Dodged Bullets: 14 Actors Who Were Almost Superheroes

Published 5 years ago by , Updated May 3rd, 2014 at 7:40 am,

tom cruise ironman1 e1273521275490 Dodged Bullets: 14 Actors Who Were Almost Superheroes

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

tom cruise ironman 1 Dodged Bullets: 14 Actors Who Were Almost Superheroes

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.”

favreauanddowneyjrstockpic Dodged Bullets: 14 Actors Who Were Almost Superheroes

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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  1. Not to be a stickler for details but James Marsden played Lois Lane’s fiance, not her husband in Superman Returns.

    • Thanks for catching that, Chris, I’ve corrected it.

      • and Cillian Murphy is Irish not British

        • We just updated it to “European actors,” which I think was the intended statement by the author. Thanks for the catch (again).

  2. You missed rocker Glenn Danzig as Wolverine.
    He was offered the role back when Carloco had the rights.
    Personally I think a young Danzig would have been great, better than Jackman. Short, hairy, built like a brick #&$%-house. Too bad he let himself go a bit….

    • Glenn Danzig is in his 50s, he’s allowed to let himself go a bit. He was doing the Misfits in 1979, Samhain in the mid-80s, which became Danzig in 87. He wasn’t that young in the 90s, but fit Wolverine with the height & hairiness. The problem was that he wasn’t known as an actor. Danzig was supposedly in the running for the role with Hugh Jackman & supposedly lost it because of touring & recording commitments.

  3. Fantastic article. I’ll have “what if…” nightmares for weeks to come!

  4. Its not a Comic Book,But Tom Cruise is still attached to The Champions based on the British TV Seies About three government operatives who were in a plane crash, they were saved by an advanced alien race that gave them Superhuman Abilities .
    one way or another, it looks like Cruise will develop Superpowers one of these days .

    • Didn’t know they were thinking of making a movie of “The Champions” – I used to enjoy that show as a kid.

  5. When Fox had Iron Man in the mid-90s, they offered the role to Nicolas Cage. Also, Wes Bentley was up for Spidey, too–he could’ve done a great job.

    A friend of mine named Conor Timmis was the last person to read for Superman before Singer chose Routh.


  6. Great article. It confirms my belief that Warner Bros. really doesn’t know what they’re doing. They got Chris Reeve right, but the others up for Supes is embarrassing. No wonder they haven’t made many comicbook movies aside from Batman in the last 20 yrs.

    • At one point they actually considered casting Halle Berry as Catwoman. LMAO!!! can you imagine how horrible that would have been. Whew… that’s one disaster averted.


      Oh… wait…. Whoops.

  7. Some of those are real eye-openers/head-scratchers.

    Someone who I always thought looked like the traditional comic book Superman was actor Clint Walker. He tended to be in “cowboy” type roles because of his accent, but my gosh he had the physicality and the rugged jaw, etc.

  8. On the Batman note: “fellow American Joshua Jackson…” He was born in Vancouver, British Columbia… yes his dad is a Texan, but his mom is Irish and although spent many years in the US he mainly divides his time between Paris and Vancouver. I’m a stickler… so sue me or better yet punch me in the face if you can find me.

  9. This entire article was both horrific and brilliant. Great work- I’m truly scared.

  10. The Superman potentials were definitely the worst.

    Nerd rage would’ve reached boiling point if Ashton Kutcher was cast as Superman.

    And Stallone as Superman? hahaha

    • What, you don’t think Burt Young (“Paulie”) would’ve passed as cub reporter Jimmy Olsen?

      You wouldn’t like lines like, “Yo, Lois! You wanna, like, go to da movies?”

  11. I love Joshua Jackson, that guy also came close to becoming Kirk. I wish he got the chance in one of these A-List big budget movies.

    • Give it time. He is doing great work with Fringe and will most likely become a valuable Hollywood commodity soon enough.

  12. Batman is the most successful superhero franchise, not Spider-Man.

    • Not! Spider-Man is the best franchise dude.

      • Successful and best and very different things. I don’t actually know the answer, but considering the amount of money made by The Dark Knight alone, Batman may be the most successful.

  13. Good article, very cool topic…!
    Thom Cruise as Iron Man? wow?!, think about that fricken anti mirror universe senario. Makes Downey’s goatee a symbol of talent and freedom.
    @Ravin 415, Halle Berry could pull off Catwomen if the script was good. She could pull off anything if you catch my drift. 8-O
    She’s my imaginary wife you son of a b****!!! I’ll get you mkffuvkr!!!

    Lol, just messing with ya. She’s a pretty fine woman though! ;-)

    • I too thought Catwoman failed because of the script. The best parts of the movie, for me, was Berry as Catwoman (when she was the other woman she was boring). When she was strutting around in that catsuit, chills went down my……spine. :-)

      • Um, your…(*ahem!*) SPINE is showing, sir!

    • I agree with you on Downey´s goatee. But not on Halle Berry. In every movie she made you can see by the look on her face, that she is dumb like sliced bread. No talent at all. Look what she´s done to Storm. Or her really bad performance in Gothica. Or in Boomerang, The Flintstones, B*A*P*S, Bullworth, Password Swordfish, Perfect Strangers…. The list goes on and on… It´s a miracle that she won an Oscar…

  14. Very impressive article. One of the most interesting and well wrote I have read for a long time. Thank you.

  15. While Ben Affleck didn’t play The Man Of Steel like Kevin Smith would have hoped, Affleck did play a man who played the man of steel, George Reeves, in “Hollywoodland”. Affleck, of course, was also Daredevil.

    Which reminds me…

    Vin Diesel had to drop out of the running of Daredevil due to another film.


    How on earth could you forget about Batman’s trusted sidekick, Robin? YES I’m talking one of the Wayans bros. here…

    • It took me a minute after I posted- I knew I forgot someone.

      How about an actor by the name of James Purefoy- who was cast, was filmed and then halfway in was replaced and dubbed over by Hugo Weaving?


  16. Those photoshopped pictures might be some of the most disturbing things I have ever seen.

    • I can come up with far worse, if you like…

  17. Jake Gyllenhaal as Batman? Didn’t he star in Brokeback Mountain with… Heath Ledger?

    That one would have been weird.

  18. Have always been so glad Bale was the bat. Although Jake G as Harvey would have been interesting, I wonder how Nolan would feel making siblings eat face…so to speak.

  19. I think Leonardo DiCaprio would have made a better Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire.
    But Nicolas Cage as Superman? *shudders* That sounds like it would have been the worst movie ever created.

  20. “Evans has had few detractors since he won the coveted role of Rogers, and with good reason. He has that rare ability to seriously act and also buff up big-time, Captain America-style.”

    Really? I’ve never seen him play anything except a cocky, horny, sarcastic jerk. Does that accurately describe Captain America? Evans is already in Fantastic Four. Are there so few actors available that we have to start recycling? I think he’s a poor choice.

    • Anaisa,

      Go rent the Sci-Fi movie “Sunshine” to see Evans in a much more serious role. He won me over after I saw him in that.

  21. I’d rather see Halle Berry play Iron Man then Thom Cruise!

    He’s 87% the reason the Mission Impossible films are crap… :-)

  22. oh I remember the Cruise/Iron Man — it lasted years!! imagine that, an Iron Midget.. fighting shrinks all over the world!

  23. Ha! Tom Cruise


  24. some u guys r pretty gay. but my goal in life is to casted as Green Lantern or Thor.

    i think i’d be good search wut my name is on google.

  25. @Nandrolone-Decanate,,,

    I totally agree!

  26. actually bing images im the second picture

  27. with wut –790

  28. @Nandrolone-Decanate, where are you from???