While getting pregnant is often a reason to celebrate, in Hollywood, that’s not always the case. The entertainment industry is hyper-focused on appearances, and the need to stay picture perfect all the time means that starting a family can interfere with an actress’ career. When an actress gets pregnant, she is often faced with a difficult question about what to do: family or fame?
Some actresses choose to step back from potential projects in order to devote time to their pregnancy, while others are forced out, sometimes contentiously. It often takes a while to see whether or not backing away from the project was ultimately the right career decision, with some movies flopping and others earning the new star major awards for their performance. As it turns out, some pregnancies seem to have shifted Hollywood history, changing around the leads of future classics.
Here are some of the famous actresses who lost out on big roles because they were pregnant.
Annette Bening, Batman Returns
Michelle Pfeiffer was iconic as Catwoman in 1992’s Batman Returns. She is so synonymous with the role, in fact, that when producers were looking to cast a young Selina Kyle for the FOX drama Gotham, they chose an actress (Camren Bicondova) who looks like a miniature Pfeiffer. However, as it turns out, the Oscar-nominee wasn’t the first one approached for the part.
Pfeiffer told The Hollywood Reporter that she has been obsessed with Catwoman since she was a young girl, but by the time she heard that director Tim Burton would feature the character in his film, Annette Bening had already been cast. Luckily for Pfeiffer, though, Bening found out that she was pregnant with new husband Warren Beatty and dropped out of the project.
Bening has still had a pretty great career, though. Already an Oscar nominee for 1990’s The Grifters before signing on to Batman Begins, Bening went on to earn three more nominations. She is also a proud mother to four children, including Stephen Ira Beatty, a transgender activist. Bening has avoided big movies for most of her career, but she is set to make another foray into superhero-dom in Captain Marvel.
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Beyond Borders
Catherine Zeta-Jones’ pregnancy was one of many false starts for the drama Beyond Borders, which ultimately starred Angelina Jolie as a socialite who falls in love with a philanthropic doctor (Clive Owen). Zeta-Jones was initially set to play Jolie’s part, but had to drop out after she became pregnant with her first child with then-fiancée Michael Douglas.
The movie had a troubled road to the big screen, with both Ralph Fiennes and Kevin Costner dropping out of the male lead and Meg Ryan dropping out of the female lead after being courted to replace Zeta-Jones. The movie also lost planned director Oliver Stone. Ultimately, it doesn’t appear that all of the effort was worth it, as the movie was trashed by critics and flopped at the box office.
Zeta-Jones, meanwhile, was able to continue filming her role in Traffic, with director Steven Soderbergh adjusting the script so that her character would also be pregnant. The movie won four Oscars and earned a nomination for Best Picture; Zeta-Jones earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance. Zeta-Jones and Douglas went on to have one more child, a daughter, born in 2003.
Charisma Carpenter, Angel
Charisma Carpenter’s Cordelia started out as Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s mean girl, but she eventually became a fan favorite after crossing over to the spin-off Angel. However, Cordelia was unceremoniously dropped from the series during the show’s fourth season — and her pregnancy may have led to the break.
Carpenter and showrunner Joss Whedon have both remained tight-lipped on what exactly went down with Angel‘s fourth season, which is considered by many to be the show’s worst. Carpenter says that she wasn’t exactly a fan of the season either, although she did note that her pregnancy "threw things for a loop," forcing the writers to "quickly shuck-and-jive and put a season together."
It was reportedly that "shuck-and-jive" that led to the falling out between Carpenter and Whedon, with Whedon reportedly saying that Carpenter waited to tell him that she was pregnant. Carpenter said at DragonCon in 2009 that their relationship "became strained" as they each went through their own "stuff" behind-the-scenes. "You gotta live your life," she said. "And sometimes living your life gets in the way of maybe the creator’s vision for the future." For Carpenter, that interference with Whedon’s vision ultimately meant that she was out of a job.
Debra Winger, Broadcast News and Bull Durham
Debra Winger was already a two-time Oscar nominee when she got pregnant with her first child, and those awards gave her the security to turn down roles to accommodate her growing family. The actress revealed that she passed on parts in Broadcast News and Bull Durham while pregnant with her son, Noah, with her then-husband Timothy Hutton.
The part in Broadcast News was written for Winger, who had previously worked with the director, James L. Brooks, on Terms of Endearment. The role eventually went to Holly Hunter, earning her her first Oscar nomination. Winger said that Brooks never told her he was writing the part for her, which meant that she had to miss out when filming time actually came around.
In Bull Durham, Winger was up for Susan Sarandon’s role of the sexy baseball groupie Annie Savoy. Although Sarandon earned a Golden Globe nomination for the role, Winger says that she would have played it "more as an earth mother and less as a hooker." She said: "I’m always amazed at the different way I would play a part I’ve turned down. … I have yet to see one where I would have done it the same way."
Hunter Tylo, Melrose Place
Many actresses who lose out on roles due to pregnancy never get any recourse, but that was not the case for Hunter Tylo. The actress was awarded almost $5 million after suing Spelling Entertainment Group and Spelling Television Inc. for firing her from a potential role on Melrose Place after she became pregnant.
Tylo was supposed to play a "vixen" on the show, but lost her job before even filming an episode after telling producers she was pregnant. Tylo alleges that producers suggested she get an abortion, saying that she was "attacked on every side." The defense said that being pregnant would have made her too fat to play the role, noting there was a clause in her contract allowing them to fire her if there was a "material change" in her appearance.
Tylo, though, pointed out that producers used "TV magic" to hide star Heather Locklear’s pregnancy, and they could have done the same for her. Ironically, the actress who eventually took on the part, Lisa Rinna, announced she was pregnant shortly after the lawsuit closed and stayed on the show. Tylo described her win in court as a victory "for every woman, for every child that’s not born."
Isla Fisher, Now You See Me 2
Isla Fisher played one of the Four Horsemen magicians in the twisty 2013 drama Now You See Me, but she didn’t return for the film’s 2016 sequel. Instead, she was replaced by Lizzy Caplan, who joined the series as a new law-breaking illusionist. Fisher’s departure was reportedly due to the fact that she was pregnant during the movie’s production with her third child with husband Sacha Baron Cohen.
Both Fisher and Caplan’s performances in the respective films were praised, although the studio did catch some flack by enforcing the "token girl" stereotype and replacing the movie’s only prominent female character with another actress in the sequel. Neither film was exactly a hit with critics — the first holds a 50 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while the second is even lower at just 34 percent.
Still, though, both movies did moderate business at the box office, making $351.7 million and $334.9 million worldwide, respectively. The sequel’s performance was good enough to spur rumors of a potential third film, although it’s unclear whether Fisher or Caplan would appear. Fans, though, would certainly be happy to see both actresses join in for a third film, if it ever comes to fruition.
Jodie Foster, Double Jeopardy
Ashley Judd has Jodie Foster to thank one of her better known roles — Foster dropped out of the 1999 thriller Double Jeopardy after becoming pregnant with her first son with her then-partner Cydney Bernard, making room for Judd to take over the part. Judd told The Guardian that, while it was "disappointing" that she wasn’t the first choice for the role, she can’t exactly hold a grudge — Foster was already a two-time Oscar winner, a hard thing to argue with when casting.
Foster is partially to thank for the film nabbing director Bruce Beresford, who had previously earned Oscar nominations for his work on indie dramas Tender Mercies and ‘Breaker’ Morant. Beresford said that Foster was attached to the project when he signed on, making it "quite exciting" to him.
Judd was already a Golden Globe nominee for Norma Jean and Marilyn when she took on the role, but Double Jeopardy has still been credited as a breakout for her. The actress later went on to book roles in Missing, which earned her an Emmy nomination, De-Lovely, which earned her a second Golden Globe nomination, and the Divergent franchise.
Melanie Griffith, As Good As It Gets and The Sheltering Sky
Melanie Griffith has had a long and successful career, racking up over 80 credits and earning an Oscar nomination for her appearance in 1988’s Working Girl. However, even an actress as established as Griffith had career speed bumps, including passing up roles in The Sheltering Sky and As Good As It Gets due to pregnancy.
When Griffith was offered Debra Winger’s lead role in The Sheltering Sky, she was dating Don Johnson, with whom she got pregnant with Dakota Johnson. Although she asked that director Bernardo Bertolucci delay the shooting, he decided to drop her and cast Winger instead.
After splitting with Johnson, Griffith went on to marry Antonio Banderas, with the pair getting pregnant in 1995 with daughter Stella del Carmen Banderas. This led to Griffith passing on a role in As Good As It Gets. Although she didn’t say which role, it was most likely Helen Hunt’s part, which earned her an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Robin Wright, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Robin Wright had the chance to play Maid Marian in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner as the title character, but dropped out after getting pregnant with her first child with then-husband Sean Penn. The film was rushed to the big screen due to the fact that two other studios were making competing pictures surrounding the caped crusader.
By the time director Kevin Reynolds was hired, he was given only ten weeks for pre-production — a tough schedule made tougher when Wright dropped out. She was quickly replaced by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in the film, which would go on to become the second-highest grossing movie of 1991 despite receiving mixed reviews.
Wright, meanwhile, has no regrets passing on the role. The actress said that, at the time, she thought taking the role would be a "political move" to get out there and establish herself as a big name — but she later realized that would have "looked like an act of desperation" because the movie was too similar to The Princess Bride. Wright’s done fine since passing on the part — she has since won a Golden Globe for Netflix’s House of Cards and appeared in the DC blockbuster Wonder Woman.
Nicole Kidman, The Reader
Nicole Kidman pulled out of filming the historical drama The Reader when she became pregnant with her first child with husband Keith Urban. She was replaced with Kate Winslet, who went on to win an Oscar for her performance in the romance.
Kidman said that she had to turn down the role because she was worried that the movie’s dark themes would "penetrate" her baby. "I cannot work pregnant," she told The Daily Mail. "I know now what I probably didn’t know in my 20s. I would absolutely know now that I would always choose the sanctity and sacredness of my family, and if that was ever in jeopardy, no question."
Winslet was reportedly the first choice for the role, but initially couldn’t take it due to scheduling conflicts with Revolutionary Road. However, by the time Kidman’s pregnancy was announced, Winslet’s schedule was free and she was able to take on the part. Kidman’s career certainly isn’t wanting for not having taken the role — she has since earned Oscar nominations for Rabbit Hole and Lion, as well as a Golden Globe and Emmy win for HBO’s Big Little Lies.