One of the main areas of praise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is its casting. No one could play Tony Stark better than Robert Downey, Jr., no one could play Steve Rogers better than Chris Evans etc. All of the credit for this pitch-perfect casting goes to Sarah Finn, who has cast every single MCU entry.
But the team has never landed on the perfect casting choice with the first try (except for casting J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man: Far From Home, since that one was a no-brainer). So, here are 10 Actors Who Were Almost Cast In Iconic MCU Roles.
10 Danny DeVito as Rocket
In the early stages of development on Guardians of the Galaxy, director James Gunn apparently met with Danny DeVito to discuss the possibility of DeVito voicing Rocket in the movie. (Gunn was also reportedly considering DeVito’s Always Sunny co-star Glenn Howerton for the role of Peter Quill.)
Bradley Cooper plays Rocket with a thick New York accent, which helps to distract from the fact that it’s Cooper’s voice, making Rocket stand on his own as a character. However, DeVito would’ve likely played Rocket with his distinctive New Jersey accent, so it probably would’ve been hard not to see Danny DeVito.
9 Timothée Chalamet as Spider-Man
When it came to recasting the role of Peter Parker, giving the moviegoing public its third Spider-Man in a decade, Marvel looked at a ton of different actors. Arguably, they landed on the perfect choice with Tom Holland, who has since been praised as the best live-action incarnation of Spidey we’ve ever had.
But it’s interesting to think how differently the MCU’s Spidey stories could’ve turned out with a different actor in the role. Marvel reportedly narrowed down their shortlist to include Logan Lerman, The Walking Dead’s Chandler Riggs, Asa Butterfield, and Call Me By Your Name star Timothée Chalamet.
8 Emily Blunt as Black Widow
Emily Blunt has actually been offered two MCU roles (Natasha Romanoff and Peggy Carter), both in Phase 1. She turned down one due to scheduling conflicts and the other due to fears of committing herself to a decade’s worth of movies.
Looking back on it, Blunt doesn’t regret turning down the roles, because the way she sees it, there are plenty of interesting projects she’s made in the past decade – Edge of Tomorrow, A Quiet Place, Mary Poppins Returns etc. – that she wouldn’t have been able to make if she was tied to the MCU. Then again, Scarlett Johansson has found plenty of time for other projects between Black Widow appearances.
7 Amandla Stenberg as Shuri
The Hate U Give star Amandla Stenberg, who has been on Hollywood’s radar ever since her breakout role as Rue in The Hunger Games franchise, auditioned to play Shuri, T’Challa’s tech genius sister, in Ryan Coogler’s critically acclaimed Black Panther.
Interestingly, Stenberg decided to withdraw herself from consideration for the role, as she felt it would be inappropriate for a light-skinned biracial actor to play an African character. Of course, the role of Shuri ended up going to Letitia Wright, who knocked it out of the park. But there’s no doubt that Stenberg would’ve also done a great job with the character.
6 Joaquin Phoenix as Doctor Strange
Marvel’s first choice for the role of Doctor Strange in the MCU was Joaquin Phoenix, but the actor was reluctant to make the multi-movie commitment required by the franchise. That was actually what drew him to the Joker movie. He could do a comic book movie without dedicating himself to making a litany of sequels and crossovers for a decade or so afterward.
Benedict Cumberbatch has been doing a fine job of playing Stephen Strange in the MCU, but he’s characterized him as a sort of second-rate Tony Stark. Phoenix probably would’ve had an original and unique take on Strange.
5 Mel Gibson as Odin
Before casting the much more suitable Anthony Hopkins, Kenneth Branagh – director of 2011’s original Thor movie – wanted to cast Mel Gibson as Odin. Anthony Hopkins brought a regal elegance to Odin that not many actors could match, including (probably) Mel Gibson.
When Odin was scorning Thor, enchanting his hammer and removing his powers, it’s easy to take him seriously. And then, when he’s playing moments with more levity (“Are you Thor, god of hammers?”), he’s hilarious. As talented an actor as Gibson may be, it’s hard to imagine him showing the range of emotions that Hopkins explored with the role.
4 John Krasinski as Captain America
In the initial pre-production stages of the MCU’s Phase 1, John Krasinski – who, back then, was known only for playing Jim in The Office – was seriously considered for the role of Captain America. Chris Evans has proven in countless beautifully performed scenes that he was the perfect choice to play Steve Rogers.
Krasinski has said in the years since that he has mixed feelings about letting the role slip through his fingers, but he wouldn’t have been able to direct and star in A Quiet Place if he was playing Cap and he’s happy with how Evans played the role.
3 Saoirse Ronan as Scarlet Witch
When Joss Whedon was casting Scarlet Witch to join Earth’s mightiest heroes in Avengers: Age of Ultron, he initially approached Saoirse Ronan before settling on Elizabeth Olsen. Reports have it that Ronan was offered the part, but turned it down.
Ronan has managed to become a huge star on her own merits with roles in acclaimed small-scale indie darlings like Lady Bird, Brooklyn, and How I Live Now. Scarlet Witch has never been a particularly interesting MCU player, but this isn’t Olsen’s fault – the writing has consistently let the character down. Hopefully, her upcoming team-up with Doctor Strange can turn that around.
2 Amanda Seyfried as Gamora
In a recent interview, when Amanda Seyfried was asked about joining the vast world of comic book movies, she said that she was called about a big blockbuster that she turned down.
She didn’t specifically say that she was offered the role of Gamora in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, but she did say that she turned it down because she didn’t want to spend six months of every year in green makeup, and Gamora is the only character in the MCU that requires that. Seyfried is a talented performer, but it’s hard to imagine anyone besides Zoe Saldana nailing the role of Gamora quite like she has.
1 Tom Cruise as Iron Man
Rumors have been so persistent that Tom Cruise was Marvel’s original top choice to play Iron Man that a widely circulated DeepFake Theater video has actually plastered the Mission: Impossible star’s face over Robert Downey, Jr.’s in a montage of iconic MCU moments.
Back when the MCU was in its infancy, Downey was considered to be a risky casting choice, which sounds crazy now that he’s the highest-earning actor in Hollywood, so Cruise probably would’ve been a safer bet. Cruise is one of action cinema’s most charismatic and daring stars, but there’s no better actor for the role of Tony Stark than Downey.