The Marvel Cinematic Universe is filled with great actors, but not everyone got the role they originally auditioned for. Marvel Studios has had incredible success when it comes to casting the MCU. Outside of a few early bits of recasting, they've not only managed to find actors willing to come back for multiple films, but also those that perfectly embody their characters. This is true with taking a risk (at the time) in casting Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man or finding relative unknown actors like Tom Holland to play vital roles.
As the MCU has increased in size and popularity though, that has meant that a wider range of actors want to get involved with the franchise. This is easier said than done for most. Even with multiple movies a year, there are only so many MCU roles to go around. This inevitably means that not every actor who auditions for an MCU movie gets the part they were vying for, especially as multiple actors are considered for each role. And since these roles can sometimes completely change the trajectory of an actor's career, missing out on one is always tough.
With the wide range of actors and actresses that Marvel Studios looks at for each movie though, sometimes the role they audition for just isn't a good fit. This doesn't mean they'll never join the MCU in the future though, as Marvel has a history of coming back to people who they've met with before. As evident by the following entries, there are a lot of current MCU actors who originally auditioned for different roles.
Karen Gillan for Sharon Carter
Now know for playing Nebula in the MCU, Karen Gillan auditioned for another Marvel role a few years prior. As confirmed by Marvel Studios casting director Sarah Finn in a new featurette, during the search to cast Sharon Carter aka Agent 13 in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Gillan met with Marvel and auditioned to be Captain America's new love interest. At the time, Gillan was wrapping up her time on Doctor Who as Amy Pond. Even though this role went to Emily VanCamp instead, Gillan still made her MCU debut in Guardians of the Galaxy the same year The Winter Soldier was released - and wound up landing a larger role.
Chris Pratt for Captain America
Prior to getting cast as Star-Lord, Chris Pratt was originally in the running to be one of the MCU's original heroes. Sarah Finn has confirmed that he first auditioned for Marvel Studios to play Captain America. Pratt was still in the early years of his time on Parks and Recreation when this casting process was taking place. He had also yet to try his hand at dramatic work like Moneyball or Zero Dark Thirty. Pratt may have missed out on this role once Chris Evans finally decided to accept the part, but it put him on Finn's radar and brought her to recommend him to James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy.
Chadwick Boseman for Drax
It was recently revealed that Chadwick Boseman previously auditioned for Marvel Studios before getting the role of T'Challa. Newly released audition tapes showed Boseman testing for the role of Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy. Boseman would've been fresh off a leading role in 42 as Jackie Robinson at this time. He brought a different approach to the character than what Dave Bautista later found. But, his audition immediately made him come to Sarah Finn's mind when looking to find Black Panther for Captain America: Civil War and beyond.
Lupita Nyong'o for Nebula
Another Black Panther cast member who could've joined the MCU earlier is Lupita Nyong'o. Years prior to getting the role of Nakia in Ryan Coogler's film, it has been confirmed that she auditioned to play Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy. Lupita would've just finished her future Oscar-winning role in 12 Years a Slave at the time of these discussions. With the role eventually going to Karen Gillan, Lupita was then still available to join the MCU when Black Panther moved forward.
Tom Hiddleston for Thor
Instead of playing the villainous Loki in Thor, Tom Hiddleston was originally hoping to play the titular god of thunder. He auditioned for the role and made it very far into the casting process. Marvel did screen tests of him with the blond hair and Mjolnir - which can be found online - but eventually chose Chris Hemsworth to play Thor. But, they were still interested in working with Hiddleston at the time and brought him aboard as Loki instead - kicking off an MCU run that will last at least a decade.
Sebastian Stan for Captain America
Similarly, Sebastian Stan was not originally gunning for the role of Bucky Barnes in Captain America: The First Avenger. He was interested in playing Captain America himself, but Sarah Finn felt that he was bringing a bit of darkness to the role that just wasn't right. Finn was still impressed with what she saw in the former Gossip Girl cast member though and suggested that he could be a great fit for the future Winter Soldier instead. As we know now, he got that role and will be part of the MCU longer than Chris Evans.
Sam Rockwell for Iron Man
We also know that Sam Rockwell could've been the one to kick start the entire MCU. He originally was in consideration to play Tony Stark himself in Iron Man. Director Jon Favreau was interested in his take on the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, but eventually zeroed in on Robert Downey Jr. for the part. But, Favreau's interest in Rockwell playing Tony is what led him to circle back around to the actor for the role of Tony Stark wannabe Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2.
Lee Pace for Star-Lord
Lee Pace is another MCU villain actor who almost landed the lead role in the same film. Instead of playing Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy, Pace originally was up for the role of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord. He was part of an early shortlist for the role that included Joel Edgerton, Jim Sturgess, Jack Huston, and Eddie Redmayne. Pace openly confirmed this was true in the lead-up to his actual audition in late 2012. But, when Chris Pratt got the role instead, Marvel came back to the Hobbit actor to play the Kree foe.
Mads Mikkelsen for Malekith
There was also a time when Mads Mikkelsen was going to join the MCU long before playing Kaecilius in Doctor Strange. Back in 2012, he was in contention to play Malekith in Thor: The Dark World. Mikkelsen was in deep discussions with Marvel Studios for the role - to the point where concept art of him as Malekith was made - but the deal fell through due to timing and Hannibal. Marvel then found Christopher Eccleston to play the role a few weeks later and circled back around to Mikkelsen down the road for Doctor Strange.
Michael B. Jordan for Falcon
Michael B. Jordan recently captivated audiences with his portrayal of Erik Killmonger in Black Panther, but he tried to play an MCU hero several years before. He's revealed in interviews that he auditioned for the role of Sam Wilson aka Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This would've been when he had just finished movies like Chronicle and Fruitvale Station. It's easy to imagine him in the role and eventually taking the Captain America mantle, but that has instead been a role for Anthony Mackie to fill.
Anthony Mackie for Mandarin
Speaking of Anthony Mackie, he could've been ineligible to play Falcon in the first place if his prior MCU audition worked out. He recently revealed that he screen-tested for the role of "The Mandarin" in Iron Man 3. This process didn't end with him in the role, as Ben Kingsley played Trevor Slattery pretending to be The Mandarin, but he did catch Marvel's eye. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo and producer Nate Moore liked what they saw and began talking to him about playing Falcon instead.
Zachary Levi for Star-Lord
In one of the rarer cases on this list, Zachary Levi auditioned for another MCU role after he already had one. Levi joined the MCU as Fandral - replacing Josh Dallas - in 2013's Thor: The Dark World, but he then was up for the role of Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy. He had a screen test for the part and was "amazing" according to a recent post by James Gunn, which is why Gunn recommended Levi for the lead role in Shazam!.
Michael Rosenbaum for Star-Lord
We also know that Michael Rosenbaum auditioned to play Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy as well. He's a close friend to James Gunn and was asked by him to give his take on the role. Rosenbaum was just a few years removed from wrapping his time on Smallville as the best Lex Luthor ever seen. With the role of Star-Lord passing him by though, Gunn returned to Rosenbaum to play Martinex in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Jake Gyllenhaal for Doctor Strange
Before he was cast as Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home, Jake Gyllenhaal was one of many actors on the reported shortlist to play the eventual Sorcerer Supreme in Doctor Strange. It has never been reported how far into the process Gyllenhaal made it though, so he could've simply just been approached or have had a formal audition and screen test. But, even though he didn't get to play that Marvel magician, he was clearly someone on Marvel's radar and could've played a part in his recent MCU villainous role.
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 (2021) release date: Jul 16, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Black Panther 2 (2022) release date: May 06, 2022