Hollywood history is peppered with stories of “what might have been.” Actors can come very close to starring in projects, and if they had, the fate of their career and the movie in question could have been very different. One example, which would have had major financial implications – is Matt Damon turning down the starring role of Jake Sully in Avatar – in favour of the Bourne action movie franchise.
Damon says that he was offered 10% of the Avatar profits, and considering that it made nearly three billion dollars, that’s a lot of moolah. Speaking to Deadline in 2021, Damon said; “I was offered a little movie called Avatar, James Cameron offered me 10% of it. I will go down in history… you will never meet an actor who turned down more money.”
He recounted telling his friend John Krasinski this, and Krasinski rose from the table in total shock before saying, “Nothing would be different in your life if you had done Avatar, except you and me would be having this conversation in space.” Damon then heard about the sequels and said; “There’s sequels? Oh my god.”
Speaking recently to BBC Radio 1 (via Games Radar), James Cameron said; “He’s [Damon] beating himself up over this. And I really think you know, ‘Matt, you’re kind of like one of the biggest movie stars in the world, get over it.’ But he had to do another Bourne film which was on his runway and there was nothing we could do about that. So he had to regretfully decline.”
Cameron is still open to the idea of adding Damon to the cast of an Avatar sequel. “We must do it,” he continued. “We have to do it so the world is in equilibrium again. But he doesn’t get 10%.”
Considering Damon’s “oh my god” reaction when finding out there’s sequels, it’s unclear whether he would be up for holding his breath for seven minutes like Kate Winslet, or playing a teenager like Sigourney Weaver. Knowing Damon, he’d just end up having to be rescued.