Hey, here’s a quick, fun math question: What’s 10 percent of $2.847 billion? If you answered “So much money that Matt Damon could have bought one of those islands where they let you hunt a guy, because who’s going to stop you, it’s your dang island,” then, congratulations: You have passed a very important class in cinematic math that Matt Damon, tragically, did not.
Because, as it turns out, that big bag of cash is exactly what Damon apparently passed on a decade back, when James Cameron came knocking asking if he might want to star in a little movie called Avatar—offering 10 percent of the profits in an effort to lure the name star on to his plucky lil’ project. But, as Damon revealed in a session at Cannes this weekend, he turned the role down, because he was committed to the Jason Bourne movies at the time, and wanted to make the “moral” choice, i.e.—the choice where you don’t end up getting $200 million for your private murder island. “I will go down in history,” Damon said in his masterclass at the film festival. “You will never meet an actor who turned down more money.”
To be fair, Damon didn’t seem to be too bothered by the missed payday, laughing about it with the audience and recalling telling the same anecdote to his pal John Krasinski, who responded by noting that, “Nothing would be different in your life if you had done Avatar, except you and me would be having this conversation in space.” Also, it meant that Sam Worthington got to play the character of Jake Sully, and while the largely unknown Worthington definitely didn’t get the same deal offered to him, it does mean we get the ongoing paradox of the planet’s most successful movie starring a guy whose face we couldn’t pick out of a lineup to save our lives.
Per Deadline, Damon also held court on a number of other topics during his panel—ostensibly in support of Stillwater, which is premiering at the festival. That includes his near-misses with directing (most notably on Manchester By The Sea), and what life is like when you’re hanging out with Brad Pitt, one of the few people on the planet more ridiculously famous than Matt Damon: “It was absolute madness,” Damon said, describing a trip with Pitt to the Monaco Grand Prix. “I got arm-barred by security and I had to say, ‘I’m with Brad!’”