As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues its record-setting run, rival distributor DC Comics finds itself playing catch-up in the world of live-action film franchises. Many have postulated that DC is rushing out its shared universe in order to compete more directly, choosing to focus largely on team-up films rather than first introducing its major characters via solo adventures. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the second film in the DC Extended Universe (or DCEU for short), has been tasked with introducing audiences to new iterations of Batman and Lex Luthor—as well as the first big screen Wonder Woman. If that wasn’t enough, it will also feature the debuts of at least three other League members as it attempts to serve as a direct springboard into the 2017 Justice League movie.
Like most fans, we have high hopes for the Trinity’s first live-action outing, but DC still has a long road ahead of them in terms of filling out their shared universe. Recent reports have suggested that we could be in for even more superhero movies than originally anticipated, with Birds of Prey and Justice League Dark adaptations rumored to be among the projects in the DCEU pipeline. We’ve already discussed some of the heroes we’d like to see make their way to the big screen, and now we’re going to take a stab at actually casting these roles.
Like the Marvel version of this list, we’ve placed an emphasis on exciting—yet realistic—casting decisions. In addition to the desire to gather together talent of the highest possible order, we’ve also chosen to factor in actors’ profiles and availability in order to determine the best fit for each character.
Here are Screen Rant’s 10 DC Casting Decisions That We’d Love to See.
10. Andre Braugher as Martian Manhunter
J’onn J’onzz has been in the headlines quite a bit as of late, thanks to his surprise unveiling in a recent episode of CBS’ hit series, Supergirl. The unexpected reveal of Hank Henshaw’s alter-ego was a shocker for comic fans who know Henshaw to be Cyborg Superman, one of the Man of Steel’s toughest adversaries, in more traditional depictions. Despite the alterations to his origin story, it would appear that Martian Manhunter is set to become a prominent fixture on the series, a twist that signals a likely end to any chance of a DCEU appearance in the next few years. If Warner Bros. had any immediate plans for the character, they likely would have prevented Supergirl‘s producers from including him on their show.
With all that said, we’re still keeping our fingers firmly crossed that J’onzz will feature in the DCEU at some point. He’s an enormously popular character, especially with fans of the animated Justice League series from the early ’00s, and he’s often regarded as the heart and soul of the team. If and when Manhunter makes his way onto the silver screen, Braugher is an excellent candidate to bring him to life. An accomplished TV veteran, the two time Emmy winner is best known to modern audiences for playing the ever-stoic Captain Ray Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. 53 year olds aren’t often cast to play superheroes, but considering the Martian’s size and shape-shifting abilities, a heavy dosage of motion capture work will likely be a necessity. Braugher already has the look and temperament for the character, and CGI work in the vein of Billy Crudup’s Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen would help put him over the top.
9. Tessa Thompson as Hawkgirl
Like Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl could also be considered a somewhat unlikely candidate to appear in the DCEU in the near future, thanks to her upcoming starring role in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. But given her popularity (thanks again, Justice League animated series) and the distinct but natural fit she has alongside her fellow Leaguers, we’re definitely not going to rule it out. Certain liberties have been taken with her backstory in The CW’s version of the character, leaving plenty of room for a radically different interpretation on the big screen—perhaps one that doesn’t make her quite so dependent on her counterpart, Hawkman.
There’s no shortage of actresses that could pull off the mace-wielding warrior woman, but our pick is up-and-comer Tessa Thompson. The 32 year old is on a serious hot streak as of late, with starring roles in three consecutive films that have been released to widespread critical acclaim: Dear White People, Selma, and Creed. Thompson’s ability to turn heads with her fierce, enigmatic performances will next be on display in 2016’s star-studded HBO series Westworld. The superhero genre would certainly be a new direction for Thompson, but it’s undoubtedly one we’d love to see her take. Should the actress decline the opportunity to don Hawkgirl’s wings, Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) or Priyanka Chopra (Quantico) would be fine alternate options.
8. Armie Hammer as Shazam
Hammer has appeared to be on the cusp of stardom since his breakout role as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network back in 2010. A true career-defining role has eluded him over the years, as he’s starred in as many box office bombs as hits. Nonetheless, the man who very nearly portrayed Bruce Wayne in George Miller’s failed Justice League: Mortal project is our pick to play the World’s Mightiest Mortal. Hammer has the look and the talent, and seemingly just needs the right vehicle to vault him to the top. This superhero role, which we’ve picked Hammer for before, would do nicely.
Hammer definitely seems to bring a certain likability to the table, making him a great fit for the character’s more family-friendly side. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Hammer’s distinct advantage over his competitors in the size department. Dwayne Johnson, the film’s (assumed) antagonist Black Adam, cuts a massive figure at 6’5, 260 pounds, and whoever is chosen to square off against him will have to be something resembling a physical match. Also standing 6’5, Hammer could be just what the doctor ordered—if he were to add 20+ pounds of muscle, of course.
April 5, 2019 is the current release date for Shazam, though Johnson has stated several times that he believes it could come much sooner. If that’s the case, we should expect to see a casting decision within the next year or so. Here’s hoping Hammer ends up being chosen to play the man formerly known as Captain Marvel.
7. Lauren Cohan as Huntress
Cohan has become something of a nerd queen over the last few years thanks to her recurring parts on cult shows like Chuck, Supernatural and, of course, The Walking Dead. The high level of skill she’s demonstrated playing Maggie on the latter series should vault her to the top of the list of candidates for the first cinematic Huntress.
The character wasn’t expected by many to be making her DCEU debut anytime soon, but that changed with last month’s rumor of a Birds of Prey adaptation. One of the core members of the team in the comics— along with Barbara Gordon and Black Canary—Huntress is now a prime candidate for adaptation now that DC will indeed be moving forward with plans for the female-centric team. Cohan is an ideal choice to play the costumed vigilante, having proven herself time and again, both physically and dramatically, in the AMC series that’s made her a star. If she can handle a world full of zombies, she can easily handle this.
Which version of the Huntress we would be getting in this theoretical Birds of Prey adaptation is an interesting question. Helena Bertinelli is the best bet, since she’s generally regarded as being the definitive take on the character. Helena Wayne, the original Huntress who now hails from Earth 2 in current continuity, is a slightly longer shot to appear, given the Bat Family complications her existence would entail. Both of the characters are entirely in Cohan’s ballpark though, and we’d be on board with her playing either heroine.
6. Nate Parker as Green Lantern (John Stewart)
There’s no shortage of power ring-wearing characters that could star in DC’s Green Lantern Corps, currently slotted for a June 2020 release. The film’s title implies that the film will employ multiple Green Lanterns, and if this is the case, expect John Stewart to be one of them. The first black superhero of DC Comics has become a serious fan-favorite over the years, thanks in no small part to the Justice League animated series (we’re fans, can you tell?). His inclusion is almost assumed at this point.
We’re not exactly sold on the idea of Tyrese Gibson taking on the part, and popular fan choices like Idris Elba (age, ongoing involvement with Marvel) and Michael B. Jordan (he recently starred as Johnny Storm in Fox’s Fantastic Four) feel like long shots, as excellent as they would be. All things considered, our pick for Stewart is Nate Parker. The 36 year old is best known for his head-turning work in dramas like The Great Debaters and Beyond the Lights, so he certainly has the acting chops to pull this off. Parker’s resume is dominated by lower-budgeted independent films, but his raw talent has been hidden from mainstream audiences for too long. The only question is whether or not Parker would be interested in starring in the sort of blockbuster fare he’s largely avoided thus far in his career. If he were to decline, we could get behind the casting of Lance Gross (Crisis) or even Mahershala Ali (House of Cards)—if the latter were able to skirt around his involvement in Marvel’s Luke Cage.
5. Taylor Kitsch as Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
Despite being the best known member of the Green Lantern Corps, Hal isn’t nearly as safe an assumption for the upcoming film. The character was previously adapted for the big screen (in entirely underwhelming fashion) less than five years ago, and a number of other power ring bearing options exist. Arguments could be made for several other Lanterns, including Guy Gardner, Jade, Kyle Rayner, Simon Baz, Alan Scott, and even the insanely powerful Sodam Yat. Despite recent rumors claiming that he and John Stewart would be the two featured Lanterns, Jordan is far from a sure-fire bet for a major role in Corps.
With all that said, if Jordan does appear in the DCEU in the next few years, we’d love to see Taylor Kitsch land the part. Like his fellow potential Justice Leaguer Armie Hammer, the 34 year old has seen a few opportunities for superstardom slip through his fingers (see his version of Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Battleship.) But it’s his recent work on the second season of True Detective that showed off his legitimate growth as an actor and caught our attention. He may have crashed and burned in his first take on the comic book world, but he definitely seems deserving of a second look. Kitsch has the undeniable look of a superhero; all he needs is a second chance.
As much as fans would love to see Bradley Cooper or Nathan Fillion snatch up the role, Hal Jordan is a character that DC will plan a decade-long arc for—should he be in their plans at all, of course. Both fan-favorites are in their forties, however, so they’ve likely aged out at this point. In that sense, Garrett Hedlund (Pan) is a far more realistic alternate option. And who knows, perhaps Scott Eastwood has already landed the part without any of us knowing it?
4. Sienna Miller as Black Canary
Although she’s certainly one of the most well-known female Justice Leaguers, Black Canary wasn’t exactly a frontrunner to join the DCEU until very recently. The rumored Birds of Prey adaptation has several major implications, not the least of which being that the character is now very likely on her way to the big screen. Casting rumors are wrong all the time, but rarely does such gossip get leaked without some foundation in truth.
Alice Eve has been a hotly discussed name for the part, but should the character arrive in the DCEU within the next few years, we think Miller would be a wonderful pick. Though some movie fans may know her best for her starring turn in the abysmal 2009 popcorn flick G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, the actress’ recent hot streak is turning heads in all the right ways. Fresh off of roles in American Sniper and Foxcatcher, the recently-turned 34 year old will next be seen in The Lost City of Z and Live by Night, the latter of which she’ll be appearing in opposite DC’s current Batman, Ben Affleck. Miller is a star on the rise, without a doubt. She definitely has the requisite talent-level for Black Canary, and her look and attitude make her an excellent fit for the part.
If the Birds adaptation is further down the road than we expect, or if the role is specifically written for a younger actress, then we’d love to see Brie Larson (Trainwreck, Room) take a crack at a true Canary Cry.
3. Jessica Chastain as Queen Mera
Superhero casting is a tricky business, but sometimes the easy choice is the best choice. Sure, tapping Chastain to play Queen Mera would be Bryan Cranston as Lex Luthor-level obvious. But casting Jason Momoa to play Aquaman indicates that the first big screen ruler of Atlantis will be a fully developed, warrior king version of the character. He’ll be in need of an equally fierce queen at his side. The 38 year old has rocketed to the A-List in recent years thanks to starring roles in blockbusters like Interstellar and The Martian, and the laundry list of powerful female characters she’s portrayed will get even longer in 2016 thanks to her part in The Huntsman: Winter’s War. A highly talented actress with a distinctly queenly vibe, she’s more than qualified to help Momoa unite the seven.
Long story short, Chastain is a home run. Some may find this casting a bit too on the nose—tapping this ruby-haired starlet to play one of DC’s most prominent redheaded badasses wasn’t exactly difficult—but she’s simply too perfect to pass up. Chastain should be considered the clear front-runner to play Queen Mera.
2. Tatiana Maslany as Zatanna
Whether her place is alongside the Trinity in the Watchtower or in the upcoming Justice League Dark, we’re very much looking forward to seeing Zatanna join the DCEU. We’re still not sure how connected Dark will be to DC’s principal shared universe, though we’re hoping to see as much crossover as possible. Make no mistake: assuming the the DCEU’s first few adventures don’t completely bomb at the box office, Zatanna is indeed on her way.
There’s a litany of suitable candidates to play DC’s go-to magician, including Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) and the often-fancasted Mila Kunis, but Maslany is by far the top choice in our eyes. The 30 year old actress is best known for delivering outstandingly layered performances in her lead role on BBC’s Orphan Black, where she plays several different cloned versions of herself. The sheer range she’s displayed on the sci-fi series has been incredibly impressive, and—after two years of headache-inducing snubs—Maslany’s work in season 3 was finally recognized with a long-overdue Emmy nomination in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama category. Though she was beaten out by Amanda Waller herself, Viola Davis, many are already calling Maslany the early favorite for the award in next year’s Emmys.
The Canadian actress would surely be an ideal fit for the magical sorceress, Zatanna. At the very least, her casting would prove to be a bit less controversial than other recent pieces of Dark news.
1. Steven Yeun as Nightwing
No proper casting call would be complete without a bit of controversy. Yeun’s appearance may have one distinct difference from traditional portrayals of Dick Grayson, but he’s an otherwise fine choice from a strictly physical standpoint. Of course, an actor’s appearance is just one facet of a million when it comes to finding the right person for a role. Yeun’s resume outside The Walking Dead is somewhat lean, but we’re still confident that he’s capable of bringing Nightwing’s signature charm and optimism to life in spectacular fashion. His experience playing the sanguine-spirited Glenn Rhee would lend itself well to this aspect of the Dark Knight’s first sidekick.
Nightwing could very well end up playing a major role in the DCEU, as he’ll likely be a prominent character in a Batman solo film, and he could even head up a Teen Titans movie or a solo adventure of his own at some point. This calls Yeun’s availability into question, as The Walking Dead‘s notoriously rigorous shooting schedule often limits the number of side projects its stars can participate in. But considering the dangerous world these characters inhabit—and the fact that none of them are ever truly safe—Yeun’s calendar could always open up in a very sudden and shocking way. Hell, it almost happened just a few short weeks ago.
How old this version of Grayson will be (should his rumored involvement come to pass) is certainly a question worth asking. Usually depicted to be 20-30 years old, the former Robin could end up being a bit older, given the DCEU Batman’s age. Dylan O’Brien and Kit Harrington would be solid alternate options if filmmakers elect to employ a younger Nightwing, though the 32 year old Yeun could still easily pass for a man in his mid-twenties.
DC is no stranger to controversial casting decisions, and while the employing of Yeun as the hyper-popular Dick Grayson would have its share of detractors, we would be on board 100%. Make the call, DC.
As the DCEU continues to grow, we’ll begin to see the collaborative efforts of several notable creative minds begin to take shape. Whether or not those efforts will one day result in a true rival for the Marvel Cinematic Universe remains to be seen.
Which of our picks are you most on board with? Which one induced the most severe Captain Picard facepalm? Would the DCEU be better off making somewhat uninspired (but more popular) casting decisions, or will their controversial picks pay off in the end? Be sure to let your voice be heard loud and clear in the comments below.
Justice League Dark is rumored to begin production in 2016 with no release date currently set. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice arrives in theaters on March 25, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 23, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and then Green Lantern Corps. on June 19, 2020. Untitled Batman and Superman solo films will be coming at dates TBD.