Everybody Says Cameron Crowe Fired Ashton Kutcher From ‘Elizabethtown,’ Except Kutcher

The Projector
Image icon
Image icon

In Hollywood, nobody gets fired. Studio executives "decide to step down" and actors leave projects due to "scheduling conflicts," but the word "fired" is just about never used. The reason is that the film business is a small  community, and nobody wants to potentially tick off someone they'll end up having to work with in two years. That's why everybody always wishes the person getting booted out the door "all the best in their future endeavors."

Apparently though, nobody seems that concerned about using this particular F-word around the situation concerning Ashton Kutcher and "Elizabethtown," the 2005 Cameron Crowe film that ended up starring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst. At one point, Kutcher was supposed to play the Bloom role, but then ... well, what happened exactly? It depends on who you ask.

In a new interview with Crowe to promote his forthcoming "We Bought a Zoo," The Hollywood Reporter discussed the murky conditions surrounding Kutcher's exit from the romantic comedy-drama about a shoe designer (Bloom) and a flight attendant (Dunst). From the trade's perspective, it was a pretty clear-cut firing:

When [Crowe] cast Ashton Kutcher in Elizabethtown. Kutcher was then still part of That 70's Show, and Crowe told him he had to set aside a few weeks to focus only on the film. But sources involved with the project say Kutcher didn't heed Crowe's words. Although he promised he would deliver when the cameras were rolling, Crowe lost faith. "The thing about Cameron is, he never gets angry," says one involved in the production. He simply dropped Kutcher and, despite Paramount's resistance, cast Bloom. "I'll spend months working with an actor, and I think I spent four months with Ashton," Crowe says. "At a certain point, it's like, 'This is not meant to be.' "

It's worth pointing out that Crowe never says "fired" or "firing" or "Whew, was I glad I fired him!" But that's the definite implication. Once Bloom took over for Kutcher, rumors started spreading that Crowe had asked Kutcher to get acting lessons to improve, pushing back production and leading to a flare-up between the two that prompted Kutcher's don't-call-it-a-firing firing.

Of course, Kutcher has long said he wasn't fired at all -- it was a scheduling conflict. Back in early 2004 -- shortly after leaving "Elizabethtown" -- he explained his side of the story:

"We started working on the movie and, you know, [it is a] very involved process in the way the camera works and, you know, he likes to do a lot of rehearsal beforehand, and we started doing the rehearsal and preparing for the movie. In looking at what the script was and what was going on, Cameron really wanted to shoot the movie later in the year because of the time period when it takes place, and he wanted to use practical sets, so it moved back into my schedule on That 70's Show, which I'd already blocked out from January... and we didn't feel like the process was moving along as quickly as we'd like, and so it really didn't work... Cameron and I got along great. Cameron's a great guy. He's amazing. He's one of my heroes in the writing [and] directing world, I think. I've grown up on his material. ...These are like iconical, phenomenal movies and Cameron is a giving, gracious, really wonderful human being..."

So it appears that Crowe and Kutcher will continue to agree to disagree about the whole thing.

It's funny to step back and think about where Kutcher's career was at that point. He was a big star thanks to "That '70s Show" and had some film success with "Dude, Where's My Car?" and "Just Married." But to be cast in a film by Crowe -- who was coming off "Jerry Maguire," "Almost Famous" and "Vanilla Sky" -- was a pretty huge step up for him. Still, maybe it was for the best for Kutcher. "Elizabethtown" received some of Crowe's worst reviews, and the movie was a box office dud. In the same Hollywood Reporter piece, Crowe acknowledged that "Elizabethtown" was a misfire but said, "It felt like a noble crusade." Kutcher may have ended up OK that he missed out on that particular crusade.

Cameron Crowe Reveals How He Seduced Matt Damon for 'We Bought a Zoo'; Names His 5 Favorite Movies [The Hollywood Reporter]