Left: The Aliens Franchise
Reason: To Pursue Other Acting Ventures
Estimated Salary Loss: $1 million per movie*
When Sigourney Weaver left the “Alien” franchise, it was hard to believe she wouldn’t be back. A multifaceted actress, Weaver continued to diversify her resume in the unique roles she chose. Shockingly, in the first Alien film, Fox paid her only $35,000 for what would quickly become a franchise-defining performance.
Thankfully, the director of the second “Alien” film, James Cameron, demanded that she be paid more for the sequel. Cameron was able to negotiate her to a $1 million salary as well as a share of the profits. Weaver later confessed that she had at first agreed to the low pay in the original movie because she believed it was just a “small” film. She certainly must have never expected to become the face of the franchise many years later!
T. R. Knight
Left: Grey’s Anatomy
Reason: Creative Differences
Est. Salary Loss: $350,000 per episode*
"Grey’s Anatomy" fans present another level of passionate devotion and investment in the plot of a show. T.R. Knight’s character (Dr. O’Malley) died a heroic but sudden death. But Knight’s desire to leave the show so soon was to avoid a worse outcome. After working for five seasons, Knight was informed that he wouldn’t return for season six.
Apparently, this was the final blow for Knight as there was a list of things that made him eager to cut ties with the series, including creative differences with show creator, Shonda Rhimes. After contract negotiations between Knight and ABC, it was decided his character would be killed off “unexpectedly”.
Reason: Demanded a Starring Role
Estimated Salary Loss: $100,000 per episode*
Colonel Henry Blake (played by Stevenson) was an icon of the Viacom-owned, CBS ensemble, "M*A*S*H." Later, however, the actor told "M*A*S*H" writer Ken Levine that he was unsatisfied with his character on the show and was hoping to achieve leading man status elsewhere.
Mclean was written out of the show in season three’s finale. While Stevenson would go on to appear in memorable sitcoms and even got his own show ("The Mclean Stevenson Show"), he never seemed to obtain the caliber of career he was hoping for.
Left: Star Trek
Reason: He Lost Interest, to Pursue Other Projects
Estimated Salary Loss: $2.5 million per franchise movie*
It was unthinkable that "Star Trek" icon and veteran, Leonard Nimoy, would ever prematurely exit the franchise. Why would he leave? He was simply restless as an actor and ready to try new things.
Nimoy kept his departure plans to himself at first and none but Harve Bennett and Nicholas Meyer, the director, knew of Nimoy’s decision. But like a seasoned, showbiz professional, Nimoy personally finished out his character’s story arc as Dr. Spock and even directed his own death scene in "Wrath of Khan."
Reason: Long work hours
Estimated Salary Loss: $30,000 per episode*
Lost was one of the most gripping drama-thrillers on television that quickly garnered fans. Dominic Monaghan played Charlie on the show, but his role was short-lived when he was dismissed after just thirteen episodes. Monaghan didn’t like the pressure and, rather than push himself to perform, he decided to leave. Disney financiers and ABC execs agreed to allow Monaghan to leave early after season three.
The writers then worked an untimely death into the show’s plot for Charlie. Though Monaghan didn’t want to continue on the show, he still made quite an impact. The series director said that he cried over the loss of Monaghan’s character. Lindelof admitted he was surprised at the show’s success, crediting the loyalty of fans, which kept the ratings high.