Sometimes a movie surprises you. Even actors have been surprised when vague plot descriptions pan out to be amazing films. Do you think the actors that signed up for work on Up! were totally confident in a plot described as, “a depressed old man accidentally abducts a young boy who shows up at his door and smuggles him into South America?” They had faith in the film because they knew studios like Pixar could churn out amazing pieces of cinematic gold.
However, there are certain markers that predispose a movie to be terrible – one of those is that it’s a sequel. Think about it: sequels frequently ruin characters, original movies, and entire franchises. Need proof? How about Grease 2, Rocky V, Caddyshack 2, Blues Brothers 2000, the last three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, or either of the Jaws sequels? A movie getting a sequel is a potential death sentence.
Luckily, some actors are smart enough to sense the potentially career-crippling move of stepping into a sequel. Sure, there are plenty of actors who have the misfortune to be replaced when a sequel is actually successful, like Megan Fox and Shia LaBeouf in the Transformers series, but there are plenty of others who are just wary enough to know when it might be smarter to walk away. Maybe they were wrong in the long run, but it’s better than the alternative. For example, imagine if Jennifer Gray had returned for Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights – not a pretty picture, right? Here are the fifteen actors who thoughtfully bailed before sequels.
15. Crispin Glover – Back To The Future 2
Crispin Glover wasn’t known for his work in many films. Aside from his short appearance in Charlie’s Angels and the lesser known Keanu Reeves film River’s Edge, he’s really only known for his role as Marty McFly’s father in the classic, Back to the Future. When Marty travels back in time to the ’50s, he encounters younger versions of his future mom and dad who are played by Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover, respectfully. In the sequel, when Marty must travel back in time again, you’ll notice that George McFly looks a bit different. That’s because George was played by Jeffrey Weissman in the sequel. Crispin was only offered half of his original pay to return for the sequel, despite his stellar performance, so he walked away from the Hollywood cheapskates. He then proceeded to sue studios for outfitting Jeffrey Weissman with prosthetics to reproduce Glover’s likeness for the role.
14. Keanu Reeves – Speed 2
There are plenty of action movies that can be remade over and over again, like Total Recall or Mad Max; Speed is not one of them. The premise alone of a bomb being attached to a bus that is controlled by cell phones and the speed of a bus not decelerating is so basic that the entire plot would need to be revamped in order to make any kind of continuation to this franchise. However, the Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock flick was a hit back in 1994 – so much so that a sequel was slated for 1997. Sandra Bullock was game for a second round, but Keanu Reeves backed out.
It had nothing to do with money; rather, he was afraid of taking a career misstep. He’d just filmed the action film Chain Reaction and didn’t want to star in another action movie just after for fear of being typecast as an action star.
13. Jodie Foster – Silence Of The Lamb
In 1991, Jodie Foster won an Oscar for her work in portraying Clarice Starling in the terrifying classic film, Silence of the Lambs, in which Foster played a young F.B.I. cadet who cleverly tracks down a serial killer who skins his victims. She does so using varying methods, including attempting to understand the criminal psyche in her visits with the already imprisoned Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a forensic psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. When the movie was incredibly successful, studios wanted to move forward with Thomas Harris’ other novels for a sequel. So why was Clarice played by Julianne Moore in the sequel rather than Jodie Foster?
While Jodie was plenty thankful for the success Silence of the Lambs brought her career, she was not at all interested in working on the disturbing and twisted source material presented by author Thomas Harris. Director Jonathan Demme and writer Ted Tally also backed out of the sequel for the same reason.
11. Bill Murray – Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle
Sure, Bill Murray has been in a lot better movies, like Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, and Lost in Translation, but he was at the very least incredibly entertaining. Bill played John Bosley, the hilarious and quirky mediator between the mysterious Charlie and his sexy yet vicious angels. In this reboot of the Charlie’s Angels franchise, the angels were played by divas and dimes Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu. The movie was successful enough to merit a sequel, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, yet Bill was nowhere to be found.
Bill’s not the kind of guy to fret over pay checks or petty contractual agreements. No, he left the series because of his on-set relationships. His feud and annoyance with actress Lucy Liu was publicly known, yet he attributes leaving the series to another unnamed actor. “That same person was going to be involved in the second one, so I wasn’t going to show up again.” You have to wonder: was he helping Lucy save face, or was there another insufferable diva on-set?
11. Alan Cumming – X-Men: The Last Stand
Nightcrawler is one of the most beloved characters of the X-Men comic books, so we were all excited when director Bryan Singer brought the character into the franchise in X-Men 2. The character was played by the acrobatic and brilliant actor Alan Cumming, also known for his roles in GoldenEye and Burlesque. Not only was he one of the most exciting elements of the film, but he turned out to be one of the strongest and most interesting characters. Why weren’t we granted the chance to see him again, then?
It didn’t have anything to do with the paycheck and it had nothing to do with the prospective failure of X-Men: The Last Stand. Really, it was all about the makeup. Every day before filming, Alan Cumming spent hours with the makeup crew being covered in blue body paint. Instead, he did a voiceover in X-Men: The Official Video Game that explained why his character didn’t stick around the school.
10. Jim Carrey – Bruce Almighty 2
This adorable comedy star is known most for his roles in Dumb & Dumber, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and The Truman Show. Jim Carrey has been in dozens of iconic and hilarious movies, but one of his most popular has got to be Bruce Almighty, in which he plays an average guy who is fortunate enough to be endowed with the powers of God. The movie was incredibly successful and got its own sequel: Evan Almighty, starring Steve Carell. However, that wasn’t the original plan for the movie; studios wanted it to be about Bruce. So why didn’t Jim return?
Truth is, Jim has always been reluctant to do sequels. Whether for this franchise, The Mask, or Yes Man, he’s turned down plenty of sequels. He just knows that they’re destined to ruin a brand; not a bad philosophy, since the Dumb & Dumber sequel was a total flop.
9. Josh Dallas – Thor: The Dark World
Don’t think you remember Josh Dallas’ role in the first Thor movie? Of course you do! He played Fandal, one of Thor’s Asgardian buddies who fearlessly charges headfirst into battle at his side. Alongside Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, and Jaimie Alexander, Josh Dallas had a few strong scenes wherein the group plans to rescue Thor from his exile on Earth from the evil schemes of Loki. Fandal returned in the sequel, Thor: The Dark World, but he was played by actor Zachary Levi.
The switch was coincidental and kind of a tale of missed opportunity. Originally, directors wanted Zachary Levi in the role but he was too preoccupied with his role on Chuck so they cast Josh. Then, when the sequel came, Josh turned down the chance to reprise the role because he was too busy with his role on Once Upon a Time, so they reached out to Zachary again who could finally accept the part originally meant for him!
8. Terrence Howard – Iron Man 2
All of us that follow the Avengers franchise of the Marvel Universe are familiar with the lesser known but still plenty important “sidekicks.” Falcon is Captain America’s sidekick in battle; Darcy is Jane Porter’s sidekick in science; and War Machine is Iron Man’s sidekick. That’s not to say that James “Rhodey” Rhodes is there to follow Tony Stark’s orders in any way, but he’s definitely one of his best friends and supporters. Iron Man was the first movie in the Avengers sequence, so casting decisions were not taken lightly. Why, then, did Don Cheadle come back as Rhodey in Iron Man 2 instead of Terrence Howard?
Truth is, he negotiated his way into being the highest paid actor in the first Iron Man movie – that’s right, more than Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, or Jeff Bridges. When the time came for the second movie, director Jon Favreau insisted he either take a pay cut or walk away; so Terrence Howard walked! He’s definitely credited the move as a mistake in retrospect, but thought he could get away with it at the time.
7. Matthew McConaughey – Magic Mike XXL
Women have been objectified and subjugated in films for decades, and there’s no end in sight to the over-sexualization. It was only karmic retribution for a movie to come out that turned the tables and put men at the crummy end of ogling gazes. Matthew McConaughey, Channing Tatum, and Alex Pettyfer starred in this eye-candy flick that was so successful, a sequel came out only three years later. Yet the mentoring star, McConaughey, was nowhere to be found. Why’s that?
Matthew didn’t need this franchise anymore, that’s why. He’d gotten a ton of attention, winning an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Dallas Buyers Club as well as a Saturn Award for Killer Joe. When you get that much praise and love from your peers and fans, you don’t feel the need to perform a strip tease for the camera anymore! While Channing Tatum returned alongside the beefcake Joe Manganiello, Matthew McConaughey stayed away.
6. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Predator 2
While Arnold is better known for his iconic roles in the Terminator series and the original Total Recall, he’s also popular for portraying a military commando in a team on a mission in Central America, where he and his cohorts are hunted and killed by an expert alien life force. If you recall nothing else about the movie, you’ve got to remember the climax in which he figures out how to cloak his heat signature by covering himself in mud in order to turn the tables on the evil alien.
When Predator 2 was slated to film, Arnold declined to take part all because of the money. The movie only turned a $20 million profit (a modest profit in Hollywood terms) and couldn’t afford the actor’s incredibly high rates for a sequel. He wouldn’t be back for the next installment and wound up being succeeded by Danny Glover and Gary Busey.
5. Val Kilmer – Batman & Robin
Val Kilmer took up the role of Batman after Michael Keaton and Tim Burton chose to step away from the franchise (following the release of Batman Returns). Val Kilmer was thought to be the perfect replacement: he was young, sexy, and looked damn good under the Batman cowl, not to mention he was hot out of hits like Top Gun and The Doors. So why was he replaced by George Clooney when the time came to release Batman & Robin only two years later?
Val might have fit the role just fine, but he did not have a good on-set relationship with director Joel Schumacher. In fact, they butt heads so often that by the end of filming the two refused to speak. When the movie was fairly successful and studios greenlighted a sequel, everyone knew Val was not going to return. Though the hot-ticket casting of George Clooney could have helped the sequel, the poor writing and casting of Uma Thurman, Arnold Schwarzenegger killed the movie and effectively the franchise for eight years.
4. Edward Norton – The Incredible Hulk 2
Edward Norton was far from the first man to play The Hulk. Of course, the first man to play the giant green hero was Lou Ferrigno. More recently, when studios attempted to make the character less cheesy with the help of computer generated imaging, Eric Bana stepped into the role. However, while the great graphics helped, the writing was less successful and the movie flopped. Then again, shortly after Iron Man was released, Marvel tried to tie in the big green guy through the Edward Norton film, The Incredible Hulk. While certain tidbits from the movie seem to be remembered in the current Marvel universe, like William Hurt‘s military history and the general timeline of events, both Edward Norton and Liv Tyler seem to be intentionally forgotten.
Negotiations with Edward Norton fell through to play The Hulk in The Avengers. After arguing over paychecks and contract terms, Norton walked away from the project because of disinterest in the project. Lucky break for Mark Ruffalo!
3. Will Smith – Independence Day: Resurgence
The 1996 movie Independence Day revolutionized the science fiction genre. Starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman, the extraterrestrial invasion film won our hearts and has become an iconic piece of American film. Twenty years later, studios have finally released a sequel – Independence Day: Resurgence. Bill Pullman returned as the heroic former President of the United States, father to a bold and brazen young pilot; Jeff Goldblum returned as the respected and beloved expert who holds the key to peace in the universe; and Will Smith was written out of the series by a routine training accident that took the character’s life. What’s up with that?
Truly, the sequels were only green-lighted because Smith agreed to partake, but when time came to sign contracts he backed out. Why? After Earth, that’s why. The space-age movie he made with his son flopped big time and made him reluctant to make any more movies about space – he simply thought it wouldn’t succeed.
2. Katie Holmes – The Dark Knight
Rachel Dawes, childhood friend of Bruce Wayne, was an original character brought into the Batman franchise by Christopher Nolan. The assistant district attorney is known for trying to bring justice to Gotham city through the legal system while Bruce Wayne demands justice with his fists. Though perhaps not everyone’s favorite, Katie Holmes did a good job in the role. So why was she abruptly replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal in the sequel, where her role actually had a chance to develop some depth?
It had nothing to do with money and it had nothing to do with disliking the film! While she loved the movie, her new hubby, Tom Cruise, was uncomfortable with the romantic scenes she’d share with Christian Bale (rightfully so – any guy should be threatened by Christian Bale and his sexy physique). Instead, she took a role in the significantly less successful movie Mad Money, starring Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah.
1. Will Ferrell – Elf 2
Buddy the Elf is perhaps one of the most iconic Christmas characters created this century. This adorable kids movie (with plenty of humor meant for adults) is about a human boy named Buddy (played by Will Ferrell) who is raised by Santa’s elves only to return to his home city of New York in efforts to find his biological father. The movie is one of the best non-conventional Christmas flick to enjoy with your (only slightly) mature family, alongside The Night Before, Scrooged, and Bad Santa.
So why was there never a sequel made? It wasn’t for lack of the studios trying, that’s for sure. Though Will Ferrell was approached to reprise the role, he graciously turned the opportunity down. “I didn’t want to wander into an area that could erase all the good work I’ve done – but you watch, I’ll do some sequel in the future that’s crap.”