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Actors Who Bailed On Franchises, Then Came Back Years Later

April 7, 2020 3.9k views11 items

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." 

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.