“If I couldn’t do what I wanted, I wasn’t going to do what I didn’t, no matter the price.”
It’s not always about the money for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars! Despite being offered massive paychecks, there are quite a few actors who have turned down a job that could have made them millions. Whether it was due to previous commitments, issues with the script, or because they straight up just didn’t want to do it, these stars said “no thanks” to directors and film studios. While it may be difficult for some people to look back on such a big missed opportunity, these actors don’t seem to have any regrets.
Find out why these actors turned down big bucks…
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1. Matt Damon – “Avatar”
Matt Damon was originally up for the starring role as Jake Sully in “Avatar,” but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts. Looking back, the actor revealed that director James Cameron had offered him 10% of the film’s profits if he were to accept the role — which would have totaled over $250 million.
“Jim Cameron offered me ‘Avatar.’ And when he offered it to me, he goes, ‘Now, listen. I don’t need anybody. I don’t need a name for this, a named actor. If you don’t take this, I’m going to find an unknown actor and give it to him, because the movie doesn’t really need you. But if you take the part, I’ll give you ten per cent of [the film’s profits].’ I realized in having to say no that I was probably passing on the chance to ever work with him. So that sucked and that’s still brutal. But my kids are all eating. I’m doing OK,” Matt told GQ.
2. Sean Connery – “Lord of the Rings”
Before Ian McKellen joined the cast of “Lord of the Rings,” the late Sean Connery was asked to play Gandalf. Sean was reportedly offered $30 million as well as 15% of the box office earnings — which would have totaled over $400 million. Despite the massive payday, Sean still turned down director Peter Jackson, who says the actor just didn’t understand the script.
“We did make an offer to Connery but he said no. We never got an answer until years later, but apparently he read the material and just didn’t get it,” Peter told the Independent.
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3. Will Ferrell – “Elf 2”
After the massive success of “Elf,” a sequel was written that was once again set to star Will Ferrell. He was offered $29 million to take on the role of Buddy the Elf once again but he turned it down because he thought the plot simply rehashed the first movie.
“I would have had to promote the movie from an honest place, which would’ve been, like, ‘Oh no, it’s not good. I just couldn’t turn down that much money.’ And I thought, ‘Can I actually say those words? I don’t think I can, so I guess I can’t do the movie,'” Will told THR.
4. Josh Hartnett – “The Dark Knight”
Josh Hartnett was originally up for the role of Batman in the “Dark Knight” trilogy but turned it down because he was burnt out. While it’s not known exactly how much he was offered, the role ended up going to Christian Bale, who made a reported $45 million.
“I’ve definitely said no to some of the wrong people. I said no because I was tired and wanted to spend more time with my friends and family. That’s frowned upon in this industry. People don’t like being told no. I don’t like it. I learned my lesson when Christopher Nolan and I talked about ‘Batman.’ I decided it wasn’t for me. Then he didn’t want to put me in ‘The Prestige.’ They not only hired their Batman for it, they also hired my girlfriend [Scarlett Johansson] at the time,” Josh told The Guardian.
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5. Keanu Reeves – “Speed 2: Cruise Control”
When “Speed” became a massive hit at the box office, star Keanu Reeves was immediately asked to return for the sequel. The actor was even reportedly offered $11 million for the role but ended up turning it down because he wasn’t a fan of the script.
“I didn’t get to be in that. Well I decided not to be in that. I read the script and I was like, ‘Ugggghhh.’ It was about a cruise ship and I was thinking, ‘A cruise ship is even slower than a bus,’ and I was like, ‘I love you guys, but I just can’t do it,'” Keanu said on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
6. Michael Keaton – “Batman Forever”
Michael Keaton had already portrayed Batman in two previous films when he was asked to return for “Batman Forever.” Unfortunately, Michael wasn’t as interested in the film following the departure of director Tim Burton and ended up turning down a reported $15 million payday.
“The simple answer was, it wasn’t any good. I was nice. I said to them, ‘This is a really interesting character with a dual personality.’ I tried to make them understand. But when someone says to you, ‘Does it have to be so dark?’…I thought, Are we talking about the same character? So finally I just said no,” Michael told Entertainment Weekly.
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7. Matthew McConaughey – Unknown
Matthew McConaughey became the king of rom-coms in the early 2000s but there came a point where he wanted to pivot his career in a new direction. At the time, he was only getting offers for the same types of films and he decided he needed to start turning them down if he wanted to transition to different kinds of roles. That included turning down a film that offered him $14.5 million.
“I declined the offer. If I couldn’t do what I wanted, I wasn’t going to do what I didn’t, no matter the price,” Matthew wrote in his memoir “Greenlights.”
8. Jerry Seinfeld – “Seinfeld”
After almost a decade on the air, Jerry Seinfeld just wasn’t interested in another season of “Seinfeld.” Amid the show’s massive success, the network wanted Jerry to return for one more season but he declined. The actor was reportedly offered $110 million for the season, which would have totaled a whopping $5 million per episode, but he says he has no regrets about turning it down.
“It was the perfect moment…The most important word in art is ‘proportion.’ How much? How long is this joke going to be? How many words? How many minutes? And getting that right is what makes it art or what makes it mediocre,” Jerry told The New York Times Magazine.
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9. Russell Crowe – “Lord of the Rings”
Russell Crowe was offered the role of Aragorn in “Lord of the Rings” but turned down what would have been a massive payday because he felt that he wasn’t actually director Peter Jackson’s first choice. Reflecting on the situation, Russell says he was offered 10% of the backend grosses of the trilogy, which could have amounted to over $100 million.
“I didn’t think Peter Jackson actually wanted me on that film, because I think he was forced into talking to me, because there was a moment in time when everybody wanted me in everything…I am talking to him on the phone, and it’s like, I don’t think he even knows what I have done. I just knew that my instinct was that he had somebody else in mind, which turned out to be Viggo [Mortensen], and he should be allowed to hire the actor that he wants,” Russell said on “The Howard Stern Show.”
10. Jim Parsons
After 12 seasons on the air, Jim Parsons was ready to say goodbye to “The Big Bang Theory,” even though he was making big bucks. Before the show ended, Jim was reportedly making nearly $1 million per episode and CBS wanted him to sign on for two more seasons. If he had stuck around, Jim stood to make more than $50 million — but he still turned it down.
Jim later explained that prior to the show’s final season, he had “an intense summer” of work and personal events that left him feeling burnt out and affirmed that he was making the right choice to walk away.