It’s wonderful for an actor to get to a point in their career where they can pick and choose the film parts they want. These actors who were forced to take roles did not have a choice. Sometimes, contracts and even handshake deals get in the way of an actor’s freedom.
Modern-day Hollywood is filled with franchises and sequels. Often, if an actor signs on for a superhero role in a franchise like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even if the sequel movie’s script is awful, they still have to do the project.
Additionally, green actors often sign multi-picture deals with movie studios, especially at the beginning of their careers when they don’t have a ton of leverage. Sometimes, an actor will find an incredible script and want to make that movie with a different studio. However, they cannot if they are contractually obligated to finish their original deal.
Even A-list star power does not trump signing on the dotted line, even in one actor’s case where their “friend” forged their signature.
Which famous actors were forced to take film roles they did not want?
- Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing
Eventually, for various reasons, every actor leaves the role of James Bond. Daniel Craig signed a four-picture deal with the production company EON to play the spy with a license to kill.
Despite both the box-office gains and mostly positive reviews of Craig's first three Bond movies - Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), and Skyfall (2012) - the English actor did not want to make a fourth Bond film.
However, he didn't have a choice. "Well, I was contracted to do another one," said Craig. "That was all set up. But at the studio, there was a real keenness to get it done as soon as possible. In fact, there was a conversation at one point that went: 'Let’s film two movies back to back.' I just went 'You’re out of your f*cking minds.'"
The filming for Spectre turned out to be a grueling eight-month shoot that had the actor traveling around the world. After completing the Sam Mendes-directed movie, Craig did not hold back on his feelings about making a fifth Bond film: "I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists. No, not at the moment. Not at all. That’s fine. I’m over it at the moment. We’re done. All I want to do is move on."
Craig later added, "I’m not in discussion with anybody about anything. If I did another Bond movie, it would only be for the money."
Money really does talk. Craig ended up signing on for a fifth Bond movie, No Time to Die. He reportedly earned $25 million.
- Photo: Universal Pictures
Steven Spielberg's 1975 adventure thriller Jaws brought in a then-record-setting $470 million at the box office. The movie established the concept of the summer blockbuster and changed the entire course of Hollywood filmmaking.
Of course, Universal wanted to further capitalize on their star shark and make a sequel. However, both Spielberg and actor Richard Dreyfuss passed on the opportunity.
Roy Scheider did not have a choice. The actor was contractually obligated to reprise his role as the movie's protagonist Brody. Scheider reportedly did not enjoy the experience of making the sequel, nor did he care for the movie's director Jeannot Szwarc.
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
Ed Norton made one of the most impressive big-screen debuts ever in the 1996 legal thriller Primal Fear. The role earned the actor an Academy Award nomination and instantly made him a rising young Hollywood star.
Before Norton appeared in Primal Fear, he signed a three-picture deal with Paramount in 1995. Therefore, he was contractually obligated to make two additional films with the studio. Norton continued to work for other studios in films like American History X and The People vs. Larry Flynt. Meanwhile, Paramount and Norton could not find a project they could agree upon.
The actor landed the role as the Narrator in David Fincher's 1999 film Fight Club, believing his contract with Paramount had expired. The studio thought otherwise, and the sides embarked on a legal entanglement. Paramount claimed Norton was contractually obligated to make a film called Twenty Billion that was scheduled to film during the same time as Fight Club.
Norton wanted to star in Fincher's film, so he finally agreed to settle his dispute with the studio. The two sides agreed Norton would make one more additional picture for Paramount.
After Fight Club wrapped, Paramount and Norton once again could not agree on a project. The studio insisted they would never make the actor appear in a movie he didn't want to be in. However, Paramount finally flexed its muscles and forced Norton to take a role in the 2003 caper movie The Italian Job, which was a remake of the 1969 British film of the same name. Norton only took The Italian Job to avoid being sued by Paramount. However, the Academy Award-nominated actor didn't attempt to hide his disdain while working on the film.
When The Italian Job turned out to be a box-office and audience hit, the film's producers gave out gifts to members of the cast. And it wasn't just any gift, but a brand new BMW Mini Cooper like those featured in the film. Norton reportedly returned his gift with a note that read: "Give this to someone you actually like - or someone who actually likes you."
- Photo: New Line Cinema
The original script for Theodore Rex had a white male in the lead role as the police detective who partners with a Tyrannosaurus rex. However, after producers met with Whoopi Goldberg, who was at the height of her '90s fame, they offered the actress $5 million to play the heroine in the live-action buddy cop movie. Goldberg accepted the offer, and the production continued with the new lead change. The parties only had a verbal agreement.
Then, for reasons unknown that probably had to do with the movie's script, Goldberg wanted to back out of the project. Her team offered to return the $5 million. However, the movie's producers wanted Goldberg to keep her word. They filed a $20 million lawsuit against the Academy Award-winning actress, who eventually agreed to star in the movie to avoid going to court.
Theodore Rex went on to become the most expensive film to ever go straight to video. It also earned the dreaded 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Goldberg received a Razzie nod in 1996 for Worst Actress.