Entertainment
669 voters

Celebrities Who Walked Away From Huge Amounts Of Money

Updated August 24, 2020 4.2k votes 669 voters 50.1k views12 items

List RulesVote up the most surprising stories of people turning down massive paydays.

Apparently, cash doesn't rule everything around us... at least not when it comes to these actors who gave up huge paychecks. Perhaps you've turned down a few bucks here or there to avoid a distasteful job - like telling your buddy no when he offers you a fiver to take his turn cleaning out the Chipotle restroom - but that's nothing compared to the serious paydays these celebrities turned down.

We're talking Heath Ledger's Joker-setting-fire-to-a-mountain-of-money kind of cash. Speaking of which, Christian Bale turned down Batman 4, despite the potential payout. Now that sends a message.

So here are the most costly examples of saying no in show business, from ABBA to ZZ Top. Some did it for their integrity, some did it for their art, and ZZ Top did it for their beards.

  • 1

    Matt Damon Turned Down A 10% Stake In 'Avatar'

    Matt Damon Turned Down A 10% Stake In 'Avatar'
    Photo: Georges Biard / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    In a 2019 interview with GQMatt Damon said that James Cameron offered him the lead role of Jake Sully in his 2009 smash hit Avatar. Of course, Damon didn't know it would be one of the most financially successful films of all time, but Cameron also offered him a sweetheart deal: 10% of the film's profits. According to Damon:

    Jim Cameron offered me Avatar. And when he offered it to me, he goes, “Now, listen. I don’t need anybody. I don’t need a name for this, a named actor. If you don’t take this, I’m going to find an unknown actor and give it to him, because the movie doesn’t really need you. But if you take the part, I’ll give you 10%...”

    Ten percent of the film's record-breaking, multi-billion-dollar box office would have come out to $250 million, had Damon taken the part. However, the actor explained that, to take the part, he would have "caused a problem for [director] Paul Greengrass and for all my friends on The Bourne Ultimatum, so I couldn’t do it."

    Does Damon regret the decision? He did joke in a 2019 BBC interview, "I'm the dumbest actor of all time."

    395
    72
    Surprising?
  • 2

    ABBA Turned Down '$1 Billion' To Do A Reunion Tour In 2000

    According to RTE, Ireland's national public broadcaster, ABBA was offered $1 billion to do a reunion tour. The band did get together in 2014 to discuss whether or not to do a 40-year anniversary tour, but the answer was a firm no.

    Singer Frida Lyngstad told RTE, "We only have one answer and that is no - we’re not going to do it.... [N]o amount of money would change our minds."

    444
    117
    Surprising?
  • 3

    Vince Gilligan Turned Down $75 Million To Make Three More Episodes Of ‘Breaking Bad’

    Vince Gilligan Turned Down $75 Million To Make Three More Episodes Of ‘Breaking Bad’
    Photo: AMC

    When Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg approached Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and his team with the proverbial suitcase full of money, the writers all laughed. All Katzenberg wanted them to do was make a measly three more episodes, but unbeknownst to him, such a move would have required completely rewriting the ending of the series - on top of sacrificing the intentional 62-episode length of the show.

    The number had special significance to its lead, Walter White (Bryan Cranston). The element samarium, a chemical used to treat cancer patients, has an atomic number of 62.

    377
    138
    Surprising?
  • 4

    Gotye Gave Up Millions Because He Didn’t Want To Run YouTube Ads On His Video

    Gotye Gave Up Millions Because He Didn’t Want To Run YouTube Ads On His Video
    Photo: Eleven

    Wally de Backer, the artist behind Gotye, turned down millions just so that YouTube wouldn't play ads on his videos. As it turns out, he is deliberate when it comes to his art.

    "I’m not interested in selling my music," de Backer told News.com.au in a 2017 interview. "That’s the reason I don’t put ads on my YouTube channel, which seems strange to people in today’s climate, but that is a decision you can make."

    He went on to explain the various circumstances in which he is willing to share his music:

    I’ve got my own set of rules I made. If a student film wants to use my film I say yes across the board, there’s no money involved. If someone wants to use it commercially I look at what the budget is and the creativity of the project.

    Though the exact number de Backer might have made from "Somebody That I Used to Know" is hard to calculate (based on hypothetical ad revenue per view of the hit video), it could have been well into the millions. As of summer 2020, the video has close to 1.5 billion hits. Comparatively, Psy made nearly $2 million from YouTube ads when his "Gangnam Style" reached 2 billion views.

    248
    90
    Surprising?