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20 Stars Who Left Their Million-Dollar Contracts Unexpectedly

It is tough to get into the entertainment industry, let alone to land gigs in big TV shows. Stars on this list have managed to snag big roles in Star Wars, Breaking Bad, and other successful TV shows or movies. However, they’ve then left for whatever reason. Read on to find why these 20 stars wanted to get out of their million-dollar contracts. 

1. Harrison Ford Left Star Wars, Salary Loss: $20 million

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Few characters from Star Wars are as beloved as the scruffy-looking nerf herder Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford. However, he wanted to be written out of the franchise because he was worried that his role as Han Solo would result in him being "typecast." He didn't want to keep portraying the “tough action hero” guy. 

2. Michael Keaton Left Batman, Salary Loss: $15 million

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Michael Keaton first played Batman in Tim Burton's blockbuster, which was a critical and financial success. However, he turned down the chance to be in the third film because Tim Burton was pushed out as director and replaced by Joel Schumacher. Out of loyalty to Burton, Keaton decided to hand over the role to someone else. 

3. Pamela Anderson Left Baywatch, Salary Loss: $300K/Episode

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When you think of Baywatch, one babe in particular comes to mind: Pamela Anderson as the beautiful bombshell C.J. Parker. After four years in Baywatch, she quit the show to pursue other acting and modeling opportunities. After Baywatch, Anderson fully embraced her sex symbol status and has had several other career successes.

4. Lisa Bonet Left The Cosby Show, Salary Loss: Unknown

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Lisa Bonet has always been America's favorite beauty with her luxurious locks and free-spirited style. She is best known for her role as a Cosby kid in The Cosby Show. As a fan favorite, she shocked many people when she decided to leave the show. Insiders maintained that Cosby had a contentious relationship with his TV daughter since Bonet was viewed as a rebel, one he could not control.

5. Farrah Fawcett Left Charlie's Angels, Salary Loss: $10K/Episode

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Fawcett became a household name for portraying Jill Munroe in Charlie's Angels. However, after only one season, Fawcett decided to call it quits. It was speculated that Fawcett had left the show to focus on her movie career, while others said she left to spend more time with her husband, Lee Majors.

6. Pauley Perrette Left NCIS, Salary Loss: $22M/Season

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Pauley Perrette was a fan favorite in NCIS, playing quirky forensic examiner Abby. Her sudden departure from the show left the fans puzzled, especially given her astronomical salary. As later revealed by Pauley herself, a growing dispute with other cast members led to her departure. 

7. Katherine Heigl Left Grey’s Anatomy, Salary Loss: $22M/Season

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Katherine Heigl left Grey's Anatomy in the show's sixth season despite being a fan favorite and an Emmy winner for her work on the show. A big reason for her departure was due to her rising interest in movies. She landed a leading role in the blockbuster Knocked Up, and it conflicted with Grey's schedule, leading her to call it quits on the latter.

8. Sasha Alexander Left NCIS, Salary Loss: $100K/Episode

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Sasha Alexander's special Agent Caitlin Todd was a key cast member in NCIS. But after two seasons of non-stop action, Cait was killed in the line of duty by a terrorist. The real life circumstances that saw her leave the cast was that the work was too taxing. The workload was both too physically and mentally demanding for her to continue. 

9. Jerry Seinfeld Left Seinfeld, Salary Loss: $100M/Season

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Jerry Seinfeld ended Seinfeld after a 9 season run despite the fact he was offered a potential $100 million salary for season 10. Seinfeld loves the number nine and always wants to trust his lucky number. In a recent interview, Seinfeld admitted that he does not regret the decision.  

10. Dean Norris Left Breaking Bad, Salary Loss: $150K/Episode

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Fans of Breaking Bad all know that the final season was divided into two parts. They went with this schedule to align with the schedule of Dean Norris, who brought DEA agent Hank Schrader to life. However, Norris asked to be written out of the show so that he could work on another project, Under the Dome, a Stephen King adaptation.

11. Mclean Stevenson Left MASH, Salary Loss: $150K/Episode

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McLean Stevenson was famous for his role as the laconic commanding officer in MASH. Having been lured by NBC's promise of more money for another movie, McLean Stevenson decided to leave MASH. His character was written out of the show in a heart-rending season. However, his career took a serious nose-dive. Nearly every show he starred in failed.

12. Dan Stevens Left Downton Abbey, Salary Loss: $50K-$100K/Episode

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Fans were heartbroken when their much-beloved Matthew Crawley, played by Dan Stevens, died tragically in the third season. It is said that Stevens is "still apologizing" for how things went down. When asked why he left the show, Stevens said that he wanted to explore other acting opportunities. He is currently starring as a singer in the Netflix comedy Eurovision.

13. Amy Carlson Left Blue Bloods, Salary Loss: $150K/Episode 

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Amy Carlson confirmed on her instagram that her character Linda Reagan, was killed off in a helicopter crash. Fans were surprised by the way Linda had departed so suddenly. Carlson said that she understood that Linda’s death surprised her fans, but her contract was up and she wanted to do something new.

14. Suzanne Somers Left Three’s Company, Salary Loss: $30K/Episode 

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Suzanne Somers charmed audiences with her character, Chrissy Snow in the sitcom Three's Company, and she undoubtedly helped make the show a booming success. However, the then 34-year-old actress was fired over a pay dispute. At that time, she was getting paid just $30K per episode. She was seeking a salary boost, which was turned down by the production company.

15. Christopher Meloni Left Law & Order: SVU, Salary Loss: $400K/Episode

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Elliott Stabler, played by Christopher Meloni, was written out of Law & Order: SVU when his character met a grisly end. The behind-the-scenes explanation was that Meloni had negotiated for a higher salary at the beginning of season 12, but that the production company wasn't willing to meet his demands.

16. Topher Grace Left That ‘70S Show, Salary Loss: $700K/Episode

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Topher Grace was a big part of That '70s Show playing the role of Eric. He asked to be written out of the show in order to pursue a film career. His departure from the show caused ratings to drop and the show was cancelled shortly thereafter. However, his film career unfortunately hasn't really taken off since then.

17. Dave Chappelle Left The Chappelle Show, Salary Loss: $50M

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Long before there was Key and Peele, and Inside Amy Schumer, Dave Chappelle ruled the non-Saturday-night sketch-comedy scene. But in 2005, he walked away from the wildly successful Chappelle’s Show. He even left comedy, taking his family to Ohio. Years later, he made a return and explained that he had had a "crisis of conscience." He also acknowledged some regrets about rejecting the $50 million offer.

18. Patrick Dempsey Left Grey's Anatomy, Salary Loss: $400K/Episode

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Patrick Dempsey became famous for his role as Derek on Grey's Anatomy. He left the show after 11 seasons, which was a decision that shocked fans. It turned out, after nearly 11 years on the series, Patrick had simply decided he was just ready to move on. Specifically, he wanted to spend more time with his family. 

19. Shelley Long Left Cheers, Salary Loss: $300K/Episode

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It takes lots of gumption to up and walk away from one of the most popular TV programs ever made but that's what exactly Shelly Long did. Long and Ted Danson, her co-star, had done terrific work together. Danson signed on for another season, while Long departed because she wanted to try to make a career in the movies.

20. Jonathan Taylor Thomas Left Home Improvement, Salary Loss: $500K/Episode

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Jonathan Taylor Thomas starred as Randy in Home Improvement, and the floppy-haired cutie became a collective crush of the '90s. Given Thomas' popularity, it's pretty clear that his character wasn't written out for no good reason. As it turned out, Thomas left because he was tired of being a teen heartthrob, and wanted to focus more on his schooling.

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