Actors Who Bailed On Franchises, Then Came Back Years Later

It’s not often that an actor gets to be a part of a big Hollywood movie franchise. Even though it’s cash in the bank and steady work, there are actors who bailed on franchises, had a change of heart, and then came back years later. 

Sometimes decades pass before an actor or actress wants back in. Linda Hamilton left The Terminator franchise for almost 30 years. Karen Allen exited the Indiana Jones films for 27 years. Other actors like Vin Diesel and Natalie Portman just took a few years off before heading back to the comforts of their billion-dollar franchises. 

Most of these actors were lured back by cold hard cash. Others claimed they returned due to a change in directors or because they liked the new arc of their character. 

What enticed these 11 actors to return? Should they have stayed away? How did the movie franchise do without them? Read on to find out.

  • In 1978, Jamie Lee Curtis made her big-screen debut as Laurie Strode in John Carpenter's Halloween. The film introduced the world to the masked villain Michael Myers and launched Curtis's career as a bona fide "Scream Queen." She also starred in the 1980s horror films The Fog, Prom Night, and Terror Train. Laurie survived the 1981 sequel Halloween II, but then Curtis decided to leave the franchise because she did not want to appear as just a horror actress. She said:

    I recognized that if I didn't stop doing horror movies when Halloween II happened, I knew I would have no other opportunities. It was the only time in my life I've ever made a conscious decision to do something creatively, and I said, "I'm not going to do any more horror movies." Not because I didn't care about them, not because I felt that they were less than, not because of any other reason except I knew I would be limited.

    Curtis did go on to have a successful and varied career in Hollywood, appearing in comedies like Trading Places and action movies such as True Lies. However, she heard the screams once again in 1998 and resurrected her role as Laurie in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. The events of the plot are rooted in the 1978 original, sidestepping all of the sequels. It seems Curtis was just ready to return to her horror roots; she says she went back to Halloween "with an open heart." 

    • Age: 64
    • Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Sean Connery - 'James Bond' Franchise
    Photo: Dr. No / United Artists

    Sean Connery played the suave spy James Bond in the first five 007 movies: Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), and You Only Live Twice (1967). All were box office hits, but the Scottish actor was not happy with the direction of the franchise. He complained the character had failed to grow and was becoming dull.

    It also did not help that Connery was at odds with Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli. Their relationship had soured to the point that Connery refused to leave his trailer whenever Broccoli came by the film set. The actor also asked for a million-dollar paycheck and a percentage of the back end if they wanted him for a sixth Bond movie. 

    His demands were not met and Connery split from Eon Productions, the official James Bond studio. The franchise tried not to skip a beat and hired George Lazenby for 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Lazenby only lasted for one Bond film before Connery was lured back to the franchise just a few years after he left. The actor was offered a $1.25 million salary to appear in Diamonds Are Forever, and all complaints about Bond being boring seemed to get tossed out the window.  

    Connery exited the franchise once again after Diamonds Are Forever. However, it wouldn't be his last time as 007. He followed the money again and appeared in 1983's Never Say Never Again. However, that movie was not made by Eon Productions.

    • Age: Dec. at 90 (1930-2020)
    • Birthplace: United Kingdom
  • Bill Murray - 'Ghostbusters' Franchise
    Photo: Ghostbusters / Columbia Pictures

    Bill Murray was already a big deal in comedy movies when Ghostbusters hit the big screen in 1984. That movie went on to be considered one of the greatest comedies of the decade. The sequel followed five years later, to a strong box office but less overall acclaim.

    Following Ghostbusters II, there were always hints that another installment would follow. However, nothing materialized (save the 2016 Ghostbusters with an all-female cast, in which Murray made a cameo - but not as his character Dr. Peter Venkman). The third project never advanced because Murray said he was unhappy with the way Ghostbusters II turned out and did not want to make another one.

    In the 30 years after Ghostbusters II, despite interest from Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, Murray seemed content to work on other projects, from Groundhog Day to Lost in Translation to numerous Wes Anderson films. Murray became so annoyed with being asked about Ghostbusters that he called the experience "a nightmare" while appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman in 2010. 

    The following year, Sony was reportedly willing to put up $150 million to make the third Ghostbusters. The caveat was that Murray had to be in the picture. Once again, Murray resisted. During an appearance on The Howard Stern Show, he admitted the new Ghostbusters script was at his house. Though he acknowledged that he was the reason the project wasn't going forward, he said he couldn't be bothered to even really think about it. 

    Then finally, it happened. A third Ghostbusters film got the green light. Murray changed his whole attitude about the project. He said, "This franchise paid for my son’s college. We made this thing. We are the caretakers of it. It’s a great thing and it was a really fun movie to make. It’s a real movie with some really funny stuff in it."

    Ghostbusters: Afterlife is directed by original director Ivan Reitman's son, Jason Reitman. A sequel to the first film, it's set 30 years later and features new additions to the cast, including Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon. Besides Murray reprising his role as Venkman, several members of the original cast are also reprising their roles, including Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver. One exception is Ramis, who passed in 2014.

    The film had an original release date of July 10, 2020. However, the date was pushed back to March 5, 2021, following the COVID-19 outbreak.

    • Age: 73
    • Birthplace: Evanston, Illinois, USA
  • Matt Damon - 'Bourne' Franchise
    Photo: The Bourne Identity / Universal Pictures

    Matt Damon starred as the eponymous amnesiac spy in the first three Jason Bourne movies: The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). All were based on the character created by novelist Robert Ludlum. The first film was directed by Doug Liman; the second and third were helmed by Paul Greengrass (United 93). All were box office hits and generally well-received by critics. 

    Damon decided to leave the Bourne franchise after Greengrass exited. The English director reportedly got upset when Universal Pictures began development on the fourth picture, The Bourne Legacy, while he and Damon were busy making Green Zone, also for Universal. After Greengrass left, the studio hired Tony Gilroy, who co-wrote the first three films, to direct the fourth.

    Gilroy talked about losing the franchise star, “Matt was completely not an option, and personally I couldn’t imagine trying to replace him. All the conspiratorial politics aside, these are very un-cynical, honest movies, and I don’t know another actor who brings more integrity and dignity, and a lack of cynicism to his work than Matt.” 

    Upon Damon's exit, the studio hired Jeremy Renner to star in The Bourne Legacy. Despite the title of the movie having the "Bourne" name, Renner played a brand-new character called Aaron Cross, a Department of Defense operative. Renner's film performed moderately well at the box office and received mixed reviews. 

    But Damon wasn't done with Bourne. He signed on to bring back his character for the 2016 installment Jason Bourne. Greengrass returned as director and co-writer. Almost 10 years had passed since Damon's last Bourne movie. Franchise fans were clearly eager to see the actor's return. Despite tepid reviews, the film grossed $415.5 million worldwide.

    • Age: 52
    • Birthplace: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  • Vin Diesel - 'The Fast Saga'
    Photo: The Fast and the Furious / Universal Pictures

    2001's The Fast and the Furious was a monster hit. Made for under $40 million, it brought in over $200 worldwide and turned Vin Diesel into a star. The producers wanted to make a sequel called 2 Fast 2 Furious and offered Diesel a reported $25 million to reprise his role as street racer Dominic Toretto. 

    Diesel turned down the big payday. The Chronicles of Riddick actor thought the original Fast film was a treasure, and the script for the sequel didn't do it justice. He said, "I had started to think of that first Fast and Furious as a classic, like a Rebel Without a Cause. 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." 

    The franchise continued without one of its biggest stars. Despite Diesel's criticisms, the sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious earned more money at the box office than its predecessor. Diesel made a cameo appearance in the third film, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which was a box office disappointment. 

    However, Diesel came back in a lead role for the fourth installment, 2009's Fast & Furious. Why the change of heart? He would only do the movie if he was made a producer on all future films in the franchise. It has all worked out well for Diesel and the Fast brand. As of 2020, there have been nine Fast & Furious movies. All have been financial successes, with two, Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious, earning well over a billion dollars each worldwide.

    • Age: 56
    • Birthplace: New York City, USA, New York
  • Linda Hamilton - 'Terminator' Franchise
    Photo: The Terminator / Orion Pictures

    Linda Hamilton changed the landscape of heroines in science fiction movies with The Terminator in 1984. That film became a sneaky hit at the box office, establishing James Cameron as a major voice in sci-fi/action movies. A buffer and more badass Hamilton reprised her role as Sarah Connor in 1991 for Terminator 2: Judgment DayT2, considered by many as one of the rare sequels that improves on the original, grossed an astronomical $520 million. 

    Over the next couple of decades, several more Terminators hit the big screen, and there was also a TV series, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, starring Lena Headey. However, Hamilton had decided to retire from the franchise after just two installments. She finally returned to fight the machines once again in 2019 for Terminator: Dark Fate, reuniting with Arnold Schwarzenegger (who had been happily Terminator-ing all along). Hamilton explained her reasons for leaving the franchise:

    I didn’t see it coming. I never, ever thought I’d return. As a matter of fact, I’d sort of been working anti-Sarah Connor juju ever since then, as an actress. I mean, I’m very happy I got to play that role twice, but you want to go on and play women of all kinds.

    Dark Fate picks up where the narrative of T2 left off. The actress was drawn to both the story and character development. 

    “The passage of time was very intriguing, the fact that the future as she imagined it at the end of T2 turns on her," says Hamilton. "She’s a woman standing very alone and empty and bereft. And I just knew that I could take those two decades that had passed and fill them with a great story."

    “We really focused in on bringing it back to characters and a story about characters," explains Hamilton. "Because it doesn’t matter if you’ve got all the spectacle and a thousand people blowing up in a building - if you don’t know one of those characters and care about them, it falls flat.”

    Dark Fate was released in theaters in 2019. Despite solid reviews, the movie was a box office disappointment. Though it brought in $261 million worldwide, Dark Fate's production and marketing costs were such that it needed to earn nearly $500 million just to break even.

    • Age: 66
    • Birthplace: Salisbury, Maryland, USA