Stars Who Turned Down Millions To Star In The Sequel

There are lots of reasons that people want to be movie stars. Some want to make great art, explore the human condition, or be a conduit through which directors and screenwriters can tell interesting stories. It's also a job that can pay pretty well—actors make millions for dressing up in costumes and playing pretend on screen. 

But money isn't everything—particularly when it comes to sequels. Despite being offered a truckload of money to follow-up a beloved, money-making movie, some actors just say no for a lot of reasons, both noble and not-so-noble.

Vin Diesel - 2 Fast 2 Furious

Fast & Furious movies come out at a rate that's, well, fast and furious. Audiences love the tried-and-true formula of fast cars, exotic locations, and Vin Diesel. He was in the very first film in the series, 2001's The Fast and the Furious, and all of the most recent entries, but he skipped the 2003 sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious. And that's in spite of being offered somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million, all because he didn't want to ruin a good thing. 

"Sequels had gotten such a bad name and I had started to think of that first Fast and Furious as a classic, like a Rebel Without a Cause," Diesel told the website #Legend, comparing his movie to the 1955 James Dean film. "If we 'sequelised' it the way studios were doing at the time, just slapping a story together, I'd ruin the chance of that first one becoming a classic." 

Ironically, Diesel used the time he would've spent on 2 Fast 2 Furious filming The Chronicles of Riddicka sequel to the 2000 movie Pitch Black. That franchise, and the character of Riddick, were much closer to Diesel's heart, so much so that for that follow-up he took home a relatively meager $50,000.

Will Smith - Independence Day 2

With The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith smoothly and successfully transitioned from music into a TV acting career. With Independence Day, the top grossing movie of 1996, Smith transitioned again, from TV star to full-fledged movie star. 

Smith played one of the most memorable characters in the alien invasion movie, Captain Steven Hiller, a USMC pilot tasked with actively trying to shoot the bad guys out of the sky. When a sequel, Independence Day: Insurgence, picked up in 2011, producers approached Smith—by then one of the biggest movie stars in the world—to play Captain Hiller again. Smith countered what was certainly a handsome offer with a request for $50 million for two sequels—even though a third Independence Day wasn't necessarily a reality quite yet. 

Despite getting shot down with his huge pay demand, Smith still considered being in the movie. At a Q&A after a screening of Independence Day: Resurgence in 2015, director Roland Emmerich said that Smith ultimately got "tired of sequels" and had just made another science-fiction movie (After Earth) and so "he opted out."

Michael Keaton - Batman Forever

Primarily known as a comic actor early in his career, Michael Keaton was a bit of a left-field choice to topline Tim Burton's Batman movies. But both of Keaton's turns as the Dark Knight—1989's Batman and 1992's Batman Returns were so well-received that by the time Batman Forever went into production in the mid-'90s, it was something of a surprise when Keaton walked away from the franchise. 

He also walked away from a reported $15 million to put on the Batsuit one more time. Keaton had his reasons. He later told CBS This Morning that the script for the movie, which was set to be directed by Joel Schumacher instead of Burton, "sucked" and was "just awful."

Jodie Foster - Hannibal

Movies that win the Academy Award for Best Picture don't often have sequels, but The Silence of the Lambs isn't like most movies. A follow-up was pretty much inevitable: it was a horror movie (and horror movies almost always get at least one sequel), it made $130 million at the American box office, and it was based on but one of several books in a series by author Thomas Harris. 

Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for his Silence role of cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter, and Jodie Foster won one too, for her portrayal of FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling. Hopkins signed on for the sequel, Hannibal, but Foster didn't. She was offered one of biggest actor paychecks up to that time for the 2001 thriller: $20 million. But Foster said no, deciding to instead direct Flora Plum, a movie about a circus sideshow performer. Julianne Moore stepped into the role of Clarice Starling, for which she was paid a mere $2 million.

Keanu Reeves - Speed 2

The original Speed was lightning in a bottle: an all-killer, no-filler, pulse-pounding action thriller with an original and outrageous premise: a bomb on a bus will explode if it goes below 50 mph. Speed made veteran actor Keanu Reeves a viable action star and it thrust Sandra Bullock onto the A-list. 

And then there's Speed 2: Cruise Control. It's about...a cruise ship. It ranks among the most poorly-reviewed, franchise-killing sequels of all time. Bullock returned, but Reeves didn't, ceding his spot to Jason Patric. Reeves reportedly left $11 million on the table. According to Erin Stoff, Reeves' manager at the time, it was because the actor just finished filming the physically taxing Chain Reaction and "didn't want to do two action movies back-to-back."

Bruce Willis - The Expendables 3

Bruce Willis was a major and necessary part of the ensemble of faded-but-beloved action stars at the heart of the first two films in The Expendables franchise. Naturally, he was invited to return for The Expendables 3 in what amounted to little more than a cameo. 

Filmmakers offered Willis $3 million—for just four days of shooting work. But Willis didn't think that $750,000 a day was a very good pay rate, so he asked for a salary boost to $4 million—a cool $1 million a day. As it turns out, Willis was, well, expendable. Producers refused the pay hike and Harrison Ford got the part instead. (The Expendables 3 co-star and co-writer Sylvester Stallone tweeted out that Willis' behavior was "greedy and lazy," as well as a "sure formula for career failure.")

Katie Holmes - The Dark Knight

In Batman Begins, the first entry in director Christopher Nolan's dark and serious Caped Crusader trilogy, Dawson's Creek actress and Tom Cruise-marrying tabloid fixture Katie Holmes co-starred as Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne's girlfriend. When it came time to start filming on the next movie, The Dark Knight, Holmes opted out. She had been offered another movie that was filming at the same time, and it interested her a little more. 

That film was the forgettable heist comedy Mad Money. Holmes told Business Insider in 2016 that she doesn't regret her choice to walk away from a critically-acclaimed blockbuster. "It was a decision that I made at that time and it was right for me at that moment," Holmes said. She added that she thought that the next actress to play Rachel Dawes, Maggie Gyllenhaal, "did a wonderful job." According to the Wall Street Journal, Holmes would've earned between $1 million and $2 million for The Dark Knight, much more than the $250,000 or so she got for Mad Money.

Jim Carrey - The Mask 2

Although Jim Carrey had appeared in a few movies and TV series in the late '80s and early '90s, including a run on Fox's In Living Color, he became a household name in 1994. That year he starred in three very different hit movies: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber. Carrey starred in sequels to Ace Ventura and Dumb and Dumber, but left The Mask alone. That's despite a $10 million offer to make a Mask sequel. 

Why did he turn down so much money? Because it was so much money. "I don't want people to start thinking about me as, like, a money person," Carrey told the Los Angeles Times. "'Cause I'm not. To me, that's a little Monopoly game that's being played in the other room." 

A Mask sequel was eventually produced. Son of the Mask, starring Jamie Kennedy, was released to a dismal 6 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and $17 million box office take in 2005.

Hilary Duff - Lizzie McGuire 2

If you weren't a tween or the parent of a tween in the early 2000s, then the Lizzie McGuire phenomenon probably escaped you. Hilary Duff starred in that Disney Channel series, which combined live-action with animation. 

Lizzie McGuire was so popular that Disney wanted to take it to the big screen. Disney executive Dick Cook was so confident that the movie would be a hit that he offered Duff a two-movie deal: $3.5 million for two Lizzie McGuire films, and a $500,000 bonus if the first Lizzie movie made $50 million at the box office. Duff's mom/manager Susan Duff didn't think that was enough, and asked for $5 million (along with a producer's credit on the movie for herself, and, oddly, a request that Disney pay her cell phone bills). Cook countered with $4 million; the Duffs came back with $4.5 million. 

Cook then said his $4 million was his final offer, take it or leave it, and gave the Duffs a deadline when the offer would expire. A day after that deadline, Susan Duff said she's take the $4 million, but it was too late. And that's why there's only one Lizzie McGuire movie. Susan Duff told Entertainment Weekly that although she and her daughter had "walked away from a sequel," Disney had "walked away from a franchise."

Will Ferrell - Elf 2

Elf is a modern-day Christmas classic, and to revisit Buddy the Elf would be to ruin the spirit of the original. That's a big reason why Will Ferrell refused to make Elf 2, resisting the lure of offers as high as $29 million. 

He told The Guardian that it wasn't even that hard to turn down all the cash because he saw the (Candy Cane) forest for the (Christmas) trees. "It wasn't difficult at all. I remember asking myself: could I withstand the criticism when it's bad and they say, 'He did the sequel for the money'? I decided I wouldn't be able to. I didn't want to wander into an area that could erase all the good work I've done."