Celebrities Who Didn’t Hesitate To Walk Away From A Huge Pay Day
Celebrities tend to make a nice chunk of change between acting gigs, concerts, multi-million dollar contracts, and endorsement deals. Amazingly, just because a lot of money is on the table, stars don’t always say yes.
Lady Gaga walked away from a $1 million because she refused to perform at a Republican event, and Jerry Seinfeld walked away from a $110 million payday after saying no to a tenth season of Seinfeld. And they’re not the only ones!
Keanu Reeves Walked Away From Speed 2 And $12 Million
In 1994, Keanu Reeves starred in the action thriller Speed. The film became a huge success, grossing $350.4 million, getting a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, and even winning two Academy Awards. Its popularity made the prospect of a sequel a no-brainer. After reading the script to Speed 2: Cruise Control, Reeves walked away.
The script did nothing for him, and the actor decided not to re-visit his role of Officer Jack Traven, even though the studio was offering him a solid paycheck of $12 million.
Jodie Foster Walked Away From $15 Million For Silence Of The Lambs Sequel
Actress Jodi Foster played a big role in helping make Silence of the Lambs as influential and well-cited as it is today, with her role as FBI trainee Clarice Starling. She even won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her work on the character. Even so, she refused to come back to work on the sequel film Hannibal.
After reading the novel Hannibal was based on, Foster decided to walk away from the project, not particularly keen on where her character winds up. She walked away from the film and a $15 million payday. The role was eventually recast with Julianne Moore.
For $75 Million, Vince Gilligan Wasn’t Adding To Breaking Bad
Vince Gilligan stunned the world of television when the neo-Western crime drama Breaking Bad debuted on AMC in 2008. For five seasons, viewers were thrown into the wild world of Walter White, an overqualified chemistry teacher turned drug lord. It was stylistically beautiful, well written, and had some of the most complex characters in recent history.
Even so, when he was asked to add three episodes to the end of the last season, Gilligan said no, walking away from a solid $75 million. He’d already written the ending, which virtually saw all of the characters dead or dying (spoiler alert). It was too much to rewrite.
Jerry Seinfeld Said No To A 10th Season And $110 Million
From 1989 to 1999, Jerry Seinfeld headlined one of the most popular sitcom actors on television, playing a hyper-realistic version of himself in Seinfeld. The show was so popular that once that ninth season came to an end, NBC didn’t want to see the star, or the show, leave the network.
To film a tenth season of 22 episodes, they offered Seinfeld a sum they didn’t think he’d refuse, $110 million. Well, he refused, stating that he wanted to take some time for himself, away from the show. Years later, he doesn’t regret the decision.
$15 Million Wasn’t Making The Batman Forever Script Any Better For Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton portrayed the masked crusader Batman in two films, Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and his 1992 Batman Returns. The actor was set to star in a third film, Batman Forever, but after reading the script, Keaton left the production. It was too light-hearted for his liking.
After leaving the project, Keaton also walked away from a solid $15 million. And viewers were left with Val Kilmer as Batman, who his best to fight off the Riddler (Jim Carrey) and Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones).
Katie Holmes Turned Down The Role Of Buffy — $15 Million
In the late ’90s and early 2000s, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, could be found taking down demons on The WB. And while Sarah Michelle Gellar is clearly the iconic character, she wasn’t the studio’s first choice. That actually goes to Katie Holmes, the very popular teen sensation from Dawson’s Creek.
Wanting to finish high school, Holmes decided not to take the role of Buffy Summers. She possibly might regret that decision now since the character is iconic and the part was also worth a solid $15 million.
Steph Curry Walked Out Of A $2.5 Million Deal With Nike
At the beginning of his professional basketball career, Steph Curry signed an endorsement deal with Nike. A common move for many players in the NBA. But when his contract with the company was up for renewal in 2013, the point guard walked away.
In Curry’s defense, he walked away from a $2.5 million contract with Nike for a few reasons. The first being the fact that they misspelled his name during the pitch. The second being they used Kevin Durant’s name on a slide instead of his own. They didn’t think he’d become one of the greats. Not exactly the best way to get someone to sign to a company.
Will Ferrell Said No To Elf 2 And $29 Million
In 2003, comedic actor Will Ferrell starred in what is now considered one of the greatest modern Christmas movies, Elf. The film was wildly popular upon release, grossing $220 million worldwide, and Ferrell giving what’s considered one of his better performances. Its popularity made a sequel film look pretty attractive to New Line Cinema.
Ferrell refused to do a second film, even though they were offering him a solid $29 million to portray Buddy the Elf once again. If the sequel didn’t turn out as great, Ferrell didn’t want viewers to dislike Buddy or Elf. So he stopped the film series before it began.
Sean Connery Turned Down The $450 Million Role Of Gandalf
While it might be difficult for people to see anyone but Ian McKellen playing the iconic role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, someone else was the studio’s first choice. Sean Connery, aka the original James Bond, was asked to take on the role. At first, he was interested, deciding to research the character.
Connery went as far as reading both the script and the book, neither of which he understood. His confusion of the plot led Connery to turn down the role and the nearly $450 million payday.
Even For $50 Million, Christian Bale Said No To Batman
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is ranked as one of the best ever made, with Christian Bale playing the title character of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Together, the three films grossed over $2.4 billion at the worldwide box office, with Bale making a solid $54 million.
The movies were so popular that Bale was offered another $50 million if he agreed to put on the bat costume one last time for a fourth movie. He said no, stating that it was always Nolan’s vision to have this series be nothing more than a trilogy. He wanted to respect the director’s wishes.
Matt Damon Said No To Avatar And $278 Million
James Cameron’s sci-fi epic Avatar grossed $2.846 billion at the box office, making it the highest-grossing film of all time. Unfortunately, for actor Matt Damon, he’s unable to say he was part of Hollywood history, as he turned down the lead role of Jake Sully.
Stating conflict issues withThe Bourne Ultimatum, Damon is said to have turned down $287 million, a sum that included 10% of the film’s profits. Considering the success of the film and its upcoming sequel films, Damon’s most likely shaking his head and wishing he took not only the role but the solid amount of money that came with it.
Gotye Missed Out On $1.6 Million In Ad Revenue
In 2011, the Australian-based singer Gotye released what is arguably his most popular and well-known song, Making Mirror‘s “Somebody That I Used To Know.” It was a chart-topper and became a commercial success around the world. The music video even has over one billion views.
However, Gotye wasn’t interested in making money off the song or the music video, refusing the YouTube advertisements that would have made him an estimated $1.6 million. Needless to say, that money is somebody that Gotye will never know.
ABBA Refused A $1 Billion Reunion Tour
The Swedish pop group ABBA shot to stardom after winning the Eurovision Song Contest with “Waterloo.” ABBA released hit single after hit single, becoming one of the best-selling artists of all time with over 200 million albums sold. Fans were sad to see the group break up in 1982.
Their hope to see ABBA live once again was renewed in 2000. That year, ABBA was offered a staggering $1 billion for a reunion tour. They refused, stating that they believed they’d remain more popular if they decided not to go on tour. Mama Mia, that is a large sum to refuse!
$1 Million Wasn’t Enough For ZZ Top Members To Shave
In the 1970s, two ZZ Top members decided to change up their look, opting to grow out their facial hair. Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill then became known as the guys with the long beards; they were iconic! So much so that Gibbons and Hill weren’t about to shave them off, even for $1 million.
Gillette offered the two musicians that exact amount if they’d shave their beards off for one of their razor commercials. The two men refused. Apparently, $1 million isn’t enough to shave something off that will, in fact, eventually grow back!
Lady Gaga Walked Away From $1 Million
It didn’t take long for the world to learn Lady Gaga’s name. In fact, all it took was one studio album! After The Fame, the pop singer shot to international stardom. So, it’s no surprise that some prominent people would want her to perform at their events. In this case, a Republican Party event in 2012.
The pop singer was offered $1 million to perform, with another $150,000 going towards a domestic violence shelter. But Lady Gaga’s liberal leanings are very publically recognized, and she had to decline the offer.
Dave Chappelle Walked Away From A $50 Million Contract
From 2003 to 2006, Dave Chappelle hosted his own comedy sketch series, Chappelle’s Show. It was wildly popular, but that wasn’t enough for Chappelle to stay on board and sign a contract extending the series even though the contract in question was worth a solid $50 million.
Chappelle believed the show was taking up too much of his time, and he was beginning to feel not like himself. Pretty much, he thought fame was going to feel different than it did. So, he walked away to get a fresh perspective on life and what he wanted to do.
Emily Browning Declined A Twilight Audition And $40 Million
It might be hard to see anyone else playing the demure character of Bella Swan in the Twilight franchise, but author Stephanie Meyer actually had a specific actress in mind for the role, Emily Browning. She was offered to audition for the part, but Browning declined the offer.
At the time, she was working on Uninvited and didn’t know if she wanted to continue with a career in the entertainment industry afterward. Unfortunately, the role of Bella Swan would have made her a nice chunk of change. In 2012, Kristin Stewart reportedly made $40 million from the five films, money that could have been Browning’s.
Ja Rule Turned Down 2 Fast 2 Furious And $500k
In The Fast and the Furious, rapper Ja Rule had a small supporting role. He was paid $15,000. But when the second film came around, 2 Fast 2 Furious, director John Singleton wanted Rule to be back with the cast, upping his contract to a solid $500,000.
Ultimately, the job went to Ludacris, whose role has since grown larger and larger within the franchise. According to Singleton, Ja Rule’s head was getting too big for himself, and he turned down the role because he thought he was too good for the franchise. The rapper is probably regretting that decision now!
Bruce Willis Didn’t Get An Extra $1 Million, So He Left
After making a name for himself as one of Hollywood’s leading action stars in Die Hard, Bruce Willis became part of The Expendables cast, albeit not one of the main cast members. The first two films were wildly successful, and Willis was set to appear in the third, too. Then, the studio refused to up his pay.
Willis was offered $3 million for four days of work. He wanted $4 million. The studio wasn’t going to pay the actor an extra million dollars for a secondary character, so Willis wound up walking away from the project and the $3 million contract.
$5 Million Wasn’t Enough To Bring The Smiths Back Together
The Smiths are considered to be one of the most important bands to come out of the independent music scene in 1980s Britain. Formed in 1982, it only took a few years for the band to rise to fame and then fall into a breakup. But that split hasn’t stopped festivals from offering them a stage for a reunion.
In 2006, Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival offered The Smiths $5 million to play for one day. They refused. For the band, it’s not about the money, but the differences and tension between lead singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr. They want nothing to do with one another.
The Beatles Said No To A $50 Million Reunion Tour
In the 1960s, the music world changed forever with the formation of the rock band The Beatles. Considered the most influential band of all time, fans were heartbroken when they broke up in the 70s, But their separation wasn’t enough to ward off potential gigs.
In 1974, Promoter Bill Sargent offered the band $10 million for a reunion tour. They said no. Two years later, he offered them $30 million. They said no again. Two months after the second offer, Sargent upped the offer to $50 million. The members of the former band still refused to go back on tour.
James Arthur Turned Down $346,000 To Appear On Celebrity Big Brother
In 2012, James Arthur’s life changed when he became the winner of the singing competition The X Factor. His cover of “Impossible” went on to sell over 3.5 million copies, making it the most successful single in the show’s history. Even so, Arthur was broke and spending money carelessly.
But the $346,000 offered for him to appear on Celebrity Big Brother wasn’t enough for Arthur to consider going on a reality show. While he could’ve used the money, Arthur was afraid going on the show would make people take him less seriously as a musician. So he declined.
Katie Holmes Walked Away From The Dark Knight And $2 Million
Katie Holmes made arguably one of the biggest mistakes in her career in 2007. That year she looked at the script for Mad Money and the script for The Dark Knight and decided her efforts should be put into the former. It wound up being a critical failure and a box office flop.
The Dark Knight, on the other hand, is critically acclaimed and even earned Heath Ledger an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Turning down the part of Rachel Dawes, a part she played in Batman Begins, left Holmes not only as “that actress who left the franchise” but it also left her short $2 million.
Hulk Hogan Chose A Meatball Maker And Lost $200 Million
Hulk Hogan was one of the most popular wrestlers of the 1980s. So much so that companies were lining up to sign an endorsement deal with the man, including a meatball maker and George Foreman’s grills. Unfortunately for Hogan, he chose the wrong company to work for.
Hogan opted to work for the meatball maker, losing out on the chance to work for the very popular grill company. In the end, Hogan walked away from a potential $200 million. Clearly, Hogan should have stuck with wrestling and not making business decisions.
$3 Million Wasn’t Getting The Paparazzi A Picture Of Kim K’s Kid
When reality star Kim Kardashian and rapper Kanye West had their first child, a North, more than one ridiculous offer came in. Various magazines offered the new parents massive amounts of money for nothing more than a picture of their newborn child.
But Kim K and Kanye made a firm stance on the matter, declining every offer that came their way. One of the biggest offers came from an Australian magazine, offering the new parents a solid $3 million for a snapshot of North. Still, they said no.
Pamela Anderson Chose Baywatch And Missed Out On Millions
A model, television personality, and actress, Pamela Anderson is arguably best known for her role of C.J. Parker in the 1989 drama Baywatch. Interestingly, while she was on the show, Anderson was also being looked at for the lead role of Dana Scully in The X Files.
As fate would have, the Baywatch Anderson wasn’t the Anderson cast for the role of Agent Scully. The show would up being hugely successful, and Pamela Anderson undoubtedly missed out on making millions.
$10 Million Wasn’t Enough For Jim Carrey To Star In The Mask 2
In 1994, Jim Carrey starred in the comedy The Mask. It turned out to be a critical and commercial success, grossing over $300 million at the box office. Due to the film’s popularity, the studio was excited to bring the lead actor back for a sequel. Too bad Carrey didn’t want to reprise the character, even if it was for $10 million.
Carrey didn’t want to work on a sequel after having a bad experience working on Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, a film that didn’t do too well. Pretty much, he didn’t want to reprise a loved character and film and have it be bad and boring.
Oasis Said No To Over $100 Million For A Reunion Tour
The rock band Oasis formed in the early 90s and became one of the bigger musical groups in the UK throughout the next two decades. Unfortunately, the band wound up breaking up in 2009 after more than a few differences sprang up between brothers Liam and Noel that couldn’t be overlooked.
It was actually those differences that had Oasis decline an invitation to a reunion tour, even though they were being offered a lot of money. In 2020, they were allegedly offered a solid $100 million, and they walked away.
Leonardo DiCaprio Turned Down $20 Million For American Psycho
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio started making a name for himself in the 90s, especially upon the release of Titanic and his role as Jack Dawson. But he switched gears from the dramatic romance genre and showed interest in playing Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.
He pretty much had the part and was even sent over a $20 million contract. But, DiCaprio bowed out at the last minute. Many people believe he walked away from the role and money after speaking with feminist icon Gloria Steinem. Apparently, she urged him not to take the part since he’d be going from swoon-worthy Jack to a violent killer.
Emily Blunt Backed Out Of $400k For Iron Man 2
When Iron Man 2 was announced, fans were excited to see who would be playing the infamous Black Widow. The studio had Emily Blunt in mind, and the actress was set to star as the ex-Russian spy. But she backed out at the last minute because of scheduling issues.
Unfortunately, backing out meant losing $400,000 for Iron Man 2. And that paycheck is nothing compared to what Blunt lost for the entire franchise. For Avengers alone, Scarlet Johannsson pocketed a solid $15 million.
Shaquille O’Neal Lost Millions Not Partnering With Starbucks
Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal stands by one set of rules when it comes to investing in companies: it has to be something he believes in. In 1993, his agent Howard Shultz recommended investing in a coffee company such as Starbucks.
Not a coffee drinker, Shaq opted not to go through with the deal, losing out on millions of dollars in the process.
Kanye West Broke Ties With Nike And Adidas
Once upon a time, Kanye West had an endorsement deal with the athletic companies Nike and Adidas. The deal was worth millions. Apparently, the rapper didn’t like how the company conducted business and opted to drop the deal in 2013.
Not that the multi-millionaire needs the cash, but he lost out on millions of dollars.
Josh Hartnett Didn’t Want To Take On The Role Of Superman
When Warner Bros. was in the process of rebooting the beloved superhero Superman, their minds first went to Josh Hartnett to star as the title character. He would have made millions playing the character, even though the exact amount is unclear.
In the end, he turned down the role, thinking a character so big was a risky venture.
$25 Million Wasn’t Enough For Vin Diesel To Take On 2 Fast 2 Furious
After the success of the 2001 film The Fast and the Furious, lead actor Vin Diesel decided to call it a day. Even though he was offered $25 million to return for the sequel film 2 Fast 2 Furious, he declined.
Eventually, Diesel decided to return to the Fast and Furious franchise, starring in all of the subsequent films and making millions in the process.
Sean Connery Said No To $750,000 Plus 25% Merchandising Profits
For his role in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, lead actor Sean Connery earned $750,000 plus 25% of all merchandising profits. As it turns out, this wasn’t enough money to get the Bond actor to return for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Connery wound up asking for a million-dollar paycheck to return as the iconic 007. He was turned down and ultimately walked away from the film.
Even Millions Couldn’t Make Macaulay Culkin Film Home Alone 3
For the original Home Alone film, actor Macaulay Culkin made $110,000. While that is a lot of money for a young kid, it is nothing compared to the $4.5 million he received for Home Alone 2: Lost In New York.
Even for another $4.5 million, Culkin walked away from the movie because he was burnt out.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Walked Away From Million And 20% Of Profits For Terminator Salvation
From 1984 to 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger played a cyborg in the Terminator franchise, earning a reported $29.25 million and 20% of the film’s overall profits when the third installment rolled around.
Well, he opted to call it a day when Terminator Salvation was announced, as he was already taking up the mantel as the governor of California.
Shaquille O’Neal Walked Away From $40 Million
Shaquille O’Neal walked away from a $40 million deal with Rebook. The reason was an elderly fan of his said the shoes were too expensive and he couldn’t afford them.
Taking that comment seriously, Shaq dropped the deal and instead decided to start his own shoe line, something a bit more affordable.
Orlando Bloom Said No To Pirates And Over $11 Million
After the success of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Orlando Bloom was offered over $11 million for the rest of the franchise. But even that insane amount of money wasn’t enough for Bloom to reprise his role as Will Turner after the events of At World’s End.
Instead, he walked away from the franchise.
Charlie Hunnam Missed Out On A Piece Of Fifty Shade’s Of Grey’s Box Office Earnings
When Fifty Shades of Grey went into production, Charlie Hunnam was actually first in line to play Christian Grey, one of the lead characters. He eventually had to turn down the part due to a scheduling conflict.
This not only left him out of a salary of $250,000 but also a chunk of the total box office earnings for three huge films.
John Travolta Turned Down $70 Million For Forrest Gump
It might be hard to imagine Forrest Gump being played by anyone but Tom Hanks. The truth is that the title role originally went to John Travolta.
He wound up turning the iconic role down, along with a $70 million paycheck, to instead star in Quentin Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction.
Will Smith Could Have Been Neo With A Salary Of $35 Million
Before Keanu Reeves made the role of Neo an iconic piece of cinematic history, the Matrix part was offered to Will Smith. During an interview, Smith said he didn’t understand the vision of the film and believes he would have messed up the role.
In the end, Reeves wound up making $10 million upfront and $35 million of the box office profits.
Russell Crowe Skipped Out On $100 Million To Star In Lord Of The Rings
Off the heels of Gladiator, Russell Crowe was offered the iconic role of Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He didn’t take the role because, according to him, Crowe did not think Peter Jackson actually wanted him for the part.
Eventually, the role fell to Viggo Mortensen, along with 10% backend pay which amounted to around $100 million.
Josh Hartnett Turned Down $45 Million To Play Batman
While Christian Bale totally kills his performance as the masked crusader Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, he wasn’t the first actor to be offered the part.
That actually goes to Josh Hartnett. He turned the role down because he was burnt out from his stint as a blockbuster star. In the end, he lost $45 million, turning the part down. Hartnett says it is one of his biggest regrets as an actor.
Matthew McConaughey Said No To $15 Million
In 2013, it was reported that Matthew McConaughey turned down a whopping $15 million to star in Magnum, P.I. According to a source, he was tired of playing the “shirtless guy.”
He wanted to focus on his dramatic film career. It was a good thing, too, because he wound up winning an Academy Award for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club.
$50 Million Wasn’t Enough To Keep Jim Parsons On The Big Bang Theory
For 12 seasons, Jim Parsons played the beloved character of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, a role that earned him awards as well as a whole lot of money. When it was time to sign on for the 13th, and 14th seasons, though, Parsons was done.
He walked away from the show and his $1 million-an-episode salary and backend profits, which would have equated to around $50 million.
Julia Roberts Said No To The Blind Side And Over $5 Million
Initially, production wanted Julia Roberts to play the lead role of Leigh Anne Tuohy in the award-winning movie The Blind Side. She turned it down, and Sandra Bullock wound up winning an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.
Not only did Roberts miss out on a possible Oscar, but also over $5 million.
A Scheduling Conflict Lost Angelina Jolie A Potential $70 Million
When Alfonso Cuarón was casting for the female lead of Ryan Stone in his 2013 film Gravity, he had his eyes set on Angelina Jolie. A scheduling conflict resulted in the actress turning down his offer.
The role eventually went to Sandra Bullock, who, along with an Oscar nomination, earned $70 million for the role.
Laurence Fishburne Walked Away From Pulp Fiction And Between $10-$15 Million
When Quinten Tarantino was casting for the role of Jules Winfield, he had actor Laurence Fishburne in mind. He eventually declined the offer because he thought the film glorified the use of narcotics. The role went to Samuel L. Jackson.
Turning down the role also meant turning down between $10 and $15 million!
Hugh Jackman Turned Down The Chance To Play 007
Daniel Craig took up the mantel after Pierce Brosnan called it quits playing the iconic 007 James Bond. The thing is, Craig wasn’t the studio’s first choice. Hugh Jackman was approached to play the role.
Sadly, he was too busy with the X-Men franchise to take on another project. Craig wound up earning $82.4 million throughout five movies.