Superheroes embody our aspirations and ideals. Villains, on the other hand, reveal less flattering truths about the human condition. Watching a hero fight a villain on screen sometimes even feels like a battle to overcome our own vices. Villains are complex characters driven by their own blind convictions and twisted logic. Despite their evil deeds, audiences can always relate to the struggles of a multidimensional villain.
A convincing villain is often what separates a good superhero film from a great one. An actor who can channel the wit of a devious villain or the torment of a troubled foe has a profound impact on a movie.
Supervillains also personify the fears of our times. When he first appeared in the Superman comics, Lex Luthor was portrayed as a stereotypical mad scientist. This persona remained unchanged throughout the cold war, a period tainted by fear of nuclear warfare and growing concern surrounding unethical medical experimentation. In the 1980s a new figure emerged as Lex evolved into a business mogul. At the height of yuppie culture, Superman's villain underlined the flipside of a corporate world order. The character was recently given a 21st century upgrade by Jesse Eisenberg, who played Lex as a psychologically troubled heir with daddy issues and the eccentricities of a young tech billionaire.
Both fans and film executives have high expectations when a new comic book film is released, which causes a lot of added pressure for any performer. While some actors thrive on the nuances of a villain's psyche, others have struggled to capture the theatrics of a supervillain.
Here are 9 Actors Who Regretted Playing Supervillains (And 11 Who Adored It)
20 Regretted: Christopher Eccleston - Malekith
Before stepping into the role of Malekith, Christopher Eccleston made a mark by playing the lead in the revival of Doctor Who. Eccleston left the production after one season, a choice that resulted in contentious relations with the BBC.
His experience working on Thor: The Dark World would prove to be equally unpleasant. The actor later confessed that he only took the gig for the paycheck and that he felt mislead by Marvel.
Getting into character required up to seven hours in the makeup chair every day, an aspect of the job Eccleston had not been informed of.
Eccleston summed up his experience working on the film with seven evocative words: “Thor? Just a gun in your mouth.”
19 Adored: Jamie Foxx - Electro
Jamie Foxx, on the other hand, had no aversions to spending hours on makeup for his part in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Appearance wise, Foxx's Electro looks a lot like the character's most recent representation in the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, but he shares some traits with the original. Both of them are unambitious low-level workers who gain their powers when exposed to an intense electrical charge.
Foxx has raved about working on the film on numerous occasions. The actor was especially intrigued by Electro's backstory as Max Dillon and hopes a Sinister Six spinoff might be somewhere on the horizon.
18 Regretted: Hugo Weaving - Red Skull
Even though he signed a multi-film contract, Hugo Weaving is not eager to return to the role of Red Skull any time soon.
In Captain America: The First Avenger, the ghastly villain goes up against Marvel's most patriotic hero. Weaving did not mind trying out the part of the former Nazi leader, but admits that it is not the type of film he gets excited about starring in.
The role was later recast for Avengers: Infinity War, signalling that Weaving probably passed up a second go at the part.
The actor, known for his iconic roles in The Matrix and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, prefers to stick to what he knows best and work on films he has a personal connection to.
17 Adored: Mads Mikkelsen - Kaecilius
2016 was a big year for Mads Mikkelsen. First, he starred as the nefarious villain Kaecilius in Doctor Strange and shortly after he took on the role of Galen Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Mikkelsen has a talent for portraying dark characters with great gusto and temperament. It is not a surprise to learn that he adores exploring these kinds of roles.
The Danish actor loves stepping into the soles of a bad guy. As he himself states, they get to do and say a lot of cool stuff. And the most intriguing part about playing the villain? “They skip morals. We wish we could do that, but we can't. That's why we're human.”
16 Regretted: Mickey Rourke - Whiplash
When Mickey Rourke was cast in the role of Ivan Vanko in Iron Man 2 he went to great lengths to deliver a convincing performance. Rourke spent three months perfecting his accent and even took a trip to Russia to get into character.
According to the iconic actor, much of his efforts were left on the cutting room floor.
In a chat with Roth Cornet, Rourke lamented that the film ended up being a “mindless comic book movie.” He also conveyed that he had no interest in working with this type of material and insisted that he always digs deep when he crafts a character.
15 Adored: Danny DeVito - Penguin
Two decades before Christopher Nolan would change the atmosphere of superhero movies forever, Tim Burton provided audiences with a campy, yet earnest take on Batman.
In Burton's second film about Bruce Wayne, Batman Returns, Danny DeVito plays the theatrically gross villain Penguin. Even though he fell victim to a violent monkey attack, DeVito has raved about his experience working with Burton. Looking back on his career, DeVito singled Burton out as one of his favorite directors.
Burton's sensitivity towards the characters' duality made him a delight to work with and made taking on the role all the more intriguing according to DeVito. His fondness for the director reveals that DeVito thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the picture.
14 Regretted: Matthew Goode - Ozymandias
Matthew Goode knew right off the bat that he might not be a good fit for the role of Ozymandias in Watchmen. To make matters worse, he outraged fanboys everywhere when he crudely dismissed them with an off-handed remark.
In an interview with Huffington Post, the actor explains that he got in his head during filming.
He knew many fans were not thrilled to see him in the role and it was weighing on his mind.
The fans' skepticism towards him turned out to be somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nonetheless, Goode is convinced that director Zack Snyder made an honest homage to the comics and remains positive that the film will age well.
13 Adored: Olivia Munn - Psylocke
Psylocke had previously made a small appearance in X-Men: The Last Stand, where she was played by Meiling Melançon, but X-Men: Apocalypse brought this character into the thick of the plot. The seventh installment of the X-Men franchise cast Olivia Munn in the role of the violet villainess.
Munn had been a longtime fan of Psylocke and was heavily invested in how she would be portrayed. Not only did she insist that her costume be purple, but she also wrote long messages to the filmmakers about her character's backstory.
Hopefully, they did not tire of Munn's enthusiasm. She told journalists during filming that she hopes to examine her character further in the future.
12 Regretted: Michael Fassbender - Magneto
Michael Fassbender has had a great run on the X-Men franchise. So far, he has acted in four of the series’ films, the latest of which is set to premiere in 2019, but not all of his acting has left fond memories.
Fassbender has said that he is particularly embarrassed of his performance in X-Men: Apocalypse.
At a fundraising event for the Toronto International Film Festival, he described his on-screen antics as “some dude shouting.”
Critics were equally underwhelmed by the picture. Next year’s release has given Fassbender the chance to deliver a more solid performance and will, with any luck, rectify the franchise in the critics' eyes.
11 Adored: Michael B. Jordan - Killmonger
Michael B. Jordan delivered one of this year’s most memorable performances with his interpretation of the slighted heir Erik Killmonger in Black Panther. After the film premiered, Jordan has left fans wondering about his attitude towards the project. His public resistance towards the Wakandan greeting, for example, has raised suspicions.
However, fans need not worry. The actor recently stated that he would jump at the chance to do a sequel. Jordan is known for his love of comic books, and his animosity towards Wakanda is merely a result of his deep connection to the character he plays.
Considering how the film ended, his prospects for doing a sequel may look bleak. Then again, superheroes and villains have a tendency of returning from the beyond in surprising ways.
10 Regretted: Toby Kebbel - Doctor Doom
Toby Kebbel has been quick to clarify that he will not participate in another Fantastic Four flick. The actor shared in the fans’ disappointment and pointed out that the film strays too far from the comics.
Kebbel, who played the sinister villain Doctor Doom, thinks his character was forced and not in line with its original depiction.
His tune nevertheless changed when the prospect of lending the character out came up. Like many others, Kebbel is obviously not thrilled by the way Fox had chosen to frame Doctor Doom but he seems willing to toss on the cloak once more if Marvel Studios is producing the film.
9 Adored: Cate Blanchett - Hela
Although she was an unusually high-caliber pick for a superhero villain, Cate Blanchett had a riot on set. Her role as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok also happened to be MCU's first major female supervillain. Blanchett's fellow cast mates were immediately blown away by her performance and critics were equally impressed.
Blanchett enjoyed learning about her character’s origin and capturing Hela's complex and overpowering nature.
When asked if she would reprise her role, Blanchett humbly replied; “I’ve had an absolute ball but it doesn’t mean my work is any good. Having fun doesn’t necessarily mean quality… That’s up to the big bosses.”
8 Regretted: Jeff Bridges - Obediah Stane
Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges struggled to find his groove in the impulsive atmosphere of Iron Man. Not only did the role rob him of his wavy locks – an affront to audiences everywhere – it also left the actor feeling unprepared.
The first film in the Iron Man series swapped out the main antagonist, the Mandarin, for Bridges' Iron Monger. This was not the only unconventional choice the filmmakers made. According to Bridges, the film did not have a complete script-- only an outline.
The actor was not comfortable showing up to set not knowing what he would be shooting and having to work out the lines as they went along.
Eventually, he changed his attitude and adapted to the set's climate, but his comments reveal that he would not like to find himself entangled in a similar project again.
7 Adored: Peter Dinklage - Bolivar Trask
Peter Dinklage is no stranger to complex characters. The actor, who is best known as Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones, dipped his toes in the proverbial waters of supervillainy when he stepped into the role of Dr. Bolivar Trask.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past's main villain comes up against Mystique and Wolverine when he experiments on mutants in an attempt to harness their powers against them.
Dinklage was excited to come on-board. He found the role of the villain great fun to play, and, like many other actors, loved to flesh out the character’s motivations and justifications.
Sporting an era-appropriate coiffure was yet another perk that came with the job.
6 Regretted: Jared Leto - The Joker
Expectations were sky-high when Suicide Squad premiered in 2016, but the film ended up disappointing critics.
Surprisingly, one of the movie's biggest stars was equally disillusioned by the end product.
In the wake of the film's release, CinemaBlend reported that Jared Leto felt tricked and disappointed. He believed the project would be more artistic and claimed he had been misled.
Leto was consumed by the character during shooting and even mimicked some of his signature shenanigans in his spare time. His efforts were all for nothing, as most of his acting was cut from the theatrical release.
5 Adored: Heath Ledger - The Joker
Heath Ledger's rendition of the Joker in The Dark Knight is one of the most lauded performances of the genre. The part has inspired countless imitations and earned the actor a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Ledger passed away six months before the movie premiered from an accidental overdose of prescription medication. At the time of his passing, many attributed the tragedy to his method acting approach to the dark character.
His sister later expressed how much joy he derived from the part. She has explained that he had a wonderful time working on the film and was eager to work on the sequel with Nolan.
4 Regretted: Vinnie Jones - Juggernaut
Vinnie Jones is known for playing stone-faced tough guys in adrenaline pumping action films. His ability to deliver memorable one-liners probably helped him land the role as Juggernaut in X-Men: The Last Stand.
After filming wrapped, the former footballer complained over the amount of prosthetics he had to wear.
He was not too pleased about walking around all day in massive boots.
The experience as a whole left him feeling "underused," but he still agreed to appear in future X-Men films.
If he ever were to return, perhaps the costume department can show him some mercy and go back to the original concept for his character.
3 Adored: Topher Grace - Venom
Not only is Topher Grace ecstatic about his own time spent as Venom, he has also gladly passed the baton to someone else.
In Spider-Man 3, Grace brought director Sam Raimi's vision of a dark Spider-Man to life. Even though he enjoyed giving the character a unique spin, the actor remains a fan of the original comic book villain. To Grace's delight, the character will be back on the big screen this fall.
Venom, which stars Tom Hardy, follows Eddie Brock's struggle to cope with superhuman abilities. Judging by his glowing endorsement, Grace will probably be first in line at the ticket booth.
2 Adored: Tom Hardy - Bane
Venom is not Tom Hardy's first experience with comic book films. In 2012 he played Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
Hardy has explained that he is usually attracted to ethically complicated characters, which is why he has avoided playing traditional heroes. In the role of Bane, the actor got a unique opportunity to develop a character using only a few of the tools in his repertoire, like his voice and eyes.
Hardy's comments reveal how dedicated he is to creating an authentic character.
The active collaboration between actor and director during the making of The Dark Knight Rises is a testament to the creative connection these two artists share.
1 Adored: Uma Thurman - Poison Ivy
Batman & Robin has not gained many fans over the years, but Uma Thurman is one of them. Thurman has remained a staunch defender of the film.
She is, however, cautious not to take personal responsibility for how the entire film turned out. "Me and Poison Ivy, we had a good time. We got down," she quipped in an interview years later.
Not everyone involved with the film have been equally willing to defend it. Twentuy years on, director Joel Schumacher is still apologizing to disappointed fans. Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman has also confessed that he still finds himself answering for what she put forth.
Who's your favorite supervillain actor? Let us know in the comments!