Jake Gyllenhaal Once Turned Down James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ for 1 of His Worse Reviewed Films

Jake Gyllenhaal once had the opportunity to star in James Cameron’s record-breaking Avatar film. But he turned down the project in favor of a film that didn’t win many audiences over.

James Cameron offered Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhaal ‘Avatar’ as a favor to the studio

Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal | Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

As many know, Sam Worthington would end up in the lead role as Jake Sully in the popular Avatar films. The role did wonders for Worthington’s career, with the actor set to reprise the character in the upcoming sequels. Cameron had his sights set on Worthington from the start, but the studio behind the sci-fi movie wanted a bigger star for the main role.

To try and ease the studio’s worries, Cameron attempted to recruit Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhaal for the project. Neither accepted the offer. The filmmaker wondered if it was the movie’s scale that turned them off.

“Honestly, did I go out and try to woo them? No. I had my heart set on Sam. Maybe they sensed my lack of 100% commitment from me. Maybe it was the subject matter. This was a big Star Wars-type movie. They’re both serious actors,” Cameron once said in an interview with the LA Times.

Why Jake Gyllenhaal turned down ‘Avatar’

Cameron was wrong in his assumption that Damon turned down Avatar because of its subject matter. Rather, as many know, it was time constraints that prevented Damon from doing the movie. Back then, Damon was already committed to The Bourne Ultimatum.

“I would have had to screw over the people working on The Bourne Ultimatum and I couldn’t do that ethically,” Damon once told The Talks. “So it’s not like I wasn’t doing anything and I just passed on Avatar. That never would have happened.”

But Gyllenhaal rejected the movie because he wasn’t sure he was prepared for a project of Avatar’s scale.

“When James and I discussed the project, I wasn’t ready,” Gyllenhaal once said in an interview with French magazine Figaro, which was translated by Wet Dark and Wild. “In this business, if you don’t listen to yourself, you’re going to meet serious trouble.”

Gyllenhaal was also up for another project at the time in Prince of Persia. To the Far From Home star, the main character, Dastan, simply appealed to him more.

“What made the Prince of Persia different is the humor. Dastan, my character is a hero who doesn’t take himself seriously; he’s funny and that’s what I like about him,” Gyllenhaal said.

However, Prince of Persia didn’t too well critically. Its negative reviews culminated in a 37% score on Rotten Tomatoes. And although it made hundreds of millions at the box-office, it wasn’t enough to go forward with a potential sequel.

Jake Gyllenhaal learned a lot from his ‘Prince of Persia’ blunder

The video game adaptation may not have succeeded the way Gyllenhaal wanted it to, but he took something valuable away from its performance. The Brokeback Mountain actor credited the film for teaching him how to choose roles more carefully.

“I think I learned a lot from that movie in that I spend a lot of time trying to be very thoughtful about the roles that I pick and why I’m picking them,” he told Yahoo. “And you’re bound to slip up and be like, ‘That wasn’t right for me,’ or ‘That didn’t fit perfectly.’ There have been a number of roles like that. And then a number of roles that do.”

RELATED: Jake Gyllenhaal Was ‘Hesitant’ About Doing ‘Donnie Darko’