You know the famous story about Adrien Brody? Back in 1998, the then up-and-coming actor had spent grueling months in the Australian outback filming what was supposed to be the meaty role in writer-director Terence Malick’s movie version of James Jones’ autobiographical WWII novel The Thin Red Line. It was a rising thespian’s dream come true, and soon enough the 24-year-old Brody was posing on a splashy Vanity Fair cover and hitting the publicity trail. But that all came screeching to a halt when the actor saw the movie for the first time at a preview and discovered his role had been cut to less than a single line of dialogue.
“I was publicly humiliated,” said Brody, who four years later won a Best Actor Oscar for The Pianist. Brody’s costars Viggo Mortensen, Mickey Rourke, Jason Patric, Lukas Haas, Martin Sheen and Bill Pullman are also missing from Malick’s three-hour epic. They’re all members of the brotherhood and sisterhood of movie stars who suffered the unkindest cut of all: actors who were sliced and diced out of a big movie and yet survived, and even triumphed.
Kevin Costner was famously removed from the ensemble cast of the ‘80s comedy-drama classic The Big Chill. Playing a character whose suicide sparks the whole narrative, Costner saw his flashback scenes completely scrapped by writer-director Lawrence Kasdan, who subsequently cast him front-and-center in the sagebrush sagas Silverado and Wyatt Earp. Similarly, Harrison Ford played historic roles for Steven Spielberg, but the director cut all of Ford’s scenes as a school principal in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.
Eric Stoltz spent five weeks filming the Marty McFly role in Back to the Future before Robert Zemeckis decided he’d miscast it and replaced the gifted Stoltz with Michael J. Fox.
The legendarily exacting master Stanley Kubrick shot and reshot Eyes Wide Shut so many times and for so long that both supporting players—Jennifer Jason Leigh and Harvey Keitel—needed to move on to other film commitments. More recently, director Ang Lee excised Tobey Maguire’s scenes as a journalist from the Oscar-winning 2012 film Life of Pi and replaced him with Rafe Spall, reportedly because Maguire’s star presence was out of synch with the rest of the film.
Out went all of James Gandolfini’s scenes as Sandra Bullock’s love interest in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close as did those of Sienna Miller, who played the girlfriend of Boston mobster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass. And although Jena Malone’s scientist role went bye-bye from the theatrical release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (she’s on the director’s cut DVD), maybe the least lucky of the lot is the talented Michelle Monaghan. She proved how fantastic she can be with her role on True Detective, but the actress got scissored from the Richard Gere-Diane Lane extramarital thriller Unfaithful, George Clooney’s political thriller Syriana and the biblical action film Constantine.
No actor, big or small, is immune. Case in point: Next January, when you see the Prohibition Era crime drama Live By Night, adapted, directed, produced by and starring by Ben Affleck, let us know how much you enjoy scenes featuring Scott Eastwood (yep, that guy’s son) as the brother of Affleck’s character.