Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Actors Who Admitted They Were Surprised About Not Being Fired From A Movie

Actors, like anybody else, can find themselves out of a job before they know what hit them. The list of actors who have been famously fired is incredibly long and storied. From a young Eric Stoltz getting replaced as Marty McFly after two weeks of filming on Back to the Future, to Kevin Spacey's finished scenes in All the Money in the World getting reshot with Christopher Plummer in his place, no actor's job ever truly safe. As those two famous examples show, they can be fired for any number of reasons, from performance issues and creative differences to bad behavior and off-screen scandals.

Just as there have been any number of famous cases of actors being fired from a movie, there are numerous examples where actors thought they were on the chopping block, only to make it through the shoot, much to their shock. Here is a list of actors who admitted they were surprised about not being fired from a movie.

Mark Ruffalo ruffles Marvel's feathers

Considering that he was the third actor to play the Hulk in the span of a decade, you'd think Mark Ruffalo would be extra careful not to get on the bad side of Marvel executives. This became truer than ever when it was revealed that part of the reason for Edward Norton's exit from the role was what the studio considered to be difficult behavior.

Alas, the seemingly good-natured Ruffalo has proven himself something of a chronic spoiler, having given away plot twists and even several minutes of exclusive footage on several occasions. When the actor seemed to have accidentally revealed the title for the forthcoming epic conclusion to his franchise, Avengers: Endgame, on late night TV, directors Joe and Anthony Russell took to social media to joke, "Mark, you're fired." Ruffalo claimed he was surprised to see himself in subsequent Endgame promotional material. Despite the obvious tongue-in-cheek humor in all of this, Ruffalo probably worries that one day his big mouth may get him the big boot.

Robert Pattinson refuses to lighten up

It's hard to imagine the Twilight movies without star Robert Pattinson front and center. But according to the brooding heartthrob-turned-arthouse favorite, that was almost the case. While promoting his 2017 gritty crime drama Good Time, the actor told Howard Stern that he was almost dropped from his iconic role in the first Twilight film because he played it too seriously.

He thought the character should be even more dark and brooding, ignoring producers' demands to give the character a greater sense of levity. He didn't relent until, as he recalls, his agents told him, "You have to do the opposite of what you're doing now or you're going to get fired."

Pattinson has been pretty open about his own control issues during that time, but he wasn't wrong about his instincts. His later, more serious work has revealed him to be a talented actor who takes his job seriously. He just maybe took it a little too seriously, a little too early on in his career.

Johnny Depp almost walks the plank

For many a moviegoer, Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean series marked a turning point for Johnny Depp — the moment he went from an exciting actor who picked adventurous roles to a lazy movie star who increasingly relied on costuming and empty quirks. Still, it's worth remembering how bizarre and refreshing his initial turn in the first Pirates film was. His boozy, shambolic Jack Sparrow was a hero unlike any audiences had really seen before. He was also a hero unlike any studio executives had ever seen before, which gave them plenty of cause for concern.

According to Depp himself, that concern almost led them to give him the axe. "They wanted to fire me... I fully expected to be fired." The biggest issue stemmed from concerns that no one could understand anything he was saying (although, as Depp notes, there was also a good amount of gay panic involved as well). Ultimately, producers didn't fire Depp, and much to everyone's surprise, his performance proved so popular that it launched one of the most massive (some would say bloated) franchises of the modern era.

Michelle Rodriguez almost crashes and burns

Michelle Rodriguez helped usher in the Fast and the Furious franchise in 2001. Playing the streetwise and no-nonsense Letty, she made the perfect partner for Vin Diesel's musclebound anti-hero Dom. But apparently, she almost left the F&F family before the cameras started rolling.

According to Rodriguez, everyone was figuring out much of the first film as it went along, so her character hadn't been fully developed at the time she signed on. After finding out that she was meant to cheat on her onscreen love interest, she kicked back, saying that it wouldn't make sense for her character, and that she personally didn't want to do it. Although she frames it as having to almost quit, her concerns make it clear that she was worried about the studio going after her. "I basically cried and said... 'please don't sue me. I'm sorry, but I can't do this in front of millions of people.'"

It was a huge relief for her when the studio ceded to her demands, which she credits to the intervention of Diesel, who went to bat for her. After sitting out the following two sequels (alongside Diesel, who was also absent for them), she returned to the franchise in 2009's Fast & Furious. It appears that time hasn't mellowed her out or made her less outspoken, as she was threatening to walk away from F&F as recently as 2017. 

Penelope Cruz's constant fears of firing

Impostor syndrome gives millions of people heavy bouts of anxiety on a daily basis. Even the rich, famous, and beautiful suffer from it. Such is the case with Spanish actress Penelope Cruz, who told CBS during an interview in 2009 that she feels nervous about being fired for every new movie she stars in. "Every time I'm making a movie, I feel like if it was my first movie," she said. "Every time I have the same fear that I'm gonna be fired. And I'm not joking. Every movie, the first week, I always feel that they could fire me!"

Her anxiety was especially bad on the set of her first English language film, 1998's The High Lo Country, where the language barrier caused her lots of problems. Luckily, she persisted, and despite feeling like every new movie may be her last, she continues to do high profile work as an in-demand actress throughout the United States and Europe.

Robert Downey Jr. almost gets dumped

Before becoming Iron Man (and, at one point, the highest paid actor in the world), Robert Downey Jr. was a young up-and-comer with a prankish streak and an immature sense of humor. On the set of John Hughes' '80s romp Weird Science (in which the actor scored one of his early memorable roles), Downey was known as a "serial dumper" due to his propensity for relieving his bowels in places he wasn't supposed to.

One such place was the trailer of actress Renee Props. According to both Props and Downey, he went number two not in her trailer's toilet, but on a chair. Understandably, producer Joel Silver was disgusted and furious, and was all set to fire Downey before Props, of all people, stepped in on his behalf and claimed he was innocent.

He wasn't, of course, but the lie allowed him to keep his job. Whether or not he was scared straight by the close call, Downey seems to have gotten this particular prank out of his system.

Ellen Barkin has to prove herself

During the filming of Mike Newell's 1992 adventure film Into the West, co-star Ellen Barkin was almost fired by producer Harvey Weinstein, who wanted to replace her with up-and-comer Catherine Zeta Jones. The trouble allegedly stemmed from both Barkin and Weinstein's reputations for being difficult to work with.

Still, Weinstein leveraged his power, threatening to fire the actress, who asked for one more chance to prove herself. The next day, she turned up on set and gave what everyone agreed was a brilliant performance, thus saving her job.

However difficult Barkin may or may not have actually been, we now know enough about Weinstein to make an educated guess that he was actually the cause of the trouble. While the disgraced movie mogul awaits trial for a number of alleged crimes, Barkin continues to act in major roles, including as the deadly matriarch on TV's Animal Kingdom.

Jamie Lee Curtis didn't think she'd survive Halloween

Despite growing up the daughter of two super famous actors (Tony Curtis and the original scream queen, Psycho's Janet Leigh), Jamie Lee Curtis was not a naturally confident person when she started out as an actress herself. She knew she wanted to follow in the family footsteps, but she didn't assume that she was untouchable just because she had famous folks. Quite the opposite, in fact.

After scoring her first film role as the lead in John Carpenter's Halloween, Curtis was so nervous about her performance that she thought she'd be fired shortly after her first day on the job. "I remember the phone rang in my apartment and my roommate Tina said, 'Jamie, John Carpenter's on the phone.' It scared me, because I didn't know if he was going to fire me. Often, I'd heard people got fired."

Of course, Carpenter had just called to tell her how great a job she'd done. They'd go on to finish the movie, which would become the highest-grossing independent film of its day, help spawn the slasher genre, and establish Curtis as a major star.

Al Pacino was 'too anemic'

One of the most iconic performances in one of the most iconic films of all time almost got scuttled early on. Although it's hard to picture anyone other than Al Pacino in the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather, the fact is that he was never the favorite choice of the film's producers. After winning the role over a handful of (at the time) more famous faces (including Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, Ryan O'Neal, and Warren Beatty), Pacino nearly found himself on the receiving end of the kiss of death, when producers watched the rushes and thought his performance was too "anemic." They also took issue with his height.

Pacino says that the studio execs "tried to fire [him] three times." Much like his initial casting, he was only able to hold onto the role thanks to the stalwart defense of Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, who was familiar with Pacino from his stage work and refused to consider anyone else. Coppola still had a hard time convincing The Godfather's producers, although once they saw his performance during the intense Italian restaurant assassination scene, they quickly changed their tune. The rest, as they say, is history.

Anything but an Easy Ride for Dennis Hopper

While Hollywood was already undergoing a massive cultural shift in 1969, it was Easy Rider that came along and truly blew the doors wide open. What followed was the wild and inventive years known as New Hollywood. At the center of that revolution was Dennis Hopper, a character actor who had been appearing in small parts for years before he caught his big break as the director and costar of the elegiac biker road movie.

The history of Easy Rider is a long and crazy one, chock full of drugs, booze, violence, and insanity — the lion's share of which came from Hopper himself. After spending $20,000 worth of preliminary funds filming scenes that seemed unintelligible, costar and co-writer Peter Fonda and producer (and Hopper's brother-in-law) Bill Hayward tried to pay back producer Bert Schneider while getting him to fire Hopper.

To everyone's surprise, Schneider deferred. Hopper, somehow, shot the film. Then, more surprisingly, it became a culture-defining hit and changed the course of movies as we know them.