It’s no secret that the Fantastic Four have had their cinematic struggles. Marvel’s First Family was initially scheduled to debut in a 1994 Roger Corman flick, but in an indicator of what was to come, things fell apart. The bootleg version that exists today is pitifully clumsy, poorly acted, and worst of all: comparable to the films that followed.
A goofy reboot in 2005 (and its 2007 sequel) struck big at the box office but stunk it up with fans. A second reboot in 2015 attempted to break the mold with a gritty, youthful take on the characters, only to rank among the worst superhero movies ever made. Marvel has even stopped publishing new Fantastic Four comics! Things are bleak, and given the recent success of secondary heroes like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange, it would seem natural that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) would want their original team back on home turf.
To be clear, there has been no news regarding Marvel’s acquisition of the FF rights. As of now, they remain with 20th Century Fox (despite avid petition). We’re not even saying that the team should be rebooted again. This list is merely a “What If” scenario meant to offer three options for each role and inspire your own dreamcast lineups!
Here is Screen Rant’s What If The Fantastic Four Was Cast In The MCU?
15. Reed Richards – John Krasinski
John Krasinksi has been in Marvel’s crosshairs for some time now, having been a finalist for the role of Captain America in 2010. He lost out, funnily enough, to former Human Torch Chris Evans, but we feel his skills would actually be better served as resident egghead Mr. Fantastic. While Evans continues to be a definite Cap, Krasinski’s quirky delivery and physical limberness (as seen in this clip from Spike’s Lip Sync Battle) are a fantastic match for Reed.
Krasinski has spent the last few years in a transitional period, making the jump from TV to film with things like Away We Go (2009), Aloha (2015) and The Hollars (2016). Landing the lead in a blockbuster franchise would go a long way in solidifying this transition. His ability to command a team and remain cool under pressure shined in the action-thriller 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016). He even bears a striking likeness to the comics, making gray temples the only tool needed to launch this former Office headliner into the stars.
14. Reed Richards – Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has become the movie star’s groomsman. He’s made a career out of playing second fiddle in blockbusters like Inception (2010), Lincoln (2012), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014). Sadly, a lone stab at headlining his own epic saga, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, fell through in 2015, forcing the screen favorite to continue his search for a signature role. Reed Richards could very well be that career-definer.
At 34 years-old, JGL is on the younger side, but a reboot that followed the precedent of a younger team could work perfectly. His natural inclination towards nerdiness, as seen in films like (500) Days of Summer (2009) and Snowden (2016), would bring a sweet nature to the stretchy superhero. As an added bonus, the actor’s fanboy cred is already through the roof with the aforementioned titles (Inception, Dark Knight) under his belt. Gordon-Levitt is arguably the safest choice to play Reed, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t also be the best.
13. Reed Richards – Glenn Howerton
This is the first choice on our list that will catch readers off guard, as Glenn Howerton is best known for writing, producing, and starring in the FXX series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005-). In it, he plays Dennis Reynolds, the vain, often selfish, co-owner of Paddy’s bar. It’s far more cynical than anything in the MCU, but even hints of this persona could pose interesting options for a new Reed Richards.
In the 2015 version, Miles Teller attempted to bring more flaws to the Reed character — a choice that was unique, albeit not fully executed. Howerton could bring similar imperfection to the role while providing a better balance. Given Fantastic Four’s history and their emphasis on science fiction, it would be an overall benefit to a franchise setting. He’s definitely got the look, age range (40), and enunciated speaking voice to sell the egghead bit. Plus, if Howerton gets the role, we might get to see Danny DeVito pop up as the Moleman!
12. Sue Storm – Rosamund Pike
Rosamund Pike gave a tour-de-force performance in 2014’s Gone Girl. As the title character, she played kind, intelligent, and unmistakably strong in the face of danger all at the same time. Granted, she created the danger as means for murder and blackmail, but that’s neither nor there. The point is, Pike has serious range, and has somehow been overlooked as a household name, despite having an Academy Award nomination to her name. Sue Storm would be an opportune part to break into the big time.
In the past, Sue has been shown as the group stickler, staying behind in the 2015 reboot and (*sigh*) arguing over marriage plans in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007). An actress of Pike’s talents, as seen in films like The Libertine (2004), An Education (2009), and Barney’s Version (2010), would do away with all this ridiculous filler. She could provide Sue with the kind of charismatic leadership that’s strong without being a buzzkill to her teammates. She could also pass for a legit scientist — an attribute that mid-2000s Jessica Alba never really had.
11. Sue Storm – Carey Mulligan
Carey Mulligan, like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is one project away from stardom. She’s lent her talents to Shame (2011), Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), Far From The Madding Crowd (2015), and Suffragette (2015) over the last few years, each time drawing acclaim for her nuanced turns. And still, the English actress has yet to crack the A-list status of similarly talented peers like Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, or Natalie Portman. Coincidentally, what these actresses all have in common is the fact they’ve played the lead in a superhero film (Batman v Superman, X-Men, Thor).
Sue Storm would allow Mulligan to make a seamless transition into the genre. Rarely frantic or abrasive onscreen, she could lend a subtle gravitas to Sue that quietly empowers the character. And while Mulligan has played ingenues in the past (Drive, The Great Gatsby), her ability to play strong-willed while complementing those around her would only elevate the team’s overall chemistry. Picking her up would be a definite win for the MCU.
10. Sue Storm – Eliza Coupe
Here’s another pick from out of left field, this time from the ABC comedy Happy Endings (2011-13). Eliza Coupe played Jane Kerkovich-Williams during the show’s brief tenure, drawing praise for her neurotic, perfectionist performance. Personality is clearly something she’s got plenty of, and we think dropping her into the MCU’s witty environment would be a smooth addition. Coupe’s ability to banter could play wonders if ever placed alongside guys like Tony Stark, Stephen Strange, or even Scott Lang. She’s definitely got no problem playing with the boys.
Elsewhere, her control freak persona in Happy Endings would go a long way in mediating between her brother Johnny and the team’s fourth member, Ben Grimm, two heroes known for bumping heads. It’s something we haven’t gotten to see much of onscreen, but a proper handling of this responsibility could lead to some actual character depth. For those unsure of her dramatic chops, Coupe has shown off her range with a recurring role on the ABC thriller Quantico.
9. Johnny Storm – Sam Claflin
This one writes itself. As Finnick, the smug spear-wielder in The Hunger Games franchise, actor Sam Claflin pretty much played a dystopian Johnny Storm. Flirtatious? Check. Blond hair and arrogant? Double check. When he shows up in 2013’s Catching Fire to put the moves on Katniss, he plays it with such smug delight it’s almost irritating. Claflin keeps things balanced, however, and his bits of compassion throughout the film eventually win us over. He plays Finnick as someone who fully enjoys his privileges, but is still attuned to helping others.
All these things would make for a definitive Johnny Storm. Claflin’s acting quirks play right into the character’s wheelhouse, while his chiseled physique and youthful look do the comic artwork justice. Besides, given his work in The Hunger Games and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2014), it’s high time this 30-year-old land a bigger franchise part. The only needed change would be swapping Finnick’s silver suit for a royal blue.
8. Johnny Storm – Rami Malek
Rami Malek has seen a steady rise in Hollywood, from Night At The Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) to more dramatic fare like The Master (2012) and Short Term 12 (2013). Currently, the Egyptian-American actor stars in the acclaimed USA series Mr. Robot, where he’s earned a Critics’ Choice Award and a Primetime Emmy for his portrayal of the troubled hacker Elliot Anderson. Malek plays the role with crippling social anxiety and a distrust of the government — not exactly the type of free spirit intended for Johnny Storm.
That being said, Malek could pose an eccentric take on the Fantastic Four’s resident hothead. His ability to make characters naturally complex (no doubt aided by his haunting eyes) would provide Johnny with newfound depth, while allowing Malek to bring more swagger to a role than we’ve ever seen before. And let’s be honest; with Papillon and the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody set for 2017, this guy is about to be a star. Marvel should snatch him up while they can.
7. Johnny Storm – Damon Wayans, Jr.
Regardless of your feelings on whether or not the younger Storm sibling needs to be portrayed by a blond-haired white guy, it’s hard to deny that Damon Wayans Jr. would be a natural fit for the character. The television star of shows like The Underground (2006), Happy Endings (2011-13) and New Girl (2011-16) would bring a comedic energy to Johnny Storm that could balance out the team’s nerdier tendencies.
Wayans has done cocky before (particularly on New Girl), and he carries the same likable goofiness that made his dad a star in On Living Color. His casting is probably the most “out there” of our listed entries, but at the same time, it’s something that could shake this dormant franchise awake. In any event, he’s a much better fit for this than his uncle Marlon was for Robin the Boy Wonder, a role he was heavily considered for back when Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher were at the helm of the Batman franchise. On second thought, he couldn’t have been much worse than Chris O’Donnell, right?
6. Ben Grimm – Vin Diesel
While he may be the voice (or sentence) of Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vin Diesel hasn’t gotten a chance to show his face in the Marvel universe. And while his screen time as Ben Grimm may be small, it certainly isn’t hard to see the Fast & Furious star as a prime candidate. Grimm is characterized by his no-nonsense attitude, gruff speaking voice, and street smarts. If one takes away the part about being mutated into a rock monster, these attributes apply perfectly to Diesel’s movie star image.
Diesel is also a veteran when it comes to franchises, having starred in The Chronicles of Riddick series, the insanely successful Fast & Furious flicks, and, most recently, the XxX saga. His box office appeal is undeniable, and casting him in such a crowd-pleasing role would only elevate the chances of a Fantastic Four reboot’s success. Besides, with a voice that sounds like gravel, it seems fitting he would play a hero who turns into rock.
5. Ben Grimm – Jeffrey Dean Morgan
If Jeffrey Dean Morgan has one thing, it’s fanboy credibility. Whether he’s killing zombies as Negan in The Walking Dead, killing anybody who crosses him as The Comedian in Watchmen (2009), or getting killed as Thomas Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2015), the guy is in with the right crowd. It also helps that he’s got a screen presence worthy of his large stature. As Ben Grimm, we think Morgan would find the pulse of the character — a sarcastic, NYC-born everyman who could realistically hold his own against the likes of the Incredible Hulk.
Morgan is great at finding the flaws of his characters, and with Grimm, he would have a field day. Whether dealing with his divorced wife or constant jokes from Johnny Storm and the neighborhood kids, we could certainly see the actor playing Grimm’s pessimism without overdoing it. As a bonus, both Morgan and the rocky character love their cigars (see: Magic City).
4. Ben Grimm – Michael Cudlitz
Another Walking Dead alum, another character actor ideal for Ben Grimm. Michael Cudlitz has spent most of his career on television, starting with Band of Brothers in 2001 and curtailing into guest work on nearly every popular show of the decade: 24, CSI, Nip/Tuck, Criminal Minds and Lost. Similar to former Grimm actor Michael Chiklis (The Shield), however, Cudlitz would see his greatest success playing a troubled cop, which he did spectacularly on the TNT drama Southland (2009-13).
Here, the 6’2″ actor shined, playing a closeted gay man with physical ailments and a broken marriage. Dubbed the “pained heart of the series” by critics, we believe that Cudlitz’s empathetic skills would work beautifully for sad sack Ben Grimm. Cudlitz has the blustery body language to play both Grimm and The Thing convincingly, while also sharing the character’s New York origins (Grimm is from Manhattan, Cudlitz is from Long Island). All things considered, Cudlitz might just be the best man for the job.
3. Dr. Doom – Wes Bentley
Wes Bentley is an actor whose talent supersedes his career. Since his breakout role in American Beauty (1999), the actor has been relegated to lead parts in schlock like There Be Dragons (2012), After The Fall (2014), and We Are Your Friends (2015). When Bentley does turn up in blockbuster territory, be in The Hunger Games (2012) or Interstellar (2014), it is a minuscule part that adds little to the overall story.
It’s about time someone handed him the keys to a substantial role, and lead villain Dr. Doom could prove to be the ideal vehicle. Bentley has always been best when playing men who were unreadable, akin to his Beauty character Ricky Fitts. His angular eyebrows and striking green eyes could pose a chilling sight when meshed with the Victor Von Doom ego — let alone when he suits up as Dr. Doom. And it would give Bentley a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of comic book fans after that horrid performance in Ghost Rider (2006).
2. Dr. Doom – Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix occupies a singular place in the industry. He is a star of sorts, but he’s also far from anything resembling tradition. In the last few years alone, the actor has played a lonely divorcee (Her), a stoned detective (Inherent Vice), and a suicidal teacher (Irrational Man). There is nothing too strange for Phoenix, and Marvel clearly took note when he was announced as a candidate for the lead in Doctor Strange. But seeing as the part went to Benedict Cumberbatch, we would love to see Phoenix take on another egocentric role in the MCU.
His Dr. Doom would be a complex figure. Phoenix’s ability to play unpredictable and perverse has been well documented with Gladiator (2000), and one can only imagine what he would do with a supervillain’s power set. There’s also an innate sadness to Phoenix’s eyes, something that would instantly add a layer of tragedy when seen through Doom’s metallic mask. If Marvel wants to start making their villains more interesting, this would be the angle to take.
1) Dr. Doom – Vincent Cassel
Vincent Cassel’s Doom would be terrifying. Bypassing all the regret and decency that Doom occasionally displays, this casting choice would result in a villain who’s evil and loving it. We could easily buy the French actor as a Latverian egomaniac, let alone the fixation on Sue Storm and that whole world domination ploy. Take Cassel’s role in Black Swan (2010), for example. As Natalie Portman’s stage director, he paints a man who is at once charming, manipulative, and averse to the emotional needs of those around him.
Locked up in a metal suit and a green cape, it doesn’t take much to imagine Cassel doing the same to Sue and the rest of the Fantastic Four. Cassel would also bring an international audience to the MCU, as shown by his esteemed work in French films (Le Haine, The Crimson Rivers, Irreversible). For stateside viewers, Cassel can also be seen in Ocean’s Twelve (2004), Eastern Promises (2007), Trance (2013), and Jason Bourne (2016).
Bonus: Silver Surfer – Ricky Whittle
The herald of Galactus was the lone highlight of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Played by makeup guru Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak) and voiced by Laurence Fishburne, the title character’s calm exterior kept the 2007 sequel from being a total disaster. Mercifully, the filmmakers kept from turning the Surfer into the same clichéd portrayal that claimed the rest of the team. In the framework of a great Fantastic Four movie, however, the Surfer wouldn’t just stand out, but have the potential to become an MCU favorite. Our casting choice? Actor/model Ricky Whittle.
Whittle is most known for his role as Lincoln on the CW’s The 100, and possesses just the right mixture of subtly and physical strapping to play the Surfer. The character needs to be a viable threat to the Fantastic Four, while also treading the line between bad guy and good guy that makes the Surfer so compelling. We’ll know for sure whether he’s leading man material when Starz’s American Gods series premieres in April, but even now, we think Whittle has got what it takes to make the Silver Surfer soar on the silver screen.
Who do you think should play Marvel’s First Family if and when the series is rebooted? Let us know in the comments.