Marvel Comics’ vault of characters is one of the most impressive aspects of the company, but only two major Marvel characters can be dated back to that famed first issue, Marvel Comics #1, from 1939, and Marvel Studios just reacquired the cinematic rights to one of them.
Born the son of a sea captain and an Atlantean princess, Namor the Sub-Mariner was a precursor to (now) better known antiheroes like The Punisher, Deadpool, and Wolverine. He fought against humans for what he deemed misdeeds to the ocean, but in the end, he also rallied with Captain America to help fight Hitler. He was a complicated character in an era when few were, and would fit well aside the current crop of heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Plus, he’s a water guy, and with the DC Extended Universe's Aquaman on the way, the MCU is in need of a water guy.
Last week, comic book writer Joe Quesada appeared on Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman podcast, stating that Namor was back at his rightful home, Marvel Studios. The notoriously tight-lipped company hasn’t announced any plans just yet, but it leads us to speculate, who could get the role?
Here are 13 Actors Who Could Play Namor The Sub-Mariner.
For the record, we'll be including both Asian actors and white actors in this list. Given that Namor's ethnicity is the fictional "Atlantean," this hopefully won't upset you.
12 Sam Witwer
No stranger to comic book franchises, Witwer played both Davis Bloome, the human camouflage for Doomsday on Smallville, but was also the uncredited "naked" body of Zod in the season 8 finale. Playing the tank-zombie at the end of season 1 of The Walking Dead, Witwer was set up by director Frank Darabont to star in his own episode of Season 2, told through flashbacks. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Darabont left the show and it never happened.
A frequent guest of many comic conventions, Witwer is already acclimated to navigating the waters of comic book adaptations. He’s a fan-favorite who could easily live up to the Atlantean throne.
11 John Cho
No longer just known for being one of the guys to first use the acronym "MILF" in American Pie, Cho's performance as Sulu in the two rebooted Star Trek movies has proven that he is indeed a force to be reckoned with. Say what you will about his stint on the now defunct comedy Selfie, but Cho was the first Asian American male romantic lead on a network television show in America. He's come a long way from ogling pictures of Stifler’s Mom, could he also become the first Asian American actor to suit up as a superhero in a major Hollywood movie?
Now proven to be a well-rounded actor, all he would need to do is bulk up for the role of Namor before suiting up the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
10 Ian Anthony Dale
Though he’s been a character actor on TV for years, Dale is arguably best known to the masses for his reoccurring role as Adam Noshimuri on TV’s Hawaii Five-O. Some of the bigger nerds among us might recognize him as Hanzo Hasashi, AKA Scorpion, on the web series Mortal Kombat Legacy. Though it’s unclear as of yet if we will get season 3, Dale's version of the beloved character helped make the show much better than it had any right to be.
If Marvel is looking for a lesser known (but still talented) actor to wield the Trident of Neptune, Dale would be a great pick. Given Marvel's habit of hiring actors who aren't too well known (like Tom Holland as Spider-Man), there are certainly crazier things that could happen.
9 Zachary Quinto
Another Star Trek actor. When it came time to cast Spock in the new franchise, Leonard Nimoy was given final casting approval over the role that he had nurtured for the past four decades. He chose Zachary Quinto for good reason. Quint nailed the emotional vulnerability of a half-human/half-Vulcan, much the same way as he could nail the specific characteristics of a half-human/half-Atlantean.
Quinto has already proven that he can not only easily play a character that struggles over his lineage, but that he can be a great presence in action sequences. Two of the most important traits needed to navigate the waters of the MCU for any actor lucky enough to get the role.
8 Pedro Pascal
This is the one actor on this list that not only swims, but used to do so competitively as a youth. Not only has he been a featured actor in shows such as Game of Thrones and Narcos, he’s no stranger to comic book adaptations. Though it was never picked up for series, Pascal was cast in 2011’s Wonder Woman pilot for NBC. Pascal will also play a prominent role in the upcoming sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service, playing a character named Jack Daniels.
Whoever lands the role of Namor is going to have to be very comfortable with underwater photography, thus a strong swimmer might be key to landing the role. Few people on this list qualify for that as much as Pascal.
7 Daniel Henney
One of the few good things about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Henney’s portrayal of Agent Zero actually managed to impress in a movie that left audiences cold. But besides that, Henney is a bonafide star in South Korea, where he plays Dr. Henry Kim in the TV series My Lovely Sam Soon. Though he's an American actor, and he couldn't even speak Korean when he first started acting, his portrayal was widely celebrated and turned him into a household name in the country.
Henney helped make the first Wolverine movie watchable and became a star in a country where he didn’t speak the language. If he can pull of these two amazing feats, imagine what he could do with a character like The Sub-Mariner?
6 Keanu Reeves
In a world where the DC Extended Universe is being built upon the shoulders of an older, more grizzled Batman, there’s more than enough room for an older, wiser Namor. With John Wick, Reeves has already proven in recent years that he’s more than up to the task of handling complex action sequences, so we know he’s more than capable of taking on the role physically.
At one point in the comics, the character of Namor spent years of his life homeless in New York City, having had his memory erased. Reeves is one of the few actors on this list that could realistically pull this storyline off and it would be amazing to watch him do so.
5 Tyler Hoechlin
Great child actors are few and far between, but Hoechlin got his break at 14-years-old when he played Tom Hanks’ son in Road to Perdition. Never suffering from a lack of work, he went on to spend four years playing Martin Brewer on the show 7th Heaven before showing a more wild side on Teen Wolf. Not only does he have the benefit of looking the part, but he’s still relatively young by Hollywood standards.
Though he has proven himself to have acting chops as well as good looks, Tyler’s schedule may already be too full to take on Namor, as he’s already starring as Boyce Fox in the Fifty Shades sequels that are currently filming.
4 Godfrey Gao
Marvel will arguably be looking at “unknowns” for the role of the Sub-Mariner, so it stands to reason that their choice will be based not only on good looks and talent, but the plausibility of signing to a ten-year, multi-picture deal with Marvel. Enter Godfrey Gao.
Gao scored his first American film role in 2013’s Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Though the movie was a mess, Godfrey’s performance as Magnus Bane was one of the few standout moments in it. Prior to Mortal, Gao has been extremely successful in Taiwan as both an actor and a model since 2006. God knows he’s got the cheek-bones to play Namor.
4. Steven Yeun
Who doesn’t love Glenn? God knows we do, but all good things must come to an end. Yes, we all want him to continue on in The Walking Dead for as long as the show runs, but as is the nature of the beast, his time could be up any given episode. Since the introduction of his character, Yeun has proven that he has both the emotional breadth and the action chops to keep the character grounded, even in a world full of the living dead.
Also, Yeun has the benefit of being a swimmer. Each year at San Diego Comic-Con, he and his Walking Dead costars wake up at 5AM, go to the beach, and spend the morning swimming. That’s the kind of story that makes a Marvel executive more comfortable in casting an actor who will spend a lot of time in water.
3 Brian Tee
Another actor familiar with superhero properties, Tee played Norubo Mori in 2013’s The Wolverine and Toshiro Mori in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Until recently, actors were relegated to playing one role within the MCU, but as we have already reported, Alfre Woodard will be playing separate roles in Captain America: Civil War and the upcoming Luck Cage on Netflix in, so why can't Tee play two roles as well?
Tee is hot right now. He not only had a role in Jurassic World, but also starred as Shredder in the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Plus, he’s a self-proclaimed comic book geek! Since the studios are obviously in love with him, now may be the perfect chance to make him a leading man and The Sub-Mariner may be the perfect vehicle to do exactly that.
2 Luke Evans
We suggested this casting choice back in October of last year and we stand by it now. Evans is an accomplished stage and screen actor who came up through London’s famed West End theatre scene. Though his first film role came as Apollo in 2010’s Clash of the Titans, it wasn’t until Fast & Furious 6 that he got to display his more villainous side as the mercenary Owen Shaw.
The most interesting aspect of Namor is his status as an anti-hero. He has noble intentions, but has no problem committing heinous acts to accomplish his ends. This requires the actor to not only be a suave, likeable leading man, but he must do so with a hint of villainy. Evans heavily displays all of these traits and would be a great catch for the role.
1 Daniel Dae Kim
Kim has been publicly vying for the role of Namor since 2010, and frankly, he would be a heck of a good choice. Kim came into national prominence as Jin-Soo Kwon during his stint on the television series Lost and has pushed himself further to the forefront of America’s consciousness as Chin Ho Kelly in Hawaii Five-O. Throughout the years he’s proven himself worthy of both the big and small screen through dozens of performances, and it shouldn’t go unmentioned that he even had a role in 2004’s Spider-Man 2.
As an actor who has more than proven his worth and has been fighting publicly for a role for six years, it’s hard to imagine that the powers-that-be wouldn’t at least allow Kim a screen-test for the role.
Can you think of any other actors who should get a chance to play Namor on the big screen? Let us know in the comments!