It seemed unlikely when yesterday dawned that the biggest story in movie-land would be Lynne Ramsey, the British director of We Need to Talk About Kevin. But that’s how it turned out, as Ramsey announced her exit from Natalie Portman/Jude Law-starring western Jane Got a Gun by failing to show up for the first day of shooting.
That story looks certain to develop further as the film’s producers (of whom Portman is one) race to put a non-disastrous spin on this act of directorial defenestration, but in the meantime here are five more behind-the-scenes movie bust-ups…
5. Mervyn LeRoy and just about every director in Hollywood (The Wizard of Oz, 1939)
1939 might have been a golden year in Hollywood history in terms of genuine gems being hoisted up onto the silver screen, but so many directorial heads did roll that it was also something of a creative bloodbath.
Producer David O. Selznick chopped his way through three directors on Gone with the Wind, but Mervyn LeRoy doubled that tally on The Wizard of Oz, chalking up no fewer than six helmers in total – including LeRoy himself and three greats of the studio era, George Cukor, Victor Fleming and King Vidor.
4. Henri-Georges Clouzot and Serge Reggiani (Inferno, 1964)
With the mid-50s double whammy of The Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques, French director Henri-Georges Clouzot established himself as a master of cinematic suspense, leading Columbia Pictures to hand him an unlimited budget and creative carte blanche for his new thriller, Inferno.
Conceived as an ambitious attempt to depict the psychological self-destruction of a husband convinced his young wife is cheating on him, the project floundered almost as soon as it started filming, culminating with leading man Serge Reggiani storming off set after a week, never to return.
Jean-Louis Trintignant arrived as a replacement, but departed without a frame being shot, and the whole movie was sunk when Clouzot suffered a (non-fatal) heart attack. Inferno was eventually filmed in 1994 by Claude Chabrol, 17 years after Clouzot’s death.
3. Val Kilmer and everyone else on The Island of Doctor Moreau (1996)
‘Disaster’ is probably the word to sum up this notorious mid-90s bomb.
To surmise the most commonly disseminated version of events: Val Kilmer switched parts and declined to deliver his dialogue, with his truculence resulting in director Richard Stanley being fired (Stanley loitered round the production, disguised as one of the story’s mutant islanders).
With Kilmer having relegated himself to a supporting role, his replacement as leading man, Rob Morrow, quit the movie, while the good Doctor himself, Marlon Brando, famously dissed Kilmer by allegedly accusing him of confusing the size of his paycheque with the size of his talent (the England football team, are you listening?).
Panned to oblivion and a box office turd, the deranged lunacy of the movie is most notably commemorated by Dr. Evil and Mini-Me’s piano duet in the second Austin Powers movie.
2. Guillermo del Toro and the Weinsteins (Mimic, 1997)
Having made a splash with his big screen debut, Cronos, Mexican FX ace Guillermo del Toro was duly lined up to direct insect horror schlocker Mimic on behalf of Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s genre imprint, Dimension Films, with recent Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino playing his leading lady.
A dream come true? Anything but according to del Toro: “I remember the worst experience, even above the kidnapping of my father, was shooting Mimic.” The director was eventually fired by the Weinsteins – only for Sorvino to refuse to accept his exit, forcing her then-boyfriend Quentin Tarantino to step in to mediate.
The film was completed by del Toro, but the bruising experience resulted in him retreating to Spain and The Devil’s Backbone. “Mimic was such a bad experience that I didn’t want to go back and do an American movie again,” he later reflected, although of course he did – with his latest, Pacific Rim, opening this July.
1. Kevin Feige and Ed Norton (The Avengers, 2012)
The Avengers had always been the ultimate goal for Marvel Studios’ President of Production Kevin Feige. To bring together the various stars of Marvel’s solo movies in the blockbuster to beat all blockbusters.
But with Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans all signed up, there was one name missing: Ed Norton, star of Marvel’s Incredible Hulk.
Feige’s own take on the omission? “Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.”
Rumours flew that Norton’s demand for input into director Joss Whedon’s script triggered the schism, although the actor’s agent took Feige to task, calling his remarks “unprofessional, disingenuous and clearly defamatory”.
However if Norton won that PR war, Marvel came out on top overall, with its recast Hulk, Mark Ruffalo, helping The Avengers deliver a $1.5billion box office bonanza.
Any other offscreen scraps worth a mention? Let us know on Twitter – #5FTW