Filmmaking is a tricky business. You need a foot in the door, a great script, a proven track record of making money and even then it may not be enough. Several of these directors already had that in place but things still went wrong. The plug can be pulled at any moment of any day as they found out the hard way. Colin Trevorrow’s dismissal from Star Wars puts him in a not-so-exclusive club.
Steven Soderbergh – Moneyball
Moneyball is the true story of how the Oakland Athletics baseball team defied the odds to achieve remarkable success. In 2002, manager Billy Beane emphasised the usage of statistics in signing players on a limited budget. The film adaptation of this story wasn’t exactly as frugal.
Colin Trevorrow – Star Wars Episode IX
The most recent entrant on this list is also one of the saddest. Colin Trevorrow looked like a director on the up and up after the release of 2015’s Jurassic World. Not many people knew they wanted a Jurassic Park sequel until they got it and the movie was a smash hit. It grossed over $1.6 billion in the box office and is still highly thought of today, with a planned sequel called Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, theme park rides across the world and even a slots casino game online commemorating the franchise hits.
The stage was set for Trevorrow to follow up that success with an even bigger project: Star Wars Episode IX. While he was waiting for filming to begin on the ninth visit to a galaxy far, far away, Trevorrow was scheduled to direct a smaller budget film: The Book of Henry. Unfortunately for Trevorrow, the film was panned by critics and Disney fired him from the Star Wars job in September 2017.
Philip Kaufman – The Outlaw Josey Wales
This is one of the greatest examples in cinema of a man just doing whatever he wanted. Clint Eastwood personally owned the film rights to the 1972 novel, The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales and signed Philip Kaufman up to direct with Eastwood as the titular character and star.
Apparently, both men also began to garner affection for actress Sondra Locke, who played Laura Lee in the film. Eastwood eventually won both battles, removing Kaufman to direct the film himself and later marrying Locke.
“Clint, for whatever reason, decided we had some creative differences,” Kaufman later said in an interview. “He was the producer. He was the biggest star in the world. One of us had to go…”
Richard Donner – Superman II
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch or your superhero sequels before the first one is released. Director Richard Donner was signed on to direct two Superman movies in the late-1970s which, for some strange reason, were scheduled to be filmed at the same time.
Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of the Man of Steel attracted much praise but after the release of Superman: The Movie in 1978, director Richard Donner was promptly fired in favour of Richard Lester. The decision came after almost all of the filming for Superman II was completed, meaning that Lester had to redo a lot of Donner’s work in order to get the director’s credit. In 2006, a re-cut version of Donner’s original Superman II was released and received well by fans and critics alike.
Anthony Mann – Spartacus
This is one of those rare cases where a replacement director goes onto become an all-time great. Anthony Mann was brought in to direct Spartacus, against the wishes of star Kirk Douglas who was deeply unhappy with the appointment.
“He was not comfortable with the scope of the picture,” Douglas wrote of Mann in his autobiography. Eventually, he won around the movie executives and Mann was dropped in favour of a youngster by the name of Stanley Kubrick. Whatever happened to him?
Phil Lord & Chris Miller – Untitled Han Solo Movie
When Disney bought the rights to Lucasfilm and Star Wars in 2012, it was clear that we hadn’t seen the last of the galaxy far, far away. However, few people were expecting standalone movies. Star Wars: Rogue One was received well but there was less of an appetite for a standalone Han Solo movie.
The appointments of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller went some way to undoing that, as did the casting of some hugely exciting young stars. Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly end well, for Han Solo or for Lord and Miller. The pair were fired from the job in June 2017, with Ron Howard brought on to take over for the 2018 release.