In the proverbial almanac of early 21st century cinema, the section on superhero movies is going to bulge especially large. Ever since comic books and superheroes were invented, creators and studios alike were trying to put them into mixed media in order to expand the audience.
Now, at a point when CGI is becoming more advanced than theatergoers are able to predict, movies are really able to present heroes on screen in a way that blows audiences away. More of superhero films are being made every year and it seems like everyone wants their own comic book project.
In this age of expanding media markets, instant access to content online, and an incessant craving for more experimentation, superhero movies are about the only guarantees left in Hollywood these days. Sure, a number of them flop, but even those hardly ever do so because of an actor’s performance. On the contrary, playing a superhero is one of the most guaranteed ways an actor can improve their career, and at least for a shining moment, the actor becomes the center of everyone’s childhood fantasies.
The most enticing part of an actor playing a superhero is that it’s actually a lot harder than it looks, even when one does have the body to fill out a vibrantly colored suit.
From those who think they’re up to the task to those who rue the day their careers got tangled in this malarkey, here are 10 Actors Desperate To Play Superheroes (And 10 Who Say Never Again).
20 Norman Reedus - Interested
Over The Walking Dead’s odyssean nine season run, Daryl Dixon, played by Norman Reedus, has grown to be a top fan favorite, evolving from oddball recurring character to leading man. Daryl’s hunting skills, crossbow expertise, and wild temper make him a volatile but necessary member of the band of survivors.
Reedus’ ability to blend tough with fair and stay just this side of unhinged has led to questions about expanding his career one day to superhero movies. In an interview with Uproxx, promoting his new motorcycle show, Reedus eagerly espoused his love for Ghost Rider and interest in being part of a future film.
Maybe Hawkeye needs a crossbow-wielding sidekick.
19 Mickey Rourke - Never Again
As much as some fans may criticize Iron Man 2, Mickey Rourke is probably even more upset about how it came out. He’s been vocal about his displeasure on what ultimately happened to his character, Ivan Vanko, and the amount of commercialization and bureaucracy involved with making movies of that size.
He said, “I wanted to bring some other layers and colors... And they allowed me to do that. Unfortunately, the [people] at Marvel just wanted a one-dimensional bad guy, so most of the performance ended up the floor.”
Rourke isn’t the first to voice this type of concern over the creation process.
Many of the actors on this list and some of the directors of these films have said similar things. It’s still hard to imagine what could save that version of Whiplash, though.
18 John Krasinski - Interested
Coming off of the success of hit thriller A Quiet Place, John Krasinski has practically stretched out a superhero audition into an entire season of television with his starring role in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan show.
Coming a long way from the slender physique he carried in The Office, and admitting that he’s not a lifelong comic fan, Krasinski has entered into the “circle of actors eligible to play a superhero” list. He’s even expressed his own interest in an interview given to Screen Rant.
Many fans have fallen in love with the idea of Krasinski as Mister Fantastic.
It's seemingly a natural fit for the guy next door actor. When questioned about the idea directly, Krasinski was more than amenable to the role, along with that of pretty much any other hero that’s left.
17 Jessica Alba - Never Again
Jessica Alba made a name for herself as an action hero in the James Cameron produced series, Dark Angel, and quickly made the jump to features, climbing the ladder into the superhero movie conversations of the beginning of the 2000s.
Once she became the lead in Fantastic Four and the sequel that quickly followed, however, her interest the genre was squashed.
As Sue Storm, Alba, took the franchise on her shoulders, but she’s since commented the working environment on set wasn’t conducive to any real female characterization. After criticism from her director that her crying scene wasn’t pretty enough, Alba realized that the movies had morphed from metaphorical exploration to male escape fantasy.
Though Alba says she’ll never say never to another role in the genre, but after her experience, it doesn’t sound likely.
16 Tom Hanks - Interested
Lately, Tom Hanks’ career has pointed him towards the down trodden everyman, fighting against absurd conditions just for some normalcy. In one interview, promoting Captain Phillips, Hanks revealed that he’s also interested in the big heroes in capes stuff as well.
His stated desires lean more towards supervillainy than heroism, which is even better for an actor in Tom Hanks’ position. The MCU’s villain problem is far from solved-- even with strong additions like Killmonger.
An actor of Hanks’ caliber would be a worthy foe for any caped crusader.
Depending on how Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker turns out, maybe we can imagine Hanks as Mr. Freeze.
15 Kirsten Dunst - Never Again
Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson deserves much of the credit for the condition of the superhero movie genre today. She co-starred in the Spider-Man trilogy, and balancing those movies nicely as someone who could, conceivably, be out of Peter Parker’s league, right up until she isn’t.
These days, her career is focused on smaller character pieces, presumably where she something more to do than be a damsel in distress. When asked about what she thought of the current state of the Spider-Man franchise and its recent reboot, she diminished the recent films as being more focused on money than art.
14 Eddie Redmayne - Interested
Eddie Redmayne is currently at the front of the new Harry Potter franchise, Fantastic Beasts, but he’s also got his sights set on playing a superhero one day.
Amid rumors that he auditioned for Star-Lord, Redmayne confesses that he’s a huge comic fan.
He even has a few ideas for properties he’d like to star in himself.
In an interview with Yahoo, Redmayne goes off on his enthusiasm for a cult character named Bananaman, a tongue-in-cheek British superhero. If that hero somehow proves unadaptable for cinema, Redmayne also suggests Thundercats, a beloved show that’s awakening old and new fans on Netflix.
These two choices, along with his Newt Scamander, triangulate a quirky, humorous, superhero niche for Redmayne once he concludes his current franchise.
13 Andrew Garfield - Never Again
Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man trilogy met an unhappy end after only two films. 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 threw the wall-crawler against Electro in a movie that had more sparks than juice. Box office numbers underwhelmed, plans for a third movie were canceled, and Garfield had to surrender his web shooters.
In interviews after the fact, Garfield has described the process as “heartbreaking." According to The Telegraph, the movie that Garfield felt like they shot wasn’t what ultimately made it into theaters, resulting in weaker character and story points.
Blame game aside, Garfield’s career has thrived since, with a Tony win and an Oscar nom. After his heartbreak, it’s unlikely he’ll return to play in the superhero sandbox.
12 Megan Fox - Interested
Megan Fox made her name starring in Transformers, and though she left it long ago she’s since said that she feels at home in genre films.
In an interview with E!, Fox promoted her role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie (2014), and reiterated how much she enjoyed this kind of work with a suggestion for a superhero property for her to star in.
She named Gen 13, an Image comic featuring a trio of tough heroines fighting evil nonsense, as a story of interest.
After playing one supporting role after another, a superhero it could be just the thing to reestablish Megan Fox and introduce a wave of realistic female superhero characters on the big screen.
11 Natalie Portman - Never Again
As Jane Foster in the first two Thor movies, Natalie Portman played a somewhat awkward romantic match to the Norse god, but her role as an astronomer and kind soul made an opportunity for a great human character to balance Thor’s powers, and explore the Marvel cosmos.
Unfortunately, the tension behind Thor 2 was too much of a sacrifice to return to finish the journey. Jane was dropped from Thor: Ragnarok entirely, and Portman has confirmed that she has no plans to return to the franchise or the universe, outside of joking purposes.
The production on Thor 2 wasn’t limited to Natalie Portman’s dissatisfaction. After the firing of initial director, Patty Jenkins, that movie struggled to continue that first story of an alien prince dropped onto Planet Earth.
10 Common - Interested
Maybe he’s given up the dream after his success in the John Wick films, but there was a time when the rapper/actor/activist/author Common, would have been up on that screen flying around and fighting bad guys alongside a team of superheroes.
George Miller’s Justice League, an earlier version of the film nothing like the Snyder/Whedon version fans got years later, would have cast Common as the Green Lantern, John Stewart. The League also would have included Armie Hammer as Batman and Adam Brody as the Flash, along with the rest of a cast of late 2000s rising stars.
Miller went on to direct Mad Max, Hammer went on to The Social Network, and Common still became an action star anyway, but he still says he’d love to play the character in the future.
9 Terrence Howard - Never Again
Along with Ivan Vanko’s rocky characterization, another hurdle for Iron Man 2 was the replacement of Terrence Howard’s character, Rhodes. Don Cheadle eventually replaced him, and became a solid version of War Machine, but Howard reportedly still hasn’t forgiven the franchise, or his friends, for being pushed out of the Marvel Universe.
The details of the dispute are unclear, but an unfair contract renegotiation is at the center. When Iron Man became the success that it did, everything was redrawn to plan for a larger cinematic universe. Everything except Terrence Howard’s remuneration.
Maybe one day, in the future of the MCU, the behemoth of movie-making will try to offer an olive branch of another, lesser role, to mend fences. Is there an opening for a James Rhodes Sr.?
8 Bryce Dallas Howard - Interested
Careening off a starring role in the Jurassic World franchise reboot, Bryce Dallas Howard has made it clear that she has her sights set on playing a superhero next.
She expressed her interest in Captain Marvel, a role that eventually went to Brie Larson.
Howard was reportedly on the short-list for that character and likely will be for others.
Howard’s lifetime career in the film industry has been filled with blockbuster projects, after parts in Apollo 13, Spider-Man 3, and Terminator: Salvation. Once Howard successfully anchors the entire Jurassic trilogy, the timing will be perfect for her star to finally land among the super cosmos.
7 Eric Bana - Never Again
Today, the Incredible Hulk has found a place in the MCU with his comic expressiveness, monosyllable punchlines, and tormented nature, but earlier versions of the character were far less focused, according to Eric Bana, star of 2003’s Hulk movie, directed by Ang Lee.
In an interview given to the Huffington Post, Bana mentions that he’s actually glad the movie didn’t spawn any direct sequels, even though he’s proud of the what they “tried to accomplish.” Bana goes on to clarify that the movie might have been filled with too much tension and overemphasized the “dark approach."
The push-pull between Bruce Banner and the Hulk is likely what attracted the intense character actor to the role in the first place, but today Eric Bana counts himself lucky that his career hasn’t been defined by a franchise.
6 Emily Blunt - Interested
Along with her husband, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt has also been mentioned in several superhero conversations, but she’s been around the game for a lot longer.
In an interview with Screen Rant, Blunt talks about the two roles she’s already turned down. She got an opportunity to play the Black Widow in Iron Man 2 and she was also favored for the role of Agent Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger. Even though she passed on these movies, Blunt is adamant that-- scheduling and creative agreement permitting-- she’s still interested in coming to the superhero family at some point.
Considering their relationship, and the superhero buzz around them both, Krasinski and Blunt are some fans’ dark horse favorites for the next Mister Fantastic and Sue Storm.
5 Christian Bale - Never Again
The Dark Knight Rises came out in 2012 and with it, the trilogy of Batman movies directed by Christopher Nolan came to a close. The outpouring of affection for Christian Bale’s version of Batman, and the nuance with which Bale tried to play the character, catapulted the superhero film into a new category.
Despite, or maybe because of, that success, Bale has declared that he has no interest in coming back to that or any other superhero universe.
In fact, in one interview, while wishing Affleck all the best on his portrayal, he goes on to declare that the actor inside the suit isn’t the priority, it’s the symbol presented by the work of art.
4 Hugo Weaving - Never Again
Fans who were excited to see Red Skull return in Marvel’s latest Infinity War may have noticed that the actor inside the skull was no longer Hugo Weaving.
Despite Red Skull’s prominence in the Captain America canon, and Weaving’s apparent initial intention to stay on for multiple pictures, he’s stated publicly that he’s not excited about getting back into that character.
When asked about his return, he offered a politely vague denial, but he made it clear that he doesn’t find the role creatively challenging.
This is interesting news from an actor who’s made a home in the genre, contributing to iconic portrayals of Red Skull, V, and Megatron.
It’s nice that Weaving has moved onto roles he’s more fulfilled by, but hopefully one day he’ll return to his comic book home.
3 Donald Glover - Interested
Donald Glover set off one of the first great internet storms when he tweeted out his desire to see a movie about a black Spider-Man.
While promoting the animated Spider-Man series where he voiced Miles Morales, Glover reiterated that he’s still interested in the character on the big screen. A recent Spider-Man reboot already happened without Glover in the lead, but he did have a small cameo in the movie. He also has a voice part in the upcoming animated film, Into the Spiderverse.
We can only hope that an actor of Glover's talent and rising star will be afforded the opportunity he so clearly deserves.
2 Jenson Ackles - Interested
Jenson Ackles has been building a genre empire over at Supernatural, a show in which a family of ghost hunters keep evil at bay. There have long been rumors that Ackles may make his jump into superhero features.
Ackles was first examined with the Marvel magnifying glass when he reportedly auditioned for the lead in Captain America: The First Avenger, (an audition also attended by John Krasinski) and even though that role eventually went to Chris Evans, Ackles is still keeping his options open for the future.
How would Ackles have been as Star-Lord? His tone could have been a little bit more serious, but that wouldn’t be such a bad thing with all the whimsy erupting around him. If Supernatural fans have their way, we’ll find out soon.
1 Hugh Jackman - Never Again
Most superhero roles require an actor who can believably beat someone to a bloody pulp one minute, and then rescue a cat out of a tree the next. Hugh Jackman was one of the first to blend those two emotions into one hero and wear it all on his spandex sleeve.
After twenty years playing Wolverine, Jackman wants to conclude that chapter and expand his range as an actor.
Jackman closed the book on playing the clawed superhero in the same interview when he was promoting his new movie about P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman. In the conversation, Jackman praises the opportunity to finally play the mature version of the character in Logan.
Which actor do you most want to see in a superhero role? Let us know in the comments!