Colin Firth Drops Out of 'Paddington' But It Might Be Just What the Movie Needs

Paddington Bear may have survived his escape from Darkest Peru without problem, but his journey to the big screen is proving to be a bit more difficult. First, there was that odd, silly trailer; then, the "creepy Paddington" meme that took over the Internet. Now, the upcoming film about the marmalade-loving bear is facing yet another setback, perhaps the biggest one yet: Paddington 's leading voice actor, Colin Firth, has left the movie.

In a statement to Entertainment Weekly, Firth revealed that he has decided to leave the film midway through its production, despite its fast-approaching release date. Unsurprisingly, his explanation is as polite (and British) as the bear he was playing.

“After a period of denial, we’ve chosen ‘conscious uncoupling,’” he said.

Firth's decision is huge, considering that after that meme went viral, his involvement was one of the only things saving Paddington from total ridicule. It'll also, obviously, have a major impact on the movie's production schedule, although perhaps not its Christmas release date. As of now, The Weinstein Company has no plans to push back the premiere.

As for who'll be replacing Firth, no names have been mentioned, but director Paul King says a new one will be announced shortly. He also emphasized that the split between Firth and the film was amicable.

“I cannot thank [Firth] enough for his contribution to Paddington," King said. "We love the voice and we love the bear, but as our young bear came into being we agreed that the two didn’t seem to fit. So, with somewhat heavy hearts we decided to part ways.”

While we're sure the actor that replaces Firth will make Paddington his own, it's saddening that we won't ever get to hear Firth's take on the famous bear; in perhaps a bit of foreshadowing, the movie's trailer never actually had Paddington speak.

On the upside, though, Firth's decision to leave shouldn't affect the quality of the movie. In fact, it could even improve it. Several films have seen their voice actors leave midway through production, and although few of those changes happened as close to the release dates as Paddington's, nearly all of them ended up being for the best. A look back at some notable voice actor changes that worked out just fine:

Her

First Actor: Samantha Morton

Second Actor: Scarlett Johansson

Why the Change: Director Spike Jonze said that although Morton was "amazing" on set, he realized during the editing process "that what the character/movie needed was different from what Samantha and I had created together."

Worth It? Definitely. Although we'll never know how Morton was as the hyper-intelligent operating system, it's hard to imagine Her without Johansson's layered, heartbreaking vocal performance.

Finding Nemo

First Actor: William H. Macy

Second Actor: Albert Brooks

Why the Change: According to Pixar insiders, the original version of Nemo was a much darker movie than audiences saw, and while Macy fit the role of Nemo's dad perfectly, the studio wanted a more energetic actor for the final, happier version. So they brought in Brooks, a comedy veteran, to play the neurotic father.

Worth It? Definitely, said director Andrew Stanton. In his opinion, Brooks "absolutely saved this picture," and he was "exactly what I needed this father character to be."

Mr. Peabody and Sherman

First Actor: Robert Downey jr.

Second Actor: Ty Burell

Why the Change: It was all about timing. Downey Jr. was too busy with commitments to The Avengers and Iron Man to record the role, and so the producers needed a new actor for the part of the brilliant Mr. Peabody. The director, Rob Minkoff, wanted Ty Burrell, but many studio execs resisted, seeing as, at the time, Modern Family hadn't yet made the actor a star.

Worth It? Probably. As Peabody, Burrell was perfectly entertaining, but we can only imagine what Downey Jr. would've brought to the role. Still, if turning it down allowed the actor to play Tony Stark one more time, we can't be too upset.

Shrek

First Actor: Chris Farley

Second Actor: Mike Myers

Why the Change: Farley passed away from a drug overdose in 1997, close to the end of production. Mike Myers was brought in, and the character of Shrek was totally reworked to fit his performance, changed from a kind teenager to a grumpy, rude, and strangely Scottish-accented adult ogre.

Worth It? Farley's death was sudden and tragic, and we can only imagine the enthusiasm he would've brought to Shrek if he'd lived. As a replacement, though, Myers was about as good as it gets.

Images: The Weinstein Company; Warner Bros.; Pixar; 20th Century Fox; Dreamworks