Matt Damon revealed that turning down the lead role in ‘Avatar’ cost him millions

"I’ve left more money on the table than any actor actually."

Matt Damon at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2017.
Matt Damon. –Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Matt Damon has made plenty of money in an acting career that has spanned decades. But in an interview with British GQ, the Cambridge native revealed that, despite his financial security, he still regrets turning down a role that would have netted him hundreds of millions of dollars.

In a paired interview with Christian Bale, his co-star in the upcoming “Ford v. Ferrari,” Damon discussed how he was originally slated to play Dicky Eklund in “The Fighter,” a role that later went to Bale and earned the actor an Oscar.

As regrettable of a decision that may have been, it paled in comparison to Damon’s other bombshell: He turned down the lead role in James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster “Avatar,” with the deal structured so that he would’ve received “10 percent.”

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“Jim Cameron offered me Avatar,” Damon told British GQ. “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 ten per cent…'”

Damon didn’t specify whether the 10 percent was of the film’s net profit after expenses or the film’s total box office, but regardless, he missed out on a huge chunk of change. “Avatar” ended up being one of the most financially successful films of all time, earning an international box office gross of more than $2.79 billion and just under $401 million in DVD and Blu-ray sales.

Damon, who ultimately bowed out of “Avatar” due to scheduling issues, said he regretted passing up what was likely his only chance to work with Cameron, given how infrequently the director makes movies. (Cameron has only directed seven narrative films and one documentary, with “Avatar” the most recent.)

“I realized in having to say no that I was probably passing on the chance to ever work with him,” Damon said. “So that sucked and that’s still brutal. But my kids are all eating. I’m doing OK.”

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Damon also told British GQ that when he shared this story to Newton native John Krasinski while the duo worked on 2012’s “Promised Land,” the former star of “The Office” had a hilarious response.

“We’re writing in the kitchen and we’re on a break and I tell him the story and he goes, “What?'” Damon said. “And he stands up and he starts pacing in the kitchen. He goes, ‘OK. OK. OK. OK. OK.’ 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.'”

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