Taking on the role of a superhero can often represent a defining moment in an actor’s career. If it goes well, they become forever iconic for that character in the realm of cinema; if it goes wrong, the studio will recast and reboot a few years later, attempting to erase the public’s collective memory of the misstep. It’s a fickle system that asks a serious question: How inextricably linked are these actors to their superhero characters?
Samuel L. Jackson, who has played eye-patch-wearing Marvel hero Nick Fury since 2008’s Iron Man, decided to chime in on the matter recently, with a decidedly matter-of-fact statement.
While participating in ‘The Actor’s Roundtable’ with THR, Jackson had this to say:
“Those movies have very little to do with us. They have to do with the event. People love superheroes, and fortunately we’re in them, but they’re not dependent upon us. They could put that eye patch on somebody else, and it would work the same way. The green guy could be anybody. You turn Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle and nobody notices.”
This sort of discussion opens up an interesting debate over what matters more, character or actor. On one hand a character such as Batman has been portrayed by numerous actors over the years. Few people would argue that Adam West is better or worse than Christian Bale in his interpretation of The Dark Knight; they both serve their own purpose with regard to the character. By the time Captain America: Civil War hits theaters next year, even Spider-Man will have been played by three actors (Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland) all within a decade of one another.
On the other hand it is almost impossible to imagine someone other than Hugh Jackman donning the adamantium claws and sideburns of Wolverine, or Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark. Perhaps this stems from the fact that these are the only actors to ever take on these characters, and as such with time we will see other iconic interpretations on screen. It’s also interesting that Jackson feels this way about the casting of comic book characters when one considers the fact that Marvel approached him for the role of Nick Fury because the Ultimate version of the character was modeled on the actor’s likeness — it’s a role tailor-made for him to take on.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – 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.