Sam Worthington has made Jake Sully his own, but the role almost went to Matt Damon, and he was offered a mind-blowing amount of money, too.
Avatar could have starred Matt Damon, who was offered an unbelievable salary for what became the highest-grossing movie of all time. James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster follows Jake Sully, a marine who is given a Na’vi avatar and tasked with infiltrating the indigenous people of Pandora in order to collect Unobtanium, a mineral worth tens of millions of dollars to humankind. Jake learns the ways of the Na’vi and realizes that colonizing Pandora is wrong, leading to him fighting alongside the natives and eventually living with them after sending the humans back to Earth.
Jake Sully was Sam Worthington’s breakthrough performance, and he does a great job of playing the empathetic paraplegic soldier, but he almost didn’t get that role of a lifetime. Many different actors almost played Jake Sully in Avatar, including Chris Pine, Channing Tatum, and Jake Gyllenhaal. However, the highest profile actor who said no to Cameron was Matt Damon, and that was even after the filmmaker offered the actor a fortune. Although there’s a valid reason why Damon didn’t star in Avatar, he turned down what would have been the highest salary an actor has ever earned for a film.
Matt Damon Could Have Made Over $250 Million For Playing Jake Sully
If Matt Damon didn’t turn down the lead role in Avatar, the actor would have made $280 million following its initial theatrical release. Damon was offered 10 percent of the movie’s total box office gross (via Variety), and as Avatar is the highest-grossing movie of all time, at over $2.7 billion worldwide, that would have led to a paycheck of more than a quarter of a billion dollars. It’s unclear if that deal included re-releases, but if it did, then Avatar‘s subsequent grosses would have added an extra $18 million for Damon without him having to do anything more.
Why Did Matt Damon Turn Down Avatar?
Matt Damon has been extremely vocal about his regret of passing on Avatar ever since the movie was released, and it has gotten to the point where James Cameron has even mentioned that Damon should “get over it.” However, Damon didn’t turn down the role out of disinterest in the script or any kind of creative differences. Ironically, since Damon ended up hating The Bourne Ultimatum, it was his commitment to that movie that led to a scheduling conflict keeping him from signing onto the potentially $290 million role of Jake Sully.
Did Sam Worthington Get The Same Deal?
It’s unclear how much Sam Worthington was paid for Avatar, but it’s extremely unlikely that the actor was offered the same salary as Matt Damon for several reasons. In the mid-2000s when Avatar was in production, Damon had long been a bankable movie star, having led roles in the Bourne franchise and the Ocean‘s series, with the former alone grossing more than $1.7 billion (via The Numbers). That wasn’t the case for Worthington, who was a relative unknown. He had mostly been in action movies that bombed and then disappeared into obscurity, such as The Great Raid and Hart’s War.
Avatar totally saved Worthington’s career, as he was homeless and sleeping in his car when he was cast as Jake Sully and was even forced to sell his belongings (via People). However, while he might not have gotten the same deal as Damon, his salary for Avatar: The Way of Water has been revealed, and it’s huge. Not only was Worthington paid the sum of $10 million for his work on the sequel, but he gets five percent of the box office gross, too (via GQ). As Avatar: The Way of Water made over $2 billion, Worthington earned an extra $100 million.
James Cameron Still Wants Damon To Appear In The Franchise
Even though Matt Damon turned Avatar down — something that few actors would dare do, given that James Cameron is such a beloved filmmaker and has directed three of the four highest-grossing movies of all time — the director is still willing to work with him. Cameron hilariously and surprisingly responded positively to the idea of Damon having a cameo in an Avatar sequel. However, the cameo comes with one caveat. The director explained the franchise “must do [a Damon cameo]; we have to do it, so that the world is in equilibrium again. But he doesn’t get 10 percent, f*** that.”