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.
- Photo: Hot Tub Time Machine / MGM
Character: John Cusack played Adam Yates in the sleeper comedy hit Hot Tub Time Machine. Adam is one of a group of friends who get transported, via hot tub, to the 1980s during a night of boozing.
Why Cusack Didn’t Come Back For The Sequel: The 2010 comedy doubled its production costs. Why not make a sequel? However, the budget for the sequel got chopped to just $14 million, down from the original's $36 million. Cusack served as both lead actor and producer on the original. The producers decided not to re-sign him in order to save money.
How The Movie Handed It: The production brought on Adam Scott to replace Cusack. The Parks and Recreation star played Cusack's son, Adam Jr. The buddies explained that Adam was away "finding himself" and that's why he couldn't participate in a second round of hot tub time-traveling shenanigans.
Unfortunately, the sequel failed to impress anyone, and lost money at the box office.
- Photo: The Godfather / Paramount Pictures
Character: Marlon Brando earned his second Academy Award for his portrayal of Don Vito Corleone in the seminal 1972 crime epic, The Godfather. Don Vito is the leader of the Corleone crime family.
Why Brando Didn’t Come Back For The Sequel: Don Vito actually dies in the first film from a heart attack. However, The Godfather Part II features several flashback scenes to young Don Vito as he makes his bones in America.
In 2019, The Daily Mail published a letter written by director Francis Ford Coppola to Brando, asking the acclaimed actor to return for the film's sequel. He wrote, "Marlon, I respect you enormously; and if you told me that you did not want to do it... I would accept that, and never mention it again."
It was ultimately an offer that Brando refused.
Coppola also planned to use Brando in a cameo for a flashback sequence in Part II. The scene flashed back to one of Vito's past birthdays. Sonny (James Caan) and Tom (Robert Duvall) argue about Michael's (Al Pacino) plan to enlist in the Marines. Brando reportedly did not show up for the cameo because he was unhappy with Paramount's decision to make him screen test for the first movie.
How The Movie Handled It: Now, it's hard to imagine anyone other than Robert De Niro playing young Don Vito Corleone in the flashback sequences. The scenes call for the character to be a poor young man in New York City. They depict how Vito earned the respect of the community and detail the first steps in building his operation. Brando was 50 years old in 1974, while De Niro was just 31.
De Niro won an Oscar for his performance as the young Vito. It marked the first time in Academy Award history that two different actors won Oscars for playing the same character.
As for Brando's missed cameo scene, his character simply remained off-screen.
- Photo: The Godfather / Paramount Pictures
Character: Richard Castellano played Peter Clemenza in the 1972 crime saga The Godfather. Clemenza served as one of Don Vito's original caporegimes and closest friends. The capo sends Rocco (Tom Rosqui) to sleep with the fishes. After disposing of his body, the hefty Clemenza utters the now-famous line, "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."
Why Castello Didn’t Come Back For The Sequel: Richard Castellano wasn't exactly a household name. Despite the popularity of his character, Clemenza, in the grand scheme of The Godfather, it was a small role.
According to Castellano, he refused the offer to reprise his capo role because he didn't like the direction the script took his character. In the original sequel script, Clemenza becomes a rat and testifies against Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) at the Senate hearings.
"I saw Clemenza as a teacher," Castellano said. "He teaches how to make spaghetti, how to use the gun. [Coppola] can’t tell me that Clemenza, after years of loyalty to the old man, would go in and testify against organized crime. Not unless you proved to me... that he had become a fearful man, that he had become a betrayer."
The actor's version of events is different from Coppola's. The director revealed in a documentary that Castellano didn't sign on because he wanted script approval for his character's dialogue.
Castellano also claims Coppola said he turned down Part II because he wanted more money. “The next thing, I saw Coppola quoted as saying that I asked for more money than anyone else, that I asked to rewrite the script. Once the lie gets out, the lie is told, and it takes."
How The Movie Handled It: Coppola decided to add a completely different character named Frankie Pentangeli, another caporegime in the Corleone family. He cast Michael V. Gazzo for the role. Pentangeli ended up serving as the witness at the Senate hearing, where he intends to rat on Don Michael Corleone - until losing his nerve at the actual hearing, thanks in large part to a not-so-subtly threatening courtroom display (the unexpected appearance of Pentangeli's brother) orchestrated by Michael.
- Photo: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade / Paramount Pictures
Character: Sean Connery played Henry Walton Jones Sr., Indiana's father, in 1989's action-adventure Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Jones is a professor of medieval literature and completely obsessed with finding the Holy Grail. The Last Crusade is the third film of the Indiana Jones series.
Why Connery Didn't Come Back For The Fourth Film: The original 007 decided to retire from acting in 2003 following the tumultuous production of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Director Steven Spielberg attempted to lure the Scottish actor out of retirement to reprise his role for 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. But the part was simply not meaty enough to get Connery back in the game. He said during a 2007 interview:
I spoke with Spielberg, but it didn't work out. It was not that generous a part, worth getting back into the harness and go for. And they had taken the story in a different line anyway, so the father of Indy was kind of really not that important. I had suggested they kill him in the movie, it would have taken care of it better.
How The Movie Handled It: Spielberg went with Connery's idea. Indy Sr. passes sometime before the fourth movie's time period begins. His demise is only mentioned.
Connery stuck with his original retirement plans. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen turned out to be his final film. The Oscar-winning actor passed in 2020 at the age of 90.