Laurence Fishburne Cut Out Of A Hit Movie, But Still Got Paid

Laurence Fishburne was cut from Die Hard With A Vengeance, and replaced with Samuel L. Jackson, eventually winning a lawsuit against the production company.

By Jennifer Asencio | Updated

laurence fishburne

Laurence Fishburne is known today for playing science fiction roles, but the actor’s career almost took a different trajectory when he was asked to co-star with Bruce Willis in Die Hard with a Vengeance. According to Yahoo Movies, the role of Zeus Carver was written with the actor in mind but was recast when producer Andy Vajna decided he was asking for too much money. Eventually, Laurence Fishburne sued and got a hefty paycheck anyway.

The story behind this debacle is as convoluted as its conclusion. Laurence Fishburne was in negotiations to play Zeus in Die Hard with a Vengeance as well as to play Jules, the Bible-quoting hitman in Pulp Fiction. Jules is a supporting character, however, so The Matrix star’s agent advised him not to take it since it would lower his value as a leading man in future films. The role famously went to Samuel L. Jackson, with Bruce Willis co-starring as a boxer in one of the movie’s vignettes.

Samuel L. Jackson would eventually go on to play Zeus as well, because of Pulp Fiction. Andy Vajna saw him in the movie during the Cannes Film Festival, at which it won the Palme d’Or and enough acclaim to propel it to the Oscars. On the strength of his performance as Jules, Samuel L. Jackson, rather than Laurence Fishburne, was cast as Zeus in Die Hard with a Vengeance.

Now without either role or the accompanying paychecks, Laurence Fishburne sued Cinergi, the production company behind Die Hard with a Vengeance, for breach of contract. Cinergi settled out of court for $750,000 and also produced the actor’s directorial debut, Once in a Lifetime. This was one of his only directorial efforts and was based on his play Riff Raff, written in 1995.

While many actors would see their careers end with such a huge lost opportunity, Laurence Fishburne didn’t need Die Hard with a Vengeance to become a star. In 1999, he would appear as Morpheus in the hugely popular Matrix trilogy, and more recently he was featured in the John Wick franchise as the Bowery King, a deadly assassin disguised as a homeless man. He also stars in the television show Blackish, and was the narrator for the Netflix dark comedy mockumentaries Death to 2020 and Death to 2021.

samuel l jackson pulp fiction
Samuel L. Jackson as Jules in Pulp Fiction

Fishburne and Jackson have worked together on three other projects. Laurence Fishburne starred in the Spike Lee film School Daze a decade before Die Hard with a Vengeance, and that movie co-starred Samuel L. Jackson. In 2019, the two worked together on the military drama The Last Full Measure, and both were featured in Death to 2020, although with Laurence Fishburne narrating, it is entirely possible they never crossed paths during the making of the Netflix movie.

Samuel L. Jackson might not have needed Pulp Fiction or Die Hard with a Vengeance to become famous, but they certainly helped his career, especially the role of Jules. Laurence Fishburne might not have gotten to play either role, but in retrospect, it turns out that not playing Zeus in Die Hard with a Vengeance opened the door for him to become a science fiction star. Both are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and well-respected names on their own.