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Actors Who Failed To Get Out Of Movies They Signed On For

We've all agreed to do something, only to later regret it and wish we hadn't. Depending on what that thing is, we may even actually try to get out of it. Actors are no different — there are countless examples of stars pulling out of a movie for various (and sometimes ridiculous) reasons. Most of the time they are able to do so, especially if contracts haven't been signed and the project is still early on in the planning stages.

But sometimes, an actor sours on a movie they are working on and they try to leave only to find that they are unable to do so. Usually, this happens before a single frame of film has been shot, but there have been instances where an actor is well into the production of a film and they still attempt to quit. The examples in this feature run the gamut of those two extremes, with some of the actors wanting out before they'd actually started the movie and others being well into production when they began to have second thoughts. Either way, what unites them all is that these were movies that the actors specifically agreed to do — they weren't tricked or coaxed, or otherwise forced to sign on — and that they then tried unsuccessfully to get themselves out of their obligations.

Stanley Tucci - The Lovely Bones

While Stanley Tucci has been in a number of incredible movies, he definitely has some duds on his resume — he was in two "Transformers" movies, after all. So when Tucci revealed that he tried to get out of one of his films, it might come as a surprise that the role in question is, thus far, the only one to earn him an Academy Award nomination. 

To be fair, playing child predator George Harvey in "The Lovely Bones" doesn't seem like an especially fun part to dive into. And that's what Tucci specifically had an issue with, having nothing but praise for the movie itself but explaining that it just wasn't a great experience portraying such a monster. In fact, Tucci said that even though he was in no position to be turning down work at that point in his career, he tried to back out of it after he realized how dark the material was. 

But director Peter Jackson convinced Tucci that he was the perfect actor for the job, so he ultimately toughed it out and received widespread acclaim for his performance. In fact, "The Lovely Bones" was otherwise panned critically, with the performances of Tucci and Saoirse Ronan being among the only aspects of the movie that were universally praised. 

Nicole Kidman - Being the Ricardos

It's always extremely risky for an actor to portray a beloved icon in a biopic. Very rarely is the casting of such a role met with universal acceptance — especially in a world where people are not at all shy about speaking their minds on the internet, there is typically a massive backlash against whoever is chosen to play someone famous in a movie about that person's life. In the case of Nicole Kidman taking on the role of comedy legend Lucille Ball for Aaron Sorkin's "Being the Ricardos," that backlash was so severe that Kidman tried to quit the movie altogether.

Per The New York Post, during a screening for the movie, Kidman confessed that she took the negative reaction to the announcement of her casting very personally, emailing Sorkin that she changed her mind about accepting the part. Sorkin told her it was too late to back out, and continually reassured her over a series of phone calls and emails until she changed her mind and decided to stick with it. It's unlikely that the haters changed their minds since such people typically aren't open to having their minds changed, but Kidman's best actress Oscar nomination and Golden Globe win surely helped prove to the actor that Sorkin was right not to let her quit. 

Brad Pitt - Interview with the Vampire

There isn't any one movie that is objectively considered Brad Pitt's breakthrough role, but a strong case can be made for "Interview with the Vampire" being a contender for that distinction. It was the highest billed he had been in a major Hollywood production up to that point in his career, just behind megastar Tom Cruise no less. The adaptation of the Anne Rice novel of the same name was a hit at the box office, and within a few years, Pitt was a full-fledged A-lister with movies like "Seven," "Fight Club," and "Ocean's Eleven" under his belt.

Would things have been different for the trajectory of Pitt's career if he hadn't played vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac? Well, if Pitt had his way, he could've found that out for himself. In an Entertainment Weekly interview, Pitt said that the dark sets, the make-up, the colored contact lenses, and the character itself began to wear on him. It got to where he called the movie's producer, David Geffen, to see if he could quit: "I said, 'David, I can't do this anymore. I can't do it. How much will it take to get me out?" When Geffen told him that it would take $40 million, Pitt knew he couldn't afford to see the movie through to the end. It might not be a film shoot he remembers fondly, but it was definitely a positive turning point in Pitt's career. 

Natalie Portman - Thor: The Dark World

Natalie Portman initially seemed poised to be a key figure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe when she debuted in "Thor" as the titular character's love interest, Jane Foster. Portman reprised the role in "Thor: The Dark World," but then completely disappeared from the MCU for almost a decade before her triumphant return as Jane-turned-female-Thor in "Thor: Love and Thunder." So where did she go?

The actor was a new mother around the time of "The Dark World" pre-production and was contemplating quitting acting altogether to spend more time with her baby, but word that the movie was going to be directed by Patty Jenkins had Portman excited. That would've made Jenkins the first woman to direct an MCU film, and Portman was psyched to be a part of that milestone. But when Jenkins left the project — rumors at the time suggested she was fired, but she later claimed it was her decision – Portman was upset, so much so that she tried to quit the movie entirely

However, she was already contractually obligated to appear in the film, and so she reluctantly fulfilled that obligation — though she subsequently swore off the MCU entirely until "Love and Thunder" director, Taika Waititi, talked her into reprising her role for his second "Thor" film.

Lily Tomlin - 9 to 5

In addition to having excellent on-screen chemistry — most recently demonstrated in the hit Netflix comedy, "Grace and Frankie" — Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda have been close friends in real life for over 40 years. Though they previously met while Tomlin was doing a one-woman show in the late '70s, their actual friendship truly got underway while making the classic feminist workplace comedy, "9 to 5," together in 1980 alongside Dolly Parton. 

With "9 to 5" being such an important movie for Tomlin's professional and personal life, it's a shock to learn that she tried to get off the project only a week into filming. During a joint appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," Fonda revealed that it took over a year to convince Tomlin to even agree to do the movie in the first place. Fonda further claimed, "[Tomlin] asked my producing partner to let her go and she'd give the week's money back," which Tomlin corroborated.

Tomlin said she didn't feel like she was right for the part, but Fonda insisted otherwise and made her stay — with Tomlin agreeing once she saw some of the footage she already shot and how funny it was. And with that, both a beloved movie and a decades-long friendship was born. 

Jamie Foxx - The Soloist

After spending the first phase of his career doing comedy, Jamie Foxx began to branch out into more dramatic fare around the turn of the millennium with roles in movies like "Any Given Sunday" and "Ali." It didn't take long for Foxx to prove his formidable acting chops, with a well-deserved Oscar win for his performance as musician Ray Charles in the 2004 biopic, "Ray." It felt like a turning point for Foxx's career as the actor began to shift almost entirely away from comedies for his next handful of films and really doubled down on more challenging parts.

One such role was 2009's "The Soloist," with Foxx once again taking on the portrayal of a real-life musician — this time, multi-instrumentalist Nathaniel Ayers, whose rising career was stalled by various mental health issues. It was an extremely difficult role for Foxx, so much so that the actor went to his manager and tried to get off the project. Foxx told Bossip (via MTV), " ... it shredded me. I went to places that I never thought I would ever go. I just remember being in my bathroom broke down, talking to my manager like, 'I don't know if I'll be able to finish this.'" His manager recommended Foxx see a psychiatrist to help him work through what he was dealing with, and it was enough to keep him on board and finish the movie.

Tippi Hedren - The Birds

Unfortunately, it seems like filmmakers don't always have the health or safety of their actors in mind. Shelley Duvall's horrible experience while making "The Shining" ended up having long-lasting effects on her mental health due to what she says director Stanley Kubrick put her through. And according to actor Tippi Hedren, pioneering horror filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock wasn't afraid to be cruel to his actors, either.

Hedren starred in Hitchcock's "The Birds," the 1963 film that has gone on to be called one of the greatest American thrillers of all time. In her memoir, "Tippi" (via People), the actor said she had been assured that mechanical birds were going to be used for the iconic scene where her character is attacked in a bedroom. But when it came time to shoot the scene, Hedren said she was informed that the birds weren't working — so instead, she spent five full days having live birds literally thrown as well as tied to her.

In the book, Hedren says that actor Cary Grant — who was visiting the set at the time — told her, "You're the bravest woman I've ever seen" after watching what she had to endure. Hedren tried to quit the movie after that but was informed that she couldn't as more footage of her needed to be shot. So she got a doctor's note that forced Hitchcock to at least give her a week off before she had to shoot her final scenes. 

Jim Carrey - The Grinch

For kids of a certain age, the live-action, Ron Howard-directed adaptation of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was a beloved movie at the time and remains a holiday staple to this day. Much of that legacy is due to the performance of Jim Carrey as the titular character, giving one of the most manic and over-the-top performances of his career – and this is the actor who starred in "The Mask" and "Ace Ventura," so that's really saying something.

Unfortunately, in order to turn Carrey into the Grinch, it took over eight hours of applying make-up and prosthetics to the actor's face and body for every day of shooting. During an appearance on "The Graham Norton Show," Carrey said, "The first day was eight and a half hours and I went back to my trailer and put my leg through the wall. I told Ron Howard I couldn't do the movie."

It took the movie's producer, Brian Grazer, to hire someone who trained CIA agents how to withstand torture in order to convince Carrey to stay on board and learn ways to cope with the arduous process of transforming into the Grinch day after day. It was worth the effort for the team that put Carrey through his paces, as the movie took home the best makeup Oscar, as well as a nomination for best costume design. 

Jeremy Renner - The Avengers

Bow and arrow expert Hawkeye eventually became a pretty big part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so much so that he got his own Disney+ series — sure, the show is largely about him training his replacement who would eventually adopt the alias, but still. Jeremy Renner had a lot to do with Hawkeye earning his place not just within the superpowered Avengers but also among the entirety of the MCU's good guy roster. 

However, Renner wasn't happy with Hawkeye's first couple of big screen appearances back when the character was still under Loki's control and was mostly just a mindless drone. During a panel at London Film & Comic Con (via The Independent), Renner admitted that he was feeling increasingly frustrated with how Hawkeye was being handled — so much so that he suggested giving the character a heart attack and just killing him off entirely.

The actor even joked that, while filming "Avengers," he started pretending to have heart attacks at the end of every take to give the producers the chance to off the character and fire him from the movie. That obviously didn't happen, and Hawkeye was eventually freed from Loki's influence and allowed to finally become a fully-formed character — and Renner an ongoing MCU regular. 

Roy Scheider - Jaws 2

In retrospect, "Jaws" doesn't seem like the kind of movie that needed to be turned into a franchise. Sure, some of the sequels did decently at the box office and there was obviously enough interest to warrant multiple installments — as well as numerous video games — but purists argue that everything that has come after Steven Spielberg's near-perfect original has only served to taint it.

When it came to 1978's "Jaws 2," Spielberg wanted no part of it, which he would later say was the result of having a really tough time making the first movie. Original "Jaws" star, Roy Scheider, came aboard, but it was with the utmost reluctance. The actor turned down the sequel multiple times, with the studio steadily increasing the amount of money it was willing to offer — and leveraging the three-picture deal he had signed with Universal — to entice him to sign on. He eventually did and was initially happy with the direction the film was going in until a change in directors led to a creative left turn that the actor wasn't happy with.

According to the book, "Roy Scheider: A Film Biography," he went to such great lengths to get out of doing "Jaws 2" that he even faked a hotel room breakdown that he hoped would convince the studio he was unfit to continue. It didn't work, and Scheider was forced to finish "Jaws 2" — though he stayed far, far away from the franchise after that. 

Whoopi Goldberg - Theodore Rex

The story behind how the ridiculous "Theodore Rex" got made — and how a big-name star like Whoopi Goldberg got attached to it — is so wild and has so many fascinating twists and turns that our sister site Slash Film did a whole oral history about it. A buddy cop movie where the buddies are a human actor and an animatronic dinosaur puppet, "Theodore Rex" had a budget that suggested ambitions for big box office success but was eventually downgraded to being a direct-to-video release after several disastrous test screenings. As for reviews, the movie has the distinction of a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Goldberg had apparently made an oral agreement to make the movie several years earlier, a deal that she later tried to get out of. She then found herself facing a $20 million lawsuit for not honoring her agreement, with producers claiming that the movie was able to secure its funding largely because Goldberg was attached. Goldberg attempted to have the suit dismissed, but she ultimately settled and agreed to do the movie rather than proceed with a potentially lengthy and costly legal battle. 

Despite having a fair number of duds in her filmography, during a 2021 episode of "The View" (via Decider) where Goldberg was pressed to reveal if she ever regretted making a movie, the actor had a clear answer ready: "Theodore Rex."