For most actors, an invitation to film a sequel is like a golden ticket. It’s a promise of more work and additional fame, and all for a movie series that has already proven very popular.
However, some actors just don’t want to come back to these early franchises, even when those franchises put them on the map. Here are 10 actors who refused to return for sequels and how the filmmakers handled these unexpected decisions.
Aside from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton is the most recognizable face for the Terminator franchise. But she did not want to return to play Sarah Connor in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003).
Why not? There are two primary reasons. The first is that she worried the film would not be very good without the direction of her ex-husband and iconic filmmaker James Cameron. And the second reason is that she wasn’t impressed with the script.
Because she didn’t want to come back, the script killed her off. Sarah Connor was written as someone who died from leukemia three years previously.
But thanks to a better script and some very creative writing, she eventually reprised the role in Terminator: Dark Fate (2019).
Crispin Glover played an integral role in the time-traveling 1985 classic Back to the Future. The entire plot centered on Marty McFly trying to make sure that George McFly (played by Glover) ended up with Marty’s future mother.
The film was a huge hit, but Glover refused to return for the sequel over objections to the writing. Specifically, he didn’t like that the happier future Marty created amounted to material success. As he said on The Opie & Anthony Show, he hated that the moral of the film was “that money equals happiness.”
To get around this, director Robert Zemeckis hired Jeffrey Weissman to imitate Glover with the help of prosthetics and special effects. Glover sued over this use of his likeness and won. And despite his objections to monetary gain, he didn’t say no to the $760,000 he got from the lawsuit!
Our next actor, though, said “no” to a small mountain of money.
Right now, Keanu Reeves is one of the biggest actors on the planet. But when Speed came out in 1994, he was just a young actor trying to prove he could play more than the boneheaded teenager he played in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
You might think Reeves wouldn’t be able to turn down a $12 million paycheck for Speed 2. But he took one look at the script and passed on the movie.
In the final film, his character was written off via an onscreen breakup and was replaced with another male lead: Lost Boys star Jason Patric.
Obviously, the Transformers films focus on giant robots from outer space. But the success of these movies usually hinged on the human element, including the relationship between characters played by Shia LaBoeuf and Megan Fox.
However, Megan Fox was written out of the franchise after the second movie. What happened there? In a 2009 Wonderland interview, Fox went off on director Michael Bay. She compared him to “Hitler,” said he was “a nightmare to work for,” called him “hopelessly awkward” and many other unflattering things.
While you would expect Bay to take particular offense to all of this, it was allegedly executive producer Steven Spielberg who took particular exception to the Hitler comparison. Bay claimed Spielberg ordered her fired for this reason (something Spielberg has denied).
Whether Bay was trying to shift the blame or not, Fox was off the film and the character Sam Witwicky was given a new love interest in Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011).
The next actor had a much, much better reason for not appearing in a sequel to a hit movie.
It’s tough to imagine Independence Day (1996) without Will Smith. His sarcastic Captain Steven Hiller helped make that original film into a major worldwide hit.
Two decades later, we got a sequel (Independence Day: Resurgence), but no Will Smith. So, why did the action star not want to get back in the cockpit to fight aliens once more?
Simply put, the popular Smith had too much on his plate. He was working on other films at the time including Suicide Squad.
To explain his absence, the sequel clarified that his character died while testing an experimental alien-enhanced fighter jet.
In 1983, Sean Connery cheekily returned to play James Bond in Never Say Never Again after an absence of 12 years from the role. The title playfully referred to Connery’s previous statement that he would never play that character again.
But many years later, Connery decided to stick to his guns with another iconic role. He had played Indiana Jones’ father in 1989’s Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. But because he retired from acting in 2003, he declined to reprise his role in 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It didn’t help that he was unimpressed with the script.
The filmmakers took Connery’s suggestion and simply had his character die of old age. This seemed logical enough, though it meant the end of fan speculation that the characters might live forever after drinking from The Holy Grail near the end of The Last Crusade.
Our next actor followed in Connery’s original footsteps by waling away from a hit franchise and then unexpectedly coming back!
Nowadays, it seems unthinkable that anyone could walk away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But that is exactly what happened with Natalie Portman.
She played Jane Foster in the first two Thor films, and she was excited to work with director Patty Jenkins for Thor 2: The Dark World (2013), which would have been the first Marvel movie directed by a woman. But Marvel and Jenkins had disagreements over the script, causing Jenkins to step down. Alan Taylor was called in to direct the movie instead.
This annoyed Portman, who was so angry she didn’t even return to the set for reshoots. Later MCU movies would playfully joke about her absence before confirming in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) that Jane Foster and Thor had broken up.
But it seems Portman really has just been waiting for the right director to lure her back to the MCU. She will be reprising her role as Jane Foster in Taika Waititi’s upcoming film Thor: Love and Thunder.
As for Jenkins, she ended up getting to direct the superhero film of her dreams with 2017’s Wonder Woman.
The Godfather was a major hit in 1972. And this was largely due to the performance of Marlon Brando, who knocked it out of the park playing the role of Don Vito Corleone.
Fans weren’t expecting Brando to return for the 1974 sequel because his character died of a heart attack in the first movie. But The Godfather Park II features flashbacks to Vito’s life, and director Francis Ford Coppola wanted Brando back for a cameo.
Brando refused for a rather petty reason: he was still holding a grudge against Paramount Pictures for making him screen test for the first movie.
In the final movie, the role of the younger Vito was played by Robert De Niro. He won Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards for the same role that had netted Brando Best Actor two years earlier.