Several years before Hugo Weaving donned heavy amounts of prosthetics to portray fiendish Captain America archenemy Red Skull, there was discussion about featuring the HYDRA head (no pun intended) as an antagonist in The Avengers. In fact, the same year Zak Penn was hired to begin work on a script uniting Earth's Mightiest Heroes (before Joss Whedon took over), Weaving was appearing in the final installments of two blockbuster trilogies, The Matrix and Lord of the Rings.
The actor intends to move away from tentpole fare and stretch his acting muscles further, playing no less than six characters of different ethnicity and gender in next week's buzzed-about release, Cloud Atlas (from Matrix directors Andy and Lana Wachowski). Of course, Weaving is reprising his role as Lord Elrond in LOTR director Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy and has a multi-picture deal with Marvel, so his franchise days aren't behind him just yet.
Weaving was in person at the press day for Cloud Atlas, where he discussed reuniting with Jackson for a three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. As it were, he's on the same page as everyone else, as far as his knowledge of the inner-workings of Jackson's project is concerned (via Collider):
"I found out The Hobbit was going to be a trilogy quite recently, when everyone else found out about it. Originally, when I said goodbye to Pete [Jackson] in L.A., I said, “I’ll see you on The Hobbit,” and he said, “Well, I’m not doing The Hobbit.” And then, it was, “We are doing The Hobbit, but I’m not going to direct it.” And then, it was, “Well, I am directing it now.” And then, it was, “Actually, we’re doing The Hobbit in two films.” So, when I went to shoot it out there, there were two scripts and two films. Now, I’ve just found out [about the trilogy], not that long ago, when it was announced. He said, 'Well, we’ve got all this fabulous material and these wonderful people.'"
The actor revealed that Jackson originally planned to conclude the second Hobbit film with a "final battle sequence," no doubt a reference to the Battle of Five Armies from Tolkien's novel (which was briefly rumored as a subtitle for the third installment). We've speculated the end of the second installment, The Desolation of Smaug, will directly set up that sequence in the finale, There and Back Again; when supplemented with material from Tolkien's appendices for Return of the King, it should allow the film to serve as a bridge, linking Jackson's Middle-earth trilogies (in terms of both narrative and overall tone).
While Weaving (as mentioned) has a contract with Marvel, it does not guarantee the studio will exercise their authority. Moreover, although the writers behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier have confirmed that the sequel will feature flashbacks to Cap's experiences during WW II, the actor doubts his fiery-skinned onscreen counterpart will be part of those proceedings:
"... I don’t think Red Skull will be there. And it’s not something I would want to do again. I’m glad I did [the first 'Captain America']. I did sign up for a number of pictures and I suppose, contractually, I would be obliged to, if [Marvel] forced me to, but they wouldn’t want to force someone to do it, if they didn’t want to. I think I’ve done my dash with that sort of film. It was good to do it and try it out, but to be honest, it’s not the sort of film I seek out and really am excited by. As an actor, to do all sorts of different films is great. It stretches you in different ways. But, I increasingly like to go back to what I used to always do, which is to get involved with projects that I really have a personal affiliation with."
Weaving also mentioned that Red Skull, should he be brought back, is more likely to appear in The Avengers 2 than any future Captain America movies. We know that Thanos is being setup to become the central villain in that film, building on his role in Guardians of the Galaxy and events set in motion by upcoming sequels like Thor: The Dark World. It is feasible that the Mad Titan could cross paths with Johann Schmidt in Whedon's second Avengers movie (in the comics, both use the Cosmic Cube for their own purposes).
Then again, we weren't sure whether or not Red Skull was going to show up in The Avengers until the film's release. Hence, it might be a while before we know for certain about his involvement (or lack thereof) with the story in Avengers 2.
Here is the current schedule for Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Iron Man 3 opens on May 3rd, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8th, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4th, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, 2014 and The Avengers 2 on May 1st, 2015.
Meanwhile, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hits theaters on December 14th, 2012; its sequel, The Desolation of Smaug, follows on December 13th, 2013; and the final installment, There and Back Again, release on July 18th, 2014.