At the rate it’s going, pretty much every actor in Hollywood will have been cast as a superhero at least once in their lifetime. Heck, it’s crazy to think that some of them have already played multiple characters in both Marvel and DC films.
You can’t escape the truth: the superhero business is a never-ending goldmine and lucrative career path that looks like it has no end in sight, so prepare to see even more of your favorite actors suiting up in spandex in the near future. That said, not every actor has experienced casting success in the genre, with some losing out on roles for the stupidest reasons imaginable.
So, we’ve flipped through the history books and identified the instances where actors lost out either because of their own fault or other factors. Hollywood is notorious for making up stories about why actors don’t get roles, so we’ve dug up the cold, hard truths and now know once and for all why these castings didn’t happen.
In some of these cases, though, they were probably blessings in disguise. Nonetheless, here are the 15 Actors Who Lost Out On Superhero Roles For Stupid Reasons.
15. Robin Williams (Joker)
One of the greatest tragedies of all time is that Robin Williams never got to portray a Batman villain, despite him going on record saying he wanted to. The reason for this is solely because of Warner Bros.
Back when plans for Batman started, Tim Burton wanted Jack Nicholson for the Joker role, but the actor wasn’t sure about it. So, Warner Bros. decided to bait him by offering the part to Robin Williams, who accepted it. As soon as Nicholson heard that Williams wanted in, he changed his tune and hopped back on board.
Williams was so livid that Warner Bros. used him as bait that he rejected the chance to play the Riddler in Batman Forever. Additionally, he refused to star in any Warner Bros. production until the studio apologized to him.
14. Angie Bowie (Wonder Woman)
Before Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot, the ex-Mrs. David Bowie, Angie Bowie, campaigned for the role of Wonder Woman in ABC’s TV movie. In fact, there’s even a few test photos of her in costume.
Sadly, Bowie didn’t get the role, and she explained the reason in her autobiography: “Before I went to my dressing room to don the stipulated turtleneck, some woman from the studio came up to me. ‘I see you’re not wearing a bra,’ she said. ‘You have to wear one for the screen test. It’s mandatory.’ I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t worn a bra for years.”
13. Jake Gyllenhaal (Spider-Man)
Jake Gyllehaal’s name is attached to almost every superhero project, yet he never manages to make the final cut. Although, if it were up to David S. Goyer, he would’ve been Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.
But there was one project Gyllenhaal was so close to getting that he could taste it. After the success of Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire wanted a more lucrative contract and played hardball with Sony. At one point, he claimed he’d hurt his back in a previous movie and couldn’t do the stunt work required.
Deciding to call his bluff, Sam Raimi, Laura Ziskin, and Avi Arad met with Gyllenhaal and offered him the role in Spider-Man 2. The actor accepted and got into shape to play the character. When Maguire heard about this, he came back with his tail between his legs and even apologized to the studio — and they took him back.
12. John Krasinski (Captain America)
As soon as the news broke that a Captain America movie was optioned, everyone and their grandmother auditioned for the coveted role. After all, who wouldn’t want to portray Cap in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
One of the actors who even made it as far as a costumed audition was The Office’s John Krasinski. However, it was at the audition that Krasinski pulled himself out of the running.
Speaking to Conan O’Brien, Krasinski explained how he was getting ready for his audition when he saw Chris Hemsworth in his Thor attire. Seeing the impressive shape that the Australian actor was in, he said, “I’m good. This is stupid. That’s okay. I’m not Captain America.”
11. Sean Young (Vicki Vale)
While Sean Young might be known for her hot and fiery temper and rubbing people up the wrong way, it wasn’t her fault that she lost out on this specific role — just bad luck. Originally cast as Vicki Vale in 1989’s Batman, Young broke her arm in a horse-riding accident while the film was in pre-production.
The timing was awful and sucked for her, since filming was set to commence in a week, and she was duly replaced by Kim Basinger.
Deciding she didn’t want to lose out on a second opportunity, Young organized a campaign to convince Burton to cast her as Catwoman in Batman Returns.
10. Rene Russo (Dr. Chase Meridian)
When Tim Burton and Michael Keaton were still attached to the Batman Forever project, Rene Russo was originally cast as Dr. Chase Meridian. Three years younger than Keaton, Russo was seen as the perfect love interest for Bruce Wayne.
This all changed when Burton and Keaton departed the project and Val Kilmer donned the cape and cowl. Russo was five years older than Kilmer and the filmmakers deemed her too old to be his significant other. Russo was 41 years old at the time, while Kilmer was 36.
Ultimately, the role of Dr. Meridian went to Nicole Kidman who was 28 at the time and didn’t really do much besides play the damsel in distress. With regards to Russo, it sounds like it was a whole lot of ageism and hogwash.
9. Marlon Wayans (Robin)
Marlon Wayans’ situation with the Batman franchise can either be seen as a missed opportunity or a nice fat paycheck for doing nothing. Either way, it’s a fascinating story that showcases how much money Hollywood wastes.
Originally, Wayans was set to appear as Robin in Batman Returns. However, his appearance was canned because there were too many characters in the movie. Wayans, though, isn’t too upset about it, revealing that he was paid and still gets residual checks to this day.
When Tim Burton left Batman Forever and there was an overhaul in personnel, Wayans lost a second chance to play the Boy Wonder as Joel Schumacher chose Chris O’Donnell for the role. In hindsight, he probably dodged a bullet, as the franchise only got worse after Schumacher took the reins.
8. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Ant-Man)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is no stranger to the superhero genre, having starred as John Blake (Robin) in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. There were even whispers that he could even be the next Batman as the end of the film left the possibility open.
Back when Edgar Wright was still involved with Ant-Man, Gordon-Levitt’s name was mentioned along with Paul Rudd’s as a frontrunner for the role. Initially, Gordon-Levitt denied the rumors like he always does, but then admitted that there were discussions taking place.
As we now know, Rudd got the coveted part. The reason was because of his history in comedy, which was required for the film. Reading between the lines, some fans speculate that perhaps Gordon-Levitt wasn’t funny enough to play Scott Lang. In hindsight, though, Rudd was probably the better choice.
7. Liam Hemsworth (Thor)
Well, this must’ve been awkward. Both Chris and Liam Hemsworth auditioned for the role of Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Chris didn’t make the five-man shortlist, but his younger brother did.
Now, this is where it starts to get a little suspect. Chris was shooting Cabin in the Woods with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, and they both expressed shock that he wasn’t on the final shortlist. Not long afterwards, Chris received a call from his manager telling him he’d have another shot at the role and the rest is history.
Knowing that Whedon went on to direct The Avengers, one can’t help but wonder what influence he had in Chris’ casting and getting him a second chance. One thing’s certain: the Hemsworths’ next family gathering must’ve been awkward.
6. Lewis Tan (Iron Fist)
Iron Fist didn’t exactly excite Marvel fans. For a character who is supposed to be one of the best fighters around, Finn Jones looked like he’d only learnt how to throw a punch a week before filming.
However, it was almost Lewis Tan who got the part of Danny Rand. Speaking to Vulture, Tan said, “I read again and again and again, and it was a long process, and it got to the point where they were talking about my availability and my dates. That’s always a good sign, you know?”
Tan did eventually get a smaller part in the series, but it’s speculated that he didn’t get the lead role because he wasn’t “white enough” to play the character. It’s madness that this is still a thing in 2017.
5. Sylvester Stallone (Superman)
After Rocky came out in 1976, Sylvester Stallone was one of the biggest movie stars in the world and his name was mooted for various productions. One project that he did want in on was Richard Donner’s Superman, and he even met with the director about it.
Donner didn’t think that Stallone was right for the role, but found him to be a nice guy. Stallone was ultimately turned down for being “too Italian”. However, he soon found out it was actually Marlon Brando, who had casting approval, that vetoed him.
This angered Stallone, who later went on record saying that Brando was a hypocrite for taking the Jor-El role only because of the paycheck and had no love for the character. Stallone, on the other hand, had been a huge fan of Superman since childhood.
4. William Baldwin (Batman)
William Baldwin almost played Batman on two occasions. The first time, he was one of Joel Schumacher’s top four picks for Batman Forever after Michael Keaton had vacated the role. Schumacher later told him it was the studio that had decided to go with Val Kilmer and not him.
For Batman & Robin, Schumacher told Baldwin that he was going with him, but somehow failed to inform him that George Clooney already had the role. “And that Friday afternoon, I thought I was playing Batman — and then Monday morning, the headlines in the trades said that George Clooney had gotten the part,” Baldwin said to IESB.
3. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Hulk)
Here’s something you never thought you’d read: Arnold Schwarzenegger lost out on the role of the Hulk in The Incredible Hulk TV series because he was too small.
It wasn’t about the size of his muscles, but his actual height. At 6’2″, Schwarzenegger was deemed too short for the green monster, while Lou Ferrigno towered over him at 6’5″. In the days when special effects were still more practical, Ferrigno looked a lot like a real-life Hulk and only required green paint.
It wasn’t the end of Schwarzenegger’s superhero career, though, as he went on to play Dr. Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze in Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. His icy puns are now the stuff of legend and memes, even if the movie was a total dud.
2. Jim Caviezel (Superman)
Well, this is a tale of two stories. When Bryan Singer was busy prepping 2000’s X-Men, Jim Caviezel was cast as Scott Summers/Cyclops but dropped out at the last minute because of scheduling conflicts. Although, it’s rumored that he was unhappy with how the character would be more in the background and wanted something more substantial.
So, when Superman Returns came around, Caviezel expressed his interest in playing Clark Kent/Superman and was one of the favorites for the role.
Singer, though, hadn’t forgiven him for dropping out of X-Men and refused to cast him, saying he was “too famous” after starring in The Passion of the Christ.
1. Stuart Townsend (Fandral)
Stuart Townsend seems to have an uncanny knack of losing roles after he’s been cast. Remember how Viggo Mortensen replaced him as Aragon in The Lord of the Rings after four days of production?
Another part that Townsend missed out on was as Fandral in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, which went to Josh Dallas. The official reason for him dropping out of the production was due to “creative differences.” However, that’s Hollywood speak for there’s more to the story than meets the eye.
According to an anonymous source, Townsend was actually fired after showing up six hours late to a screen test. The fact there was a replacement so quickly announced means that trouble must’ve been brewing for some time and no one was counting on him. Poor Townsend can’t seem to catch a break.
Did we miss out on any other actors who lost out on superhero roles for dumb reasons? Let us know in the comments section!
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