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Actors Who Were Paid Millions For Roles They Didn't Play

It's no secret that movie stars get paid an obscene amount of money for their work. Between upfront deals, on-set perks, and box office percentages, it's not uncommon for some of the most prolific actors to earn millions of dollars per film. Jack Nicholson famously took a reduced salary to play the Joker in Tim Burton's "Batman", but thanks to a lucrative deal ensuring him shares of the profits from both the film and its merchandise, he walked away with something between $60 and $90 million. Tom Cruise served as a producer as well as starring in the "Mission: Impossible" franchise, and was able to negotiate his way to such a significant back-end percentage that he regularly nets $70 million per entry (not to mention his up-front fee).

All of which might seem (somewhat) reasonable as long as the actors are doing their jobs and entertaining the masses. But sometimes it transpires that an actor will receive a hefty payday and still not appear in the project they're getting paid for. Sometimes their scenes simply end up on the cutting room floor. Sometimes the film itself doesn't come together. And sometimes a rival studio might even bribe them to turn town an offer. Whatever the case may be, here are some actors who found a way to make money from roles despite not appearing in the final product.

James Gandolfini for The Office

Over the course of eight years and six seasons, James Gandolfini was best known to audiences worldwide as the lead of HBO's crime drama "The Sopranos." One of the most acclaimed and well-regarded TV shows of all time, the saga of gangsters, their families, and their therapy bills is often cited as originating the modern era of peak TV. A central part of its success was Gandolfini as Tony, a New Jersey mob boss who balanced a menacing exterior with a more sensitive inner life. After the show's controversial conclusion, any other network would have considered his casting to be a massive coup.

As it turns out, this nearly happened with NBC and "The Office." With Steve Carrell planning to depart the hit comedy in its seventh season, the hunt was on to find a high profile replacement to fill his shoes. Though James Spader was eventually cast, apparently Gandolfini was close to nabbing the role. According to his "Sopranos" co-star Michael Imperioli, the actor was so close that HBO paid him $3 million to turn down the role. The reason given was so that Gandolfini could continue developing the limited series "The Night Of" with the network (tragically, it wouldn't premiere until three years after his death), it's speculated that they also wanted to preserve the tough-guy legacy of Tony Soprano, and were concerned that a sillier role in "The Office" might detract from that.

Johnny Depp for Fantastic Beasts and the Secrets of Dumbledore

The "Harry Potter" franchise is no stranger to recent controversies. Between the disappointing critical and commercial reception of the most recent entry, "Fantastic Beasts and the Crimes of Grindelwald," and a number of intolerant statements made by series author J.K. Rowling, the last thing these spin-offs needed was to have one of its primary cast members in hot water. Yet that's precisely what happened with Johnny Depp, who had been cast as the villainous Gellert Grindelwald in a surprise cameo at the end of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" before having his role significantly fleshed out in the sequel.

Unfortunately for Depp, personal drama began to overshadow his acting career. In the wake of a vicious and highly public court battle with his ex-wife Amber Heard, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. decided that being associated with Depp was more trouble than it was worth. As a result, the role of Grindelwald was recast with "Hannibal" star Mads Mikkelsen for the upcoming third film, although Depp managed to pocket his full $16 million salary per his original contract.

Shailene Woodley for The Amazing Spider-Man 2

In the wake of the wildly successful "No Way Home," it's easy to forget that there was a time when the Spider-Man films weren't on such solid ground. At no time was this ground shakier than with Marc Webb's "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," a film that was intended to launch an entire cinematic universe revolving around the popular wall-crawler. Despite its grand ambitions, the film was dismissed by critics and fans alike, with its unfocused and overstuffed narrative being among the primary concerns. The reception was so underwhelming that plans for further sequels and spin-offs were axed in favor of introducing a new version of the character into the far more popular Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Considering how many characters and plot threads the film tried to juggle, it's hard to believe that there were things left out. One of the biggest casualties was "Divergent" star Shailene Woodley, who had been cast as Peter Parker's future love interest Mary Jane. Though likely little more than a small cameo, considering this version of Peter was still in a relationship with Gwen Stacy, Woodley's character was no doubt being set up for a far more prominent role down the line. Alas, not only were her scenes cut from the finished film, but the lack of direct sequels meant that her interpretation of the iconic redhead never got to see the light of day.

Tobey Maguire for Life of Pi

The actor who first brought Spider-Man to life on the big screen is no stranger to being paid for a complete lack of screen time. Tobey Maguire was originally slated to reunite with Ang Lee, who had directed him 15 years earlier in "The Ice Storm," for an adaptation of Yann Martel's "Life of Pi." The former Peter Parker would have played a small but pivotal role as a writer who interviews the protagonist as an adult, thus forming the framing device as he recalls his fantastical voyage across the sea in a small boat, with no one but a ferocious tiger for company.

The problem, as it turned out, was that Maguire was simply too famous. The rest of the cast was comprised of international actors, most of whom would not be very well known in the U.S., and the director decided that the A-lister's presence was proving more distracting than anything else. So despite having already filmed the role, Maguire was replaced with the lesser-known Rafe Spall, and the character's scenes were completely reshot. Fortunately, Maguire was very understanding about the whole situation, and Lee has expressed interest in working with the actor on a future project.

Kevin Costner for The Big Chill

Before he was a massive superstar, directing and starring in epics like "Dances with Wolves" and "Waterworld," Kevin Costner was just a working actor who had to take whatever roles he could get. When he was cast in Lawrence Kasdan's "The Big Chill" in 1983, it was with the understanding that his character, Alex, would already be dead by the time the film began. His suicide would be the inciting incident that brings the all-star cast of former friends (including Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, William Hurt, Jeff Goldblum, and Tom Berenger) back together after years apart.

Lest you think that the future "Yellowstone" star signed on to merely play a corpse, Costner actually spent weeks rehearsing with the rest of the actors and filming a number of flashback scenes, which were intended to flesh out Alex's depression and his relationship with the other characters. At the end of the day, however, Kasdan elected to leave these scenes on the cutting room floor, and the only shot of Costner that remains in the film is that of his body on a slab in the morgue. The director must have seen something he liked, however, as years later the two collaborated on "Wyatt Earp" – a film that puts Costner front and center.

Nicolas Cage for Superman Lives

With a body of work ranging from classy Oscar fare to schlocky action thrillers and everything in between, Nicolas Cage's career is the stuff of legend. Yet one of the actors most infamous roles was one he never got the chance to play. This of course was the title character of the equally legendary "Superman Lives," a superhero blockbuster that would have been helmed by Tim Burton (fresh off of "Batman") with a script by Kevin Smith (at the height of his post-"Clerks" fame). It seemed like a match made in comic book heaven.

However, the film was not to be. Though an official reason was never given, many have speculated that it may have to do with the disastrous reception of Joel Schumacher's "Batman & Robin," which could have made parent company Warner Bros. apprehensive about jumping into another big-budget movie about tights and capes. Jonathan Gems (who worked with Burton as a writer on "Mars Attacks!") theorized that the studio was somehow punishing the filmmaker for that film's lackluster performance. The entire affair was eventually chronicled in the documentary "The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?" And though Cage never got the chance to play Kal-El, he did reportedly collect a cool $20 million for his trouble.