Marvel Studios struck gold when they decided to start bringing every one of their characters to whom they had the film rights to the screen in an interconnected franchise. They changed the way blockbusters are made. Now, every movie studio is trying (and mostly failing) to connect all of their movies in an overarching narrative that forces audiences to watch them all.
Once-obscure characters like Black Panther and Doctor Strange are now among the most popular superheroes in the world. But those characters didn’t take so long to come to the screen due to lack of trying. Here are 10 Previous Failed Attempts To Adapt MCU Characters For The Screen.
10 Quentin Tarantino’s Luke Cage
After his indie debut Reservoir Dogs made him one of the hottest directors in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino was offered a bunch of movies. One of them was Luke Cage, which he came close to actually making with Laurence Fishburne in the lead. However, it fell through when the director focused his attention on Pulp Fiction.
Tarantino has spoken about the Netflix adaptation, criticizing it for changing the ‘70s setting of the early comics: “I love the way the character was presented so much in the ‘70s. I’m not really that open to a rethinking on who he was. I just think that first issue, that origin issue...was so good, and it was really Marvel’s attempt to try to do a blaxploitation movie vibe as one of their superhero comics...The Luke Cage: Hero for Hire era – that’s the era.”
9 The Wasp in The Avengers
When Joss Whedon was hired to write and direct The Avengers, the MCU’s first big team-up, his script went through “a lot of insane iterations of what might be.” He claims he initially “wrote a huge bunch of pages starring the Wasp” before Kevin Feige told him they wanted to save the character’s MCU debut for a later movie that could focus on her more.
In the end, the Wasp was introduced initially as Hope Van Dyne in Ant-Man and then in her full superhero form in its sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp. Feige probably made the right call. The Avengers was too early to do her character justice.
8 Sam Raimi’s Thor
Back in the 1990s, Sam Raimi was considering directing a movie about Thor. The director was even approached by Stan Lee himself.
He said, “After I did Darkman, Stan Lee called me and was like, ‘Hey, kid, I liked your movie.’ He took me out to lunch and said we should work together. I said I’d like to make a movie about Thor. We worked together writing treatments and took it to Fox and pitched it. And they said, ‘Absolutely no. Comic books don’t make good movies.’” A few years later, he’d prove them all wrong with his hit Spider-Man trilogy.
7 Ray Park’s Iron Fist
Years before Danny Rand entered the MCU’s Netflix-verse, Ray Park was attached to play the character in a movie adaptation. Park has been an avid martial artist since his dad introduced him to it as a kid.
His name might not be particularly recognizable, but he has played major roles in all of our favorite franchises. He played Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (and then reprised his role last year for a surprise cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story), Toad in the X-Men series, Snake-Eyes in both G.I. Joe movies, and Edgar on the cult classic TV drama Heroes.
6 David Hayter’s Black Widow
In 2004, Lionsgate attempted to get a Black Widow movie made about the Natasha Romanova version of the character. David Hayter, the writer of two X-Men movies and Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, was hired to write and direct the movie, but it ultimately fell through.
We still have yet to see a Black Widow solo movie in the MCU, but Scarlett Johansson has played her in a handful of movies and her solo movie is moving forward with the success of Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman proving female-led comic book movies can bust just as many blocks at the box office as male-led ones.
5 Nick Fury in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was the initially exciting and eventually very disappointing big-screen debut of the Silver Surfer. But it was almost the big-screen debut of another Marvel character: Nick Fury. However, Fox didn’t own the rights to that character, so they had to cut him from the script and replace his role in the script with the brand-new military character General Hager.
Hager was described as “an old acquaintance of Reed Richards and one of the major additions to the movie,” and he was played by Andre Braugher (who is now best known as Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Captain Holt), so it wasn’t all bad.
4 Wesley Snipes’ Black Panther
Long before the MCU, Wesley Snipes was interested in starring as T’Challa in a Black Panther movie. He said, “I think Black Panther spoke to me, because he was noble, and he was the antithesis of the stereotypes presented and portrayed about Africans, African history, and the great kingdoms of Africa. It had cultural significance, social significance. It was something that the black community and the white community hadn’t seen before.”
Acclaimed black filmmakers such as Mario Van Peebles and John Singleton were approached for the film. However, Snipes ran into issues with funding a big-budget superhero movie with a black lead – especially since the studios hadn’t heard of the character and thought he was pitching a movie about the Black Panther Party.
3 Guillermo del Toro’s Doctor Strange
There were a bunch of attempts to adapt Doctor Strange for the big screen throughout the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s. The earliest draft was written by Back to the Future co-writer Bob Gale, while David S. Goyer worked on a few different incarnations of the movie. Bernie Brillstein and Brad Grey, the producing team behind The Sopranos, were on board to produce a Doctor Strange movie at one point.
The closest it came to happening before Scott Derrickson and Benedict Cumberbatch brought the character to the MCU was a 2007 pitch by Guillermo del Toro, who would direct, and fantasy writer Neil Gaiman, who would provide the script. Their pitch involved the female villain Clea and it would have been pretty trippy stuff.
2 Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man
Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man is one of the most well-known unmade MCU movies. He left the project due to creative differences, as they all do, and we’re left with dreams of what could’ve been.
Wright described his treatment for the movie’s plot as “a prologue where you see Pym as Ant-Man in action in the ‘60s, in sort of Tales to Astonish mode, basically, and then the contemporary, sort of flash-forward, is Scott Lang’s story, and how he comes to acquire the suit, how he crosses paths with Hank Pym, and then, in an interesting sort of Machiavellian way, teams up with him.” Peyton Reed directed the eventual film, which fit in with the MCU’s house style more than Wright’s would have, and was pretty good.
1 Nick Cassavetes’ Iron Man
After directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Joss Whedon were approached to direct an Iron Man movie, Nick Cassavetes was eventually hired by New Line Cinema. Both Nicolas Cage and Tom Cruise expressed interest in taking the lead role, with Cruise even interested in producing.
Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, and David Hayter all worked on drafts of a screenplay, whose plot revolved around Iron Man having to fight his father Howard Stark, who had taken on the War Machine moniker. In the end, the rights reverted back to Marvel Studios and they decided to make it their first independent movie in a long-term plan to build their own interconnected franchise.