An examination of actors who strongly voiced their reluctance to reprise a role or return to a specific franchise, only to eventually change their stance and participate in it.
Let’s term it an “un-retirement” scenario. An actor initially gains fame with a particular role and then garners equal attention when they announce their retirement from that character or franchise, only to later make a comeback after a significant hiatus.
Here, we examine actors who expressed strong reluctance to revisit a role or franchise before ultimately deciding to return.
The character Luke Hobbs appears in any Fast & Furious film alongside Vin Diesel.
In August 2016, Dwayne Johnson created a stir in the Fast & Furious universe when he used Instagram to express his frustration with an unnamed male co-star, later identified as Vin Diesel. Sources informed that this outburst followed Diesel’s tardiness for their final scene together in the 2017 film “The Fate of the Furious.”
Over the subsequent years, Johnson publicly declared his intention not to appear in the primary Fast & Furious movies, which prominently featured Diesel. (He did, however, star in his own spinoff, “Hobbs & Shaw,” alongside Jason Statham.)
In 2021, Johnson told, “I wish them well on ‘Fast 9.’ And I wish them the best of luck on ‘Fast 10’ and ‘Fast 11’ and all the other Fast & Furious films they make without me.”
Diesel publicly invited Johnson to return for “Fast X,” but Johnson reiterated his decision not to return, noting that he had already conveyed this privately to Diesel. Johnson stated, “I privately spoke with my partners at Universal as well, all of whom were very supportive as they understand the situation.”
Then, there was an unexpected twist. When “Fast X” premiered in May 2023, Johnson made a surprise appearance in a post-credit scene that hinted at his return in a new Fast movie, one in which Diesel would not appear onscreen. However, Diesel is involved as a producer.
“After the film was announced, last summer, Vin and I put all the past behind us. We’ll lead with brotherhood and resolve — and always take care of the franchise, characters, and FANS that we love,” Johnson wrote on social media.
Universal’s hope is that Johnson and Diesel could be reunited in the upcoming 11th primary Fast movie, with Diesel in a starring role.
The character Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd from the television series Grey’s Anatomy.
Patrick Dempsey rose to fame for his portrayal of Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy, but his departure in 2015 after 11 seasons became highly notable. The 2021 unauthorized oral history book titled “How to Save a Life,” written by journalist Lynette Rice, shed light on the reasons behind his exit, pointing to “HR issues.”
These issues, as recalled by executive producer James D. Parriott, did not involve any sexual misconduct but rather described a situation where Dempsey had created a tumultuous environment on set. Some cast members even experienced varying degrees of post-traumatic stress related to their interactions with him.
In 2020, to the surprise of fans, Dempsey made a comeback, albeit in a unique fashion, as he appeared only in the dreams of Ellen Pompeo’s character, Meredith Grey, in beach-themed sequences that continued throughout season 17.
Regarding his return, Dempsey shared in 2021 that it was a healing experience for everyone involved, including the fans. The beloved on-screen couple represented hope and the belief in love, offering reassurance to people that they are not alone in the world, and that guardian angels are looking out for them. It conveyed a powerful and positive message.
The character Samantha Jones from the TV series Sex and the City.
Kim Cattrall exited the franchise after the release of “Sex and the City 2” in 2010, and the reasons for her departure have been a subject of debate. Some accounts suggest it was due to a falling out with the star, Sarah Jessica Parker, while others point to contract disputes for a third movie that ultimately didn’t materialize.
She was notably absent from the sequel series “And Just Like That,” with Cattrall expressing her lack of interest in reprising the role of Samantha. Sarah Jessica Parker stated that she and the showrunner, Michael Patrick King, made a deliberate decision not to approach her for a return.
In “And Just Like That,” Samantha’s absence is explained as her relocation to London following a falling out with Carrie (Parker). However, they eventually reconnect through text messages, and in the first-season finale, they plan to meet up and address their estrangement.
Sarah Jessica Parker clarified in a 2022 interview that there was no ongoing “catfight” or dispute, emphasizing that she had never engaged in any public arguments or allegations against her former co-star. She expressed her desire for this narrative to cease being referred to as a “catfight” or an “argument” as it did not align with reality.
However, in June 2023, it was revealed that Kim Cattrall’s character, Samantha, would make a cameo appearance in the season two finale, set to be released on August 24.
The character Bruce Wayne, also known as Batman, in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).
Following a tumultuous and challenging experience during the filming of Justice League, Ben Affleck confirmed in 2019 that he would step down from directing and starring in The Batman, and he intended to retire the character he initially portrayed in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).
His decision was influenced by personal difficulties, including struggles with alcohol and his separation from his wife, Jennifer Garner. These challenges escalated under the pressures of both creating and promoting Justice League, which underwent significant reshoots and a change in directors with Zack Snyder’s departure.
Affleck shared in February 2020 with The New York Times that he had shown the Batman script to someone, and they expressed their belief in its quality. However, they also voiced concerns that if he embarked on a similar journey as he had with Justice League, it could lead him down a path of self-destruction due to his personal struggles.
Then, unexpectedly, filmmaker Andy Muschietti, who was working on The Flash, managed to persuade Affleck to return for one last portrayal after presenting a compelling story pitch.
In 2023, Ben Affleck revealed, “I finally found my way into portraying that character [Batman], and I executed it well in The Flash. In the brief five minutes I appear, it’s truly satisfying. Much of it comes down to the tone. You have to determine, what’s your interpretation of this character. Who is the person that aligns with your abilities? I attempted to mold myself into the role of Batman. And, by the way, I’m fond of many aspects of our work, particularly the first one [Batman v. Superman].”
The character Wolverine in the X-Men film series.
During the promotional campaign for the 2017 film “Logan,” a consistent message prevailed: Hugh Jackman was bidding farewell to his iconic portrayal of Wolverine, a character that catapulted him to global fame following his debut in 2000’s “X-Men.” “Logan,” set in a near-future setting, marked the character’s demise and is widely regarded as Jackman’s magnum opus, a feat difficult to surpass. Throughout various interviews, he spoke nostalgically about his retirement from the role.
However, a surprising turn occurred in September 2022 when Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds jointly announced Jackman’s return for the forthcoming third installment of the Deadpool franchise. Interestingly, Jackman initiated the idea and personally approached his long-time friend (and star of Deadpool), Ryan Reynolds, with the proposition. Jackman emphasized that “Logan” remains a distinct entity and that this return will not interfere with the legacy of that film.
The character Bruce Wayne, also known as Batman, in the DC cinematic universe.
Few actors have distanced themselves from a role as fervently as George Clooney has from his short-lived portrayal of Batman. This sentiment is entirely understandable given that “Batman & Robin” is widely regarded as one of the worst superhero movies ever made. The 1997 film was so poorly received that Warner Bros. shelved any plans for a sequel under the direction of Joel Schumacher for nearly a decade.
“The truth is, I performed poorly in it. Akiva Goldsman, who has since won an Oscar for his writing, penned the screenplay, and it’s universally acknowledged as a dreadful screenplay,” Clooney candidly explained during an interview with Howard Stern in 2020. “I was abysmal in it, I have no problem saying that. Joel Schumacher, who has sadly passed away, directed it, and even he admitted, ‘Yeah, it didn’t work out.’ We all missed the mark on that one.”
Fast forward nearly a quarter of a century, and George Clooney surprised audiences with an unexpected cameo appearance as Bruce Wayne in “The Flash.” Sources indicate that the “Flash” production team showed Clooney an edited version of the film, which impressed him enough to persuade him to make a brief return in the movie’s concluding moments.