From Bruce Willis To Michael Keaton – Every Re-Casted Part In Woody Allen’s Films

Every…In Woody Allen’s Films – a new series exploring the patterns that emerge in Allen’s long, long film career.

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We’ve been toying with this series for a while, and we were not going to start with this one. But in light of Bruce Willis‘ sudden departure from Woody Allen’s 2016 Film, we thought it was worth revisiting the history of re-casted parts in his films.

These are all roles offered and accepted by an actor (to the point of being announced) but the role was eventually played by someone else. We are planning a follow up of every deleted part – actors who had their entire storylines cut form an Allen film – because it was too long otherwise!

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Michael KeatonThe Purple Rose of Cairo – 1984

One of the most famous re castings in Allen’s career is also the first. Allen had deleted scenes and characters when they haven’t worked, but this was a major role. Keaton was set to play Tom Baxter/Gil Shepherd, but Allen changed his mind, on just looks alone. Allen recast Keaton with Jeff Daniels, who looked more like a film star of the era.

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Entire Cast – September – 1987

Allen’s most dramatic recasting. One role was recast twice. The film started with Charles Durning, Mia Farrow, Rosemary Murphy, Maureen O’Sullivan, Christopher Walken, Jack Warden and Dianne Wiest. Walken shot a few scenes but Allen decided it wasn’t working out. Production restarted with Sam Shepard. But that didn’t work either, and due to scheduling conflicts as much as anything else, Sam Waterson took Shepard’s role with Elaine Stritch and Denholm Elliott replacing O’Sullivan and Durning. So he kinda made the film three times.

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Dianne Wiest, Mia Farrow (kinda) – Another Woman – 1988

Farrow and Wrist, two of Allen best players, were set to re-team for Another Woman. However, Wiest pulled out due to sickness, and was recast by Jane Alexander. Then Farrow got pregnant, and took the lesser role, replacing Alexander. Gena Rowlands stepped in as the new lead.

HUSBANDS AND WIVES, Juliette Lewis, 1992
HUSBANDS AND WIVES, Juliette Lewis, 1992

Emily LloydHusbands And Wives – 1992

Emily Lloyd seems almost forgotten now, but she broke through in the late 80s with ‘Wish You Were Here‘. She couldn’t seem to follow it up, losing major roles because of her behaviour. This included being fired from the role of Rain after two weeks in Woody Allen’s ‘Husbands And Wives’. Lloyd would go on to battle depression and anxiety. She was replaced by Juliette Lewis.

Vanessa Redgrave, Elaine StritchCelebrity – 1998

Technically a recast, Vanessa Redgrave shot scenes for a role that was not working. Allen recast the role with Elaine Stritch. But in the end that character was cut altogether, and some of the plot elements were shifted into the character played by Bebe Neuwirth.

Haskell WexlerHollywood Ending – 2002

It is not only the actors who can find themselves replaced. Haskell Wexler was replaced as cinematographer after a week in the role. He was replaced by Wendigo Von Schultzendorff, who has not worked outside of Germany before or since. It is unclear if any of Wexler’s work is in the final cut, although it seems unlikely as Allen and Wexler could not agree on shots.

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Kate WinsletMatch Point – 2005

Winslet was considered for ‘Celebrity‘, but was finally cast in ‘Match Point‘. But shortly before filming started, she decided to leave the role to spend time with her new baby. Allen then went a different direction, casting an American in Scarlett Johansson. Apparently she was straight on a plane and arrived on the first day of shooting with no preparation.

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Nicole KidmanYou Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger – 2010

Nicole Kidman had signed on and announced for ‘You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger‘. But shortly before production, she pulled out of the film due to scheduling conflicts with ‘The Rabbit Hole‘. No scenes were shot, and she was replaced by Lucy Punch.

Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson in 'Midnight In Paris'
Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson in ‘Midnight In Paris’

David Krumholtz, Michelle WilliamsMidnight In Paris – 2011

Woody Allen wanted to make Midnight In Paris in 2007, with Krumholtz and Williams attached to star. However, financing didn’t work out, apparently due to the lack of star power (although Allen usually has final say on such things). The film was put on hold, and the actors moved on. Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard played rewritten versions of the characters in the finished film.

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Michael EmersonBlue Jasmine – 2013

Lost‘ star Michael Emerson signed on for Blue Jasmine late in the game, and even discussed the role in some interviews. However, he never made it to set, and his role was played by Michael Stuhlbarg. We’ve never heard anyone mention why, and Emerson has never spoken about it since.

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Which brings us to Bruce Willis. Woody Allen is a filmmaker who has ultimate creative control. But he doesn’t always use it, such as the case with ‘Midnight In Paris‘. He’s also been happy for actors to leave his productions, as was the case with Winslet and Kidman – but neither of them made it to screen at all.

In the end, Willis is the latest of what could have been. The photos of him on set will forever be a curiosity. The big question now is – who will replace him?

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1 Comment

  1. Superb article that puts the ‘Bruce was fired!’ nonsense in proper perspective. I’ve actually seen industry insiders jumping on this, acting as if they know nothing about the scheduling conflicts that regularly scupper roles for actors like Sam Shepard, Nicole Kidman, Bruce Willis, and a long, long list, not limited to Woody Allen films, but across the industry.

    This article gives great insight into Allen’s insane method of film-making, which every expert knows couldn’t possibly work, other than as a fluke; but does work, brilliantly, time and time again.

    I love that the finished scripts, for which he has been praised and won awards, are usually completed shortly before or after the movie comes out. How he gets away with putting his own name on it, rather than having to list every cast member who ad-libbed half of the dialogue, would be a mystery if it weren’t for the general understanding that a genius is at the helm.

    Great stuff. Keep it up.

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