Director James Cameron laughed off a recent question about actor Matt Damon and his claim that turning down a role in the first “Avatar” film cost him millions.
“When was the last time you had a conversation with Matt Damon?” a BBC radio interviewer asked Cameron, who was promoting “Avatar: The Way of Water” — the long-awaited sequel to the visually-stunning 2009 film. Cameron immediately burst out laughing.
The context, of course, was the viral clip of Damon from the 2021 Cannes Film Festival — when he revealed that Cameron had offered him a role and a 10% stake in the massively-successful film. But the “Good Will Hunting” star was already committed to filming another installment in the highly-successful “Bourne” franchise and had to turn it down.
“Jim Cameron called me. He offered me ten percent of ‘Avatar,’” Damon said at a Cannes press event, laughing as he made the revelation. The audience laughed as well, knowing just how big a film “Avatar” had turned out to be.
The film ultimately raked in over $2.9 billion worldwide — meaning that Damon’s paycheck, plus the proposed 10% stake, would have netted him somewhere around $250 million or even more.
“I will go down in history,” Damon said at the time. “You will never meet an actor who turned down more money.”
Cameron suggested that Damon, who has done quite well for himself even without the $250-million boost, ought to just let it go.
“He’s beating himself up over this. And I really think, you know, ‘Matt, you’re kind of like one of the biggest movie stars in the world, get over it,’” Cameron joked — but he went on to note that it was really only the actor’s schedule that had gotten in the way. “He had to do another ‘Bourne’ film, which was on his runway and there was nothing we could do about that. So he had to regretfully decline.”
Cameron made it clear that he was interested in having Damon be a part of an “Avatar” film in the future, however, but it would not come with quite the same incentive. “Must do it,” Cameron said of including Damon in the franchise. “We have to do it so the world is in equilibrium again. But he doesn’t get 10%, f*** that.”