It is no secret that big celebrities earn a lot of money. So much money, in fact, that sometimes turning down a few million dollars for a job they don’t want to do or that doesn’t agree with their principles isn’t a big deal. Sometimes celebrities do make mistakes and miss out opportunities to earn even more and they regret those decisions.
As we are getting full of jealousy seeing celebrities living lives we can only dream of, we can also learn something here: making more and more money shouldn’t be our only goal in life. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and concentrate on what we truly desire. Also, even the most successful people earning millions of dollars can make bad decisions and they have to come to terms with it as we all do when we fail at something.
So, here is a list of celebrities that had a chance to fill their pockets full of money, but for one reason or another, they didn’t.
The Swedish pop group ABBA formed in 1972 and ended their career in 1982. They became an international hit after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with the song “Waterloo.” It is estimated that they sold from 150 million to 380 million records worldwide and that makes them one of the best-selling musicians of all time.
And though they aren’t actively performing, their popularity didn’t die out. Nearly 30 years after their disbandment, in 2000, the group was offered $1 billion for a reunion tour. Sadly and very surprisingly, the members of the group turned down the offer. ABBA believed that not reuniting helped them to stay popular. Also, they knew that touring would cause unwanted stress and require a lot of time.
The song “Somebody That I Used to Know” was released in 2011 and is the most successful piece written by the creator Gotye, whose real name is Wally De Backer. It has topped international charts and as of February 2021, the song’s music video was viewed over 1.6 billion times.
You would think that a person with so many views on YouTube would have earned enough money from the ads on the site to last for a lifetime. That is not the case with Gotye: he actually didn’t monetize his most successful video or any other video on his YouTube channel. You can only guess what kind of money the music video would have made, but in comparison, the Korean artist Psy earned about $2 million only from ad revenue when the music video for “Gangnam Style” reached 2 billion views.
Gotye doesn’t want his music to be associated with products on ads and he’s not interested in selling his music. That is the simple reason why Gotye potentially didn’t earn millions from YouTube ads.
Jerry Seinfeld is best known for playing a character based on himself in the sitcom Seinfeld. The show aired from 1989 until 1998 and it became very popular. It was so successful that NBC wanted to keep it going as it was the biggest show on TV.
They had to convince Seinfeld do another season and came to him with a sum that nobody could resist: $110 million for a season of 22 episodes. But Seinfeld thought that he had given everything to this show and it came time to care for himself, so he didn’t agree to continue. When asked if he regretted his decision, he explained that it was the perfect moment to end everything.
The Dark Knight trilogy was a very successful series of movies about Batman. Warner Bros. earned $2.4 billion at the worldwide box office from the three films. The actor who played Batman was Christian Bale and he earned about $54 million from the three movies. At the end of the third movie, he was offered the role again to continue with the fourth installment, but he declined. Even though he was offered $50 million—almost the same amount as he earned from the three movies put together.
The actor explained that from the beginning, the director Christopher Nolan envisioned a trilogy and thought that he should stop after the third movie. Christian Bale respected the director’s wish and that’s why the trilogy didn’t become a quadrilogy.
The Beatles are a legendary rock band formed in England in 1960. The group is the best-selling music act of all time, with estimated sales of 600 million units worldwide. The members broke up in 1970 and continued their careers as solo artists.
Of course, so many people wished for their reunion and the group was offered such opportunities. Promoter Bill Sargent offered the artists $10 million for a reunion concert in 1974. Then he raised his offer to $30 million in 1976 and then, only a month later in the same year, he raised it again to $50 million. The Beatles declined, but not because they though it wasn’t a generous offer. At first they considered it, but they didn’t like the idea of a man biting a shark in the opening act, so all the members agreed not to do it.
Michael Keaton is an American actor that started his career with roles in sitcoms and comedic films. He was just rising to fame when he gained more recognition after playing Batman in Tim Burton’s movies. The actor was paid $5 million for the first Batman movie and $10 million for the second. A third movie should have been filmed, and this time, Michael Keaton would have been paid $15 million.
But he turned down the money and the reason is very simple: he didn’t like what he had read in the script. Michael Keaton liked the previous movies, which had a darker tone, but Warner Bros. weren’t satisfied with the second movie’s earnings, so they thought the film should be more light-hearted. So, money couldn’t have fixed the problem for Michael Keaton here.
ZZ Top is an internationally known American rock band formed in 1969 and still active today. In total they sold 25 million records and they are in the list of the top-100-selling artists in the United States.
Two members of the group, Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill, decided to change their image in the 1970s and started to sport really long beards and their beards became iconic. So much so that the razor company Gillette offered the two of them $1 million to shave it off in a commercial. But the rockers couldn’t even think about the idea of shaving their precious facial hair. Gibbons compared seeing himself in the mirror clean-shaven with a Vincent Price film (this actor is most famous for acting in horror movies), so they declined the offer. What do you think about their decision?
Will Ferrell is an actor well-known for his roles in comedy films. In fact, he is considered to be a member of “The Frat Pack.” It is a nickname given to a group of actors who starred in many of the highest-grossing comedy movies since the mid-1990s. But Will Ferrell continued his success into the 2000s: the movie Elf (2003) is one the best Christmas movies to a lot of people and it received great reviews. The movie grossed $220 million worldwide and the creators were eager to make a second part.
However, there was no follow-up because Will Ferrell didn’t agree to continue portraying Buddy. That means he walked away from $29 million. What’s more, he doesn’t regret it at all. The actor didn’t want to taint the first movie in case the second one wouldn’t be as great. Also, he couldn’t bear the idea of people thinking he did it just for money.
Lady Gaga is an American pop singer known for her ever-changing image and musical versatility. She is one of the world’s best-selling music artists.
So no wonder that in 2012, she was invited to perform at the Republican Party Convention and offered $1 million in return. As it is known that the singer contributes greatly to charity, besides the million dollars, it was promised that $150,000 would go toward a domestic violence shelter if she played. Lady Gaga is public about her liberal views, so it is not surprising that she didn’t take the job.
Breaking Bad is an award-winning American TV show, praised by critics as one of the greatest television series of all time, attracting millions of viewers. It has 62 episodes and that’s a reference to the atomic number of Samarium, which is used in cancer treatment. The main character of the show is a chemistry teacher and he has lung cancer, so it is symbolic.
That is one of the reasons why the creator and producer of the series, Vince Gilligan, refused $75 million to make an additional three episodes in the last season. On average, one episode would cost about $3.5 million, so the show creator could have profited from it. But he also would have needed to rewrite the ending completely, because at the time he received the offer, he had already written it with almost everyone in the series dead.
James Arthur was the winner of The X Factor in 2012 and debuted with the song “Impossible.” It sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide, so it is safe to say that the new singer started with a bang. Not long after, James Arthur got involved in a controversy which eventually led to him leaving his production company Syco.
At this point, the singer didn’t have much money, because he has been spending it carelessly. But an opportunity rose up to end his financial problems: lots of reality shows began to approach James Arthur, offering life-changing amounts of money. The highest offer came from Celebrity Big Brother. They promised £250,000 (~$346,000) for coming to the show. And though James Arthur really needed the money, he refused, because he feared that after this, nobody would take him or his music seriously.
Jodie Foster is a very famous actress that starred in many great movies and TV series. She has received so many awards and nominations that they alone have a separate Wikipedia article.
Jodie Foster mentioned that one of her favorite roles was that of FBI trainee Clarice Starling in the movie The Silence of the Lambs. The movie was very successful, grossing close to $273 million, and Jodie Foster won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in it. However, when she was offered $15 million to reprise the role in the sequel, she said no. She had read the novel on which the second movie would have been based and the actress didn’t really like the portrayal of the character she was meant to play.
Sean Connery was the first actor to portray the secret agent James Bond in a movie. It was the actor’s breakout role; before that, he had been acting in smaller theatrical and television productions. To take this role was a smart decision, but the same actor who saw the potential in James Bond didn’t understand The Lord of the Rings.
Sean Connery was the first choice to play Gandalf, but the actor missed out on this opportunity. He really did his research and read not only the script, but also the book, yet he didn’t understand it. He also watched the movie with Ian McKellen as Gandalf when it came out, but Sean Connery couldn’t understand it still, though he agreed that McKellen did a really good job. At first, Sean Connery was promised $6 million for each movie in the trilogy, then he was tempted with a 15% stake in box office profits, so in reality, he turned down nearly $450 million.
The movie Avatar is the second highest-grossing movie of all time, beaten only by Avengers: Endgame, and it came out more than a decade ago. Now knowing the success of the movie, it is very surprising to think that an actor could have rejected an offer to star in it.
But that’s exactly what Matt Damon did. Not only that, the movie director James Cameron possibly offered Matt Damon 10% of the film’s profits. The actor didn’t explicitly say that the 10% was from the profit of the film, but we could assume that from his regret over not taking the role. It is understandable, because Matt Damon would have earned more than a quarter of a billion!
He explained that he denied the role because he thought that would have caused a problem for Paul Greengrass and his friends on The Bourne Ultimatum. The actor didn’t go into further detail, just said that he couldn’t do it.
When the media personality Kim Kardashian and the rapper Kanye West first had their daughter North, many magazines came to the then-new parents with lucrative offers for the baby’s photo. It is said that an Australian magazine offered them $3 million, but Kanye West was firm and didn’t want his daughter on the show. Before she was even born, he shared that he didn’t want to talk about his family and that the baby was his and not America’s.
Keanu Reeves is a breathtaking Canadian actor who is known for the acting in the legendary Matrix movies, among others. The movie that really helped skyrocket the actor’s fame was Speed. The film was a huge success, grossing $350 million worldwide and it won Oscars for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. It was very quickly decided to make a sequel.
He was offered the role and a $12 million salary. But very similarly to Michael Keaton, Keanu Reeves read the script and wasn’t fascinated with it. The second movie received a lot of negative reviews, so that just proved that the actor made the right decision.
Shaquille O’Neal is an American former basketball player who is considered one of the best basketball players of all time. He’s not only a good athlete, but also a savvy businessman, investing in companies like Apple and PepsiCo. He very much understands what is worth his attention.
But to err is human and as O’Neal is human, thus he did err. In 1993, his agent Howard Shultz suggested that Shaquille O’Neal invest in a coffee company. But he has a principle to this day to invest in products he believes in, and then, he didn’t drink coffee. As a matter of fact, he was convinced that “black people don’t drink coffee” and opening new coffee shops in African-American communities wouldn’t have worked. Now looking back, the basketball star deeply regrets his decision and the lost opportunity to have easily earned millions of dollars.
Dave Chappelle is mostly known for being a stand-up comedian who had his own show—a sketch comedy television series called Chappelle’s Show (2003–2006). He created it with another comedian, Neal Brennan. The show ran for two entire seasons and the third season contained of three episodes of previously unreleased sketches.
The comedian didn’t want to continue with the series because he wasn’t content with himself and he imagined success differently. Also, the job was very intense and he didn’t have time to do anything beside work. The feeling was so strong that even $50 million didn’t convince him to stay in the show. The contract was already there, the sum written, but Dave Chappelle walked away.
Hulk Hogan is an American retired professional wrestler, considered to be the most recognized wrestling star worldwide. He was so popular that it led to some roles in movies and TV shows, and you can hear his voice in some cartoons.
Because of his popularity, companies wanted to work with the wrestling star. In the early 1990s, his agent approached him with a suggestion to endorse kitchen appliances. Hulk Hogan could choose between a grill and a meatball maker. At first Hulk, said that he chose the meatball maker himself, but later he said that it was not true and that he was too late to answer his agent’s call and George Foreman had chosen first. Either way, the wrestler could have potentially made over $200 million, as this is the amount George Foreman made from the grill.
Katie Holmes is an American actress that rose to fame for portraying Joey Potter on the television series Dawson’s Creek (1998–2003). She also appeared in Batman Begins, which is her highest-grossing film. Even though it appears the actress knows how to choose roles, she rejected quite a few of them.
One of them was to play the title character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sarah Michelle Gellar, who eventually got the role, earned about $15 million from the series. But Katie Holmes wanted to finish high school and accepting the role would have made it very difficult.
The Smiths were a rock band active in the 1980s. They were popular in England, where the group originated, and some of their songs were successful in other European countries’ charts. When the group split up, there were numerous offers to reunite, but they always refused.
For example, in 2006, The Smiths received an offer to reunite for one day on the Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival stage for $5 million and even that amount didn’t convince them. The group vocalist Morrissey said that money didn’t have to do with anything. It is known that there was tension between the singer and the guitarist Marr, so it is understandable that the group wouldn’t want to work together anymore. The group had its time and it ended, but at least their music remains.
Ja Rule is an American rapper and singer. He released seven albums and sold over 30 million records worldwide. He also has an acting career. One of the first movies in which he had a role was The Fast and the Furious. He played a supporting role and was paid $15,000 for it.
The director of the second movie, 2 Fast 2 Furious, John Singleton, wanted to offer Ja Rule the same role and the pay was increased to $500,000. But he couldn’t reach the rapper’s team, so he chose Ludacris instead. Singleton also felt like Ja Rule was acting as if he was too big for the movie. Later, Ja Rule stated that the movie wasn’t what he wanted to do at that time and he was trying to take acting more seriously.
Bruce Willis is an American actor who has appeared in over 100 movies. After playing John McClane in the Die Hard franchise, he gained recognition as an action movie actor. One of the movies he had a role in was The Expendables. After the first movie came out Bruce Willis agreed to return to shoot The Expendables 2.
After the success of the second movie, a third one was planned and Bruce Willis originally was in the cast. But he thought that he wasn’t offered enough money. For a secondary role in the third film, he would have needed to work for four days and he would have been paid $3 million. The actor asked for $4 million, so that he would be paid $1 million for a day, but the production team weren’t going to pay him more. So Bruce Willis turned down the original offer and didn’t take part in the movie.
Emily Browning is an Australian actress. The wider audience started to recognize her after her appearance in the horror film Ghost Ship in 2002. She is also known because the author of the Twilight books, Stephenie Meyer, saw her as the perfect Bella.
Emily Browning was offered an audition, but she refused, because at that point, the actress wasn’t sure if she wanted to continue with her acting career and there were three books to make into movies. Also, the actress was exhausted from her demanding role in Uninvited, so she’s glad she didn’t audition—even knowing that the Twilight series made Kristen Stewart Forbes’ Highest Paid Actress in 2012, as she earned nearly $40 million from the four movies.
Pamela Anderson is a Canadian-American actress, model, and television personality. She appeared in numerous TV series, TV shows and movies. But did you know that she almost got a role in the science-fiction series The X Files?
Pamela Anderson was the original choice to play agent Dana Scully. But the actress was already in Baywatch and didn’t take the role, so Gillian Anderson was casted instead. When the net worth of the two actresses is compared, it is clear that The X Files possibly could have changed Pamela Anderson’s life: her net worth is $12 million and Gillian Anderson’s is $40 million.