In Old Hollywood, pregnancy was viewed as a huge hindrance to a budding actress's success. Cari Beauchamp explains in her book, Without Lying Down, "[It] was a common assumption that glamorous stars would not be popular if they had children."
In her book Hollywood's Second Sex: The Treatment of Women in the Film Industry, Aubrey Malone writes, “If you want to play in this business, you play like a man or you’re out. And if you happen to be a woman, better not mention it to anybody.”
The entertainment industry as a whole has made great strides in the last few years towards equality and respect for women in the business, however, many would argue that this world of glitz and glamour still has a long way to go, especially when it comes to the ways pregnancies of working actresses are handled.
Directors and producers have many options when it comes to hiding a woman’s pregnancy during production of a television show or movie. Costuming, props and camera angles can do wonders for hiding an actress’s blossoming belly, and productions of films are often delayed until an expecting actress gives birth. Even so, it can’t be denied that many women lose huge roles because, well, they’re expecting. This is a problem that men will never have to deal with, making equality in the entertainment world a perpetual pipe dream.
The 15 talented actresses on the list below missed out on roles because they had babies on board.
15 Hilary Duff
Younger actress Hilary Duff discovered she was expecting her son Luca in 2011, soon after signing on to co-star in a Bonnie and Clyde biopic. Producers were eager to get the project going, and director Tonya S. Holly told 23-year-old Duff that they couldn’t work around her pregnancy, or wait for her to give birth, before beginning filming, even though the actress was open to the idea.
The former Lizzie McGuire star had already taken heat from some who felt she wasn’t the right fit for the remake of the classic 1967 film that originally starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. The Sun Times reported that when Dunaway, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the film, found out who they had cast in the remake, she scoffed, “Couldn’t they at least cast a real actress?”
Duff was quick to defend herself, and, according to the Daily Mail, she retorted, “I think that my fans that are going to go see the movie don’t even know who [Dunaway] is. I think it was a little unnecessary, but I might be mad if I looked like that now too.”
Because the expecting mother had already signed a contract, she was paid $100,000 for technically being fired from the role.
The movie is still in development, meaning Duff could have taken the role if they wouldn’t have been so quick to kick her to the curb when it was discovered that she had a bun in her oven.
14 Jamie Lynn Spears
Jamie Lynn Spears was set to follow in her big sister's famous footsteps when she landed the role of Zoey on the Emmy-winning Nickelodeon show Zoey 101, but her fame was short lived. The 16-year-old actress's success in the television industry came to a screeching halt the day she found herself looking down at a positive pregnancy test in a gas station bathroom.
Sadly, producers of the show weren't open to a plotline that involved teen pregnancy, and Spears was sent packing after four seasons as the show’s star. She chose to give up acting altogether and focused instead on raising her daughter, Maddie. She welcomed a second baby girl to the world in April of 2018.
The mother-of-two recently appeared in a TLC documentary entitled Jamie Lynn Spears: When the Lights Go Out. On the show, she spoke about her decision to keep Maddie, and what this choice meant for her acting career. The 26-year-old shared, “I knew I would have to make a decision as a young girl myself, to do something that I could sleep with at night...I was going to have my little girl, even if I had to raise her on my own, which is what I did.”
13 Isla Fisher
Isla Fisher proved she was a talented actress willing to make sacrifices for her craft when she nearly drowned during production of the film Now You See Me in a dangerous stunt gone awry. The film went on to do well at the box office, and many speculated that Fisher’s role as the fiery and fiesty Henley was one of the main reasons why.
When it came time to make the second installment of the film, Isla was early on in her pregnancy with her third child, Montgomery. The result? Now You See Me 2 features Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson and Morgan Freeman, all of whom appeared in the first film and returned to star in the sequel. Isla, on the other hand, was replaced by actress Lizzy Caplan.
It is unclear whether Isla chose not to take the role, or if she lost the part because she was expecting. Whatever the reason she didn’t return, it was a little sad how quickly the script of the second film explained that Henley was no longer around because she had moved on to "greener pastures." Now You See Me 3 is in the works, but there is no word yet on whether or not Fisher will return to reprise her role as the great and powerful Henley.
12 Dana Plato
Actress Dana Plato was a bright-eyed young beauty when she was cast as Mr. Drummond’s biological daughter in the '80s sitcom Diff'rent Strokes. In the show, Drummond, a wealthy humanitarian, adopts two young African American boys after their mother, his housekeeper, passes away. The series became known for dealing with heavy topics like abuse and alcoholism, but, when Plato turned up pregnant, producers weren’t keen on including the subject of teen pregnancy in the series.
The result? Plato’s character headed off to Paris to attend “school” and didn’t appear on the show ever again.
She ended up losing custody of her son after he was born and was convicted of petty theft before her untimely death in 1999.
Plato passed away tragically from a suicidal drug overdose at the age of 34. Some have speculated that her downward spiral into drug addiction can be traced back to her firing from the NBC show. Sadly, Plato’s son, Tyler Lambert, recently took his own life. Plato’s former manager, Johnny Whitaker, told ABCNews.com that he did all he could to help Tyler before his death. He shared, “I did say, ‘You know your mother had a problem, which means you may have a problem because it is a family disease.’ Dana passed away because of the disease.”
11 Janet Hubert-Whitten
Janet Hubert-Whitten was the original Aunt Viv on the hit '90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but was replaced by actress Daphne Maxwell Reid at the beginning of the show’s fourth season. No one knows for certain why Huber-Whitten was given the boot, but many have speculated that her pregnancy, which was written into the show's storyline during its third season, led to her demise.
While her new arrival most likely had something to do with her firing, rumors have also circulated that she wasn’t the most pleasant of people to work with. In fact, Will Smith has claimed she was jealous of his success. According to Smith, “She said once, ‘I’ve been in the business for 10 years and this snotty-nosed punk comes along and gets a show.’” Ouch.
Alfonso Ribeiro is another cast member who has spoken up about the unpleasantries of working with Hubert-Whitten, and he didn’t mince words. He dished, “Basically, at the end of the day, the b**** was crazy. She went nuts!” Anyone who has ever been pregnant can attest to the fact that hormones can cause a woman to feel a bit unstable when she’s expecting. Cut a girl some slack!
10 Charisma Carpenter
Charisma Carpenter’s character Cordelia on Buffy the Vampire Slayer became one of the main focuses of the show’s spinoff, Angel. Creator Joss Whedon is known for his girl power-inspired story lines, but didn’t seem too thrilled when Carpenter revealed she was expecting.
EOnline.com has reported that Carpenter kept her pregnancy a secret until the last minute, which forced Whedon and his team to rewrite Season 4 without much warning. The result? A twisted, disturbing story arc in which Cordelia becomes knocked up by Angel’s teenage son and gives birth to a demonic creature. After her evil child arrives, Cordelia goes into a coma and eventually dies.
Was the creepy, disturbing end to Carpenter’s character payback for the fact that she became pregnant? The actress originally stated that she left the show of her own accord, but later admitted that she thought Whedon wrote her disturbing demise because he was bitter about having to change the storyline to accommodate her pregnancy.
In 2009, she shared, “I think Joss was, honestly, mad...It’s a very complicated dynamic working for somebody for so many years, [but] you gotta live your life. And sometimes living your life gets in the way of maybe the creator’s vision for the future. And that becomes conflict, and that was my experience.”
9 Annette Bening
Oscar-nominated actress and mother-of-four Annette Bening had already signed on to play Catwoman in the film Batman Returns when she discovered she had a bun in the oven. She didn’t feel it would be possible to hide her blossoming belly while wearing a body-hugging pleather one piece, and, to the dismay of the flick's director, Tim Burton, chose to pass on the part.
Burton has shared that the flick was pretty far into pre-production, and had even done “wardrobe things” when he got the news Bening would not be playing Catwoman due to her impending arrival. He later explained, “We were really close to shooting, maybe a couple of weeks before, I got a call one morning and there was a long pause on the phone and [Bening] said she was pregnant. I’ve never had such a split, mixed feeling. I was extremely happy for her, but dropping down a dark abyss at the same time.”
Luckily, Michelle Pfeiffer stepped in to fill the role and became what many consider to be the greatest Catwoman of all time.
She was definitely convincing when she delivered the line, “Life’s a b****. Now so am I.”
On being a mom, Bening has said, “There’s love for your parents, your family, your spouse, but the nature of the connection you have with your child, there’s nothing like it. It has its own character and it’s so serious and so powerful, and so it’s a prism through which I see everything.”
8 Lisa Bonet
Lisa Bonet played the sarcastic, free-spirited daughter of Clair and Cliff Huxtable on the family sitcom The Cosby Show. When it came time to write the show’s spin-off, A Different World, Cosby and Bonet were already on thin ice.
Bonet had done a love scene with Mickey Rourke in the drama Angel Heart, and Cosby felt it was a move that didn’t bode well for his show’s squeaky clean image. He made sure that Denise was off at “college” for the majority of the episodes in A Different World. Then, Bonet revealed the news that she was expecting a baby with then-husband Lenny Kravitz. It was the final straw for Cosby.
The show’s director, Debbie Allen, encouraged Cosby to use the 23-year-old actress’s pregnancy as a fun direction for her character to go, but he wasn’t having it, and poor Denise was completely written out of future episodes after she “dropped out of college.”
Allen later revealed in an interview, “Cosby had a vision and I guess it was difficult for him to interrupt his creative vision for something outside of his control. I wish they could have figured out a way to make it work...Cosby obviously had a vision in mind and anything external interrupted that for him.”
7 Melanie Griffith
Actress Melanie Griffith was originally set to star in the 1990 drama The Sheltering Sky, but when she found out she was expecting her daughter Dakota with then-husband, Don Johnson, she decided against taking the part. Griffith went on to be nominated for an Academy Award after she delivered a heartfelt performance in the 1998 dramedy Working Girl.
Later that year, she beat out fellow actresses Uma Thurman and Courtney Love when she was approached by producers to play the part of Carol in the award-winning film As Good As it Gets, but ended up turning the opportunity down after she discovered she was expecting her daughter Stella with Antonio Banderas. Helen Hunt ended up snagging the coveted role, and went on to win an Oscar for her dazzling performance as Jack Nicholson’s love interest.
The mother-of-three has said of parenthood, “Children enhance you.” She may have turned down roles due to her pregnancies, but still loves life in the spotlight. On her career as an actress, she has shared, “I really love working. It makes me feel like an even better person when I work. I function much better if I have a really rigid schedule. When I’m left to my own devices, I can just be all over the place.”
6 Catherine Zeta-Jones
Catherine Zeta-Jones had signed on to star opposite Kevin Costner in the humanitarian romance Beyond Borders when she found out she was expecting a baby with her husband Michael Douglas.
The actress backed out of the project, causing Costner and director Oliver Stone to follow suit. For awhile, it looked like the film would never be. Meg Ryan was considered for the lead, but the starring role eventually went to Angelina Jolie. The film was released in 2003. It wasn’t a hit at the box office, but, it lead Jolie to her first child, Maddox. She adopted him while shooting the movie in Cambodia. According to the Daily Mail, while shooting the flick, Angelina said it became “suddenly very clear to me that my son was in the country, somewhere.”
Jolie admitted to the Associated Press that she’d never planned to have children before she adopted her first child. She explained, “It’s strange, I never wanted to have a baby. I never wanted to be pregnant. I never babysat. I never thought of myself as a mother.”
In short, Zeta-Jones’s pregnancy indirectly caused Angelina Jolie to become the wonderful mother she is today. The circle of life, folks. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.
5 Audrey Hepburn
Iconic actress Audrey Hepburn was the first choice for the part of Maria when directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins began to cast the 1961 film adaptation of the Broadway musical West Side Story. Hepburn considered taking the part, but discovered she was pregnant while the film was still in pre-production.
Hepburn had suffered two previous miscarriages, one of which was on the set of the flick The Unforgiven, and decided to take a year off from working to focus on her impending arrival. Natalie Wood of Rebel Without a Cause ended up landing the part, the movie went on to be nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won 10 of them.
It’s likely the My Fair Lady actress didn’t mind too much that she missed out on being in an award-winning masterpiece. She was the type of mom who thought things through, and enjoying relaxing during her pregnancy was what she wanted to do. She once said, “My life isn’t theories and formulae. It’s part instinct, part common sense. Logic is as good a word as any, and I’ve absorbed what logic I have from everything and everyone...from my mother, from training as a ballet dancer, from Vogue magazine, from the laws of life and health and nature.”
4 Robin Wright
Robin Wright became a highly-sought after actress after killing it in her iconic role as Princess Buttercup in the film Princess Bride. When she and her then-husband, Sean Penn, started their family, she turned down some major roles in order to stay home with her children.
Wright passed on parts in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Batman Forever in order to stay home and take care of her daughter, Dylan, and son, Hopper, but she doesn’t have any regrets about her choices. The mother-of-two has shared, “I don’t look back and think, ‘F***, I missed putting my kids to bed for four years because I was in the theater.'”
Now that her children are grown, Wright is back in action and absolutely rocking the strong female roles she’s taken as of late. Two major ones include Claire, the queen of the White House in the Netflix series House of Cards, and General Antiope in Wonder Woman.
Wright is a strong woman and a great example to her children. Now that she’s back in action, she’s giving the entertainment industry all she’s got. She recently stated, “I think I’ve always been a follow-the-leader with my career, or maybe waiting for things to happen. Now I’m like, I’m okay. I know the direction. Whoever’s on board can go with me.”
3 Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster was originally set to play the lead role in the blockbuster thriller Double Jeopardy. Before filming began, Foster discovered she was expecting her first child, Charles Bernard Foster. The star felt the role required too many dangerous stunts and decided not to do the film. The part was recast, and Ashley Judd ended up starring opposite Tommy Lee Jones as a woman whose husband has framed her for murder.
According to EW.com, Judd later explained that the role included, “a tremendous amount of change, from emotional shock to physical stunts.” Speaking about one stunt, in which she jumped over a chain-link fence, she stated, “It’s not that spectacular a stunt, yet that was one of the hardest things I had to do."
Foster went on to give birth, and it wasn’t long before she was back in front of the cameras, starring in the romantic historical flick Anna and the King, a much less physically demanding role. Speaking about her first pregnancy, Foster said, “I enjoyed being pregnant with Charlie and I look forward to this experience again.”
The actress went on to have one more son, Kit Bernard Foster, with Cydney Bernard, and has made many films since becoming a mother. Some of her best to date include Panic Room, Flightplan, The Brave One, Inside Man, Elysium, Maverick and The Beaver.
2 Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman has been open about her struggle with infertility, and was overjoyed when she discovered she was pregnant with her first biological child, Sunday Rose. She was already slated to play the lead role in the movie, The Reader, but backed out of her commitment in light of the news of her impending arrival.
Producers of the film were willing to work around her growing bump, and the role was by no means a strenuous one, but Kidman felt it was best for the fetus if she stepped away from the part.
She told Mail On Sunday, "The way I work, it would penetrate my baby.”
Kate Winslet was given the part, and the film’s screenwriter, David Hare, later revealed that she had been his first choice anyway. Winslet went on to win her first Best Actress Oscar for the role, and Kidman and her husband, Keith Urban,welcomed a beautiful baby girl to the world. Win. Win.
Before becoming pregnant, Kidman once stated, “I think it would be very sad if I wasn’t able to have a baby.” It’s understandable that after finally having the opportunity to carry a baby, Kidman would want to give all of her focus and attention to her impending arrival.
1 Hunter Tylo
Hunter Tylo was part of a real life drama in 1996 when she sued Spelling Entertainment Group and Spelling Television Inc. for wrongful termination after being fired from her job as a character on the hit television show Melrose Place.
According to CNN.com, Tylo claimed that after she shared the news that she was pregnant with producers, one of them said, “Why doesn’t she just go out and get an abortion? Then she can work.” She also said of the producers, “They never dreamed I would challenge them. Never. Believe me, no woman in this business wants to challenge a producer in this business. You can be blackballed very easily.” Despite this fact, the actress moved forward with the lawsuit.
The defense claimed that the “material change” that Tylo underwent after gaining 47 pounds while pregnant was in violation of her contract. Despite the efforts of the defense, Jurors in the case concluded that Tylo’s growing belly in no way impeded her ability to portray a “vixen, seductress and adulteress” on the Primetime series and awarded the actress a cool $5 million.
After the verdict, Tylo made a statement in front of the courthouse. She proudly proclaimed, “I was attacked on every side. People were telling me I would never make it, that I was hurting my career. But I came through all of it.” She also stated that the court’s ruling was a victory “for every woman, for every child that’s not born.”
References: ScreenRant.com, ABCNews.go.com, CNN.com, Refinery29.com, EW.com, AZQuotes.com, BrainyQuote.com, DailyMail.co.uk, EOnline.com, BrandonGaille.com, UrbanIntellectuals.com, Bustle.com, VanityFair.com