A bumper pay check, the lifelong adoration of millions of fans, the chance to live out your childhood fantasies of saving (or indeed destroying) the world in a customized spandex suit – for most actors, the decision to sign on to a superhero film is a no-brainer. But to an increasingly select few, the world of experiments-gone-wrong, villainous master plans, and interminably lengthy climactic battles holds about as much allure as a visit to an amateur dentist.
For some, it’s the thought of being tied down to a franchise that could potentially span several films and the better part of a decade that has resulted in a firm “no.” For others, it’s the realization that an effects-laden blockbuster might not be the best use of their talents. And for a handful of outspoken names unafraid to risk the wrath of the fanboy and fangirl community, it’s simply the fact that they think the genre is pretty much the bane of the film industry. Here’s a look at 15 stars who, barring a considerable U-turn, are unlikely to grace a superhero picture any time soon.
15. Jason Statham
Jason Statham has gradually attained ultimate action hero status by playing the silent-yet-deadly type, but when it comes to the subject of superhero films the Transporter star has been far more vocal. Statham first made his feelings perfectly clear in 2013 when he argued that the genre was all about money and said that the “cape wouldn’t fit” if he was ever asked to appear in one.
Rumors began to surface in 2015 that Marvel had, perhaps rather bravely, tried to persuade Statham to change his mind and take the role of Bullseye in the Netflix series Daredevil. But the brooding Brit was quick to shoot down all the talk, going on to blast the use of green screen technology and stunt doubles, and claim that starring as a superhero is so easy that even his grandmother could do a convincing job. The Avengers star Paul Bettany subsequently shot back that Statham could perhaps benefit from investing in an acting double. Meow.
14. Amanda Seyfried
One brief taste of the green screen work that Statham takes so much umbrage with was enough to put off Mamma Mia! star Amanda Seyfried for life. The Pennsylvania-born actress revealed on Late Night with Seth Meyers in 2015 that the fake flying around she was forced to undergo for her cameo in Joe Wright’s divisive Pan was so utterly nightmarish that it has now deterred her from ever taking an action-led role.
Unlike Statham, however, Seyfried was keen to point out that she still enjoys superhero films when viewed from the comfort of her own home. Referring to the Ted sequel she was promoting at the time, she added. “For tentpole [summer films], this is far as I’ll go. Usually they’re like action films, Marvel films… they’re highly enjoyable, I love being an audience member. I just don’t want to put on the suit.” Fair enough.
13. Rose McGowan
However, Statham looks like an ardent superhero fanboy compared to Rose McGowan. In the summer of 2016, 20th Century Fox were forced to withdraw a misguided billboard ad for X-Men: Apocalypse which showed Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique being strangled by Oscar Isaac’s titular character, following an outcry led by the Planet Terror star, who said: “The geniuses behind this, and I use that term lightly, need to take a long hard look at the mirror and see how they are contributing to society.”
Just six months previously, McGowan cited the dominance of the superhero film as the reason she had quit acting. In a series of Instagram posts, the star argued that the genre lacked complexity, story development and freedom of thought, adding: “Where are the human stories? I don’t want green goblins and tight outfits. I want intelligence, daring work that drives society forward. I want a mirror, not every cliché regurgitated ad nauseum.”
12. Mark Duplass
Writer, director, and actor Mark Duplass has had the odd brush with the mainstream since establishing himself as the king of mumblecore in the early ’00s. There’s been the recurring gig on The Mindy Project, a lead role in HBO’s Togetherness, and a supporting part in the Oscar-winning Zero Dark Thirty. But don’t expect to see him, or his equally talented older brother Jay, swapping his everyday clothes for a cape in the near future.
In a 2016 interview with Time magazine, Duplass revealed that the pair had been approached by various studios to make the big leap from the small scale indie world to the big budget blockbuster. But although they admired the “fun punk rock spirit” of Guardians of the Galaxy, and the performance of Chris Pratt in particular, the fact that such films are seen as a commodity first and foremost would deter them from appearing in one themselves.
11. Jon Hamm
Having spent seven years thoroughly inhabiting the character of sharp-suited, whisky-drinking ad executive Don Draper in AMC’s hugely-acclaimed Mad Men, you can perhaps understand Jon Hamm’s reluctance to sign up for another all-consuming part. In a 2014 interview with the Radio Times, the dashing actor revealed that he had been in contention for a number of unspecified superhero roles, but that he had no regrets about turning them all down.
Indeed, no doubt referring to the ever-expanding Marvel Universe, Hamm states he has no interest in signing draconian contracts for movies, which then have “at least two more that you haven’t read, and you have no idea what they are going to be and all the crossover ones you are going to have to do.” The Emmy winner also admitted that his advancing years would make it difficult to take on such a heavy workload, even if at 45, he’s still younger than the likes of Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo.
10. Daniel Craig
Like Hamm, Daniel Craig has spent so much time as one particular character it stands to reason he’d be reluctant to take on another equally demanding role. The sixth James Bond recently joked that he would rather slit his wrists than appear in another 007 movie after wrapping up Spectre in 2015, despite reportedly being offered £68m to do so. And he was almost as emphatic when asked about the possibility of him swapping his tuxedo for a cape back in 2008.
Indeed, Craig was just one of several actors reportedly in the frame to play Thor, a role which, of course, eventually went to Chris Hemsworth. But when invited to comment on the rumors at a press conference promoting his WWII flick Defiance, the actor simply laughed and stated that the part didn’t interest him at all. Inevitably, Craig’s name hasn’t been seriously linked with a superhero film since.
9. Jude Law
Despite apparently being a lifelong comic book fan, a two-minute pose in a Superman costume in front of the mirror was enough to satisfy Jude Law’s superhero ambitions. Back in 2002, the British actor was the first choice to play the lead in Brett Ratner and J.J. Abrams’ attempt to reboot the Man of Steel and, in an effort to persuade him to take the role, the pair sent Law the iconic outfit to his very own home.
However, the move backfired when, after trying on the outfit, Law began visualizing himself on the film’s posters and realized that he didn’t need the rest of the world to see the same image. The project subsequently got stuck in development hell, but luckily for those wishing to see Superman’s famous blue tights and red underpants back on the big screen again, Brandon Routh had fewer reservations about sporting them in public.
8. Armie Hammer
Armie Hammer wouldn’t have made it on to this list had George Miller’s eagerly anticipated Justice League seen the light of day in the late ’00s. The Social Network star was primed to play the Caped Crusader in the ill-fated project, but judging by an interview with UK newspaper Metro, Hammer’s superhero ambitions now appear to be a thing of the past.
Indeed, the actor actually admits that he’s not a particularly big fan of the genre, pointing out: “If you have a guy who is supposed to be invulnerable, then what’s the point?” Hammer also joked that the prospect of tabloid speculation about his relationship with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. co-star, and of course, current Superman, Henry Cavill, has also put pay to any future superhero roles: “I think if Henry and I did that film and then a superhero film straight after, people might start to wonder about us.”
7. Emma Thompson
“If I see yet another Spider-Man, I’m going to have actually hang myself.” It’s easy to see where celebrated actress Emma Thompson is coming from, what with Hollywood’s incessant need to reboot the webbed wonder franchise every few years. The Oscar winner isn’t entirely against the concept of the superhero film, and readily admits to enjoying the original Superman with the late Christopher Reeve due to its tongue-in-cheek tone.
And she’s not averse to the odd franchise either, having starred in the Harry Potter and Nanny McPhee films as well as Men in Black 3 and Bridget Jones’ Baby. But in an interview with Vulture, Thompson claimed that the lack of surprise and originality in the superhero world has now dampened her enthusiasm for it: “The fact that I know they’re going to win out in the end has now slightly interfered with my continuing to go to those movies.”
6. Simon Pegg
Possibly the most surprising name on the list, Simon Pegg has been one of the loudest and proudest voices in geek culture, from writing and starring in the cult classic sitcom Spaced to his appearances in the Star Wars and Star Trek reboots. And technically, he already has a superhero vehicle on his resume, The Death and Return of Superman, a 2012 short film in which he plays its director Max Landis’ real-life father John.
But the prospect of seeing Pegg in a full-length superhero feature now appears to be non-existent after he criticized the genre for “dumbing down cinema.” In a 2016 interview with the Radio Times, the actor also claimed that it is taking the focus away from important world issues as well as infantilizing audiences, and also admitted he now longs for the “gritty amoral art movies” that used to clean up at the box office in the 1970s.
5. Mark Gatiss
Famous for his turns in the likes of Doctor Who, Sherlock and Game of Thrones, Mark Gatiss is another British actor who certainly isn’t a stranger to geek-dom, but one who also draws the line at superheroes. Indeed, although he admits that his eight-year-old self would have loved the state of today’s cinema, his current 48-year-old self has become fed up with the over-saturation of superhero films.
Like Emma Thompson, Gatiss is particularly frustrated by the constant Spider-Man reboots, claiming that Hollywood will keep on “making them until we all drop dead.” But he also has hope that there are less formulaic times ahead: “It’s a crowded market now which is obviously a measure of its huge success. But I think what will happen is that a couple of those big $300 million movies will flop and then out of the ashes of that we’ll get a rebirth of interesting stuff.”
4. Sean Penn
It’s hardly earth shattering news to learn than an actor who takes himself as seriously as Sean Penn does appears to believe that the superhero film world isn’t worthy of his talents. Indeed, despite his failed attempt to do a Liam Neeson and branch out into the action genre in his 50s with The Gunman, the actor literally laughed at the very thought of venturing further into popcorn cinema when asked by a Reuters reporter in 2015. “You asked me with a camera on this face and in this time of my life if I would be a superhero? Maybe if there’s a very funny one,” he answered self-deprecatingly.
It seems highly unlikely that Penn would be the first choice of any casting director should another wisecracking superhero emerge in the wake of Deadpool, even more so considering he went on to add that he’d “like to see this business not drown itself in superhero movies.”
3. Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix isn’t exactly renowned for being particularly light-hearted either, so it’s little surprise that he too has ruled out an appearance in the superhero universe. However, in fairness, the three-time Oscar nominee has been far more open to the genre than Penn, and in fact, very seriously thought of taking on the titular role in Doctor Strange before acknowledging that there were too many requirements that “went against his instinct for character.”
Indeed, in an interview with Time Out London, Phoenix admitted he’s far less snobbish about superhero movies than he used to be, singling one out in particular for praise: “Did you see the rebooted Star Trek? That kid Chris Pine who plays Kirk is f****** genius. I just don’t know if I want to have the experience of being in them. I’ve read some of those scripts and 75 percent is a description of some asteroid going through space.”
2. Reese Witherspoon
She may have voiced a bride-to-be who transformed into a 49-foot giant by a radioactive meteor in Monsters vs. Aliens, but you won’t ever see Reese Witherspoon’s face in a superhero film. Back in 2010, the star argued: “The movies that are being made feel different. There are a lot of really, really, really big movies about robots and things – and there’s not a part for a 34-year-old woman in a robot movie. I’ve never done the superhero movie. That doesn’t interest me too much.”
Witherspoon also claimed that the increasing popularity of superhero films has made her more selective with the projects she takes on, although anyone who saw Hot Pursuit will no doubt agree that this approach may need some fine tuning. Witherspoon’s ex-husband Ryan Phillippe, meanwhile, is far more open to playing a superhero, having revealed on The Howard Stern Show that he’d had a meeting with Marvel about a possible role in a Netflix series.
1. John Cho
Like Simon Pegg, John Cho is more than happy to venture into the Star Trek universe as the now openly gay Sulu, but is a little more reticent when it comes to superheroes. However, unlike his co-star, it’s not the dumbing down he has a problem with, but the bulking up, with Cho admitting in an interview with Vulture that he’s not particularly enamored with the idea of having to diet or work out like crazy for a role.
And despite appearing in three installments of the Star Trek and Harold & Kumar films, as well as four American Pie movies, the Korean-born actor also isn’t too keen on the multi-picture deals that have become the norm in the superhero world: “If you play, you know, Condorman, you’re young, you’re just in from Ohio or whatever, you’re signing a 15-year contract, and they have the option to make three or four. That’s the weird thing about it — all these indentured-servitude contracts.”