There is currently not a shortage of award winning actors in the Marvel and DC universes. Playing Storm in multiple X-Men movies has certainly helped keep Best Actress Oscar winner (Monster’s Ball) Halle Berry’s career on the A List for bank ability. Jeremy Renner followed his back to back Oscar nominations (Hurt Locker and The Town) with the role of Clinton Barton (Hawkeye) in The Avengers. His co-stars, Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk) and Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), have five Oscar nominations between them. Golden Globe winner and 11 time Emmy® Nominee A-Lister Robin Wright just had a spectacular turn as Antiope in Wonder Woman earning fantastic reviews and the biggest box office receipts in her 30 plus year career as an actress.
Over the years, there have been hundreds of stories, articles, news reports, and rumors about casting of superhero roles in Hollywood. What would make an actor turn down a part that is a guaranteed box office gross of at least $100 million? What makes the studio pick one A-Lister over another? It seems some important actors are eager to play our favorite superheroes and others shy away from playing them at the last minute. Here is a look at 16 Important Actors Who Almost Played Superheroes.
16. Tom Cruise – Iron Man
Everyone loves Iron Man, as audiences and fans have spent over $2 billion dollars on ticket sales alone worldwide to see the Tony Stark trilogy. This doesn’t include box office receipts for the Avengers, Captain America, or Spider-Man. Would those grosses be higher if Tom Cruise one of the most successful box office stars of all time had gone on to play Tony Stark?
For several years in the early to mid-2000s, Tom was attached to the role of Tony Stark. The long development process and script challenges allowed Tom’s schedule to fill up with other projects and, by the time production began, he was no longer available to star in and produce the film.
Having Tom in the part would have created a completely different dynamic in the finished product and we’re not sure how audiences would’ve responded? This past summer, The Mummy received less than positive reviews and still managed to gross $409,000,000 at the global box office proving Tom Cruise’s holding power at the box office is here to stay.
15. Leonardo DiCaprio – Robin
Leonardo DiCaprio has good instincts when it comes to picking projects. His Best Actor Oscar winning turn in the intense The Revenant grossed over $500 million dollars at the box office. He is one of the few actors whose domestic box average is around $100 million per picture. Back in 1994, director Joel Schumacher was casting the role of Robin in Batman Forever and it isn’t surprising he first approached Leo about the role of Batman’s famous sidekick. Leo had just received his first Oscar Nomination at the age of 19 (Best Supporting Actor) for his acclaimed performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and had quickly moved over to the short A List.
Leo ultimately passed on the role of Robin (it went to Chris O’Donnell) and opted instead to join the cult classic, Basketball Diaries. Leo also last turned down the role of Spider-Man, as his good friend Toby McGuire went on to be cast in the role and played the webbed superhero in three films. Maybe one day Leo will suit up…
14. Emily Blunt – Black Widow
Emily Blunt broke out in the hit The Devil Wears Prada, as her role as Emily (the first assistant) catapulted her into stardom and earned her first Golden Globe nomination Supporting Actress Motion Picture. That same year she won a Golden Globe in another category for Supporting Actress in the TV movie for Gideon’s Daughter, instantly making her one to watch in Hollywood. Several more acclaimed parts quickly followed and it made sense that Marvel approached Emily about playing the role of Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow in Iron Man 2.
As fate would have it, the casting was short lived and Emily was forced to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with Gulliver’s Travels. From there, Scarlett Johansson replaced Emily and the rest is history. Emily has gone on to earn multiple nominations for her acting and box office success with films such as The Girl on the Train, Into The Woods, and will next be seen as Mary Poppins in the highly anticipated Mary Poppins Returns.
13. Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Ant-Man
21 years ago, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a teenager staring as Tommy Solomon on the hit TV series 3rd Rock from the Sun with John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston, and French Stewart. The series had a great six seasons run on NBC that ended in 2001 and, since then, Joseph has been expanding his resume and continuing to impress critics and audiences with his performances in Inception, 500 Days of Summer, 50/50, Looper, Lincoln, and Don Jon.
In 2014, when Ant-Man was in development the media largely reported that Marvel was interested in Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Paul Rudd for the part. Both actors are so spot on for the role of Ant-Man that Marvel could have made two versions of the same film with different leading men and both would have been box office hits.
12. Josh Brolin – Batman
Josh Brolin has been a star since The Goonies in 1985 and, since then, he has consistently delivered top performances in movies like No Country For Old Men, Milk, and True Grit. When Warner Brothers began looking for actors to take on the role of Bruce Wayne for 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Brolin’s name was widely mentioned at the top of the list. The internet had considerable fan buzz about Josh Brolin being the right choice to play the caped crusader.
While rumored creative differences might have prevented Josh from taking on the role of Batman, he will be joining the superhero universe in two upcoming films, Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War, which is something everyone can look forward to seeing.
11. Alexander Skarsgard – Thor
In 2009, Alexander Skarsgard was keeping the internet, social media, and press buzzing with his breakout role as Eric Northman in True Blood. At the same time, he was being heavily considered by Marvel for the role of Thor in their upcoming feature film on the Norse God.
For several months, Alexander’s appeared at the top of lists speculating who would be cast as Thor. The actor publicly spoke about his interest in playing the iconic role at one point, saying that he had tried on the Thor costume. Casting the role of Thor came down to a decision between Alexander and Chris Hemsworth. Chris was cast as Thor and Alexander returned to work on his hit series True Blood.
Since True Blood ended in 2014, Alexander has gone on to star in several high profile films and television projects. This past September, Alexander won his first Emmy for his performance in HBO’s hit mini-series Big Little Lies where the actor starred alongside Nicole Kidman, Reese Whitherspoon, Laura Dern, and Shailene Woodley.
10. Adrien Brody – The Joker
On March 23th, 2003, Adrien Brody came out of left field and won the Best Actor Oscar for his riveting and gripping performance in The Pianist. He was completely shocked by his win and gave a memorable speech that is still worth watching in case anyone missed it. Brody, who was 29 at the time of his win, became the youngest Best Actor winner in the history of the Oscars. From there, he brought new depth to the world of King Kong in Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong.
Both times the role of The Joker has been up for casting in recent memory, for 2008’s The Dark Knight and 2016’s Suicide Squad, Adrien has expressed his interest in playing the part. His interpretation of The Joker could have helped elevate 2016’s Suicide Squad to a new level, as the movie flopped with most critics.
9. Nicolas Cage – Superman
In recent years, footage and photos of Oscar winner Nicolas Cage in the Superman costume for Tim Burton’s purposed 1998 Superman Lives film project have surfaced on the internet and in a documentary. The WB project is reported to have been cancelled prior to filming for financial reasons and it has gone on to become famous as the Superman that could have been.
Nicolas Cage is a formidable actor with box office appeal, proven comedic and dramatic skills, and is well liked in the industry; this raises the other question why wasn’t he cast as Superman in the doomed 2006 film, Superman Returns? Nicolas Cage certainly would have brought so much that is lacking in Superman Returns to the project and would have guaranteed bigger box office receipts.
8. Warren Beatty – Superman
Between 1960 and 1995, Warren Beatty could barely cross the street without getting his picture taken. Long before the internet and social media gave everyone access to the world of celebrity all the time, Warren Beatty helped sales newspapers and magazines. In 1960, Warren got cast with Natalie Wood in the classic film Splendor in the Grass, when he was a newcomer and she was a top box office star. The two co-stars fell in love and the public was instantly taken with Warren’s charm, intelligence, and good looks.
In 1967, Bonnie and Clyde was released and Warren, who was a producer on the project, waived his acting fees as an actor in exchange for a 10% of the box office gross. The film went on to gross a ton of cash at the worldwide box office over the next several years. With that, Warren cemented his status as not only a box office star, but as a respected producer. When looking to cast Superman for the 1978 blockbuster Superman, Warren was at the top of list. After trying on the costume, Warren passed on the role and made 1978’s highest grossing comedy, Heaven Can Wait.
7. Sandra Bullock – Wonder Woman
Sandra Bullock became a household name with two films in the mid-90s, Speed and While You Were Sleeping. Around this time, the first rumors of a Wonder Woman feature film began circulating the press and fans of Wonder Woman began a public campaign to bring her to the big screen.
Producer Joel Silver commissioned a script by Joss Whedon and began talking with Sandra Bullock about playing Diana Prince. At the same time, Sandra Bullock quickly gained the very public endorsement of Lynda Carter, who starred as Wonder Woman in the classic 1970’s series Wonder Woman, to play the character in a feature film.
The film never came to be and it is a superhero film we all would have loved to see. Sandra’s career has continued to be successful, as her 2014 film Gravity earned her a Best Actress Oscar Nomination and grossed over $700 million at the worldwide box office. Next up for Sandra is Ocean’s Eight with Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Anne Hathaway, and Sarah Paulson.
6. Helen Hunt – Jean Grey
Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets, Mad About You, Twister, The Sessions, and Ride) was almost a Superhero, as initially Fox had her in place to play Jean Grey in the 2000 film X-Men. Can you imagine the difference in the character and how she was portrayed on screen if Helen Hunt had played the part?
That is a question that can never be answered, since prior to filming Famke Janssen took over the part of Jean Grey and very much made the role her own in the original trilogy. It is hard to think of another playing the part after seeing Famke in the role.
5. Chris Pine – Green Lantern
Chris Pine has taken the roles of Captain Kirk (Star Trek), Jack Ryan (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and Steve Trevor (Wonder Woman) and made them his own. That is not a simple task for an actor to pull off given the high profile actors who originated the characters in films and on television. His performance of Steve Trevor in this year’s colossal hit Wonder Woman should earn him Golden Globe and Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the next few months.
Given his ability to make a role his own and redefine the character, his casting as Green Lantern might have provided the 2011 film with a completely different outcome and response from both critics and audiences. There are still rumors floating around that Chris Pine could be one of the Green Lanterns in another film separate from the 2011 misfire starring the very talented Ryan Reynolds who has gone on to be a brilliant Deadpool.
4. Joaquin Phoenix – Doctor Strange
As an actor, Joaquin Phoenix does not shy away from challenging roles or characters that have intense flaws making it hard for audiences to like at times. His performance of country music legend Johnny Cash in Walk The Line is mesmerizing. For his work in Walk The Line, he won a Best Actor Golden Globe award, a Grammy award, and received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
When Marvel was casting for the lead role of Doctor Strange for their big screen adaptation, rumor has it they approached Joaquin and he decided against it. If the right Superhero script comes along, Joaquin could change his mind, as he was brilliant as the tyrannical ruler in Gladiator. Joaquin has an endless bank of talent as an actor and brings that talent to every project he is involved in.
3. Jon Voight – Superman
Oscar winning actor Jon Voight’s career has spanned six decades and, in recent years, he has made frequent headlines for being international superstar double Oscar Winner Angelina Jolie’s dad. Flashback 40 years before Christopher Reeve was cast as the Man of Steel in 1978’s Superman, Jon Voight one of the biggest box office stars of the 60s and 70s was attached to play the role of Clark Kent if producers could not find anyone else.
Jon seems like an unlikely choice to play Superman given his age and resume at that time. However, it would have been interesting to see one of the most prolific actors in the history of film take on the role of Superman. Since 2013, Jon has been starring on the international hit Showtime series Ray Donovan and season six is scheduled to premiere in 2018.
2. Annette Bening – Catwoman
In 1991, Annette Bening was everywhere as an Oscar nomination for The Grifters, co-starring in three high profile films Bugsy (with future husband Warren Beatty), Regarding Henry (with Harrison Ford), and Guilty By Suspicion (with Robert DeNiro), and her casting as Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns was headline news. When Annette’s career took off, it was at lightning speed and with a list of projects and co-stars actors dream of.
Within in weeks of being cast as Catwoman, Bening found out she was pregnant. When the press found out she was expecting, it became a media circus. Annette left Batman Returns and the part was recast with Michelle Pfeiffer. To this day, 25 years later, the question remains large in the minds of Batman fans; what would Annette’s Catwoman have been like on screen? Given her incredible talent and commitment to craft of acting, we can imagine it would have been masterful.
1. Robin Williams – The Joker
Legend or rumor or a combination of both has it that when director Tim Burton was getting ready to film his version of Batman, he approached Jack Nicholson about the playing The Joker.
While Jack was considering the part, Tim or WB signed Robin Williams on for The Joker. Jack Nicholson decided upon playing The Joker and Robin Williams was uncast. Jack had no idea about Robin being offered the part and accepting. From there, Robin would not and did not work with WB again until they apologized to him for the situation that occurred with The Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman.
Jack Nicholson was stellar as The Joker, though we think Robin Williams would have been equally good.
Which of these actors would you like to see actually play these roles? Let us know in the comments!!
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