Extremely Reduced & Incredibly Diminished: Movie Characters Who Were Cut Out of the Final Film

By not making the final cut of "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," James Gandolfini joins a fairly illustrious club of actors who have seen major roles cut down to...


While audiences will have the chance to see “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” beginning this week, there's one actor whose been part of the film's IMDb page for months that they won't see. While James Gandolfini’s good name was used for both the film’s poster and its first trailer for the adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, his character saw the cutting room floor after test audiences didn’t respond to him as a love interest for Sandra Bullock who she meets at a 9/11 victims’ support group, according to the Los Angeles Times. Still, he's hardly the first famous thespian to learn they've been trimmed from the final film.

After beating out throngs of big name actors for the part and filming for four months in Queensland, Australia with 6 a.m. call times every day, Adrien Brody thought he was sitting pretty when he attended a press screening for Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line" in 1998. Yet 170 minutes later, Brody felt more like a soldier than ever as he saw his performance as Corporal Fife winnowed down to a supporting and largely silent role. As he recalled to The New York Press' Matt Zoller Seitz, "You spend all this time in an unfamiliar place, you experience incredible things, and then you come home, you're wounded psychologically, and you have nothing to show for it."

At least Brody made the cut. Here are a few who weren't as lucky.

JonStewartFirstWivesClubJon Stewart — "The First Wives Club"

Imagine, if you will, the future host of "The Daily Show" sitting by his TV watching "Laugh-In" and wishing for the day he could play boy toy to Goldie Hawn in a big motion picture. You can't? Neither could Hawn, who told USA Today in 1996, "As much as I love Jon, before it was even cast I said to Scott [Rudin, the film's producer], 'Let's get rid of this. It's not pertinent to the plot. You are going to cut this.' And sure enough it was the first to go." So much for the vote of confidence, but the film was supposed to be Stewart's big break into movies after his first talk show on MTV came to an end in 1995. Still, as he said to the Calgary Sun, "My butt stayed in the previews. There's this great moment with Goldie kicking me out of the apartment. I guess they loved the look on her face."

Chris Cooper – "The Ring"

Considering "The Ring" became a sleeper hit largely thanks to teenagers, DreamWorks execs probably made the right call when they decided to open the film with a perky Amber Tamblyn than a dour Chris Cooper. Yet Cooper, who would earn an Oscar nomination for "Adaptation" the same year, found his portrayal of an imprisoned serial killer of children left on the cutting room floor, including an opening sequence where the character attempts to persuade Naomi Watts' journalist that's he's rehabilitated in his bid for parole. The kicker was that Watts would deliver the killer videotape to his cell at the end of the film as a bookend.

Janeane Garofalo — "Southland Tales"

And to think Mandy Moore was worried she might not make the final cut. After the disastrous premiere of Richard Kelly's sophomore film at Cannes, no one was safe from the chopping block as Kelly tried to appease potential distributors with a shorter running time. Eventually, Garofalo's militant General Teena MacArthur who operated out of a Venice Beach storefront was excised. All that remains of Garofalo's performance is a shot of the General celebrating the end of the world at the film's conclusion.

MichelleMonaghanConstantineMichelle Monaghan — "Unfaithful," "Syriana," and "Constantine"

Three strikes usually means you're out, but Monaghan appears to have beat the odds. Before landing leads in "Gone Baby Gone" and the upcoming indie "Trucker," the actress was trimmed from a bit part as Richard Gere's secretary in "Unfaithful" before being poised for a banner year in 2005 with roles as a demon-human hybrid in "Constantine" and a beauty pageant queen who travels to the Middle East in "Syriana." The only problem was her subplots in both films were dropped from the final product. Fortunately for Monaghan, she still appeared in meaty roles in "North Country" and "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and even her turn in "Constantine" wasn't for naught — J.J. Abrams brought the actress on "Mission: Impossible III" after seeing her audition tape from the Keanu Reeves thriller.

Andy Garcia — "Dangerous Minds"

If 2007's Hilary Swank drama "Freedom Writers" was an update of the Michelle Pfeiffer inner city school drama "Dangerous Minds," then Patrick Dempsey was the modern version of the crusading teacher's nag of a love interest as Garcia was in the 1995 film. Except Garcia's turn was even more thankless than Dempsey's turn since it never saw the light of day. And it couldn't have come at a worse time for Garcia, whose days as a leading man were numbered with the release of his next film, "Steal Big Steal Little." Pfeiffer claimed to have fought for the actor in a 1995 interview with the Sunday Mail…to a point. "I argued against cutting him out," said Pfeiffer. "In the end, I can't really say whether or not it was the right choice. People seem to like (the movie)."

Tobey Maguire — "Empire Records"

Like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" or "Dazed and Confused," "Empire Records" seemed to have one of those casts — a quirky quorum of young actors who were destined to become movie stars out of this low budget comedy about the closure of an indie record store. Some, including Liv Tyler and Renee Zellweger, did, while some, including Brendan Sexton III and Rory Cochrane found steady work as character actors. But Maguire said that he felt like an "extreme outsider" on the North Carolina set of the film and suffered what he called a "kind of semi-breakdown" before asking director Allan Moyle if he could fly home to Los Angeles. Moyle agreed to cut Maguire and his character loose, though not before the actor went skinny dipping with the cast one night and wound up throwing up in the ocean in close proximity of Tyler.

Liv Tyler — "Everyone Says I Love You"

Speaking of Tyler, she spent a few days on the set of Woody Allen's musical, "Everyone Says I Love You" with nothing on celluloid to show for it. Even though the role didn't call for Tyler to use her genetically sound set of pipes, the actress was to have played what Allen called "a sexy, sensuous, hot right wing Republican" to woo Lukas Haas' lone conservative from a family of liberals. Tyler later told The Times of London, "He wrote me a letter, which I keep on my desk and look at occasionally, saying that he was really sorry and it was nice to work with me and we would work again. But he's never asked me again. And he wouldn't even hear me sing, and I love to sing. So I guess maybe he doesn't like me so much."

James Van Der Beek — "Storytelling"

Itching to break away from the clean cut image he cultivated on "Dawson's Creek," Van Der Beek didn’t blink when he signed on to star in the "Fiction" segment of Todd Solondz's fourth film as a sexually confused high school jock in the 1980s who, according to those who saw the original NC-17 cut, was a little less confused after an explicit "Brown Bunny"-esque scene with another man. Heather Matarazzo and Emmanuelle Chriqui were also casualties of editing down the two and a half hour film to the 87 minute, R-rated affair it became. When Van Der Beek made the rounds with "The Rules of Attraction, " which finally did earn him some indie cred, he ended his self-imposed gag order about "Storytelling" on Moviehole, saying, "I remember saying to Todd [Solondz] the director, when I was doing ADR, that 'even if I get cut from this movie, I just want to say what a fabulous time I've had on this.' I will never say that to a director again!"

OrlandoJonesMagnoliaOrlando Jones — "Magnolia"

Obsessive fans of Paul Thomas Anderson already know they can find the ill-fated storyline of The Worm in the published shooting script of "Magnolia," but oddly The Worm's alter ego Jones logs more time on the making of documentary than he does in the film. Although as part of the "Magnolia" production diaries, there is a tantalizing scene in a diner featuring The Worm, the desperate-for-cash father of Dixon, the young boy John C. Reilly's cop meets in the first act, Jones is nowhere to be found in the final cut. As Jones told the Sunday Express in 2001, "Paul called me and said: "You're great in the movie but we're four hours." Apparently, Tom Cruise wasn't as expendable.

Terrence Stamp & Jacqueline Bisset and Keith David & Angela Bassett — "Mr. & Mrs. Smith"

Jennifer Aniston wasn't the only collateral damage from the chemistry between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. As a positively flummoxed Doug Liman explains on the "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" special edition DVD, test screening audiences were so caught up with Brangelina as dueling assassins that the film's main villains, which were the two bosses behind Mr. and Mrs. Smith named only Mother and Father, simply weren't necessary. Still, Liman went through two quarreling killer couples in Stamp and Bisset and David and Bassett before eliminating their performances from the film completely — well, David and Bassett's voices made it in. As did William Fichtner, who is never seen as the Smiths' marriage therapist.

Katherine Towne — "Sweet Home Alabama"

The daughter of "Chinatown" scribe Robert Towne probably knew the Hollywood maxim that a film gets written three times: first on the page, then on the set and finally in the editing room — Katherine just probably assumed that her role as Erin, the personal assistant to Reese Witherspoon's fashion designer would make it after the second draft. Unfortunately, test screening audiences were troubled by her crush on Witherspoon’s fiancé, played by Patrick Dempsey and director Andy Tennant 86'ed the character without hesitation, though not completely without regret. As Tennant cops to on the DVD, Erin provided a happy ending to the film and a punchline when Dempsey's onscreen mother discovers that her jilted son's ex-fiancé's personal assistant is a Vanderbilt.

Ronee Blakely — "Hammett"

Actors marry their directors all the time, but Blakely is a cautionary tale for any thespian who wants to untie the knot too soon. After close to 90 percent of the revisionist detective tale "Hammett" was in the can, the "Nashville" star filed for divorce from director Wim Wenders, which when coupled with studio dissatisfaction with the movie in general, prompted Wenders to change up the role and cast Marilu Henner instead as the detective's confidante.

Kevin Costner — "The Big Chill"

Perhaps the most famous character to be left on the cutting room floor, Costner's Alex commits suicide before "The Big Chill" begins, but appeared in a series of flashbacks throughout the film after his friends from college reunite for his funeral. Audiences had their best chance at seeing the performance in 1998 when Columbia wanted to re-release the film with the Costner scenes as a selling point, but director Lawrence Kasdan was "very adamant" about keeping the film the way it was, according to the studio's Michael Schlesinger, who spoke to USA Today at the time. Still, there was no harm done between Costner and Kasdan, who made amends by casting Costner in his next film, "Silverado."

HaroldRamisHighfidelityHarold Ramis — "High Fidelity"

Seth Rogen may have been a handful in "Knocked Up," but Ramis perfected his fatherly advice as the sweatsuit clad old man to John Cusack's introspective record clerk in the 2000 adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel. In an exchange between the two Chicago natives, Cusack's Rob asks for advice about sex from his dad, who bluntly explains how his experience is limited to one woman and to "just go out and do it." The scene didn't make the final cut, nor did a cameo by Beverly D'Angelo as an angry wife who is eager to sell her husband's record collection, but both can be found in the deleted scenes on the film's DVD. And thanks to Ramis' quality time with Cusack on the set, the two worked together again with Ramis as director on the 2006 crime caper "The Ice Harvest."

Harrison Ford — "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial"

Since Ford's pal Steven Spielberg was directing the alien tale from a script by Melissa Mathison, Ford's wife at the time, it only made sense that the actor would show his face during the production. Actually, it was only his back, which was turned to the camera, for his cameo as the principal at Elliot's school who gives a stern talk to the boy. Spielberg ultimately decided to scrap the scene in favor of an ending that didn't leave audiences wondering whether or not Indiana Jones had taken an acting gig in between "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Temple of Doom."

Are there more examples that we might've missed? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

15 Comments on this post.

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  • Tab Collins
    28 December 2011 at 12:20 pm -

    You left out a huge classic example – Larry Kert in “New York, New York”….Larry Kert was the original star of “West Side Story” on Broadway and did a bunch of other theater stuff – cast by Scorsese as the next biggest role after DeNiro and Liza Minnelli in this ill-fated, not-great movie….when the movie ended up 4+ hours long,every second of him was cut completely – at that point, your friends might think you were lying that you were even in the movie at all (“No really! I worked on it for months! I was a leading role! Really!”)

  • Charles
    2 January 2012 at 6:46 am -

    Tracey Ullman in “Death Becomes Her”- she had an entire subplot as Bruce Willis’ confidante and it was cut out to concentrate on Willis and Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn. Also, a good deal of Jack Nicholson’s scenes with Barbra Streisand in “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever” were cut and are apparently lost- at the time no one had an inkling he’d be such a big star one day.

  • SDiner82
    2 January 2012 at 8:44 am -

    Here are two examples from movies I worked on as the Unit Publicist of fine actors who didn’t make the final cut:

    MGM’S 1971 “BELIEVE IN ME” was intended as a major studio release starring Jacqueline Bisset and Michael Sarrazin as upscale young New Yorkers who become addicted to amphetamines (the original title, “Speed is of the Essence”, was also the title of the acclaimed true story by Gail Sheehy in New York Magazine from which the movie was adapted). Directed by Stuart Hagmann (the young director of the same studio’s “The Strawberry Statement”), the dailies promised an award-caliber movie, with sensational performances by Bisset and Sarrazin. But with a change of management at MGM, the new execs freaked out when they saw the two-hour-plus roughcut (“too downbeat” was the reason given; what did they expect, another “Sound of Music”?) Jackie & Michael were summoned back to New York City for 2 weeks of re-shoots under the direction of (an uncredited) John Avildsen. The butchered 89 minute result lost more than most of its more lacerating footage: Geraldine Fitzgerald and George Rose, in key roles as Bisset’s parents, wound up on the cutting-room floor. And MGM tossed the film out on a quick, unpublicized showcase (in NYC, the only theater where the movie played was on a double bill at a grindhouse on 42nd Street). Recently, Jackie tried to get a tape of the film. The MGM spokeman informed her there was no record of the studio ever releasing it!

    Columbia/Rastar’s 1980 release IT’S MY TURN ran a suspiciously short 89 minutes, with good reason. Dianne Wiest’s major film debut was cut down to a bit part. Even worse, John Shea was completely excised from the release print. And here’s the reason why: Jill Clayburgh (then at her peak after “An Unmarried Woman”) portrayed a Chicago college professor, with a live-in boyfriend (Charles Grodin) and a grad student lover (Shea). When offered a prestigious job teaching at Columbia University, she flies to NYC for an interview–and also to attend her father’s remarriage. At a family dinner at the Tavern on the Green restaurant (the huge interior recreated on a soundstage), Jill meets her mother-in-law-to-be’s son, Michael Douglas, a handsome, cheerfully cynical ex-baseball star, grounded by an injury that ended his career on the mound. The two fall instantly in love, and are soon “going at it” in bed. Which gave Columbia’s male executives a collective stroke. Apparently, it was perfectly okay for a male star to be sleeping with 3 (and more) women, but a female star…NO WAY! So of Ms. Clayburgh’s 3 lovers, John Shea’s character was deemed the most expendable. The screenplay for IT’S MY TURN was an original and a first for novelist Eleanor Bergstein. Though she was horrified by what the studio had done to her project, she at least had the last laugh. Six years later, she wrote her second screenplay for a little, low-budget, autobiographical, independent movie titled “Dirty Dancing”.

    to be continued . . .

  • branden
    2 January 2012 at 9:04 am -
  • Kevin Sims
    2 January 2012 at 11:34 am -

    Micheal Biehn was cut from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. (His scences as John Connor’s Father Kyle Reese, talking to his mother Sarah Connor can be seen on the extreme dvd/laserdisc copies in the deleted scene section).

  • Trevor
    2 January 2012 at 4:59 pm -

    Larry Drake from L.A. Law was completely cut out of the movie “Angus” after the producer felt that the audience wouldn’t be comfortable with the main characters father being gay like he was in the short story, so they completely cut the charatcter out of the movie.

  • doc
    2 January 2012 at 6:16 pm -

    Dayton Callie lists Halloween 2 on IMBD (Zombie edition) as his “BIG SCREEN” acting roles. Yet, like most of his resume other then Deadwood/SOA, you have to look quickly to believe he was in the movie. I am guessing 4 minutes screen time. Alot of his roles are less then that yet listed as his roles. Whats minimum minutes before you cease from listing yourself as ‘starring in’?

  • greg
    2 January 2012 at 7:32 pm -

    Ashley Judd in Natural Born Killers

  • Le Toursiveu
    3 January 2012 at 8:05 am -

    Ben Affleck in Office Killer (1997)
    Danny Aiello in Annie Hall (1976)
    Julie Andrews in The Return of the Pink Panther (1973)
    Bruce Campbell in The Quick and the Dead (1995)
    Anne Bancroft in The Thirteenth Warrior (1999)
    Adrienne Barbeau in Halloween (2007)
    Brian Benben in Surf’s Up (2006 – voice)
    Michael Berryman in The Crow (1994)
    Jack Black in True Romance (1993)
    Lara Flynn Boyle in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) and Dead Poets Society (1989)
    Lorraine Bracco in Sea of Love (1989)
    Gary Busey in Grown-Ups (2010)
    John Carradine in Young Frankenstein (1974 – voice)
    James Caviezel in Any Given Sunday (1999)
    Rae Dawn Chong in Rude Awakening (1989)
    Joan Crawford in Journy To Midnight (1968)
    Jamie Lee Curtis in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (1984)
    Tony Curtis in Take One False Step (1949)
    Peter Cushing in The Devil’s Agent (1962)
    Daniel Dae-Kim in The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
    Lolita Davidovich in J.F.K. (1991)
    Rosario Dawson in The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
    Joaquim De Almeida in The Mask Of Zorro (1998)
    Danny De Vito in Car Wash (1976)
    Guillermo Del Toro in Torrente 3 (2005)
    Illeana Douglas in Jungle Fever (1991) and Cursed (2005)
    Colin Farrel in David Copperfield (1999 – TV)
    Corey Feldman in Cursed (2005)
    Henry Fonda in Main Street To Broadway (1953)
    Claire Forlani in Going Greek (2001)
    Robert Forster in Cursed (2005)
    Danny Glover in How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
    Luis Guzman in Mystery Men (1999)
    Gina Gershon in Jungle Fever (1991)
    Philip Baker Hall in Rush Hour 2 (2001)
    Laura Elena Harring in Masked and Anonymous (2003)
    Holly Hunter in Miller’s Crossing (1990)
    Rutger Hauer in Monsieur Hawarden (1969)
    Helen Hunt in One Night At McCool’s (2000)
    Buster Keaton in Two Girls and a Sailor (1944)
    Klaus Kinski in Rocket To the Moon (1967)
    Mila Kunis in The Muppets (2011)

  • Le Toursiveu
    3 January 2012 at 8:05 am -

    John Landis in 2001 Maniacs (2005)
    Christopher Lee in My Brother’s Keeper (1948) and Stone of Destiny (2008)
    Jared Leto in Phone Booth (2002)
    Eugene Levy in Ghostbusters 2 (1989)
    John Lithgow in L.A. Story (1991)
    Lucy Liu in Jerry Maguire (1996)
    Robert Loggia in Amazon Women On the Moon (1987)
    Rob Lowe in Austin Powers In Goldmember (2002)
    Frank Langella in Red Dragon (2002)
    Heather Langenkamp in The Outsiders (1982), RumbleFish (1983) and Cursed (2005)
    Virginia Madsen in Amelia (2009)
    Joe Mantegna in Xanadu (1980)
    Christopher McDonald in Nurse Betty (2000)
    Malcolm McDowell in Poor Cow (1967)
    Everett McGill in Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me (1992)
    Rose McGowan in Machete (2010)
    Michael McKean in Surf’s Up (2006 – voice)
    Dick Miller in Amazon Women On the Moon (1987) and Pulp Fiction (1994)
    Matthew Modine in A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
    Viggo Mortensen in Swing Shift (1984) and The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
    Liam Neeson in The Hangover, Part 2 (2011)
    Frank Oz in Superman 3 (1983)
    Charles Napier in Hard Times (1975)
    Michael Palin in You’ve Got Mail (1998)
    Sarah Jessica Parker in Rich Kids (1979)
    Chris Penn in American Pie 2 (2001)
    Sean Penn in Crossing Over (2008)
    Harold Perrineau in Someone Like You (2001)
    Michael Pitt in Wonderland (2003)
    Oliver Platt in Strip Search (2003 – TV)
    Parker Posey in Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
    Bill Pullman in The Thin Red Line (1998)

  • Le Toursiveu
    3 January 2012 at 8:06 am -

    Kathleen Quinlan in Heaven and Earth (1992)
    Charlotte Rampling in Vanishing Point (1971)
    Sam Rockwell in Jarhead (2005)
    Mickey Rooney in Upperworld (1934) and West Point of the Air (1935)
    Stephen Root in White Oleander (2002) and Cook-Off (2006)
    Tim Roth in My Blueberry Nights (2006)
    Mickey Rourke in The Thin Red Line (1998)
    Brandon Routh in The Informers (2008)
    Paul Rudd in Bridesmaids (2011)
    Greta Scacchi in Syriana (2005)
    Michael Shannon in W. (2008)
    Paul Sorvino in Family Man (2000)
    Harry Dean Stanton in Up in Smoke (1978)
    Ben Stiller in Get Shorty (1995) and The Muppets (2011)
    Danny Trejo in The Muppets (2011)
    Billy Bob Thornton in The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains (1987 – TV)
    Jean-Claude Van Damme in Predator (1987)
    Carice Van Houten in Body Of Lies (2008)
    J.T. Walsh in Ghosts Of Mississpi (1995)
    Sam Waterston in Nixon (1995)
    Carl Weathers in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
    Olivia Williams in A Knight’s Tale (2000)
    Michelle Yeoh in Fearless (2005)

  • Le Toursiveu
    3 January 2012 at 8:22 am -

    Rachel Ticotin in Natural Born Killers

  • doc
    3 January 2012 at 4:56 pm -

    Dude, way to spoil the fun for the rest of us who acutally had an insight on the subject vs a cut/n/paste contribution.

  • Le Toursiveu
    3 January 2012 at 8:48 pm -

    Well, actually, believe it or not, no cut and paste here. I spent two hours researching those in my “files”…

  • Stephen Saito
    3 January 2012 at 11:35 pm -

    Regardless of where it came from, I’ve appreciated all your responses – I had no idea on some of these and now it’s given me so many films to go back and watch, trying to imagine where the actors fit in. And a special thank you to SDiner82 – those backstories are incredible.


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