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13 Actors Who Refused To Return For Sequels - And How The Movies Handled It

Updated March 16, 2021 102.1k views13 items

Chances are, if a movie gets a sequel, the original was a financial success. Even still, these actors who didn't return for sequels passed on steady work and perhaps even the opportunity to be a part of a franchise

Some of these actors passed on sequels because the money wasn't right. Others skipped the recurring role because they didn’t think the script was good enough. Or, perhaps they didn’t like the new direction their character was headed. What happens when an actor decides not to return for a sequel? Different movies handle it in different ways. Sometimes - like in the case of Back to the Future II - filmmakers get so "creative" that it leads to a lawsuit.

How did Back to the Future II producers go about replacing Crispin Glover, and how much did it wind up costing them in the long run? Why did Marlon Brando refuse Francis Ford Coppola’s offer to appear in the Godfather sequel? What exactly did Megan Fox say to get herself fired from Transformers: Dark of the Moon?

Read about those stories and more in the roundup below.

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  • Photo: Speed / 20th Century Fox

    Character: Keanu Reeves played Los Angeles police officer Jack Traven in the 1994 action thriller, Speed. Traven is a young, ambitious, risk-taking cop who also serves on the city's SWAT team. Traven must keep a city bus from going under 50 mph or else it will explode.

    Why Reeves Didn’t Come Back For The Sequel: When an action movie makes over $350 million worldwide, of course there is going to be talk of a sequel. Director Jan de Bont and Reeves's co-star Sandra Bullock both signed on for Speed 2: Cruise Control. However, even though Reeves was still a young actor at the time, he turned down a $12 million paycheck.

    He passed on the monster payday because he did not like the sequel's script, as he revealed during a 2018 interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!:

    I loved working with Jan de Bont and Sandra, of course. It was just a situation in life where I got the script, and I read the script and I was like "agh." It was about a cruise ship, and I was like... bus not so fast, then a cruise ship is even slower than a bus. And I was just like, "I love you guys, but I just can't do it."

    How The Movie Handled It: Lost Boys star Jason Patric took over as the male lead - another cop, Alex Shaw - in 1997's Speed 2: Cruise Control. Traven got a quick mention regarding him and Bullock's character, Annie, breaking up. Shaw was tasked with saving the cruise liner from blowing up and romancing Annie.

    It wasn't Patric's fault, of course, but Speed 2 was a massive box-office flop and became a critical punching bag.

  • Photo: Back to the Future / Universal Pictures

    Character: Crispin Glover played George McFly in the 1985 sci-fi classic, Back to the Future. George is Marty McFly's (Michael J. Fox) nerdy father. Glover portrays both the young and middle-aged versions of George.

    Why Glover Didn’t Come Back For The Sequel: Most of the original cast returned for the 1989 follow-up. However, Glover turned down the opportunity to reappear as George because of "moral" objections. The actor revealed years later during a radio interview on The Opie & Anthony Show:

    It had to do with money, and what those people - the characters - were doing with money. I said to Robert Zemeckis, I thought it was not a good idea for our characters to have monetary reward. Because it basically makes the moral of the film be that money equals happiness... By having the son character cheer by having a truck in the garage - what I was arguing for was that the characters should be in love, and that the love should be the reward. And Zemeckis got really mad at me when I said this.

    How The Movie Handled It: George played a big part in the original film, and the story for the sequel needed his character, as well. The sequel's filmmakers got creative in attempting to replace Glover. They hired actor Jeffrey Weissman to play George under prosthetics, using that makeup in combination with visual effects to make him look and sound like Glover. As Glover explained:

    They had taken the molds of my face from the old age make-up from the original movie and put another actor into prosthetics that were made from my face, and intercut with a very small amount of footage of me from the original movie in order to fool audiences into thinking I was in the movie.

    Glover was not happy: "If I’d have played that part, I would have played it different. I didn’t like the way that guy played it, and people think it’s me. It still gets to me that there’s that confusion."

    Glover sued Universal City Studios, Amblin Entertainment, and U-Drive Productions for $1 million for violating his right of publicity. The parties eventually settled for a reported $760,000. The lawsuit also set a precedent to prevent film studios from using an actor's likeness and voice in the same way again.

  • Photo: The Godfather / Paramount Pictures

    Character: Robert Duvall played Tom Hagen in 1972's The Godfather and its 1974 sequel, The Godfather Part II. Hagen serves as consigliere and lawyer to the Corleone family. He is also the (informally) adopted child of Vito (Marlon Brando) and Carmela Corleone (Morgana King). Tom's birth parents are deceased.

    Why Duvall Didn’t Come Back For The Third Film: It took years for Francis Ford Coppola to return to the Godfather saga after 1974's Academy Award-winning sequel. The trilogy didn't get its official ending until 1990's The Godfather Part III. The finale also ultimately didn't feature Hagen as the trusted consigliere. Duvall revealed in a 2004 interview that it was the bottom line that kept him out of Part III:

    If they paid (Al) Pacino twice what they paid me, that’s fine, but not three or four times, which is what they did.

    How The Movie Handled It: It's revealed that Hagen passed sometime before the events of The Godfather Part III, which is set in 1979-1980. It is never revealed exactly how or when Hagen passed. Two new characters - B.J. Harrison (George Hamiton) and Dominic Abbandando (Don Novello) - assume the legal responsibilities for the Corleone family.

  • Photo: Terminator 2: Judgment Day / TriStar Pictures

    Character: Linda Hamilton played heroine Sarah Connor in 1984's original The Terminator and the 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Arnold Schwarzenegger's cyborg may get much of the franchise's limelight, but Connor is the heroic protagonist who saves the day and drives the narrative.

    Why Hamilton Didn’t Come Back For The Third Film: The original plan for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was to have the key cogs from the original two films return for the third installment. However, director James Cameron exited the picture and Jonathan Mostow took over behind the camera. 

    Hamilton and Cameron had already been married and divorced by the time T3 was shaping up. However, Hamilton didn't think the film would be a success without its visionary creator. The actress also did not like the script for the third film. She believed the first two movies had done justice for her character and that T3 was unnecessary to Sarah Connor's story. The plot focused more on her son John Connor, while Sarah became a secondary character.

    In 2019, Hamilton criticized all of the Terminator sequels after T2 for their lack of character development: 

    [Character] is something that I strongly felt was missing with the three since I did Judgment Day. You had so much action and taking everything and making it that much bigger, but there were no characters that you really cared about. And that obviously has to be the real thread that links my three movies together; you’ve got to have characters you care about or it’s all just a wash.

    How The Movie Handled It: The original script killed off Sarah Connor about halfway through the movie. After Hamilton dropped out, the writers changed her demise so that it occurred prior to the start of T3 following a three-year battle with leukemia. Her son John (now played by Nick Stahl instead of Edward Furlong) and Schwarzenegger's T-800 mention a few details of her demise, notably that she got to live to see "Judgment Day" (August 29, 1997) come and go without a nuclear holocaust.

    Hamilton reprised her role as Connor for the franchise's 2019 installment, Terminator: Dark Fate. The film served as a direct sequel to Terminator 2 and disregarded the three Terminator movies in between.