Movies cost more to make than ever before. Studios are keen to see their films make a profit. If a production is taking too long or not hitting the beats the studio wants to see, there’s a high chance the suits will step in to make things right. Sometimes studios think a film is so far gone that the only option left is to replace the director.
Changing a director is like giving a film a heart transplant. It’s a huge risk and many films that make the change end up flopping. Check out our list of five films that were hurt by a mid-production director change.
Sometimes director changes can’t be helped. Zack Snyder made the decision to step down as director of Justice League after his 20-year-old daughter tragically committed suicide. Warner Bros. brought in Joss Whedon to finish the film, whose lighthearted style clashed with the darker tone Snyder had work. Whedon’s changes required reshoots that resulted in poorly done CGI being used to remove a mustache Henry Cavill had grown for another film.
Exorcist: The Beginning
This movie has a sordid pre-production that eventually resulted in two different films being produced about the same idea (both starring Stellan Skarsgard). Paul Schrader had already replaced an ailing John Frakenheimer when the studio decided that the film would not draw audiences. They went back to the drawing board and hired Renny Harlin who shot an entirely different screenplay. The Schrader film was eventually released as Dominion: Prequel To the Exorcist. Neither film was successful.
The 13th Warrior
The adaption of Michael Crichton’s epic book Eaters of the Dead was originally going to share its name with the book but was reimagined as The 13th Warrior when John McTiernan was replaced by Crichton after the film failed to please test audiences. This pushed the film’s release date back by a year. While Crichton shot a new ending and replaced the film’s composer, McTiernan was still billed as the film’s director. Despite a strong opening, the movie was not able to make a profit.
Rumor Has It
What happens when you fire a writer/director from their passion project? Their passion project flops. Such was the tragic story of Rumor Has It. Director Ted Griffin was let go for falling far behind schedule. This was in part due to his firing of cinematographer Ed Lachman. Village Roadshow Pictures hired Rob Reiner as a replacement and the script was reworked by Kathy Bates. None of the original film saw the light of day.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
“Creative differences” can mean whatever a studio wants. For Phil Lord and Chris Miller, it meant that they were removed from the latest Star Wars film. Rumors still make the rounds of the cut of the film we would have gotten if the duo had not been let go. Some speculate that they were replaced because they were working too much comedy into the script but it is more likely that Lucasfilm did not approve of the directors’ improvisational style that would have deviated from the screenplay penned by Lawrence Kasdan.
Logan Sekulow is a producer and director who’s known for relaunching Laugh-O-Gram studios.