conflict, creative differences or just not being able to get the job done, there have been several instances where movie directors were unceremoniously usurped from the director’s chair. Out of all the times that filmmakers were taken out of the lead role on their film set, and some other rival was taking over their vision, these ten movie directors stand tall among the rest of the fallen cinema specialists.
1 James Gunn – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
James Gunn shocked the world when his Marvel debut came with characters that were anything but household names. Guardians of the Galaxy was a big gamble for the MCU that paid off significantly for the studio, thanks in large part to Gunn. His vision and direction brought one of the most fun space opera to life. It also brought the MCU off of Earth and into the far reaches of the cosmos. After the second film was considered to be an improvement on the first, a third film was poised for success with Gunn at the helm, or so we thought.
After some controversial tweets discussing subjects of pedophilia and rape resurfaced, Disney quickly cut ties with the director. This has since left the third film in the beloved franchise in dimensional limbo with a future unknown at this time. Gunn has seemed to bounce back after support was received for him to be reinstated. Since then he has apparently changed sides and is in talks to helm Suicide Squad 2 for rival DC.
2 Richard Donner – Superman II
The first Superman film was a fantastic accomplishment and set the tone for the superhero genre that is one of the biggest moneymakers in the industry. The film had big name stars and a solid story that saw the famed caped comic book hero saving the world on the big screen for the first time. Richard Donner, who has also directed such iconic films as The Goonies and Lethal Weapon, was the man that helmed the Last Son of Krypton’s cinematic debut.
Donner attempted to make a second great film about the Man of Steel but was replaced by Richard Lester during filming. The Producers and Donner were not getting along on the sequel for some reasons. The Producers claimed Donner was going too over budget in trying to meet his vision while Donner says the producers were trying to make the movie too campy. The differences were not resolved, and this resulted in Donner leaving the film. In 2006 the studio had released Superman II the Donner cut which is an improvement on the one initially released in theaters.
3 Phil Lord & Chris Miller – Solo: a Star Wars Story
After their success on The Lego Movie, movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were then tasked with a significant Star Wars spinoff film. This one wasn’t about Death Star Plans but the first to focus on the origin of one of the franchises most beloved characters. A Han Solo film was to be a Star Wars story with more humor than in previous films. So the comic directing duo was poised for success in a galaxy far, far away, or so you’d think.
The two were booted off the project with the official reasoning being creative differences. The two were focusing on a lot of improvisation with the actors and from what the higher-ups were seeing was not worthy of the iconic Star Wars name. Director Ron Howard was eventually brought it to finish the film. It ended up having one of the worst box office performances of any Star Wars film causing Disney to rethink their spinoff strategy.
4 Brenda Chapman – Brave
Brenda Chapman was set to be Pixar’s first female director of a feature-length movie that had the first female protagonist with the movie Brave. She was a great choice to take on this project as she had previously directed 2011s The Prince of Egypt. Chapman was ready to make sure her vision was set, and she could introduce a new role model for little girls everywhere to look up to.
Pixar replaced Chapman on the film with Mark Andrews, who had previously worked on films such as Ratatouille and The Incredibles. It was reported this was over creative differences, but Chapman claims its more significant than that. The filmmaker went on to state that animation directors aren’t protected like live-action directors and that she does not at all agree with the decision to have her removed from the film. She and Andrews are credited as the film’s directors and Chapman is all in all, proud of the film, but it is sad that she couldn’t finish what she started as the sole leader of the project.
5 Zack Snyder – Justice League
Zack Snyder kicked off DC’s Cinematic Universe with Man of Steel back in 2012. This got fans excited and he followed that up with a highly anticipated Batman v. Superman film. While it wasn’t everything fans hoped for, it put the pieces together for a Justice League movie. Batman Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Cyborg would all be on screen together for the first time, and Snyder was going to be the guy to unite the team. TIt was not to be.
Snyder left the Justice League film after his daughter’s tragic passing. While he grieved with his family, Avengers director Joss Whedon was brought in to give the movie a lighter tone. It ended up being a critical and financial mess. Then later it was revealed that Snyder had been fired from the film because his version was unwatchable. While fans demand to see a Snyder cut of the film, it is probably safe to assume that it will never see the light of day.
6 Richard Stanley – The Island of Dr. Moreau
The island of Dr. Moreau had all the ingredients for a powerhouse that would be admired for generations to come. The film was based on a sci-fi Classic by the likes of H.G. Wells. The cast consisted of an A-list lineup including Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, and Fairuza Baulk. Movie Director Richard Stanley had what looked like a winning team on paper that would make this glorious piece of twisted fiction a reality. Stanley was voted off the island.
The filmmaker was fired from the picture after he was blamed for being unable to control the likes of Val Kilmer, who was stated to have been becoming rather difficult to work with. Kilmer’s attitude was recast from the part that David Thewlis would play. Stanley had pitched had very high hopes for his ambitious vision to come true which abruptly came to an end during filming. Stanley was then replaced by director John Frankenheimer. The entire ordeal can be relived in detail in a documentary called Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau.
7 George Cukor – Gone With the Wind
Gone with the Wind is among the best of the classic cinema era. They don’t make films like that anymore. No one knew at the time how big a part of history this film would eventually play. Director George Cuckor was excited to sit in the director’s chair with this one. A solid story and great cast would be under his control to mold into a great film. But like the wind, Cuckor would soon be gone from this picture.
The director was taken off of Gone with The Wind a mere three weeks into the film’s production. He always got into quarrels over the screenplay. He also did not get along with the movies key player, the infamous Clark Gable. It is never a good sign if you can’t handle your talent let alone see eye to eye. This, along with a ruthless producer attempting to micromanage the project, didn’t help Cuckor’s chances at finishing this one. The frustrated filmmaker was later replaced with director Victor Fleming.
8 Edgar Wright – Ant-Man
Edgar Wright had been attached to an Ant-Man film even before the MCU was a thing. He’d been working on bringing the microscopic hero to the big screen since 2006, and the MCU began resonating with audiences, it meant it was time for the world to get an Ant-Man movie. After Wright’s successes with Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World fans believed they were in for something they had never seen before. They were right.
Ant-Man’s director left the project in what was one of the biggest surprise moves in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The official reasoning for the split was due to differences in their vision for the film. It is not crazy to think had Wright stuck around but not changed his views on the direction of the film, they may have had him replaced. It was very honorable of him to walk away when he did so the film could finish on schedule for the fans. While some parts of the film feel very similar to Wrights style, Peyton Reed took over the film and directed its sequel.
9 Colin Trevorrow – Star Wars: Episode IX
After the success of Star Wars The Force Awakens everyone was eager to know who would direct the next two chapters in this newly rebooted trilogy based on the iconic franchise. After a successful run rebooting the Jurassic Park franchise with Jurassic World, Colin Trevorrow was chosen to close out the latest set of installments form the galaxy far, far away. Unfortunately, Trevorrow’s dreams of helming a Star Wars film were rather short-lived.
Trevorrow’s initial pitch was the reason he had received the gig. But after Kathleen Kennedy, head of all things Star Wars, wasn’t happy with the drafts she was receiving, she brought in another writer to take a stab at it, but that didn’t work either. Instead of giving Trevorrow another chance, Kennedy fired him and replaced him with J.J. Abrams. Abrams was the director of The Force Awakens so this was an ideal match for everyone involved, except poor Colin.
10 Steven Soderbergh – Moneyball
Brad Pitt was very passionate about bringing the story of Moneyball to film. The sports film centers on a new approach to winning a championship that focuses on statistics and relies less on having as much money as the New York Yankees. Oceans Eleven director Steve Soderbergh planned to take a different approach with this one. He was going to do a semi-documentary type of film for a sports movie with what was considered at the time to have a questionable commercial appeal at best. The studio budget appropriated for the film was approaching $60 million. All this did not please the big wigs at Sony.
Sony wasn’t a fan of Soderbergh’s vision for the story of how Billy Beane almost took the Oakland Athletics to a World Series with a small payroll. His idea of shooting it in the style of a documentary with interviews with real-life pros was ultimately scrapped for a more conventional narrative. Bennett Miller was brought on as a replacement and reworked Soderbergh’s concept into the Academy Award-nominated film audiences resonated well with.