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Why Matt Damon turned down over $280 million to star in Avatar

Matt Damon reveals why he turned down potentially one of his biggest paydays ever when he said no to starring in the 2009 movie Avatar

Matt Damon as Jason Bourne

Matt Damon, with over 90 acting credits to his name, has starred in many franchises over the years – be it the Jason Bourne spy movies, or even as a cameo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, that doesn’t mean that the actor takes every project that heads his way. In fact, there was one huge IP the star ended up turning down – James Cameron’s Avatar.

“I was offered a little movie called Avatar; James Cameron offered me 10% of it,” Damon said during a Cannes Film Festival masterclass in 2021 (via Deadline). “I will go down in history… you will never meet an actor who turned down more money.”

The star, who had attended the event following the release of the drama movie Stillwater, went on to clarify how Cameron initially offered him the leading role on top of the 10% cut – which, to make things clear, would have been hefty since the science fiction movie ended up earning $2.922 billion worldwide. It may seem odd that Damon would ever say no to such an attractive deal, but the actor had some very honourable reasons for his decision.

When filming was set to kick off on Avatar, Damon was still working on the Jason Bourne movies. The actor chose to do what he believed was morally right and not leave the franchise he had already signed onto to fend for itself.

Cameron would, as a result, cast Sam Worthington in the leading role, who is set to reprise the role of the ex-marine Jake Sully in the upcoming fantasy movie Avatar 2, Avatar: The Way of Water – which hits cinemas on December 16, 2022.

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While Damon may have missed quite a big payday, he hasn’t been left without work. The actor is currently set to appear in one of the most anticipated 2023 movies – Christopher Nolan’s thriller movie Oppenheimer, which races into cinemas on July 21.

For more action-packed fun, here are our guides to the best detective movies and adventure movies of all time.