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Matt Damon Turned Down Avatar, And It Probably Cost Him More Than Any Other Actor In History

Damon said the Jason Bourne films were too important.

Matt Damon

After the premiere of his new movie Stillwater at the Cannes film festival, Matt Damon dropped a bombshell. The Oscar-winning actor revealed that there likely hasn’t been another actor to turn down a more lucrative deal than he did when he passed on Avatar.

“I was offered a little movie called Avatar, James Cameron offered me 10% of it,” Damon said. “I will go down in history… you will never meet an actor who turned down more money.”

Had Damon accepted the offer, he would have made about $250 million because of Avatar’s historic box office performance—the film grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide, thanks in large part to a huge international audience, which comprised nearly 75 percent of the box office total, according to Box Office Mojo. The reason he turned down Avatar, Damon says, is because he had committed to reprising his role as Jason Bourne in Paul Greengrass’ film, The Bourne Ultimatum.

When Damon told John Krasinski, with whom wrote the screenplay for Promised Land (2012), Krasinski was stunned.

“I told John Krasinski this story when we were writing Promised Land. We’re writing this movie about fracking,” Damon told GQ. We’re writing in the kitchen and we’re on a break and I tell him the story and he goes, ‘What?’ And he stands up and he starts pacing in the kitchen. He goes, ‘OK. OK. OK. OK. OK.’ He goes, ‘If you had done that movie, nothing in your life would be different. Nothing in your life would be different at all. Except that, right now, we would be having this conversation in space.’”

In the past, Damon said he did not regret missing out on playing the lead role in Avatar, which eventually went to Sam Worthington, although he did lament that he may never get to work with Cameron, who works sparingly. The last released film that Cameron directed was, in fact, Avatar in 2009. Cameron does have two sequels in the making, though, with the releases set for 2022 and 2024.

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Preston Byers