Movies are by their very nature a collaborative art form — producers call the shots to secure the money and other resources to get the film made, leaving a director to lead the on-the-ground, day-to-day activities of actually filming the thing, in charge of numerous crew members and actors. They are, of course, the face of the movie, and arguably those who have the most challenging job, bringing to life a script and the director’s vision to tell a story and disappear into their character.
Probably no one knows those fictional people (or based on real people) better than actors, and as such, they often have to be guardians of the material while balancing that with their own artistic aims while keeping their human dignity intact. Actors may go through all the trouble, expense, and time of filming a scene, only to have such deep regrets about it after the fact that they’ll discuss with the filmmakers — or straight up demand — that it be removed from the final cut. Here are some actors who asked that a scene be removed from a movie, some of whom were successful and others who were not.
Olivia Munn prompted executives to cut a scene featuring a criminal
In 2018, 20th Century Fox released “The Predator,” a star-studded remake of the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger shoot-’em-up sci-fi classic “Predator.” Shane Black, writer of “Lethal Weapon” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” enjoying a career resurgence thanks to the success of “The Nice Guys,” directed from a script he co-penned, and cast his friend of more than a decade, Steven Wilder Striegel, in a small part that consisted of about three pages of screen time opposite Olivia Munn.
In August 2018, months after filming had finished, Munn found out that Striegel was a registered sex offender. According to the Los Angeles Times, Striegel pleaded guilty in 2010 on a charge that he used the internet to coerce a teenager into a physical relationship. Munn shared this information with executives at Fox, who almost immediately sent word to the editors of “The Predator” to delete Striegel’s entire presence from the film. “Our studio was not aware of Mr. Striegel’s background when he was hired,” a studio spokesperson said.
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The frat guys in Borat didn't think the movie was 'very nice'
“Borat” approached filmmaking in a new way, and its humor was a function of its format. British comedian and celeb prankster Sacha Baron Cohen portrayed Borat Sagdiyev, a crude, sexist reporter from Kazakhstan, charged with making a documentary about American life. As Borat, Cohen sets out on a road trip, exposing prejudices by interacting with real people who don’t know he’s playing a character.
In one scene, some real South Carolina college students and fraternity brothers get Borat drunk. One young man tells Borat he will submit to an act that involves placing cheese inside his urethra and letting a mouse retrieve it, while another says it’s “a big shame” that women are not slaves in the United States. One of the guys waxes on race relations, stating that in “our country, the minorities actually have more power.” And then they all settle in to watch the Pamela Anderson sex tape.
Shortly after the film hit theaters in 2006, two of the three young men featured in the scene sued 20th Century Fox, alleging that they were coerced into appearing in the movie, according to ABC News, with filmmakers getting them drunk before the cameras rolled and telling them that the film would be released only overseas. Per Reuters, a judge denied the duo’s demand that their scene be taken out of the film, rejecting a lawyer’s argument that the film’s endless availability on DVD would damage his clients’ reputation and impact their ease of finding work.
Denzel Washington has had numerous love scenes omitted
By 1989, Denzel Washington was one of the biggest rising stars in Hollywood, coming off a six-year run on “St. Elsewhere” and earning his first Academy Award nomination for his role as South African anti-apartheid crusader Steve Biko in “Cry Freedom.”
Washington signed on to star in the crime drama “The Mighty Quinn” as police officer Xavier Quinn, opposite Mimi Rogers as his love interest, Hadley Elgin. According to Newsweek, the original cut of the movie included a kiss between Washington, who is Black, and Rogers, a white actor. At a test screening, Black women in the audience reportedly booed the moment, prompting Washington to use his clout to get producers to delete the scene. “Black women are not often seen as objects of desire on film. They have always been my core audience,” Washington said, explaining why, ever since “The Mighty Quinn,” he doesn’t allow himself to be seen in scenes depicting interracial physical affection.
The 1993 legal thriller “The Pelican Brief” was supposed to include a kiss between his character and the one played by Julia Roberts. “I have taken so much s*** over the years about not kissing Denzel in that film,” Roberts said. “Of course I wanted to kiss Denzel. It was his idea to take the damn scenes out.” In the 2004 film “Man on Fire,” according to a source who spoke to NBC News, a love scene featuring Washington and white actor Radha Mitchell was deleted, too.
Romany Malco was afraid of offending his mother
He’s recognizable for a wide variety of roles — Rome on the tearjerking ABC drama “A Million Little Things,” Conrad on Showtime’s suburban satire “Weeds,” playing the title role in the made-for-TV movie “Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story,” — but Romany Malco’s best-known role is likely still Jay, ladies’ man and aggressively persuasive friend of Steve Carell’s character in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” That summer 2005 comedy from writer-director Judd Apatow was a box office blockbuster and broke Malco’s career wide open, but had the actor had his way, he might never have reaped the benefits.
“I was actually begging Judd Apatow to cut me out of it,” Malco told Yahoo! apart from how it would be a huge undertaking to completely remove one of the main characters from a film, Apatow refused. “He was like, ‘We can’t. You’re funny,'” Malco recalled. His reasoning: The film has some saucy, untoward moments, and Malco wasn’t sure how his mother would react. “I was like, “My mom is an ordained minister, bro, cut me out of the movie, please,'” he said. “I was literally afraid what would happen when it came out.” Malco remained in the movie, which he says his mother and “all of her church friends” went and saw “multiple times.”
Macaulay Culkin would be fine with replacing Donald Trump's appearance in Home Alone 2
In 1992, abandoned rapscallion Kevin McAllister once again found himself all alone on Christmas, this time in tonier parts of Manhattan, in the smash hit sequel “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” At one point, Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) wanders into the luxurious Plaza Hotel and asks an adult man in a suit to point him toward the lobby. “Down the hall and to the left,” the guy replies, but that’s no regular guy — that’s New York real estate tycoon and tabloid fixture Donald Trump turning in a cameo appearance, years before “The Apprentice” or his one term as president of the United States.
Trump’s time in the Oval Office was a tumultuous and controversial era, which culminated in his supporters, angry over his re-election loss, violently storming the U.S. Capitol. President Trump was impeached but not convicted for inciting insurrection, per the BBC. In January 2021, mere days after the protests and riots, Twitter user @raehasasword called for the removal of Trump’s cameo from “Home Alone 2,” or rather a “petition to digitally replace trump in ‘home alone 2’ with 40-year-old Macaulay Culkin.” The actor voiced his approval, tweeting “Sold.”
Molly Ringwald got another actor's nude scene cut from The Breakfast Club
John Hughes elevated the teen movie to high art in the 1980s, presenting earnest, emotionally honest portraits of what it’s like to be young and finding one’s way in films like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Pretty in Pink,” and “The Breakfast Club.” The 1985 project takes place primarily in one room — a suburban Chicago high school’s library on a Saturday, when five very different students are thrown into a day-long detention together and learn a lot about each other but also themselves. Among them: a rebel (Judd Nelson), a jock (Emilio Estevez), a nerd (Anthony Michael Hall), and a queen bee. That character, Claire, was portrayed by frequent Hughes collaborator and ’80s teen staple Molly Ringwald, whose input the filmmaker took seriously.
In a 2018 essay for The New Yorker, in which she reflected on some of the more problematic and poorly aged moments in her ’80s oeuvre, Ringwald revealed that there was a scene in “The Breakfast Club” screenplay in which administrator and detention warden Mr. Vernon secretly spied on a female gym coach as she swam naked in the school’s pool. “The scene wasn’t in the first draft I read, and I lobbied John to cut it,” Ringwald said. “He did, and although I’m sure the actress who had been cast in the part still blames me for foiling her break, I think the film is better for it.”
Cast and crew wanted Norman Mailer to cut a scene from Tough Guys Don't Dance
Norman Mailer is a giant of American letters. He won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for nonfiction (1968’s “Armies of the Night”) and one for fiction (1979’s “The Executioner’s Song”), and he co-founded the influential newspaper The Village Voice. It’s Mailer’s command of artistic expression and ability to launch a project that probably led producers to think that he could handle directing a major motion picture.
Mailer directed “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” from his own script, a film about Tim Madden, a hot mess of a writer in his forties (Ryan O’Neal) who wakes up after a drinking binge to discover seemingly undeniable evidence that he committed a series of grisly crimes. Oh, and it’s a comedy, at least in part. The film’s climactic moment, in which Tim is made privy to several plot twists in the form of a letter, is not supposed to be funny, but it winds up that way.
Called the “Worst Line Reading Ever,” O’Neal hams it up as the music swells and the camera melodramatically spins, unconvincingly shouting out, “Oh God, oh man!” over and over. “Everyone else begged me to take the scene out of the movie, and I insisted on it,” Mailer said, before admitting “it’s the one disaster in the film, I’d say.” The director also revealed that O’Neal was “furious about” the scene” and likely would “never forgive” Mailer.
JoJo Siwa doesn't want to confuse her fans with a kissing scene
For years, JoJo Siwa was one of the biggest draws on YouTube for primarily an audience of fellow children, tweens, and teens. A singer, dancer, and boundlessly effervescent and positive performer, she turned rainbows, sparkles, and joy into billions of hits, according to Insider. Shortly after turning 17, Siwa came out as a member of the LGBTQ community and identifies as pansexual, per ABC News.
In 2021, as of this writing, the star is set to bounce from YouTube to the big screen with “Bounce,” a film adaptation of Megan Shull’s young adult holiday fantasy in which she plays a teenager whose Christmas wish comes true and she magically jumps into the life of another person. As is true for most young adult and Christmas-themed movies, there’s a big romantic scene involving a kiss. Siwa filmed it but didn’t like it. “I’m not about it. I’m trying to get it pulled so bad. It’ll happen. It’ll get pulled,” she told Entertainment Weekly. The reasons are very personal. “I’m madly in love and I do not want to kiss another human,” Siwa said. “Especially because it’s a man.”
That person with whom she’s smitten with has no problem with the scene, but it’s Siwa herself, who doesn’t want to confuse her fans, who after many years of following her on YouTube aren’t used to seeing her portray anything other than herself. “That’s what they look at me as, not some character … it’s going to be a little weird.”
Colin Firth couldn't bear being in Paddington
What ever could be complicated, incorrect, or controversial about “Paddington”? The 2014 movie is the first of two extremely critically acclaimed adaptations of Michael Bond’s beloved children’s books about a soft-spoken but unlucky bear from Peru who wears a blue coat, red boots, and a floppy hat who loves marmalade sandwiches and has low-stakes adventures in London. According to USA Today, Academy Award-winning actor and British icon Colin Firth signed on to voice the British icon that is Paddington, and the news was announced just six months before “Paddington” was scheduled to hit theaters around the world. “His voice can be deep and growly, if you listen to him without noticing how devilishly handsome he is,” the movie’s director and co-writer Paul King said, in praise of Firth.
But then just a week later, USA Today reported that Firth was out of the “Paddington” project, and it was his more or less his choice to leave. “It’s been bittersweet to see this delightful creature take shape and come to the sad realization that he simply doesn’t have my voice. After a period of denial we’ve chosen conscious uncoupling,” Firth said, adding that he was “pestering” filmmakers with replacement actor ideas. (Ben Whishaw eventually took over.) Producer David Heyman later told Yahoo! Movies that Firth was, in retrospect, “too mature” to play the childlike Paddington.
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