Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a world that doesn’t have Christian Bale playing Batman… okay, that would probably look like the weird and wacky ’60s when Adam West was prancing about in gray tights… or maybe the adventurous ’80s and ’90s when Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney all took turns at slipping into black latex bat suits, a few of which sported nipples.

Alright, here’s a better example: what about a world in which Robert Downey Jr isn’t everyone’s favorite walking tin can, Iron Man. A world even crazier than the ’60s, in which Tom Cruise plays Tony Stark, Sylvester Stallone is Clark Kent, Edward Furlong is Peter Parker and Bill Murray is Bruce Wayne.

It’s a world where (speeding) bullets cannot be dodged, and those not-so-super bits of casting are a reality – and lead to even bigger train wrecks than those involving powerful locomotives.

Call it Bizarro World if you want, but each of those castings I just mentioned almost came to pass. Along with some other notable near-misses, we here at Screen Rant explore the (sordid) casting history of some of today’s hottest superhero franchises:

Tom Cruise as Iron Man

It’s obviously hard to fathom now, with RDJ slipping so perfectly into the role of Tony Stark, but it probably seemed ridiculous to some back in early 2007 when it was announced that the once down-on-his-luck Robert Downey Jr would be playing Marvel’s suave, self-made superhero, Iron Man.

Particularly when – despite a seemingly on-again, off-again relationship – it was long believed that Tom Cruise would not only eventually star as Stark, but also co-produce the character’s first foray onto the big screen. Cruise’s connection to an Iron Man movie goes back to just after the turn of the century, and intensified after Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man helped inject a new lease on life into the superhero genre.

Marvel Studios executive Kevin Feige was quoted as saying in 2004:

“There have been discussions (with Cruise) over the last several years and there are a number of factors involved. All we know is that we’re putting all the pieces in place and then we’ll find the best Tony Stark that we can get.”

Apparently Cruise finally lost interest in being apart of Iron Man due to the script at the time. It is not known whether it was the draft that centered around Stark’s father, Howard, turning out to be the villain of the piece. Said Cruise:

“I don’t know. It just … they came to me at a certain point and … when I do something, I wanna do it right. If I commit to something, it has to be done in a way that I know it’s gonna be something special. And as it was lining up, it just didn’t feel to me like it was gonna work.”

Once Marvel settled on a director in Jon Favreau- and a decent script – Favreau overlooked such actors as Clive Owen and Sam Rockwell for the lead role, stating that Downey Jr could make Stark “a likable asshole.” And RDJ delivered. Cruise, on the other hand, may have made Stark just an asshole. Sorry Tom.

Continue to Batman…

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