The movie-making business is, as you could assume, a testy and difficult one. Whether it be due to the “who you know” culture, deadlines, critics, or something else — Hollywood is an unusual, dynamic world. When one thinks of the film business, the image of actors or models is apparent, but even more important and difficult is the work of the director. In any movie, the director has to worry about endless issues, such as sorting out confusion, understanding the general public, as well as the film crew, and more. There needs to be a balance between being compassionate, strict, and most important–a visionary.
Most often, the directors that begin a film stay until the end. Other times (and more often than you would think), directors leave the film early. There could be a plethora of reasons a director would leave a film. There could be an issue getting along with the actors, the vision of the film begins to stray from the director’s original intent, problems revolving around the studio, and in some special cases, the director could be forced to leave. Whatever the reason, a change in director mid-film will inevitably cause changes — sometimes good and sometimes bad. So, here is a list of 10 movies that turned bad due to a mid-film director change.
10. Exorcist: The Beginning
Oh, yet another failed and unwanted sequel of a horror film that still manages to scare the daylights out of viewers. The Exorcist has gone down in history as one of the scariest horror films ever made. This is a massive feat, as many horror films from the 1970s have been forgotten with time due to their lack of effects and film quality. Yet, just because The Exorcist was a hit, does not necessarily mean a sequel would be its equivalent.
Actually, The Exorcist: The Beginning was far from its counterpart. The original director, Paul Schrader, shot a majority of the footage and even completed his own cut of the film before it was rejected by the studio. We knew Hollywood was harsh but takes it up to a whole new level. After the studio refused his hard work and vision, they fired Schrader and hired Renny Harlin. In the end, The Exorcist: The Beginning was critically and financially disastrous. Even more humorous, in an attempt to break even, the studio asked Schrader to release his original cut. This choice proved fruitful, with the original cut faring better than the first.
9. Solo: A Star Wars Story
When one thinks of cultural icons, there is no greater icon than the one and only: Star Wars. Whether it is a typical nerdy teenager or a sci-fi loving grandfather, Star Wars movies are held in the highest regard. As the 80s was the decade that introduced space-loving geeks to the wonderful world of Star Wars, there has been a lot of time for opinions to be made about characters, various movies, and more. From the original story, there is a total of three original Star Wars films. Yet, due to popular demand, the Star Wars universe has branched far and wide. This extension includes the infamous Solo: A Star Wars Story. This film encapsulates the original story of one of the most popular characters from the original trilogy.
While there were high hopes for this film, the critics were disappointed. Some blamed the boredom of the Star Wars frenzy, but it could also have been the fact that the original directors left after shooting more than half of the film. Due to the underlying comedic vision of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the studio chose to replace them with Ron Howard. Of course, there is no way to point at the director change as the sole reason for the poor reviews, but I think it is safe to say it was a contributing factor.
8. Justice League
Another superhero movie? Why not? Justice League is a perfect example of studios beating a dead horse. With regard to DC Extended Universe, the outcome of almost all of the films, save Wonder Woman, were a flop. Nevertheless, they decided to persist with the production of Justice League. While the idea of bringing all of the famed superheroes into one movie sounds promising, the result was nothing more than a film being negatively received from fans and critics alike.
I will give it to them, there were a plethora of production woes during the shooting of the film. A large one is that the original director of the film, Zack Snyder, had to leave the position after his daughter passed away. In place of Mr. Snyder, the studio hired Joss Whedon, who directed The Avengers, to finish the film. It seemed the studio only focused on the fact that both had experience in the superhero realm, yet forgot that the two directors have wildly differing visions. The outcome was worse for wear. While the reason for Zack Snyder leaving was totally understandable, Warner Bros. could have done better at choosing a closer match.
If we are on the topic of disgraced superhero films due to the interchanging of directors mid-film, then Ant-Man should most definitely be featured. Ant-Man was the twelfth film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but proved to not meet the same standards as past movies in the Marvel stable. There could be a number of reasons why Ant-Man was nothing more than an overhyped, overplayed storyline. Naturally, as it is a superhero movie, the box office response was strong, but the overall consensus was “Really? Another superhero film? About… an ANT!?” Nevertheless, it was produced, albeit with a few hiccups.
After the abrupt exit of the original director, Edgar Wright, there was a scramble to find a new one. Maybe Wright realized a movie about an ant trying to save people was like trying to make a bar of soap seem interesting, but I digress. The new director ended up being Peyton Reed, who tried his best to create some magic. In the end, the movie was successfully produced, but one must wonder if the main reason for the critical response was nothing more than the offbeat content, or because of the forced director change?
6. Rumor Has It
Rumor Has It follows a young woman (Jennifer Aniston) on her journey of getting to the bottom of her mother and grandmother’s past. This film was a project that Ted Griffin worked on for over three years. Thus, it was assumed Griffin would director the movie himself. While yes, it is true that he started to direct the film, he was soon fired from his position and was replaced by Rob Reiner. This mid-shift director change hoped to spark inspiration to quicken the slow pace of production. When Reiner came on board, he decided to shut down the set for nine days to make changes, like hiring another actress, Kathy Bates.
While these changes hoped to set the movie on a path to success, the result was nothing more than a failed project in the eyes of both critics and the audience. Even more saddening, none of Griffin’s original footage made it into the film. It certainly seems like a stab in the back for none of Griffin’s footage to make it into the film. For the sake of respect and appreciation, at least some of Griffin’s scenes could have been shown. I mean, three years of work?!
5. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Based on the popular novel, this movie was about as far out there as one could get. With that said, the production went through a list of difficulties, which caused upset, confusion, and frustration. One of the most popular actors in Hollywood, Johnny Depp, and the author of the novel, Hunter S. Thompson, continually got into it with Director Alex Cox. None of the men could agree on the true vision of the film. It became an even larger issue when Director Alex Cox wanted to include an animated sequence. Both, Johnny Depp and Thompson, could not believe what they were hearing. This led to the original director getting fired for the more “suitable” Terry Gilliam.
This choice of director created more confusion, as Gilliam’s vision also included an animated sequence. Thus, what was the point of firing the original director over the same issue?! This could have been the reason the film ended up being a failure, critically and commercially. One must wonder how detrimental the choice of directors were. Nevertheless, recent years have been quite fruitful for the film, as it has become a popular cult classic.
4. Crazy People
This 1990s romantic comedy is one that most people have most likely never heard of. Nonetheless, Crazy People is an actual film, making a little over $13,000,000 at the box office. In short, the movie stars Dudley Moore as an advertising executive who, by accident, creates a wildly successful ad campaign by unintentionally printing some of the blunt advertisements. While the content seems there, the creativity and professionalism was not. Of course, there were good intentions creating the film, but in the end, the movie did not break even.
This could be for a number of reasons, but it is safe to assume the removal of the original screenplay writer and director, Mitch Markowitz, did not help the cause. Additionally, one may know his name because he was the creative genius who wrote Good Morning, Vietnam, which will forever be a film ingrained in our cultural psyche. After the surprise removal of Mitch, Tony Bill came onto the film and finished directing what was left. He finished the project, but it will always leave us wondering if the film no one knows, had the potential to be the next quotable rom-com.
3. Bad Girls
Another movie that did not make the cut into the 2000s was Bad Girls. This film had a lot of potential, especially with it being directed and acted mainly by women. The base storyline depicts four former prostitutes looking for a better life, as outlaws. After a bank robbery and other questionable behavior ensued, the women encounter a list of obstacles.
Bad Girls could have been a hit, as the movie starred leading women characters in an entertaining and adventurous light. However, due to production woes, the women-studded movie changed drastically. The original director, Tamra Davis, had a specific vision within her head, yet the vision was crushed when the studio took on Jonathan Kaplan as the new director. The studio did not like where Tamra was trying to take the movie, so of course, she was ousted. This mid-film director change may have hurt the production more than previously thought. Maybe it would have been a good idea to leave it to the women. It makes one wonder how this film would have turned out if it was produced in modern times, but it was the 1990s, so let’s give it a break.
2. Accidental Love
This 2015 romantic comedy follows a small-town waitress who is shot in the head with a nail gun and decides to lobby for individuals with odd injuries in Washington D.C. With David O. Russell as the director and the star studded cast, including Jessica Biel and Jake Gyllenhaal, this movie was bound to be interesting. And while this story line sounds bizarre, it was not an original idea.
Accidental Love was first shot in 2008, so this was not the first stab at the film. Back in 2008, the film was never finished because of difficulty with finances and other production setbacks. Nevertheless, it came back in 2015 and gave no credit to the original director: David O Russell. Instead, the director was listed as “Stephen Greene,” which many presume to be a distant relative to the common name that directors usually use in the case of disowning a movie, Alan Smithee. If the actual director did not even want to be associated with the film, it is no wonder why it only made $140,000 at the box office. With stars such as Biel and Gyllenhaal, one would think it would have done well just on that. Some could Accidental Love was an accident.
1. The Island of Dr. Moreau
The Island of Dr. Moreau is an American science-fiction film that follows the story of a man crashing in the Java Sea and is saved by a passing boat, which turns into an unusual turn of events. This version of The Island of Dr. Moreau, produced in 1996, was the third film created based on the novel written by H.G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau. They should have assumed defeat and decided not to contribute to the failed attempts of putting this storyline onto the big screen. Nevertheless, they persisted.
As one may know, directing a movie comes with a plethora of problems, some that are fixable and some that are not. In the case of this film, there were two directors. After one week, the studio fired the first director, Richard Stanley, and employed John Frankenheimer. For Stanley, there were too many issues that arose, like when two lead actors, Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando, began acting difficult and uncooperative. Being Hollywood actors, this was expected, but for the director, it proved too much.
Luckily, after the introduction of John Frankenheimer, John was able to gain back some control, but the two actors continued on their high horse. Maybe it was a bad omen or a director’s lack of ability to keep the set in control, but the movie ended up being far from a hit. Now, The Island of Dr. Moreau has earned a spot on the list of worst movies from the 90s. Anyway, one looks at it, critically, financially, or creatively, there is nothing going for this movie.