Ben Kingsley said his appearance in BloodRayne was partly because he'd never had a chance to play a vampire before.
Hugo Weaving was once quoted as wanting to play Elrond and Agent Smith so that he could get action figures of himself and make them fight each other. Averted in the case of Megatron and The Red Skull however, claiming that they were the only roles he never cared about.
Anthony Hopkins said that the only reason he took a role in Freejack was because he had always wanted to meet Mick Jagger.
Both of them Hammed and Cheesed it up like the world was ending. Perhaps the opposite was also true? The producers told Hopkins that Mick Jagger was involved so he'd sign on, and at the same time told Jagger that Anthony Hopkins was involved so he'd sign on.
Hopkins has a reputation for inverting a standard formula: most actors would take roles in over-the-top blockbusters so they can get recognised and afford to do their pet projects in serious, lower-profile films. Hopkins does the serious stuff so that he has credibility as a serious actor before running off to have fun in something like Thor. His alleged favourite role he's ever played was in The Worlds Fastest Indian for how cool he found it.
Johnny Depp said he did Pirates of the Caribbean because he, like every little boy, has always wanted to be a pirate and this would let him... And then proceeded to totally steal the movie from its intended leading pair of Will and Elizabeth, mainly because he just thought that it would be fun to channel Keith Richards. Made funnier by the fact that they did, indeed, eventually get Keith Richards to play his dad.
Part of Robert Downey, Jr.'s reason for taking the role of Iron Man was being a fan of the comics as a kid. He also once watched The Matrix with his wife (who is also a Hollywood producer) and simply said, "I could do that." And thus set the plan in motion to have him headline a blockbuster action film once he proved he could be reliable and his old habits were behind him for good. He was asked once whether he'd prefer to win an Academy Award for Best Actor or to star in a blockbuster movie and said, without hesitation (paraphrased):
"Blockbuster movie. Because when you win an Oscar, it's all very nice, you dress up, you get the statue, you make a speech. But when you're in a blockbuster action film, for just one moment, you are God."
Jeff Bridges, too. Not only was he a fan of the comics, he also wanted an excuse to shave his head bald.
When it was announced that a Fantastic Four film was in the works, Michael Chiklis was the first man in line to audition. His anecdote was that, when casting was announced, he walked up to Stan Lee and introduced himself as Ben Grimm.
Samuel L. Jackson was in Snakes on a Plane just so he could act in a film called "Snakes on a Plane". He also said it was the type of film he loved when he was a kid, and argued for the producers to keep the name when they were considering changing it to something less cheesy.
Ron Perlman lobbied for the lead role in Hellboy because he wouldn't get to play the romantic lead in a Beauty and the Beast story again. Plus he would get to kiss a woman half his age. He also appreciated the movie as well.
Basil Rathbone, on playing Sherlock Holmes in 1939's The Hound of the Baskervilles:
"Ever since I was a boy and first got acquainted with the great detective I wanted to be like him ... To play such a character means as much to me as ten 'Hamlets'!"
This is why James Woods agreed to play Hades in Hercules and all of its various spinoffs. He's gone on record as it being the one role he would agree to play again anytime, anywhere (And he has, to this date, played that character every time he has appeared, with only one exception).
Peter Capaldi was also a long time fan of the show, and played several supporting roles in it and its spin-offs before being cast as the 12th Doctor.
Similarly, Alex Kingston has said on more than one occasion that one of her favorite parts of playing River Song is that she gets to do stunts, something that she didn't get to have on ER.
Doctor Who has a long tradition of securing notable guest stars on the strength of 'appearing on Doctor Who' and often because it would impress the kids. It's also traditionally been one of the few venues on British television where the guest stars would get to play aliens, monsters, mad scientists and the like.
In a Radio Times interview, Hugh Bonneville was asked what persuaded a Serious Actor to take the part of Captain Avery. He replied that he made his decision when they said he could be in Doctor Who.
Tom Hardy apparently didn't even know what character he would play, only that he was asked to play a bad-guy in one of Nolan's Batman movies and get to play with a lot of guns and explosions. The phrase "giddy as a school girl" may or may not have been used before it came out he was going to be Bane.
Will Friedle provides an animated example when his agent called him to ask how he felt about being Batman. He didn't even know what the story was for Batman Beyond; he just wanted to be Batman.
Mark Hamill was a comic book geek and Batman fanboy decades before he got cast as The Joker. He even played The Trickster on the 1990's The Flash show.
An anthology about The Joker contains a foreword by Hamill, who details that it was partially because he was so much of a fanboy that he was offered the part.
Victor Buono was a huge fan of the Batman comics, and agreed to play King Tut in the old Batman TV series because of it. Buono enjoyed playing the villainous Tut so much that, aside from the actors playing the primary four villains (Julie Newmar as Catwoman, Burgess Meredith as The Penguin, Frank Gorshin as The Riddler, and Caesar Romero as The Joker), he made more appearances than any other guest-star. He was once asked why he did the show so often and said, "Batman lets me get away with doing the one thing that we're taught not to do in drama school... overacting!"
There's a degree of this to every role Nic Cage takes, which is part of what makes him so awesome - he's alwaysDoing It for the Art.
Halle Berry says that she did Catwoman because she wanted the awesome experience of playing a woman beholden to no one. Subverted and played with when this was later revealed to be a Retcon when she gave an interview saying that she mainly did it because she was under contract (thus beholden to people...).
This is part of the reason why Paul Verhoeven did RoboCop (1987). He initially rejected the opportunity to direct the film when he read the script and thought it was silly and stupid. He changed his mind when his wife convinced him that there were more layers to the story than he initially thought, and because the writers pointed out the amount of Gorn there was, to which he responded "Well, I've never seen the hero get his hand blown off!"
Meryl Streep did Mamma Mia! because she took her daughter Louisa and some of Louisa's friends to see it for her eleventh birthday - which was in the immediate aftermath of September 11th - and wrote a fan letter to the crew. When the time came for the movie, the girls-in-charge asked her to play Donna, and she accepted eagerly. Also, she wanted to have fun and kick up her heels for awhile.
Meryl is actually pretty good for these. She's primarily known for serious, intense Oscar Bait roles, but every few years or so, she does something like She-Devil or A Series of Unfortunate Events or Mamma Mia!. It seems like she gives herself a Breather Movie every few years where she can just have fun, laugh, and ham it up.
Pierce Brosnan, meanwhile, summed up his reason for doing the film as this: "Meryl Streep is starring." He also referred to Meryl as "that gorgeous blonde I had a terrible crush on in drama school."
Star Trek in general is this. If you're casting a Star Trek episode and want an actor who has the slightest hint of geek in them, they're all yours as long as you let them have at least a littleHam and Cheese.
Mick Fleetwood played a nonhuman assassin in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Accounts say he was enthusiastic about the role, even though his face was completely hidden by a mask that made him look vaguely fishlike, because he got to be portrayed as being beamed aboard the Enterprise. In fact, when told he'd have to shave his iconic beard to wear the mask, he did so on the condition that he get to be beamed up.
When Patrick Stewart is asked why a Shakespearean actor such as him wanted to be in Star Trek, he gives this as his reason.
In fact, he once stated that years of performing Shakespeare prepared him for Star Trek.
Whoopi Goldberg actually went to the mountain - she showed up in person to ask for a part. They made her the Almighty Bartender who is not only smarter and more capable than anyone else on the ship, but regularly gets away with dissingQ. Part of her reason for doing so is that Nichelle Nichols was part of the reason she went into acting.
John Cho has stated that he strongly wanted the role of Sulu in the 2009 Trek reboot because it had meant a lot for him as a kid to see a rare non-stereotypical Asian face on television. In one interview he was asked if this was one of those times where he had aggressively pursued a role, and Cho emphatically responded "It was the only time."
Averted with Stephen Collins, who played Decker in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Collins says he was practically the only guy at the audition who viewed it as just another part and was not interested in being part of Star Trek. However, he was excited about working with Robert Wise.
Vic Mignogna is a massive Trekkie, and with Star Trek Continues, he will get to realise his life-long dream of playing Captain Kirk.
Noah Antwiler has admitted that his costume that he wore to portray his over-the-top parody of Terl for The Nostalgia Critic's review of Battlefield Earth made him physically ill due to requiring that he wear a thick jacket, big gloves, a huge rastafarian-style wig and facial hair while baking under extremely powerful lights in largely poorly-ventilated rooms. It doesn't help that he then had to scream half his lines as best he could before sweating off the facial hair and starting over. However, he was reportedly thrilled to play the character, and reprised the role for To Boldly Flee.
This was almost inverted by Channing Tatum, who was skeptical of signing on to the film because he thought it would be a pro-war, gung-ho propaganda piece. Then he read the script and realized that it was none of that, and this trope was played straight.
According to the producers once they started casting they had so many applicants that actors actually started fighting each other to try and get in on the movie.
He also speaks fondly of his role as Dawg, the villain of Cutthroat Island, because he got to not only be a pirate, but a scenery-chewing over-the-top bad guy pirate. Apparently, the man loves being able to just go for broke in a role.
Peter Cullen was invited to voice the Predator, and was reluctant, since he injured his throat voicing King Kong in 1976. Then he saw the unmasked creature, and accepted.
This is also why he auditioned to reprise his role as Optimus Prime in the live-action Transformers series, although at first he didn't realize how awesome this was. His kids had to convince him that Optimus is kind of a big deal.
This is also why Michael Bay agreed to do all the Transformers films.
Jason Isaacs's primary reason for doing the Harry Potter films seems to be getting to play a hammy evil wizard. He even convinced the filmmakers to throw out their original banal design for Lucius Malfoy so that he could have such things as a badass long, blond wig, black cloak to swirl dramatically, and a snake-headed cane which conceals his wand.
Bill Nighy likewise signed on as Rufus Scrimgeor (despite the role amounting to only about ten minutes of screentime) because he didn't want to be the only actor in Britain who hadn't been in a Harry Potter movie.
Ralph Fiennes on taking the role of Lord Voldemort:
"One of the things that made me want to do the role was Mike Newell showing me these drawings, artwork about the suggested looks of Voldemort. I got a real buzz off it and that's pretty much when I thought this would be cool to do."
Amusingly inverted by David Bowie, who chose not to play a James Bond villain (Zorin in A View to a Kill) because, besides hating the script, "I didn't want to spend five months watching my stunt double fall off cliffs." Christopher Walken ended up doing the part, and had a hell of a time.
Played straight by Bowie in Yellowbeard - he just wanted to work with the Pythons.
Ryan Reynolds would not stop auditioning for superhero movies and talking himself up as the perfect casting choice for any superhero you could shake a stick at. He clearly wanted to be a superhero so very badly, and got to be Deadpool and Hal Jordan for his persistence.
Jack Huston basically outright stated that he did Outlander—the movie about Beowulf-meets-alien-monsters—basically for this reason; because playing a Viking is "every boy's dream."
Jude Law, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow all signed on for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow immediately after watching Kerry Conran's six-minute film, which he produced on a home computer. They were all impressed with his vision, and wanted to see the film to its completion. (Also, it allowed Jolie to wear an eyepatch and a bubble-helmet, two things she'd always wanted.)
If there's a Super Robot Wars game with a role in it voiced by Hikaru Midorikawa of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing fame, you can bet he's going to have a lot of extra voiced lines in it. This is because the guy is a huge fan of the games and as such always offers to do his lines for free.
Angelina Jolie agreed to do Lara Croft: Tomb Raider because of the locations she got to visit. She fell in love with Cambodia and ended up moving there to avoid the paparazzi and help with mine cleanup. Jolie adopted her first child while making the film.
Just about anyone doing a James Bond film has this as justification (due to either being part of the series or winning a free trip).
Daniel Craig is an inversion of sorts. He knew that if he turned it down, he'd forever be branded a "fucking idiot" by his mates at the pub.
Some of the cast of Sin City signed on after seeing the test footage which would eventually become the opening scene. In the making-of it's noted that a lot of them had wanted to play Film Noir characters for a long time, such as Bruce Willis. Also, many cast members signed on due to other actors being in talks. Considering the large cast of famous faces, this seems reasonable.
Andrew Garfield has said he wanted to play Spider-Man in the reboot film because he apparently was a lot like Peter Parker as a kid, and because, well, he REALLY wanted to play Spider-Man. He was in tears upon finding out he got the role.
Tobey Maguire in the Sam Raimi films had a similar experience... despite his reputation as a scrawny Hollywood prettyboy he pursued the role aggressively, and made a point of bulking up and taking stunt training just to audition for the role.
Paul Bettany did Legion because he got to play with guns, and got to be the good guy in an action film for once.
The Beatles claimed years later that part of the reason they wanted to make the James Bond parody Help! was to shoot in the exotic locales (The Swiss Alps, The Bahamas, etc.) and take a paid vacation from Beatlemania. It probably didn't hurt that they allegedly took many opportunities to smoke pot offscreen between takes.
Everyone involved in Speed Racer got involved because of this, and it shows. Every single frame of the film is slathered in overwhelming joy and love for the silly 60's anime series.
Michael Caine on why he accepted a role in the sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D:
I took the film because I have grandchildren now, and I get to ride around on a giant bumblebee... My grandchildren are... going to say to kids at school, "Can your grandfather do that?"
Most if not all of the All-Star Cast of Glengarry Glen Ross agreed to be paid less than their usual asking prices because the script was so good. Enthusiasm was so high during production that cast members would come down to the set on their days off simply to watch the other performances.
Helen Mirren loved working on Red so much, thanks to the action-heavy role she had in the film, that she has said "I'm there!" to any planned sequel. And she did indeed return for Red 2.
Broadway legend Hinton Battle agreed to play Sweet, the Dancing Demon in the Buffy the Vampire SlayerMusical Episode, "Once More With Feeling" primarily because he was a huge fan of the show and thought the idea of getting made up like a demon would be "a stone cold groove" that he had never experienced before.
Stanley Tucci took the role of Dr. Abraham Erskine in Captain America: The First Avenger for one very simple reason: he'd get to use a German accent, and he'd never done that before.
While not because he thought it was cool, Mark Wahlberg stated he accepted his role in The Happening because it gave him the opportunity to play something other than a cop or a crook.
When Cartoon Network did an April Fool's joke saying Toonami would be revived, Steve Blum was the one leading the charge to get it brought back for real. Why? Because he really wanted to voice TOM. The network doesn't have the budget to pay him a salary that even a starving college student would be happy with, but he's having a blast.
Dub voice acting for anime tends to pay less than voice work for western animation. Many anime voice actors, like Kyle Hebert, still do it for the love of the craft.
This can apply for a lot of recent Rangers, since the show started when they were kids and they are now old enough to be Rangers themselves.
Joe Mantegna was originally content to have his first appearance as Fat Tony on The Simpsons be a one time thing, but ultimately came to love the character. On the DVD commentaries, the producers have recounted many times that he insists on voicing the character whenever he appears, "even if he just burps or sneezes". He's obviously serious as one appearance amounted to him being choked by a plastic bag.
Regardless of how the final product turned out, most of the actors involved in Van Helsing jumped at the chance to be in an homage to the classic Universal monster movies. Shuler Hensley related a story where a friend asked him if it bothered him that no one would recognize him under his makeup. His response, "I'm playing Frankenstein's Monster!"
Martin Sheen was originally approached to play a supporting role of a human archaeologist in the Babylon 5Made-for-TV MovieRiver of Souls. After reading through the script, he asked to play the Soul Hunter instead since he had never played an alien before and wanted to try it. His request was granted.
Nana Mizuki, well known voice actress and singer, was a big fan of the Pretty Cure franchise. To say that she was happy when she won the role of Tsubomi Hanasaki would be an understatement. She even expressed joy at voicing her once more when she was called back for a few brief lines in Pretty Cure All Stars New Stage.
Matt Hullum, Joel Heyman, Kathleen Zuelch and Gavin Free of Rooster Teeth all gave up jobs in Hollywood to work with the company. For Matt, he turned down a role in Smallville when he realized that Red vs. Blue would be much more fun. Joel, Kathleen and Gavin worked in the film business, but left and joined Rooster Teeth, realizing it was much more fun and relaxing.
Dusty Rhodes's WWF run. The one where he wore polka dots. While most fans consider it one of the low points of his career, Dusty himself had a lot of fun with the gimmick. It helped that it was one of the few times that Dusty, who was previously a long-time booker of Jim Crockett Promotions, didn't have to worry about booking or running a promotion, allowing him to just relax and enjoy wrestling.
Patricia Quinn accepted the role of Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show because she fell in love with the song "Science Fiction." Her agent pointed out that she hadn't even seen the script and she may have a total of five lines. Patricia said she didn't care and wanted to sing that song no matter what. When she got the script, Magenta had... five lines.
According to Kevin Smith, Affleck absolutely loved being in his movies. Kevin was fully aware of this and has joked over the fact that he would make Ben work for scale. It should be noted that this was before Gigli, when Ben could easily get an 8-figure check in any other role.
Similarly to the Matt Damon example above, Nathan Fillion said that "when Joss Whedon calls you up and says, 'Hey, do you want to...', you say yes."
Simon Pegg, geek superstar, feels this way about his guest role in Doctor Who, his cameo in Land of the Dead and his starring role in the Star Trek relaunch . He faced a battle of the awesome when the Doctor Who role initally offered clashed wih Land of the Dead. He went with Romero, because "when you've just spent three years of your life essentially writing a love letter to someone, you have to come when they call you."
Speaking at the 2006 AFI Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony, Eddie Izzard said that he took a role in The Avengers (1998) in order to meet Sean Connery.
Chris Cooper, when asked why he agreed to perform a rap song in The Muppets: "Are you kidding? This is a Muppet movie! I'm in a movie with the Muppets! I'd have tapdanced in my underwear if they'd asked me to."
Many celebrities are enthusiastic about working with the Muppets, to the point where they couldn't actually fit all of them in the movie.
George Harrison didn't just cameo in Monty Python's Life of Brian - he provided the finances to complete it when the Pythons ran out during filming. Both he and they like to joke that it was "the most expensive movie ticket in history". He's THAT big a fan.
The Beatles licensed one of their songs for the final episode of The Prisoner, the only time they allowed their music to be used in a TV show, because they were huge fans of the show. At one point, they were working with Patrick Mc Goohan to make a movie based on the property.
Many of the voice actors from Gargoyles had already acted together on Star Trek: The Next Generation. They took the comparatively low paying gigs because they liked the show and it gave them a chance to work together again.
When the producers of Chicago began casting, they approached Catherine Zeta-Jones and asked her to play the role of Roxie, the movie's star. Reportedly, Jones asked if Roxie got to sing "All That Jazz"; when told that that number was sung by Velma Kelly, she demanded the part of Velma, even though it was smaller, just so she could sing that song. Jones was so eager to be in the musical that she even cut her long brown hair in a pixie bob, so that critics couldn't accuse her of having a double perform her singing and dancing.
Kasuka Heiwajima of Durarara!! got his start in the extremely campy anime Vampire Carmilla Saizou. He was listed on "Top ten actors who don't get to choose their roles," and most people treat it as an Old Shame. Kasuka, however, claims that Carmilla Saizou is an awesome character, and insisted on reprising his role in the movie.