When the Star Gets Fired

 

There’s an influential Hollywood website called The Ankler. It gets its name from “ankling”, a word coined by Variety, the ancient Bible of the business side of show business. Someone who “ankles” a studio is laid off, but leaves under their own power; a normal, unemotional job separation. The opposite, in Variety-ese, is getting “axed”—flat out fired, and escorted off the studio lot by security, with dueling lawyers sure to follow. It doesn’t often happen to the stars, but when it does, it’s a big, public, messy deal. This is particularly true when an entire show is shaped around them: Charlie Sheen, Jeremy Clarkson, and Roseanne Barr are recent examples. We’ll get to them.

Some actors are fired because of problems they caused on the set. Others, simply because they were miscast to begin with, or couldn’t seem to give the performance that the film or TV show needed. And with many others it simply came down to money.

On-set misbehavior got Clayne Crawford fired from the Lethal Weapon TV series, where he played Riggs, the character that Mel Gibson played in the film. Most of the show’s crew quietly applauded the move, but there is a contingent of Team Crawford that attributes the firing to reverse discrimination and political correctness. After all, they point out, his black co-star, Damon Wayans, was no shrinking violet either.

Wayans, not considered one of the warmest or friendliest of actors, was chilly and remote with co-workers, but professional. He knew his lines, hit his marks and went back to his trailer. By contrast, Crawford had screaming fits, one of them in full view of the public while the show was filming local locations. Christian Bale got away with it on the Terminator: Salvation set, but power-wise, Clayne Crawford is no Christian Bale.

A famous early case of on-set problems was Steven Hill, the first leader of the Mission: Impossible team. Show creator Bruce Geller fought to cast him; Desilu’s empress, Lucille Ball, had her doubts. Hill brought an impressively dark and brooding presence to the role. But he began to cause production to fall behind schedule because of his increasing observance of strict Jewish laws. He had to leave early on Fridays before sunset, a problem for filming as daylight hours dwindled in the winter. He wanted special linings sewn into his on-camera wardrobe. The demands started to raise hackles, which Hill interpreted as hostility to his religious faith.

The irony, of course, is he was surrounded by other Jews—Geller, Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, all of the writers, not to mention most of Desilu—who got fed up with him. There are common-sense exceptions to Sabbath rules for people whose roles in society require it—policemen, soldiers, doctors. By the Sixties, Hollywood’s large Jewish community had managed the issue for a half century, at least for Conservative and Reform Jews. But that wasn’t good enough for hyper-observant Steven Hill, so he was replaced by Peter Graves.

Sometimes it’s not the actor’s fault: they were miscast. Though it’s forgotten now, in 1975 Robert De Niro was fired from a movie that had already started shooting, Bogart Slept Here. According to Neil Simon, De Niro was a fine actor who simply wasn’t funny. Simon was able to rewrite the script, which two years later became The Goodbye Girl.

A similar case that’s much more familiar is Eric Stoltz’s firing from Back to the Future. This was a very difficult decision because it was six weeks into filming, requiring much of it to be totally redone. Sets had to be rebuilt, supporting actors brought back. It’s hard to find another example of a reshoot that major that doesn’t involve the sudden death of an actor, or an actor’s involvement in serious offscreen criminal scandal, like All the Money in the World and Kevin Spacey, or Frogman with O.J. Simpson.

It was also painful because there were no outside causes to blame, no diplomatic way to avoid the fact that Stoltz’s performance was the problem. And by all accounts it was a good performance; Christopher Lloyd (Doc) and Tom Wilson (Biff) attest to it. But it wasn’t funny, not even a little bit. Stoltz saw it as a straightforward science fiction story with a wistful, dreamlike Fifties setting. Bob Zemeckis, Bob Gale, and Steven Spielberg made one of the gutsiest decisions of their careers, and the results back them up.

Some actors are replaced over money disputes, and in those cases, making after-the-fact judgments about whether they were quit, fired, jumped or pushed is often harder. Crispin Glover (“George McFly”) didn’t come back to BTTF II, Richard Castellano (“fat Clemenza”) didn’t come back to The Godfather Part II, and Robert Duvall didn’t come back to The Godfather Part III, because the studio wouldn’t meet their salary demands.

Ditto Suzanne Somers (Three’s Company), Farrah Fawcett-Majors (Charlie’s Angels), Melina Kanakaredes (CSI:NY). In a rare case of the actors winning, the original Duke boys on The Dukes of Hazzard quit/were fired and replaced, but the ratings suffered so badly that they got rehired. But usually, the actors lose. George Eads and Jorja Fox tried it on CSI and came back without a raise. Hawaii Five-O’s Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim provocatively added a race card to their salary fight, but still lost.

Then there are star replacements that, deservedly or not, became public relations trainwrecks. Usually it’s a straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back type of thing. Charlie Sheen was known to be trouble long before he was signed to star in Two and a Half Men. His character in that show, Charlie Harper, is a caricature of an amiable Malibu celebrity known chiefly for drinking, gambling, and bedding lots of women. In other words, he was playing himself.

Show creator Chuck Lorre knew that it was a calculated risk working with someone with Charlie’s erratic behavior, but for the first couple of years Sheen kept his real-life drug use and whoring off the front pages. Finally, he couldn’t resist testing the limits and exceeding them. Yet he was the star, and the role was him. What could Chuck do?

He fired him. Lorre knew that it would be tough to keep the show going with someone else. But at a certain point, he had to take the chance. He rolled the dice with Ashton Kutcher playing a different character, and won four more years of life for his show.

Jeremy Clarkson is a slightly different case; he isn’t an actor. Well, not really, although like fellow Brit reality show king Simon Cowell, Clarkson’s forceful personality made him a TV star. He had every reason to think he was the indispensable centerpiece of his show, Top Gear. But he was so obnoxious to his bosses, not to mention the show’s staff, that after a few too many wearying fights, they canned him. Yes, they knew it would be hard to retain a good part of the show’s audience without Clarkson. But after a certain point, the producers emphatically decided “life is too short”, far too short to keep putting up with him, so they came to a parting of the ways.

Both Sheen and Clarkson recovered, going right on to other, similarly-themed shows, Anger Management and The Grand Tour (and now Clarkson’s Farm) respectively. By all accounts, this time they showed up on time and did their jobs professionally. This can be taken as a rebuke to the people who fired them: See, you idiots, if you’d treated me right to begin with, I would have behaved. But it can also be read as the performer ruefully facing reality: If I hadn’t been a jerk, I’d still have that show. Probably there’s some of both.

In May 2018, there was the bizarre, out of nowhere drama of the ABC television network versus Roseanne Barr.

Barr sent an arguably racist Tweet about Valerie Jarrett, by then the all-but-obscure chief advisor to Barack Obama. Actually, it wasn’t just arguable: it was offensive, but cryptic enough to possibly skate by with excuses about sleeping pills or supposedly hacked phones. By 2018 Jarrett did seem a peculiar subject for a drug-hazed, multi-multi-millionairess TV star to be obsessing about at two in the morning. Unfortunately, for a crucial couple of days Roseanne wouldn’t back down. “I’m a comedian!” But she wasn’t making a discernable joke.

Yes, the wokesters had it in for her. No surprise. But the key thing is the normies didn’t see a reason why they should jump to her defense. Roseanne made a big splash with her newly revived show, but it was season one; she hadn’t rebuilt a mass audience yet.

Hundreds of millions of dollars were at stake, for Roseanne and for ABC, but the network was too stiff-necked to quickly work out a backstage agreement, and Barr was too stiff-necked to make a real apology. She finally did after it was too late. For example, she could have made a well-publicized 3-week retreat to a rehab clinic, re-emerge in public life at the end of the month with an Oprah interview, and make a $50,000 contribution to a women’s group fighting Ambien addiction. There were plenty of ways she could have handled it and kept her show. But Roseanne was too much of an egomaniac to do any of that. She misjudged her strength and lost.

Some stray facts had a strong role in how this played out. It was the end of May, almost at the very end of the TV season, and before much had been done to prepare the next one. In short, strategically it was the weakest time of the year for any star to press her luck against a network, because season one’s production was about to shut down anyway and the show wasn’t due back on the air for three months.

Also, ABC wasn’t just any old network. It was a relatively small, if highly visible, part of The Walt Disney Company. Embarrassing problems can affect the image and income of the entire company, from theme parks to cruise ships, as it has learned to its chagrin. ABC likes to present itself as the family network, just as the CW features teenagers, and NBC favors urban singles. ABC has also made an effort to be perceived as the most black-friendly of broadcast networks. The head of programming was black. None of this was unknown to Roseanne. Once the Tweet became public—that is, instantly—ABC didn’t have the option of ignoring it.

Every time an actor is fired, there’s a whole branch of alternate reality: how different casting would have sometimes led to a different cultural reality. Suppose there had been no Archie Bunker. The real world of America’s 1970s was changed by the success of All in the Family and its offshoots. The real world of America’s 2020s could have been changed by the success of Roseanne, which was beginning to emerge as something unique, something different; a show set between the coasts with three-dimensional characters who earned laughs by acting out seldom acknowledged truths.

There was already an example of how to handle the situation. When Valerie Harper quit Valerie, she didn’t expect the studio and the network to be able to continue as Valerie’s Family, and then The Hogan Family. But they did. So it wasn’t unprecedented for ABC to take Roseanne and simply turn it into The Connor Family.

I wish there was a happy ending to the story. At the time, it looked like it might have turned into a case of “go woke, go broke”, but it didn’t: The Connor Family just got renewed for a fifth season.

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  1. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    I’d forgotten all about the original Mission Impossible guy.  I always learn something in these posts.

    Good one, Gary.

    • #1
  2. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Many thanks, Judge! 

    One of the more unnerving duels between a studio and an actor was signing James Gandolfini for the last years of The Sopranos. Gandolfini knew that it was a once-in-a-lifetime stroke of casting luck for an actor, and so did HBO. HBO’s reps made brave noises that, as much as they were confident Jim was coming back, they didn’t regard re-casting as impossible. Oh, really? If so, they were the only ones. They eventually settled for one or two king’s ransoms, but not three or four of them. 

    • #2
  3. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Dick York had to leave Bewitched because he hurt his back while filming a movie. Never acted in anything after Bewitched.

    I am not much for sitcoms, I didnt like the old Rosanne, didnt like the new Rosanne. I also didnt like how or why Rosanne got fired from her own show.I can imagine the day, that while in production studios demand that actors go silent on social media – or give the accounts over to PR hacks – to reduce or prevent controversies. 

    • #3
  4. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Dick York had to leave Bewitched because he hurt his back while filming a movie. Never acted in anything after Bewitched.

    I am not much for sitcoms, I didnt like the old Rosanne, didnt like the new Rosanne. I also didnt like how or why Rosanne got fired from her own show.I can imagine the day, that while in production studios demand that actors go silent on social media – or give the accounts over to PR hacks – to reduce or prevent controversies.

    Things have gotten so overly earnest and boring.  I can’t imagine anybody making even Ab Fab or Little Britain today, leave aside John Waters original Hairspray (fugeddabout Pink Flamingos) or The Ritz.  Or even the 1960s supercampy Batman TV shows.

    Boo hiss, contemporary culture, in some ways you really suck.  Also get off my lawn.

    • #4
  5. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    That sounds realistic. It would give the studios the micro-managing power over actors’ images that they gradually lost in the Fifties and Sixties. Naturally, the guilds would go nuts. So the compromise would be, legally the studios stay out of your private e-life, but while under contract you are expected to police yourself, remembering that the august image and stainless honor of Vice Studios is paying the salaries of many other people. 

    • #5
  6. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Zafar (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Dick York had to leave Bewitched because he hurt his back while filming a movie. Never acted in anything after Bewitched.

    I am not much for sitcoms, I didnt like the old Rosanne, didnt like the new Rosanne. I also didnt like how or why Rosanne got fired from her own show.I can imagine the day, that while in production studios demand that actors go silent on social media – or give the accounts over to PR hacks – to reduce or prevent controversies.

    Things have gotten so overly earnest and boring. I can’t imagine anybody making even Ab Fab or Little Britain today, leave aside John Waters original Hairspray (fugeddabout Pink Flamingos) or The Ritz. Or even the 1960s supercampy Batman TV shows.

    Boo hiss, contemporary culture, in some ways you really suck. Also get off my lawn.

    We are honored by the participation of a denizen of the Southern Hemisphere! It’s ironic that after a half-century of a surprising amount of unpredictable screwiness and chance-taking, too much of today’s culture is more prim in its own grimly progressive way than a Catholic school in the 1950s, and I know whereof I speak. 

    • #6
  7. Internet's Hank Contributor
    Internet's Hank
    @HankRhody

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    That sounds realistic. It would give the studios the micro-managing power over actors’ images that they gradually lost in the Fifties and Sixties. Naturally, the guilds would go nuts. So the compromise would be, legally the studios stay out of your private e-life, but while under contract you are expected to police yourself, remembering that the august image and stainless honor of Vice Studios is paying the salaries of many other people.

    What I’d like to see, for these folks as well as everyone else, a cultural compromise that what people say on their own time is their own problem, not their employers. Employers don’t fire people for being jackasses so long as they aren’t directly representing the employer, and when people decide to boycott a jackass they do so for just that jackass and not for the whole company that does so.

    If I decide I really don’t care for Charlie Sheen I stop watching Two and a Half Men, but I don’t let that worry me about any other shows he participates in. If Roseanne makes horrible comments on twitter then the company doesn’t drop her from her show, at least until the ratings decline because too many people are tuning her out.

    It’s a nice idea. I wonder if there’s a path from this world to that one.

    • #7
  8. Patrick McClure Coolidge
    Patrick McClure
    @Patrickb63

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Good one, Gary.

    I second that motion.  

    All  in favor say aye.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    A fascinating cultural study, Gary! Plus, I love this stuff! Thanks for telling us the backstories.

    • #9
  10. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Gary McVey: Jeremy Clarkson is a slightly different case; he isn’t an actor. Well, not really, although like fellow Brit reality show king Simon Cowell, Clarkson’s forceful personality made him a TV star. He had every reason to think he was the indispensable centerpiece of his show, Top Gear. But he was so obnoxious to his bosses, not to mention the show’s staff, that after a few too many wearying fights, they canned him. Yes, they knew it would be hard to retain a good part of the show’s audience without Clarkson. But after a certain point, the producers emphatically decided “life is too short”, far too short to keep putting up with him, so they came to a parting of the ways.

    I just want to say the the first five(ish) minutes of the first episode of The Grand Tour, with Clarkson leaving the BBC, flying to LA, getting in the mustang and heading out on the road to meet up with Richard and James (and those smiles when they see each other), and then driving through the desert to that awesome live version of I Can See Clearly Now, is one of my favorite 5 minutes of television ever.

     

    Okay, carry on with the subject of the post.

     

    • #10
  11. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    My favorite scenario is when the star gets a big head, quits a hit show, then crashes and burns. And yes, I feel bad for finding it enjoyable.

    • #11
  12. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Gary McVey: … and Barr was too stiff-necked to make a real apology. She finally did after it was too late. For example, she could have made a well-publicized 3-week retreat to a rehab clinic, re-emerge in public life at the end of the month with an Oprah interview, and make a $50,000 contribution to a women’s group fighting Ambien addiction

    I don’t see how any of this would placate the apes.

    • #12
  13. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The only segment of “Top Gear” that I ever watched had Clarkson moaning about how large the Ford F-150 was. The problem wasn’t the size of the truck; the problem was the size of the goat path he was passing off as a road. The F-150 might be overspecced for a jaunt into Frogsbottom-by-the-Tyne to pick up a tin of biscuits and some tea, but the only way you can move a brush pile with a Mini Cooper is by ramming it.

    • #13
  14. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    A fascinating cultural study, Gary! Plus, I love this stuff! Thanks for telling us the backstories.

    I never heard of most of those actors and situations, but I found it interesting just the same.  I’ve heard of Roseanne and am pretty sure I’ve seen video clips long ago, but I couldn’t pick her out of a police lineup.  I didn’t know she had been fired. I probably saw a headline or something and ignored it.  But just the same, this was all interesting. 

    • #14
  15. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    A fascinating cultural study, Gary! Plus, I love this stuff! Thanks for telling us the backstories.

    I never heard of most of those actors and situations, but I found it interesting just the same. I’ve heard of Roseanne and am pretty sure I’ve seen video clips long ago, but I couldn’t pick her out of a police lineup. I didn’t know she had been fired. I probably saw a headline or something and ignored it. But just the same, this was all interesting.

    Once your police lineup was instructed to speak, you’d jump up and shout “That’s her!”

    • #15
  16. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    BDB (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: … and Barr was too stiff-necked to make a real apology. She finally did after it was too late. For example, she could have made a well-publicized 3-week retreat to a rehab clinic, re-emerge in public life at the end of the month with an Oprah interview, and make a $50,000 contribution to a women’s group fighting Ambien addiction

    I don’t see how any of this would placate the apes.

    Probably depends on how badly the apes want to be placated. 

    • #16
  17. Some Call Me ...Tim Coolidge
    Some Call Me ...Tim
    @SomeCallMeTim

    Bravo!  Quite entertaining. Thank you for the post. 

    • #17
  18. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Thanks for another interesting post!

    Being in very low levels of show business, I’ve seen this dynamic play out continually. Essentially I am a musician who hires side-men for gigs. Many of these players last years with us, although I’ve fired several players over the years for various reasons, but it usually isn’t ‘talent’. It’s never talent actually. 

    In one case it was a demand for more money. I had an agreement and this guy – a drummer – found out I was paying the guitar player more and demanded the same pay or he would walk.

     I did pay him the extra (it wasn’t that much)  but never hired him again. He called only a year later having had a similar dispute with another band asking me for work LOL! My answer was a cold “Nope, sorry dude”

    There’s a lot of talent out there, and there are very few cases where it’s irreplaceable. Even then, you can just write them out. You might have to suffer through a rough period, but producers have to hold the line at some point.

    I also know working actors, dancers and variety artists, and being ‘difficult to work with’ when you’re not a star is pretty much a career killer. Once you have sufficient talent, every job is predicated on your relationship(s) your reputation and history. Directors choreographers etc., always have a stable of people they like to use, and auditions are often a formality and used to fill-out a few holes in the cast, or some special type.

    Most actors and musicians have a realistic humility, actually much more humble than the public knows but I imagine if you become integral to a show, your head can swell if you don’t have a stable private life. Also, agents and managers can dispense bad advice, although I imagine most would discourage a major confrontation with Hollywood big-shots. Not smart no matter who you are. 

    The recent Johnny Depp/Amber Heard defamation trial provided many insights surrounding this. They really got into the nitty-gritty Hollywood arbitrage when presenting damage claims.

    Another case-study is Shelly Long from Cheers who was replaced by Kirstie Allie after Shelly became too self-enamored.

    I see the Roseanne Barr case somewhat differently, and will elaborate later. 

     

     

    • #18
  19. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    Excellent, Gary. Thanks!

    • #19
  20. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Great post,Gary.

    I’d forgotten all about the term “ankling.”

    • #20
  21. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    DotorimukMy favorite scenario is when the star gets a big head, quits a hit show, then crashes and burns. And yes, I feel bad for finding it enjoyable.

    How is David Caruso these days?

    As for Jeremy Clarkson, he may be a little obnoxious, but his co-stars walked with him.

    • #21
  22. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Like any other profession eventually individuals in the entertainment profession who have issues, whether it’s anger management, vices, or any number of issues will become their downfall. Some individuals have a long run, some have a short run.

    An open casket funeral serves those who grieve and those who want to be sure someone is finally gone.

    • #22
  23. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    Percival (View Comment):

    The only segment of “Top Gear” that I ever watched had Clarkson moaning about how large the Ford F-150 was. The problem wasn’t the size of the truck; the problem was the size of the goat path he was passing off as a road. The F-150 might be overspecced for a jaunt into Frogsbottom-by-the-Tyne to pick up a tin of biscuits and some tea, but the only way you can move a brush pile with a Mini Cooper is by ramming it.

    That doesn’t work, ask my son about his previous  Mini Cooper.

    • #23
  24. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Internet's Hank (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    That sounds realistic. It would give the studios the micro-managing power over actors’ images that they gradually lost in the Fifties and Sixties. Naturally, the guilds would go nuts. So the compromise would be, legally the studios stay out of your private e-life, but while under contract you are expected to police yourself, remembering that the august image and stainless honor of Vice Studios is paying the salaries of many other people.

    What I’d like to see, for these folks as well as everyone else, a cultural compromise that what people say on their own time is their own problem, not their employers. Employers don’t fire people for being jackasses so long as they aren’t directly representing the employer, and when people decide to boycott a jackass they do so for just that jackass and not for the whole company that does so.

    If I decide I really don’t care for Charlie Sheen I stop watching Two and a Half Men, but I don’t let that worry me about any other shows he participates in. If Roseanne makes horrible comments on twitter then the company doesn’t drop her from her show, at least until the ratings decline because too many people are tuning her out.

    It’s a nice idea. I wonder if there’s a path from this world to that one.

    The inhuman speed of social media is its most distinctive characteristic. 30 years ago, you could write something potentially offensive to a magazine or newspaper’s letters column, and if it wasn’t that offensive, they’d publish it and you’d get a lot of angry replies. But it would take some time, and after the back and forth died out, there was no lingering trace. 

    Now, the effect is so rapid and widespread that it’s like one of those 1950s films of an atomic bomb blast instantly disintegrating everything in its path. 

    • #24
  25. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Like any other profession eventually individuals in the entertainment profession who have issues, whether it’s anger management, vices, or any number of issues will become their downfall. Some individuals have a long run, some have a short run.

    An open casket funeral serves those who grieve and those who want to be sure someone is finally gone.

    When Columbia Pictures’ tyrant boss Harry Cohn died, the memorial service was mobbed. As someone said, “First law of show business. Give the people what they want to see, and they’ll show up for it.”

    • #25
  26. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Gary McVey: When Columbia Pictures’ tyrant boss Harry Cohn died, the memorial service was mobbed. As someone said, “First law of show business. Give the people what they want to see, and they’ll show up for it.”

    Was there a studio boss anyone liked?

    • #26
  27. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Dotorimuk: My favorite scenario is when the star gets a big head, quits a hit show, then crashes and burns. And yes, I feel bad for finding it enjoyable.

    How is David Caruso these days?

    As for Jeremy Clarkson, he may be a little obnoxious, but his co-stars walked with him.

    The British film industry differs from Hollywood in the way they treat some of these workplace issues. If a performer is abusive to the film crew in Burbank, the producers may try to quietly placate them while telling the agent that their client is giving them problems. In the UK, that performer may show up the next morning to find that no one will plug in the lights or record sound. They’ll emerge from makeup looking like Bozo the Clown. 

    • #27
  28. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: When Columbia Pictures’ tyrant boss Harry Cohn died, the memorial service was mobbed. As someone said, “First law of show business. Give the people what they want to see, and they’ll show up for it.”

    Was there a studio boss anyone liked?

    Sure. In our era, Bob Daly at Warners; Tom Rothman at Sony; Peter Chernin at Fox; in the recent past, Alan Ladd, who made the Star Wars deal at Fox; and maybe above all, Frank Price at Columbia and Universal. 

    They weren’t pussycats, but they were regarded as fair. 

    • #28
  29. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    That sounds realistic. It would give the studios the micro-managing power over actors’ images that they gradually lost in the Fifties and Sixties. Naturally, the guilds would go nuts. So the compromise would be, legally the studios stay out of your private e-life, but while under contract you are expected to police yourself, remembering that the august image and stainless honor of Vice Studios is paying the salaries of many other people.

    But once out of production, stars’ misbehavior could still result in backlash against long-finished shows and movies, which means the studios could still end up losing lots of money.  As with demands to not only not cast Kevin Spacey in future projects, but also to memory-hole what he’s done in the past.

    • #29
  30. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Until Dan Stevens’ departure from Downton Abbey (he had played Matthew Crawley in the first few seasons), I had never paid much attention to casting or character changes in shows. I don’t pay close attention to show business news, and certainly don’t follow social media (except for Ricochet). I also tend to see shows (and movies) as free-standing things, and I don’t associate actors’ off-camera behavior or beliefs with the actors’ work. But that departure of the Matthew Crawley character created such a change in the direction of the show (and the associated discussion of whether the role should have been kept but recast with  a different actor) that the controversy over which spilled into the business press that I do read, that I started paying closer attention to character arrivals and departures. 

    I was watching Lark Rise to Candleford at the same time I was watching Downton Abbey (which were both filmed approximately contemporaneously), and noticed that actor Brendan Coyle’s character in Lark Rise was disappearing as the role of his character in Downton Abbey was increasing. Though I also read of the actor’s alcohol problem, and the complications that was creating for his work in both shows. 

    I was jarred by the abrupt substitution of a different actor for a major character in another British show I was recently watching (though it had been filmed more than a decade ago). I presumed either there was a scheduling or a pay problem with the original actor. That same show had a pair of characters just disappear between seasons 2 and 3. I again assumed either a pay or scheduling issue. 

    But I now notice such changes more than I used to. 

    (I’m American, but watch mostly British and now Australian and New Zealand television series.)

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