When Justice League director Zac Snyder had to take a break from putting his film together after the death of his daughter, Joss Whedon stepped in to film re-shoots. Probably the biggest surprise about this is that nobody seemed all that surprised; while there might still be some vague idea that movies are made under the direction of one person (let’s call them… the director?), these days pretty much everyone seems well aware that when it comes to blockbusters, we’re talking about something much closer to an assembly-line process.
It’s pretty much taken as read these days that big action scenes, in the Marvel movies at least, are handed off to second-unit directors working with CGI – which isn’t actually a new development, considering how often action sequences in older films were directed by martial arts choreographers or stuntmen. But in the Marvel films there’s a sense that the directors are hired for what they bring to the scenes in between the fights – the fights all have a fairly similar feel to them, even if they’ve recently moved away from the old “big fight on a large object falling out of the sky” conclusion they were using in every film for a while there.
With Justice League, it’s not even a secret that the re-shoots weren’t solely to pick up a few missing scenes Snyder wanted to fill out his vision of the film; rather, the success of Wonder Woman meant that her role in the new film was going to be beefed up and new footage was required to give her a bigger role. Hopefully that bigger role makes sense in the finished film; there’s been plenty of examples of films in the past where a decision to give a character more screen time has thrown the story out of balance.
But even with this increasing acceptance that blockbuster-sized movies are less about a director telling a story than about delivering various audience-friendly elements to viewers, the recent decision to completely replace Keven Spacey with Christopher Plummer in the upcoming (as in, it’s out next month) Ridley Scott film All the Money in the World is a pretty drastic step. To be fair, it sounds like Spacey’s role in the film was fairly minimal (though he does make a decent appearance in the current trailer) and didn’t require him to interact much with the rest of the main cast – he plays the insane wealthy father of a kidnap victim in this based-on-a-true-story 70s tale – but even so, cutting him out entirely and inserting a completely different actor is a very big step.
Presumably the studio figured swapping one actor for another would be less disruptive than letting Spacey – who, after recent revelations, can probably wave goodbye to any future work even if he avoids jail – appear in the film, and while even ten years ago this would have sunk the film outright, these days we’re all a lot more savvy about how our big budget movies are put together. Actors in general better lift their game – it seems now they’re replaceable pretty much right up until the moment their movie makes it to cinemas.