Cut! Five Directors Who Got Fired
With the rumours that Zack Snyder faces the axe from the new Superman movie after the disaster that is Sucker Punch, OTB have had a look at some other directors that got fired from their films. Sometimes, kicking off the director doesn’t seem to do much for the film, but occasionally it proves to be the right decision. Getting rid of Snyder would probably have the latter effect for Superman. Or anything, really…
Philip Kaufman – The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
As one-half of the script writing team, and original director, you would have thought that Philip Kaufman would be able to make The Outlaw Josey Wales in any way that he wanted. But a rift between Kaufman and his star Clint Eastwood developed during production, and the director’s attention to detail it was the director’s attention to detail and their mutual attraction to co-star Sondra Locke that irked the actor the most. Eventually, Eastwood had producer Bob Daley fire Kaufman and took over direction of the film himself. But the move caused outrage in the Directors Guild of America, and resulted in the guild passing the ‘Eastwood Rule’ which stated that they reserved the rule to impose a heavy fine on any producer who fired a director and proceeded to replace him with himself.
Anthony Mann – Spartacus (1960)
Anthony Mann got the job directing Spartacus after David Lean (who would go on to make Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai) turned it down. Star Kirk Douglas fired Mann after one week, later claiming in his autobiography that “he [Mann] seemed scared of the scope of the picture.” The move seemed – and still seems – strange given that the scenes Mann directed were included in the film but his replacement, Stanley Kubrick, turned out to be quite a good choice.
Alex Cox – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
The film version of Hunter S. Thompson’s iconic novel took an awful long time to come to the big screen, and Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, John Belushi, John Malkovich and Dan Aykroyd were all linked with various roles before Alex Cox was finally hired to direct with Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro as co-stars. Cox was reportedly hired under pressure to meet the start date, as the production company thought he could deliver what they wanted with the right budget and fairly quickly. But Cox and his screenwriters reportedly clashed with Thompson over the adaptation and managed to get himself fired. Terry Gilliam was his replacement and the film eventually got made, to a very mixed reception.
John Avildsen – Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Getting yourself fired after a movie has started filming is one thing, but getting fired three weeks before principal photography starts is much more impressive. This is what happened to John Avildsen after a falling out with producer Robert Sigwood over the script. John Travolta later revealed, in a VH1 special, that Avildsen had wanted to make his character Tony Manero more like the lead role in his Oscar-winner, Rocky, a loveable character rather than a foul-mouthed loser. “It was a sweet idea, but it wasn’t the movie I signed on for,” said Travolta, making the description ‘sweet idea’ sound just like ‘terrible nonsense.’
George Cukor – Gone With The Wind (1939)
“As a result of a series of disagreements between us over many of the individual scenes of ‘Gone With The Wind’. We have mutually decided that the only solution is for a new director to be selected at as early a date as is practicable,” was the statement released three weeks into filming by producer David O. Selznick and director George Cukor. Gossip raged over the real reasons for the director’s departure and even an impassioned plea from Olivia de Havilland and Vivien Leigh to Selznick couldn’t make the producer change his mind. Victor Fleming was brought in to direct, but Sam Wood also got in on the act when Fleming had to leave filming for a number of weeks due to exhaustion. Despite all the turmoil, Gone With The Wind became the first film to win more than 5 Academy Awards, so no harm done then?