Sam Worthington’s performance in Avatar has been one of his most powerful and definitive roles but the actor would have remained a lost star only if Matt Damon had said yes to James Cameron. The Martian actor had reportedly been the first one approached for the role of Jake Sully. But, as fate would have it, it was Sam Worthington instead who greeted the audience at the theatres. Now, the lead of a billion-dollar film series, the latter’s career is defined by his CGI-molded role in Avatar and its exceptional sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water.
Matt Damon Addresses the Avatar Role That He Turned Down
During an event at Cannes in July 2021, Matt Damon candidly spoke about James Cameron’s offer for the actor to star in the director’s visually imposing film, Avatar, back in 2009. Since the offer was obviously turned down by the actor, Damon stated that it was a matter of commitment rather than a missed opportunity. At the time, the Oscar-winning actor had already been involved in filming the Bourne trilogy, and it was his “moral” decision to stay with the spy action-thriller instead of helming Cameron’s once-in-a-lifetime project.
In an interview with Deadline, Matt Damon claims, “I will go down in history. You will never meet an actor who turned down more money.” Avatar went on to become the highest-grossing movie of all time with the film being re-released by Disney in 2022 ahead of its launch. The film’s net profit, 10% of which would have supposedly gone to Matt Damon, stood at a staggering $1.2 billion (notwithstanding the revenue from its release in China). Overall, the film grossed well over $3 billion, taking into account Blu-ray and DVD releases.
Matt Damon’s Rejection Saves Sam Worthington’s Career
As an Oscar recipient in the breakout film, Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon became an instant A-lister who would go on to deliver a stellar career over the two decades following 1997. His addition to James Cameron’s already domineering and visionary goliath would have merely been another green mark on the record. But Sam Worthington‘s addition not only delivered a lifetime best from a then-relatively unknown actor but secured the underdog cast’s Hollywood future. Reports say that at the time of Avatar‘s casting call (in 2007), Sam Worthington had been living out of his car.
But while Avatar had saved the Unabomber actor’s future as an actor, it would have done nothing of great effect to Matt Damon’s already impressive career. John Krasinski pointed the fact out when Damon had told him the story of the Avatar casting — “Nothing would be different in your life if you had done Avatar, except you and me would be having this conversation in space.”
Cameron’s ambitious sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water has already become the year’s highest-grossing opener, leaving behind Marvel juggernauts, Doctor Strange 2 and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Avatar 2 is currently playing in theatres worldwide.