Top 10 Stars Who Turned Down Huge Money

Top 10 Stars Who Turned Down Huge Money
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Money isn't everything. Even for obscenely rich movie stars like these. For this list, we'll be looking at the biggest movie, TV, and sports stars who turned down lucrative contracts and deals. Our countdown includes Jim Carrey, Sean Connery, Dave Chappelle, and more!

Top 10 Stars Who Turned Down Crazy Deals

Money isn’t everything. Even for the obscenely rich. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Stars Who Turned Down Crazy Deals.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the biggest movie, TV, and sports stars who turned down lucrative contracts and deals. We won’t be including musicians, as they deserve their own list.

#10: Keanu Reeves

“Speed” is a masterpiece of action cinema. “Speed 2: Cruise Control” is like the crazy aunt hiding in the attic that everyone sort of ignores. Sandra Bullock returned for the maligned sequel as Annie Porter, and Keanu Reeves was replaced by Jason Patric, who plays Annie’s boyfriend Alex Shaw. Bullock initially turned down the sequel but eventually took it to raise money for a movie she was producing called “Hope Floats.” Reeves was offered $12 million to return as Jack Traven, but he turned it down. Reasons included thinking the script was awful, he didn’t need the movie and he had other projects in mind: “Hamlet” on-stage in Manitoba, Canada,“The Devil’s Advocate” with Al Pacino and touring with his band, Dogstar.

#9: Bruce Willis

It’s kind of weird for a movie star as rich as Bruce Willis to fight over a measly million. Willis appeared in an uncredited cameo in the first “Expendables” as Church, and his role was expanded for “The Expendables 2.” He was all set to reprise the role for the third film, being offered a solid $3 million for just four days of work (plus a little trip to Bulgaria). However, Willis asked for $4 million, effectively making his fee a million per day. The production companies’ response? Willis was dropped from consideration.

#8: Michael Keaton

The “Batman” series started to veer from dark, dreary Burton goodness to wacky, colorful hijinks with “Batman Forever” - a shift in tone that Michael Keaton was not having. Keaton expanded his filmography by starring in the first two “Batman” films and was offered to reprise his role for the third. As a little incentive, the studio was willing to offer him an astounding $15 million. It’s the kind of sum that aspiring actors dream about. However, Keaton was far from being an aspiring actor, and he abhorred the more comedic and lighthearted direction that “Batman Forever” was taking, so he turned them down. Was it the right decision? Considering the reviews of the film - yes, probably.

#7: Jim Carrey

Speaking of wacky, very few actors have a year like Jim Carrey did in 1994. In that year alone, Carrey went from pretty much a nobody to the world’s most popular movie star thanks to “The Mask,” “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” and “Dumb and Dumber.” “The Mask” made $350 million on a $23 million budget, so of course New Line wanted more. They offered Carrey $10 million to reprise his role, but to the surprise of everyone, he turned it down. He had not really enjoyed working on “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls,” saying that sequels were not challenging or gratifying as an actor. New Line tucked its tail between its legs and scrapped the sequel for the time being, realizing that it wouldn't work without Carrey… which they really should have stuck to considering what we got with “Son of the Mask.”

#6: Sean Connery

Gandalf is just one of those roles that you can’t see any other actor in - a perfect marriage between actor and character that seems like a gift straight from the movie gods. And to think, it almost went to Sean Connery. Before turning to Ian McKellen, the producers of “The Lord of the Rings” asked Connery to play Gandalf. They buttered him up with an amazing offer - $30 million upfront, plus 15% of the entire series’ box office returns. However, Connery reportedly “didn’t understand” the role and turned them down. Had he taken it, he would have been $450 million richer. That’s got to hurt. At least he’ll always have James Bond!

#5: Jodie Foster

Everyone remembers Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, while Jodie Foster is often given short shrift. However, she is just as important towards the legacy of the film, and her Best Actress win ensured that “The Silence of the Lambs” took home the Big Five Oscars - those being Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, and Actress. Therefore, the studio knew just how important both Hopkins and Foster were and reportedly offered them both $15 million to return for “Hannibal.” Foster originally claimed to be involved but later rejected the offer. She found the sequel “too grisly,” and she was working on a movie of her own titled “Flora Plum” at the time. That movie never came to fruition, and Foster was replaced by Julianne Moore in the 2001 sequel.

#4: Will Ferrell

It’s hard to make new Christmas classics. It seems like everything under the sun regarding Christmas has been done. And then along came “Elf” in 2003, proving that there was still some mileage left on Santa’s sleigh. Part of what made “Elf” so good was Will Ferrell, whose character Buddy is now a holiday icon. Director Jon Favreau has repeatedly shown interest in making a sequel, and Ferrell was reportedly offered a juicy $29 million paycheck if he returned. But Ferrell repeatedly shuts discussions down by pulling a Jim Carrey and claiming that he doesn’t really do sequels. Ferrell also jokes about his age, saying that a “Buddy the Middle-Aged Elf” would never work.

#3: Shaquille O’Neal

O’Neal is one of the biggest names in basketball history, serving as a 4 time NBA champion, 3 time NBA Finals MVP, and 15 time All-Star. Owing to his incredible fame and riches, a little coffee chain called Starbucks approached Shaq and asked him to invest in the company. However, O’Neal turned them down, telling then-CEO Howard Schultz that “Black people don’t drink coffee.” Magic Johnson scooped up the opportunity, and in 2010, he sold his stake back to Starbucks for an estimated $70 million. O’Neal has claimed that he feels a sting of regret and shame every time he sees a Starbucks, realizing that he walked away from tens of millions of dollars.

#2: Matt Damon

This Massachussetts actor is unimaginably rich. But he could have been unfathomably rich had he taken a particular offer from James Cameron. Damon told British GQ in 2019 that he was personally offered the lead role in “Avatar.” In place of his traditional salary, Damon was offered 10% of the movie’s box office returns. He turned it down, saying that he didn’t want to cause problems with “all [his] friends on ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’.” “Avatar” ended up grossing $2.79 billion, so if Damon had taken the deal, he could have walked away with almost $280 million. For one movie. Damon reportedly regrets passing up the opportunity to work withs Cameron, but as he says, it’s not like his kids are going hungry.

#1: Dave Chappelle

This famous comedian remains the poster child (or poster man) for valuing artistic integrity and personal contentment over fame and fortune. Chappelle grew wildly successful with “Chappelle’s Show,” and Comedy Central reportedly offered him an astounding $55 million contract. However, the world famous star was growing disillusioned with his fame, the rigorous shooting schedule, the creative direction of the show, and the Hollywood industry as a whole. Realizing that he had grown discontented, Chappelle stopped production and took a spiritual trip to South Africa to clear his head. He literally walked away from both the show and his $55 million contract, and he now lives in peaceful seclusion in Ohio, only doing the projects he wants to do, like stand-up comedy.