The unprecedented success of the seven year old Marvel Cinematic Universe has been truly remarkable. The twelve MCU films released to date have combined to gross roughly $9 billion (!) at the global box office, setting an impossibly high bar for other movie franchises. Marvel’s foray into television has proven to be a big hit as well, with series like Agents of Shield and Daredevil more than holding their own alongside their big screen counterparts. But with all that success has come extraordinary expectations, as well as a few intriguing questions.
Marvel’s highly anticipated Phase 3 will feature the live-action debuts of beloved characters like Black Panther and Doctor Strange, as well as blockbuster sequels like Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and the two part Avengers: Infinity War. Concerns over which characters will populate the MCU in the coming years have arisen, however. Marvel’s A-List stable of actors can’t be expected to continue on in their roles forever. The majority of the multi-picture contracts of stars like Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson are due to expire in the very near future, and the movie-to-movie contract route that Marvel’s been pushed into with Robert Downey Jr. is far from ideal. Not to mention the fact that a continued infusion of new blood will be necessary in order to keep the shared Marvel universe fresh. In a perfect world, the Avengers roster could include characters from the X-Men and Fantastic Four teams and Deadpool could guest star in one of Marvel’s Netflix series. But with Fox hanging on tight to the films rights to those franchises (for now), the future of the MCU and Marvel Television could depend on some of their lesser-known heroes. We here at Screen Rant have talked at length about our desire to see Marvel use these characters to continue expanding their shared universe, but today we’re going to take a crack at actually casting them (in a hypothetical sense).
Keep in mind that, for the most part, the company has been notoriously frugal with their actors’ contracts over the last few years, preferring to sink money into the actual film/series rather than ponying up the big bucks for major movie stars. The decision to use lesser-known actors for most of their roles is also a question of availability, as the bigger names in Hollywood are rarely up for the time commitment that a marriage with Marvel necessitates. You may notice that the majority of the actors on our list are up-and-coming talents, with an unknown or two included for good measure; this is why.
Enough exposition, let’s get to it. Here are 10 Marvel Casting Decisions We’d Love to See.
Cole Horibe as Iron Fist
Here’s some controversy right out of the gate. Daniel Rand, aka Iron Fist, has been depicted as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white guy since his first appearance in 1974. Some may immediately dismiss the idea of casting an Asian-American actor in the role—likely the same people that were against Michael B. Jordan playing Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four—but the fact of the matter is that this is an excellent opportunity for Marvel to further diversify its somewhat, erm, vanilla shared universe. This is one risk they would be wise to take on. There are even online petitions floating around calling for an Asian actor to be cast, including one that sports thousands of signatures.
Rumors of Ryan Phillippe taking on the role have yet to come to fruition, though he may be a better fit to portray Steel Serpent, an Iron Fist villain who was teased in the last season of Daredevil. It would seem that fans calling for a more prominent actor like Charlie Hunnam or Aaron Paul to become Danny Rand are simply being unrealistic. Given the time commitment that this role would entail (Netflix’s Marvel series are typically comprised of 13 hour-long episodes per season), it’s very likely that a lesser-known actor will be chosen for the part.
Which brings us to Horibe. The 30 year old runner-up on season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance got his big break last year on Broadway with a well-received performance as legendary martial artist Bruce Lee in Kung Fu. With an accomplished martial artist (that can actually act) in the starring role, Iron Fist could feature a distinctive Hong Kong martial arts film-inspired vibe that would set the eponymous hero apart from his fellow Defenders.
If Marvel is indeed comfortable making changes to Iron Fist’s ethnicity, but seeks a more experienced actor for the part, Ian Anthony Dale or Joe Taslim would be fine back-up options. All of this is of course assuming that the series still has a green light.
Luke Evans as Namor
One of the more well-known actors on our list is Luke Evans, who’s been a popular fan choice for numerous comic book roles over the last few years. There’s certainly no shortage of parts for him to bring to life. A rumored candidate for Batman back in 2013, the 36 year old Brit has been mentioned as a fan-favorite to play villains like Sinestro and Mister Sinister after having officially vacated the starring role in The Crow reboot earlier this year. As great as he’d be for any of these roles, Namor may just be an ideal fit for the former Hobbit star, who’s been on the verge of stardom for a few years now. His upcoming role as Gaston in the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast may just be his ticket to the A-List. Marvel would be wise to scoop him up sooner rather than later.
The Sub-Mariner’s film rights have been described by Marvel president Kevin Feige as “complicated.” But if the studio can get the rights to Spider-Man back from Sony and strike a TV deal with Fox to make X-Men shows, you have to imagine that they can full distribution rights back from Universal, who currently have no plans in place for Namor. The character will likely show up in the MCU eventually. The only question is when.
At 36, it’s possible that Evans may age out of the role by the time Namor gets his time in the sun. If he does, Godfrey Gao, who’s best known to American audiences for his appearance in the flat-out awful YA film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, would be an interesting choice.
Rebecca Ferguson as Captain Marvel
This entry could easily make up its own article, given the number of talented actresses whose names have been associated with Carol Danvers in one way or another. Some pretty big names have been considered candidates to play the heroine formerly known as Ms. Marvel, namely Charlize Theron and Jessica Chastain. As perfect as either of these two would be for the part, both would be in their 40s by the time the movie actually came out (which will now be in early 2019).
Considering that Captain Marvel will almost certainly be a front-and-center character for the MCU over the next 5-10 years, a younger actress will likely be selected. Nerd genre queens like Yvonne Strahovski and Katee Sackhoff have been fan-favorites since the project was first officially green-lit this time last year, but both appear to be long shots. Availability concerns exist for three other fine candidates, Lauren Cohan, Natalie Dormer, and Katheryn Winnick, whose successful television series (The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Vikings, respectively) could very well take them out of the running for the role.
Ferguson, however, appears to be a near-perfect fit to play Carol Danvers. After her breakout performance in this past summer’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, she’s become one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood. The 31 year old actress has had her name linked with Captain Marvel already—along with a few other choice roles—so it wouldn’t surprise us one bit if this actually happens. We counted her among our fastest rising stars in the industry for a reason, after all.
Antony Starr as Moon Knight
We here at Screen Rant have made no secret of our desire to see a live-action depiction of Moon Knight, on the big screen or the small one, and it looks like our hopes may finally be coming to fruition. A year and a half removed from the character having been referenced (probably) in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Heroic Hollywood‘s Umberto Gonzalez recently revealed that a Moon Knight Netflix series is rumored to be very much in development.
For the uninitiated, Moon Knight is an ex-boxer/U.S. Marine/mercenary who becomes a vigilante crime fighter after he is granted enhanced abilities by the Egyptian moon god Khonshu. Spector’s struggles with dissociative identity disorder undoubtedly make him one of the more complex heroes Marvel has to offer, one that would fit in seamlessly into Netflix’s grounded comic book approach.
Our pick to don the white cape and cowl is 39 year old New Zealand-born actor Antony Starr, whose Cinemax series Banshee is set to premiere its fourth and final season in January. Perfect timing aside, Starr would be as natural a fit on the Netflix scene as Moon Knight would be. The ferocity that he’s brought to Banshee over the past few years would work well for the hooded hero, he’s got the right look, and his acting profile looks to be just the right size for Marvel to get on board. He may be one of the older stars on our list, but Starr being chosen to play Moon Knight sounds like a slam dunk.
Yara Shahidi as Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)
Back in April, the rumor mill was spinning over the possibility of a Ms. Marvel TV series being in development over at ABC. John Ridley, who penned the screenplays for 12 Years a Slave and the upcoming Ben-Hur remake, was reportedly behind the development of the series. Ridley has since gone on record to say that “99.99999 percent” of the rumor was false, though it’s easy to understand why ABC would be eager to bring the first Muslim character to ever headline a Marvel comic to the small screen.
Despite the fact that the Hugo Award-winning series has only been around for less than two years, Khan already has a significant fan base, with her comic sales ranking up there with heavy-hitters like Batman and Spider-Man. Though the initial rumor may have been false, you can bet that if Ms. Marvel can keep up these numbers, Marvel Television will push for a live-action adaptation in the very near future.
But who would star in such an endeavor? Given the character’s age (she’s 16 in the comics) it’s a virtual certainty that an unknown actress will bring Kamala Khan to life. Should Marvel decide to cast an actress with a lengthier resume, however, they wouldn’t have to look too far. Yara Shahidi, star of the ABC comedy Black-ish, could be a natural fit for the young Muslim-American superhero. The 15 year old (of Iranian descent) has been in the business since she was 6, and is one of a handful of teenage actresses Marvel could confidently entrust to bear the weight of her own series. Should a Ms. Marvel pilot order come down the pipeline in the next year or two, Shahidi’s name will likely top the list.
Dan Stevens as Adam Warlock
Joining Luke Evans on our list is his Beauty and the Beast co-star, Dan Stevens. The 33-year-old actor is best known for his three year stint on Downton Abbey, but it’s his work in the 2014 thriller The Guest that makes him worth serious consideration for a pair of superhero tights. His eye-opening starring turn in one of our favorite films of the year was truly impressive, a performance that few non-genre fans actually ended up seeing, unfortunately. His ability to pull off a duplicitous, possibly bipolar military veteran lends itself well to the ever-complicated Adam Warlock.
Rumors surrounding Warlock have swirled for months, with some saying that he could make his debut in Guardians 2. Although director James Gunn has gone on record several times saying that the cocoon from the Collector’s trophy room did not belong to Warlock, he has since said that he’s “always liked Adam Warlock” and his inclusion in the MCU is “a matter of when and where and how.” He could always pop up elsewhere in the Marvel universe, an idea that was given a bit of credibility by his rumored appearance in Avengers: Infinity War. Assuming Warlock doesn’t end up being Peter Quill’s father, Stevens is our top pick, though we could certainly get behind fan-favorite Matthew McConaughey’s casting, especially since he’s already done some homework on the comic book world.
There’s little doubt that Stevens would make for an excellent Adam Warlock, but, as always, availability may become a concern—a concern amplified 100x in the case of McConaughey. Stevens’ burgeoning film career may preclude him from committing to the character long-term. Here’s hoping Marvel can work something out with the highly-talented actor.
Lake Bell as She-Hulk
One of the most popular characters that has yet to appear in the MCU is also one of the least likely to be adapted. Aside from the fact that her name is the sort of thing that sends PC-inclined comic fans into a tirade, a myriad of other obstacles stand between She-Hulk and her live-action debut. We have already pointed out that changes to her origin would be necessary, as Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner is so terrified of the creature he transforms into that he likely wouldn’t provide his cousin with a blood transfusion, even under the most dire of circumstances. And while it may be a long-shot, the possibility remains that General Ross will be transformed into the Red Hulk in Captain America: Civil War, which would make Jennifer Walters’ big, green alter-ego the third member of the Hulk family in Marvel’s shared universe.
She-Hulk remains one of the most prominent female superheroes in comics, however, thanks in large part to her combination of brains and brawn. Originally depicted as a raging monster like Bruce, Walters possesses lower levels of gamma radiation in her blood than her cousin, giving her more control over her more ill-tempered side. She-Hulk’s fun-loving personality is among her most beloved characteristics, as is her Deadpool-like self-awareness. She has at various times been a member of several Marvel teams (Avengers, Defenders, Fantastic Four, etc.), so if Marvel can get their heads around her more problematic attributes, she can feature virtually anywhere in the MCU.
Excluding current and former MMA stars like Ronda Rousey and Gina Carano (neither of whom have displayed much in the way of actual acting ability as of yet), there’s no shortage of worthy candidates for She-Hulk. Aubrey Plaza has expressed genuine interest in letting her inner rage loose in the role, as has Rizzoli and Isles star Angie Harmon. Other possibilities include Naomie Harris, Katee Sackhoff, and Tessa Thompson, but the end of the day, our money’s on Lake Bell. The actress had an interesting summer, with a standout performance in the Netflix hit Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and a solid showing in the otherwise forgettable No Escape. She hasn’t had much luck landing lead roles in films, though movie buffs should definitely check out her stellar work in the 2013 comedy In a World, which she also wrote and directed. She-Hulk would be a huge opportunity for Bell if she managed to land it, one that she looks more than ready to take on.
Richard Madden as Nova
The former King of the North himself is our pick to play Richard Rider, an Earthling who’s granted superhuman powers by the last surviving member of the Nova Corps. The Game of Thrones alum recently starred in his first blockbuster, playing Prince Charming in Disney’s Cinderella, and is set to follow it up with a lead role in Bastille Day, an upcoming action thriller from Woman in Black director James Watkins. Starring alongside Idris Elba, Madden will play an American pickpocket in Paris (which is obviously what the film should have been titled) who’s framed for an act of terrorism. A star on the rise, the 29 year old Scotland native seems a sure-fire bet to be in the conversation for several superhero roles over the next few years, and Nova might just be the best fit for him.
Whether or not Rider will show up in the MCU over the next few years is another question entirely. While he ranks among the characters we most want to see in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, director James Gunn has said on numerous occasions that he intends to maintain Star-Lord’s distinction as the only human Guardian. Assuming Gunn doesn’t have a simple origin rewrite up his sleeve, we could be waiting on this one for a while yet.
Gwendoline Christie as Valkyrie
Several major bits of news leaked last week concerning the production on Thor: Ragnarok, thanks to a few well placed sources over at BMD. The most interesting among them was of course the film’s rumored inclusion of the Valkyrior, Norse goddesses who usher worthy (and deceased) warriors into Valhalla, and their leader, Valkyrie. Also known as Brunnhilde, the character was first introduced in Marvel Comics way back in 1970, and very nearly made her debut in Thor: The Dark World. With Ragnarok still two full years away from its release date, it’s far too soon to say anything concrete about what Valkyrie’s role will be in the Norse apocalypse. We’ve suggested in the past that a female Thor could be on her way, and it very well may end up being Brunnhilde when all is said and done.
If Valkyrie ends up taking such a prominent place in the MCU, her casting will have to be spot-on, and we can think of no one better for the role than Gwendoline Christie. At 6’3, Christie has an obvious edge in the physicality department, but it’s her scene-stealing work on Game of Thrones that makes her a clear front-runner for Brunnhilde. Her out-of-nowhere breakout performance as Brienne of Tarth has wowed audiences since season two, and it’s led to her landing roles in blockbusters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.
Christie’s increased presence on GoT makes availability a bit of a concern, as does her age (she turns 37 at the end of the month), but in the end, she may just prove to be too perfect for the role for Marvel to ignore.
Anna Kendrick as Squirrel Girl
This one’s a no-brainer. One of the more ridiculous heroes in comics, Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl, is best known as Luke Cage and Jessica Jones‘ babysitter. Her ability to communicate with squirrels is well-documented and surprisingly effective, as it’s allowed her to defeat enemies like Deadpool, Thanos, and virtually anyone else who’s underestimated her. Marvel filed for trademarks on Squirrel Girl last year, which could mean that a live-action adaptation may be in the cards for the superheroine. James Gunn has even stated in the past that he’d “love to do a Squirrel Girl movie.”
Whether or not Gunn was serious, Squirrel Girl has a devout following, and could very well turn up on screen in the next few years. Our hands-down choice for the role is Anna Kendrick, whose talents make her a natural fit for the lighthearted wildlife-communicator. Kendrick has a litany of projects on her immediate horizon, namely the third entry in the Pitch Perfect series and the upcoming Ben Affleck vehicle The Accountant, but surely the 30-year-old actress would take time out of her busy schedule for this cult hero.
But if Marvel takes the (admittedly) more logical route with the character and chooses to include her as a supporting character in one of their Netflix series, Kendrick will almost certainly have to pass. A TV actress like Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland might be the better fit in that scenario.
Marvel’s ever-expanding shared universe continues to impress, and with the next phase of the MCU set to kick off in the coming months, expectations are higher than ever. Perhaps if Marvel were to heed a few of our suggestions, then Phase 3 could just prove to be the best phase yet.
Which of our choices would you most like to see become a reality? How badly do you need to see Squirrel Girl square off with Thanos? The inherent subjectivity of an article like this guarantees that you disagreed with more than one of the actors we selected, so don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments below and let your voice be heard.
Captain America: Civil War arrives in theaters on May 6th, 2016; followed by Doctor Strange on November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.