It’s well known that “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” was originally set to star Julianne Moore as Lee Israel before she left the project in 2015 and was later replaced by Melissa McCarthy. Well, according to Moore, she didn’t leave on her own accord.
“I didn’t leave that movie. I was fired,” Moore revealed Thursday on “Watch What Happens Live” while promoting her new film “Gloria Bell” (watch above). “Nicole [Holofcener] fired me. So, you know, that’s the truth.”
Holofcener, who shared a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination with Jeff Whitty for the film, was initially slated to direct. At the time of Moore’s departure in July 2015, her exit, which occurred a week before production was scheduled to start, was chalked up to the usual “creative differences.”
“I think she didn’t like what I was doing,” Moore continued. “We had just been rehearsing and doing pre-production and stuff, and I think that her idea of where the character was was different than where my idea of the character was, and so she fired me.”
In a separate interview with our sister site IndieWire published on Friday, Moore point-blank stated again that she was fired, adding that she “didn’t want to leave” the movie.
While this is the first time the Oscar winner has addressed her departure, it’s not the first time it’s been suggested, at the very least, that it was a firing. In January, producer David Yarnell told The Hollywood Reporter that Holofcener and Moore “clashed,” leading to an untenable situation and a confrontation between the women during which he said Moore asked Holofcener if she wants to fire her — sort of like a mutual dismissal.
“We were prepping at a warehouse out on Long Island, getting the cameras ready. And Julianne said, ‘You don’t really think I’m right for this part, do you?'” Yarnell said. “And Nicole said, ‘You’re not right for the part.’ And she said, ‘Well, do you want to fire me?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ And that’s what happened.”
Neither Holofcener nor Fox Searchlight has commented on Moore’s claims. But in October, when the film hit theaters, Holofcener told IndieWire that Moore’s exit so close to the start of production was “traumatic.” “I felt I had already made [the movie],” Holofcener said at the time. “Every outfit, every location, every actor cast. It was a labor of love. It was traumatic. Terrible.”
Version 1.0 of “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, which was also set to star Chris O’Dowd as Jack Hock, soon fell apart. (Yarnell said Frances McDormand was offered the role of Lee, but turned it down due to lack of prep time.) It got off the ground again in May 2016 when Marielle Heller signed on to direct with McCarthy tapped to play the irascible author-turned-literary forger. Richard E. Grant later joined, taking over the part of Jack, Lee’s literal partner in crime/drinking buddy, from O’Dowd. Both stars earned Oscar nominations for their lauded performances, but Moore has not watched the film yet.
“I haven’t yet because it’s still kind of painful,” she said on “Watch What Happens Live.” “I love Melissa McCarthy. I worship her, I think she’s fantastic, so I’m sure she’s great.”
She added that this was the second time she’s ever been fired in her life, and the first for an acting job. “The only other time I was fired was when I was working at a yogurt stand when I was 15,” she said. “So, yeah, it felt bad.”