Actor Matt Damon has said that he turned down the offer to star in James Cameron's Avatar, which would have made him approximately $250 million. Damon was busy with the Jason Bourne movies and couldn't accommodate the extensive shooting schedule of Avatar. The lead role eventually went to Australian actor Sam Worthington.
He told British GQ in an interview, "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 gonna 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% of the film's profits'."
Avatar was until recently the world's highest grossing film, having made $2.79 billion worldwide. The record has since been beaten by Avengers: Endgame. A 10% cut of the film's profits would have made Damon $250 million, according to GQ.
Damon said he told the story to his friend, actor John Krasinski, while they were writing the film Promised Land together. He said, "I told John Krasinski this story when we were writing Promised Land… He goes: 'If you had done that movie, nothing in your life would be different. Nothing in your life would be different at all. Except that, right now, we would be having this conversation in space,'" Damon explained. "So, yeah. I've left more money on the table than any actor actually."
Damon said that the thing he regrets the most is not being able to work with Cameron, who has a reputation for working infrequently, but delivering massive hits. He said, "I realized in having to say no that I was probably passing on the chance to ever work with him. So that sucked and that's still brutal. But my kids are all eating. I'm doing OK." He added, "Cameron said to me in the course of that conversation, 'Well, you know, I've only made six movies.' I didn't realize that. He works so infrequently, but his movies, you know all of them. So it feels like he's made more than he has."
Recently, actor Govinda said that not only was he offered the chance to star in Avatar, he was the one who suggested the film's title. "I gave the title of the film (Avatar). It turned out to be a super hit film," Govinda said recently. "I had informed him (James Cameron) that the film will do really well. I told him that I feel it will take seven years for him to complete the film. He got angry. When I said so, he asked, 'How can you be so sure that I won't be able to make Avatar for seven years?' I told him that what he was imagining was something almost impossible. That he has named his film Avatar, but he is showing aliens."