Superhero movies have been all the rage for a number of years now, with 6 or 7 being released every year and totally dominating the box office as well as popular culture.
While a number of things have had a hand in helping bring this genre to the forefront of American cinema, casting the right actor for the part has always played the biggest role in bringing these comic book characters to life. Whether it’s Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, or Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, it’s safe to say casting the right person has proven essential for adapting these beloved characters for the big screen.
Would The Dark Knight have taken off like it did if it weren’t for Heath Ledger’s career-defining performance as The Joker? Would the 1978 Superman be so beloved if it weren’t for the perfect casting of Christopher Reeve? Would the MCU have been so successful if Iron Man had failed due to miserable casting?
While the casting for superhero movies tends to generally be pretty on point, there were many times when things very nearly ended up a lot differently. Here are 15 casting rumours that nearly ruined superhero movies.
15. Joaquin Phoenix as Doctor Strange
While it does seem a little bit unfair to say that Joaquin Phoenix would’ve ruined Doctor Strange, you’ve got to remember just how incredibly important it is in an already-established Marvel Cinematic Universe that the newest character be cast right to win fans over from the get-go.
Having given terrific performances in films such as The Master and Her, Phoenix is clearly an incredible actor, but he just doesn’t seem to fit the role of a cocky-yet-likable superhero.
That’s a fine line to walk as it is and there’s something about Benedict Cumberbatch in the role that makes the character feel more likable and humourous, while it’s hard to imagine Phoenix pulling off some of the quippy dialogue and one-liners to the desired effect.
14. Jake Gyllenhaal as Spider-Man
During pre-production of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, Tobey Maguire was nursing a pre-existing back problem made worse by the constant horse-riding on the set of Seabiscuit and, in the event that his first-choice actor not be able to reprise his role as the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, Raimi turned to Gyllenhaal as a back up option.
As it turned out, Maguire was determined to play the part of the web-slinger again and recovered from his injury quicker than expected.
From there, Gyllenhaal went on to star in the critically-acclaimed Brokeback Mountain the year after. Again, another brilliant actor and one we certainly wouldn’t want to be too harsh on, but it’s rarely a good move to change your lead actor after the first installment of a trilogy.
13. John Krasinski as Captain America
It’s fair to say that the character of Captain America is rather a serious one, so a pretty strange move it would’ve been to cast the lead with someone best known for comedic roles in things such as The Office.
While Krasinski has actually gone on to star in serious roles and prove his abilities as a dramatic actor, this would’ve been his first major departure from comedy.
It probably wouldn’t have instilled the fans with too much confidence if it was to play Captain America in a franchise bound to see him starring in multiple movies. It’s hard looking back to see anyone other than Chris Evans playing the iconic role, and while he had done comedy in Scott Pilgrim vs The World, he had also proved his acting chops in more serious roles and even played a superhero already in the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four films as Human Torch.
12. Asa Butterfield as Spider-Man
The young actor has worked under Martin Scorsese so clearly there’s not much wrong with him as an actor, but for this role in particular?
I think it’s safe to say that just about everyone is happy Tom Holland got the part.
The role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man is a difficult one to play, as we hear all the time with constant criticisms of both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, the former being praised for his portrayal as Parker but not as Spider-Man, and the latter the other way round.
Not many actors are able to convincingly play the geeky, vulnerable and lovable Peter Parker while also being able to convincingly play the cheeky, wise-cracking, action-heavy role of Spider-Man, and it’s hard to see Butterfield doing the role justice.
11. Viggo Mortensen as Wolverine
Because of the perfect casting of Hugh Jackman, it’s hard to see anybody playing the role even nearly as well, but Viggo Mortensen came close after being asked to play the part and turning it down due to scheduling issues.
While he’s no stranger to playing a bad-ass, having portrayed the character of Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there’s a certain physicality that needs to be brought to the role of Wolverine.
Honestly, it’s impossible to imagine Mortensen bringing it as well as Jackman. Wolverine is a very angry, damaged character and while Mortensen’s role in Lord of the Rings shares elements of the X-Man, we’re not convinced the Dane could’ve pulled off the sheer brutality of the character.
10. Glenn Howerton as Star-Lord
The It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia actor was in serious talks at one point to play Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord.
While on the surface this may seem like it could’ve proven to be a good bit of casting, the more you think about it the more you realize it probably wouldn’t have been.
Glenn Howerton is a solid actor and one who knows how to deliver humourous lines for sure, but a fair portion of Guardians of the Galaxy rested on the shoulders of Star-Lord, and we’re not that confident that Howerton could quite carry a film like this (yes they’re a team, but Star-Lord’s the access point and essentially the leader).
Another problem here is that, while not the least charismatic actor on the planet at all, Howerton doesn’t even come close to Chris Pratt when it comes to just naturally oozing charm and charisma, but then again, not many do.
9. Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man in the MCU
While this entry might seem a bit like cheating and we love certain elements of Garfield’s Spider-Man, overall he isn’t comic-accurate enough, nor young enough, to play the webhead in the MCU.
Tom Holland’s contract is for six films, and is likely to be extended, with the webhead almost certain to get more than his own trilogy of films.
Marvel President Kevin Feige has said he wants to do with Spider-Man what J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter and have him go up a school year with each film and have the stories and villains get darker as they go on.
8. Ashton Kutcher as Batman
When Christopher Nolan was casting Batman Begins, there were a lot of rumours circulating that Kutcher might be the man to don the famous cape and cowl. Similar to John Krasinski as Captain America, Ashton Kutcher was known back then for comedic performances in movies such as Dude, Where’s My Car? and the TV series That 70’s Show.
In addition to his comedic reputation, it’s hard to imagine a then-young Kutcher being able to bulk up enough to have the build and physical presence of Batman.
Guy Pearce was also in serious discussion for the role at around the same time as Kutcher, but Kutcher was the favoured choice for Warner Bros., which is crazy when you think of the upward trajectory Pearce’s career was on, having starred in L.A. Confidential and Memento, and that he’d previously collaborated with Nolan on the latter. In the end they went with Christian Bale, which was definitely the right choice.
7. Vin Diesel as Black Bolt
Back when Inhumans seemed like it was going to be Marvel’s next big team-up hit in the MCU after The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy (which he was also in, having provided the voice and motion capture for Groot), Vin Diesel was favourite to play the character of Black Bolt.
Black Bolt’s voice is so devastatingly powerful that the character vows never to speak. A role with no dialogue would require a particular kind of actor (as we saw just recently with Sally Hawkins expertly playing the mute protagonist in The Shape of Water).
Vin Diesel, let’s face it, is not the style of actor who could portray someone without a voice.
6. Jack Black as Green Lantern
The story goes that originally DC were going for a more light-hearted and humorous tone for the character, before ultimately ditching Black and giving the role to Ryan Reynolds when they decided they wanted it to be more serious after all (we don’t know either).
Of course, we know now how the film went down and ultimately it doesn’t look like JB missed out on all that much.
However, when asked if he was going to be getting a second chance at playing the character now that Reynolds is busy portraying Deadpool instead, Black responded with “Yeah, they’re not going to call me.”
Despite Black’s physical comedic performances in films like School of Rock and Nacho Libre, where he shows lots of energy, it’s still difficult to see him doing action scenes and performing superhero-like stunts, though maybe that was the joke in the first place.
5. Nicolas Cage as Superman
There’s a certain stigma surrounding Nicolas Cage due to roles in movies like Deadfall and The Wicker Man, as well as his place in popular culture as a bit of a living meme.
There’s simply no way that people would take the character of Superman seriously when played by Nicolas Cage.
Despite the film – entitled Superman Lives – having never gotten made (though a full screenplay was written for it), there does exist a documentary called The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened?, which was gained predominantly positive reviews, with IGN awarding it a score of 8 out of 10.
Ultimately Superman is an other-worldly being with God-like powers, yet who is a hero to people on Earth, and when Nicolas Cage is on-screen, it’s hard to see his character behind, well, Nicolas Cage.
4. Tom Hiddleston as Thor
Yes, before Tom Hiddleston landed the part of Loki, the God of Mischief and brother to Thor, the actor originally wanted to play the hero, not the villain.
There are a number of reasons why Hiddleston doesn’t fit the role of Thor, the most notable perhaps being his physique.
While we’ve seen actors get into shape for roles, and even for superhero roles like Christian Bale did for Batman Begins, the transformation that Hiddleston would have needed to make would have taken years to complete, if possible at all. Physique aside, he doesn’t have the deep, God-like voice of the character either.
Despite these and any other reasons you may not fancy him for the role, the reason apparently given to him for why he didn’t get him was because they thought he’d make a better villain, and we’re glad they saw that in him.
3. Matthew McConaughey as Captain America
Marvel President Kevin Feige has previously stated that Captain America was the hardest character to cast and along the way many, many actors were considered for the part, including Matthew McConaughey.
Now a revered actor having starred in recent hits such as Mud, Dallas Buyers Club and Interstellar, it’s hard to imagine that there was a time when McConaughey was considered a bit of a laughing stock in the acting world, having taken on a string of bad projects and seemingly lost his way, not to mention his age.
Although now a proven actor, it has to be said that the physical role of a soldier-turned-superhero doesn’t seem to be up McConaughey’s alley.
2. Bill Murray as Batman
Rumour has it that Tim Burton was originally interested in Bill Murray as the Caped Crusader before he even did Ghostbusters. Look, we’re huge fans. Who isn’t?
But a deadly serious crime-fighting vigilante is almost the furthest thing from the roles he went on to play in actuality.
Actors in the past have surprised us and shown us a side of them that we didn’t know was there, but Murray isn’t exactly known for his physique, let alone a damaged, out-for-justice rage machine.
In fairness, because of his cocky charm and arrogance, it’s not quite so difficult to imagine Murray playing Bruce Wayne, but even then he’d have to change his appearance a lot and we just can’t see it.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Captain America
Yes really. This is not a joke.
There was a time when Arnold Schwarzenegger was really a major contender for the part of Steve Rogers/Captain America.
Now I should state that when Arnie was in contention for this part, it wasn’t for the recent role of the super soldier, it was back before the 1990 Captain America movie was cast. But still, Captain America, played by a guy with a blatant Austrian accent?
Yes, he’s got the body for the role, but that’s really about it. While this really would’ve ruined the movie (if you can ruin a movie that was already ruined), we’d actually kind of like to see it.
Are there any of these you’d actually like to see? Let us know in the comments!
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