It must be a unique feeling to spend tens of millions of dollars on a movie, only to realize at the last minute that it just doesn't work. It happens more often than you'd think. You've almost certainly seen a movie recently that was the result of somebody's panicked repair job. And you can't even tell! Well, sometimes.
Her is like an episode of Black Mirror for people who don't hate humanity. Yeah, it's about the weird connections we can form with technology, as the main character played by Joaquin Phoenix basically falls in love with an Alexa (named Samantha here). But it's also full of humanity and empathy, and it doesn't hurt that Samantha is voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Which, you know, is a big deal for a role in which the character is never physically visible.
So at what stage was she cast as the titular her? How about after the entire movie was already filmed.
Originally, director Spike Jonze had actress Samantha Morton playing Samantha. Now, Morton is no slouch (great in stuff like The Messenger and Synecdoche, New York) so we don't want to imply that she got fired for insisting on doing a cartoonish Irish accent or anything like that. But when Jonze sat down to edit the movie, he didn't think it was working (as he politely says, "she wasn't what the movie needed"). Considering the entire premise hangs on the audience also falling in love with Samantha, this was not a trivial thing to notice at the last minute.Johansson came on board and ended up working on the weekends (she was also doing another project) for four months, starting in the spring of 2013, and having to finish before the movie made its debut in October. And they did this all so that one day, dudes on their couch will shout, "Oh shit, that's Black Widow!" while absentmindedly watching
Making the first Superman (a straightforward movie about a smiling man who flies) had been a huge risk that had paid off, so it was a gamble to bet that it would happen twice. Remember, this was in 1980, 30 years before Disney wrung America's collective wallet dry with the MCU. No one knew if superheroes on film was even a thing that would catch on. But luckily, Superman II got good reviews and a hell of a solid box office. And it did it while being almost nothing like the first one, despite the fact that the film's director, Richard Donner, had started filming the sequel immediately after he finished the first.
Donner's goal with Superman II had been to dig further into what it was like to be Superman. That's right, he almost invented the brooding superhero decades ahead of its time. In Donner's version, Superman was a conflicted person who argued with his father's hologram about how he made so many sacrifices for Earth that he deserved to have a little happiness with Lois. That's why he gave up his powers in the original version. In the film that got released, he simply tells his mother "But mooooom, I love her."
That's because, after fights with the producers over the budget, the tone, and the inclusion of Marlon Brando's scenes, Donner left the project entirely, with 75 percent of the film already shot. Gene Hackman, who played Lex Luthor, quit with Donner out of solidarity, forcing the production to use a Hackman body double. Later, Hackman would all but forget this moment of artistic pride in order to nab that sweet, sweet Superman IV: The Quest For Peace paycheck.
The producers must have figured that hey, if you've seen one Dick, you've seen them all, so they hired Richard Lester as a replacement director. He immediately traded all of the gravitas for corny slapstick. For example, when Zod and his cronies start blowing their super wind breath at the people of Metropolis, any sense of danger is undone by the zany residents doing their best vaudeville acts. One guy tries to call someone in a phone booth while the booth is flying away, another loses his wig, and a dude on skates gets blown backwards, because this is a comic book movie and nobody is really in any danger, kids.
Most infamously, however, is Lester's addition of Superman throwing his symbol like a piece of Kryptonian Saran wrap at a villain in the end. How Superman acquired this power is never explained, nor should it be. For all we know, Superman, a being of near infinite strength, decided that he desperately needed the backup plan that is a detachable logo.
Nowadays, the world is full of romantic comedies that don't have a "typical Hollywood happy ending." But in the late '70s, when Woody Allen, the avatar for neurotic men everywhere, made Annie Hall, it was way less common, almost revolutionary. The film starred Allen playing a slightly less insufferable version of himself, with Diane Keaton as the female lead, and dealt with the ups and downs of their romance. For Keaton, it's her most famous, groundbreaking role ... which is amazing when you consider the original plan.
For almost the entirety of the production, the main romance of the film (which was titled Anhedonia, a word that means "inability to feel pleasure") was only a subplot. Keaton's character didn't even show up until halfway through. Most of the movie was to focus on Allen's character Alvy Singer and a surreal trip that included a sci-fi spoof, a murder mystery, a visit to Nazi Germany, and a basketball match against famous philosophers. Apparently, at no point while shooting all of this did Allen think, "Does this script come off like I just masturbated onto a typewriter?"
Luckily, Allen and the film's editor Ralph Rosenblum noticed that the film didn't really go anywhere until that midway point, when Annie Hall is introduced. So they took the two-and-a-half-hour film and cut it down to a brisk 95 minutes, removing every part that didn't specifically deal with Allen and Keaton's characters. They reshot stuff so that Keaton would play a bigger role, and even added the classic voiceover monologue at the end to tie up the film neatly. That is, the new film they cobbled together after the fact.
Was everyone happy with this? Well, most of the world was, as Annie Hall is now regarded as a classic and won four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress for Keaton. But more importantly, was Allen happy? Well, in his own words:
"... sorry to lose just about all that surrealistic stuff ... It was originally a picture about me, exclusively, not about a relationship."
Oh, Woody. You are the worst.
When you have a character who's Japanese, maybe consider letting a Japanese actor play them. There are certainly a ton of great ones, so it's not like you can't find one when it comes time to cast. That way, you won't have to haphazardly throw a Japanese person into a movie after initially casting a white person, only for people to say, "Whoa. Hold on." By the way, we're talking about the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie here -- which, considering that it's a franchise made up of the dumbest awesomeness imaginable, should be the hardest thing in the world to screw up.
But screw up they did. See, to fill the role of the Shredder, a ninja with a kitchen appliance fetish (adapted here as a hulking Transformer with Swiss army knife hands), they hired William Fichtner. Now, Fichtner is an awesome actor in his own right. You might remember him as the only guy in Gotham to take absolutely no shit from the Joker's gang in The Dark Knight.
You can tell that Fichtner was meant to portray the turtles' greatest enemy. This is obvious from such tiny details as the entire fucking movie. He's constantly looming around, hinting at some greater villainy, and he even gets built up as someone who knows Master Splinter. But then, as production neared its end, the producers had a new idea: Fichtner isn't the Shredder anymore. He's just unscrupulous businessman Eric Sacks, Shredder's weird adopted son. Instead, through recasting and reshoots, they were going to bring in a new Shredder played by an American actor of Japanese descent.
So ... better late than never, we guess?
The change isn't exactly seamless. For example, the new Shredder, played by Tohoru Masamune, is shown breaking a guy's arm WITH HIS CHIN early in the film. If he can do that, why does he need the aforementioned giant pointy armor at the end? He could kill the turtles if he happened to breathe on them. Also, the revised film never manages to also build up the new Shredder as someone with a tie to Master Splinter, but still tries to reap the benefits of the "SHREDDER AND MASTER SPLINTER HAVE A CONNECTION" twist.
Look, we realize this thing wasn't going to be a masterpiece in any case. It's mainly on this list as a cautionary tale. Make the right choice early, and you won't have to scramble to fix it later.
By the time they get to their sixth entry, most slasher film series are running on autopilot. But not Halloween. Originally, Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers was an orgy of druids, curses, cults, Paul Rudd, and Michael Myers being turned into a supernatural bull stud to impregnate unwilling victims. And then two things happened: 1) Test audiences did not like this weird-ass movie, and 2) Donald Pleasence, the guy who played the main good guy, fucking died. You don't have to be Hollywood-savvy to know that if you need to heavily overhaul a movie, it helps when the lead is in the realm of the living.
But like Michael Myers, the makers of the film weren't going to let death stop them from accomplishing their goals. So along with recutting the film to make it less creepy and gothic, killing off important characters, completely recasting a major role out of nowhere, and switching the heavier stuntman who originally played Myers with a skinnier guy (thus making it look like Myers is on a juice cleanse for the last act), they toyed with Pleasence's role. Pleasence had played the intense psychologist Dr. Loomis since the first film in 1978, so you'd think that the backbone of the series would get a proper, respectful sendoff. You'd think that. You really would.
Instead, when they reshot a third of the film, they just hired a body double to stand in for Pleasence, and you mostly saw him from the back. But the biggest change came with the ending. In the original cut, Dr. Loomis gets branded with the "Mark of the Thorn" and thus becomes the new leader of the cult. He screams in agony, as unwillingly becoming a demonic priest after you've been a kindly mental health professional your whole life is a huge bummer.
In the new final cut, they use his same scream, but now it's heard in the background as the camera tilts down to show Michael Myers' mask, implying that Michael just unceremoniously killed him. This is followed a few seconds later by "In Memory of Donald Pleasence." After 17 years, you motherfuckers thought that the best way to handle your lead actor dying was to murder his character offscreen?
And did test audiences seriously like that better? We'd better not find out this was all your idea, Paul Rudd.
Daniel has a Twitter that is mostly devoted to Spider-Man and Pokemon.
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For more, check out 5 Awesome Movies Ruined By Last-Minute Changes and 35 Last-Second Casting Changes That Altered Movie History.
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