It’s no secret that Warner Bros. has been trying to get a Justice League movie off the ground for quite some time. After Mad Max director George Miller’s infamously doomed attempt was canceled back in 2008, the studio elected to focus on solo adventures for their superheroes. While The Dark Knight Trilogy was a smash hit with critics and fans alike, films like Superman Returns and Green Lantern opened to decidedly mixed results. But with the success of their 2013 film Man of Steel, the door was finally opened for Warner Bros. to introduce their roster of DC superheroes in a shared universe (officially named the DC Expanded Universe, or DCEU) that could rival that of Marvel’s.
At the helm of the DCEU is director Zack Snyder, whose highly-anticipated film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice should lead directly into Justice League Part One, which has a planned November 2017 release date. There have been more than a few bumps along the way however, as nearly every casting decision Snyder and the other creative minds at Warner Bros. have made has been second-guessed and scrutinized by the masses.
Like many before him, Snyder is limited by the talent and technology of his time. But what if he wasn’t? In this completely hypothetical scenario, we take a look at a few ideal candidates, from both past and present, to play the principal members of DC’s most powerful superhero team. Some of the selected actors saw their opportunity to play a superhero pass them by only a few short years ago, while others are decades removed from being viable choices for their roles. A few are simply under contract with Marvel, and are therefore ineligible to sign with DC.
Regardless, none of the following actors are serious candidates for their respective roles. But it sure would be awesome if they were. Here is our list of 13 Justice League Dream Castings That We’ll Never Get to See.
Kicking things off is the Dark Knight himself, and who better to play him than the man with no name? Since the cult-classic series Batman Beyond first premiered back in 1999, fans couldn’t help but think that the show runners had Eastwood in the back of their minds when coming up with their elderly version of Bruce Wayne.
With the DCEU just getting off the ground however, fans shouldn’t hold their breath for a Beyond adaptation, as it’s highly unlikely that we’ll get such a film in Eastwood’s lifetime. But with the right sort of time-traveling technology—or a dip in the rejuvenating waters of the Lazarus Pit—Eastwood would undoubtedly have been an excellent Caped Crusader back in his Dirty Harry years. The 6’4 actor would have cut an imposing figure in the cape and cowl, and has always possessed the requisite talent and gravitas for the part. Eastwood as Batman would be badass incarnate.
13 Angelina Jolie as Wonder Woman
One of the great actresses of our time, Jolie has enjoyed a 20+ year career, taking on a wide range of characters. She’s seemingly done it all, from playing a sociopathic mental patient in Girl, Interrupted (for which she received an Academy Award) to playing a misunderstood Disney villainess in last summer’s Maleficent. Her talent is unquestionable, as is her ability to pull off the fierce, warrior woman nature that goes hand in hand with DC’s first superheroine.
Amazons don’t really age, so Jolie’s ideal time period for taking on the role came and went over a decade ago. For now, fans should rest easy with the promising and widely-held belief that Batman v Superman will introduce a Wonder Woman fans will truly love. Still, one can’t help but wonder what might have been had she been given the opportunity to wield the Lasso of Truth and the Bracelets of Submission.
12 Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
Of all the actors on this list, Fillion would likely be the first to volunteer his services. Having served as the voice actor for Jordan in four animated movies to date, it’s safe to say Fillion is a fan of the character. The star of ABC’s Castle is a fixture at comic conventions, and remains one of the most underutilized talents working today.
Like Jolie, Fillion has likely aged out of his chance at playing a superhero. Ideally, Fillion would have been gifted a shot at Jordan shortly after his stint on the famously short-lived Fox series, Firefly. The 44-year-old may never get a crack at a major superhero role, but surely fans would settle for a few more episodes of Joss Whedon’s beloved cult classic space western.
11 Carl Weathers as Green Lantern (John Stewart)
Many Justice League fans still associate Stewart with the Green Lantern mantle rather than Hal Jordan, thanks to the hyper-popular animated series that aired in the early 2000’s, in which Stewart was a principal member. DC’s first black superhero is an architect/former Marine hailing from Detroit, and his demeanor clearly reflects his background.
Back in his heyday as an action star, Weathers embodied the characteristics of Stewart in many of his films. He would have been a natural fit to serve as the protector of Sector 2814 once upon a time, assuming he brought that legendary mustache along for the ride of course.
10 Neil Patrick Harris as The Flash
Harris has achieved worldwide fame for his role as Barney Stinson on the long-running CBS comedy, How I Met Your Mother, but has mostly been relegated to smaller parts on the big screen. Like Fillion, Harris has done a bit of voice work in DC’s animated adventures, portraying Dick Grayson in Batman: Under the Red Hood and Barry Allen himself in Justice League: The New Frontier.
The 42 year old actor is roughly a decade removed from being a legitimate contender for the Scarlet Speedster, but there’s no question that he would have been an excellent candidate to convey the wit and charm of Allen. As the current TV iteration of The Flash speeds towards its second season and Ezra Miller, the DCEU’s Flash, looks to hit the ground running in Batman v Superman (both puns fully intended), fans will soon have about as much of the Flash as they can handle. Despite all this, few would argue that Harris wouldn’t have made for a wonderful Justice Leaguer. Chalk this one up to a missed opportunity.
9 Chris Hemsworth as Aquaman
Frankly, this one requires very little imagination. The world knows Hemsworth as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Asgardian God of Thunder, Thor. Having knocked the role out of the park in four films to date, the 32 year old Australian has come to personify the character in almost every conceivable way. But if DC had kicked off their shared universe a few years earlier, and had the foresight to cast Hemsworth as their Aquaman before Marvel snatched him up, it’s easy to see how well the actor would have handled the role.
8 Patrick Warburton as Shazam
Perhaps best known as the voice behind Joe Swanson on FOX’s Family Guy, Warburton has put together a solid career for himself on the small screen. The former Seinfeld guest star even has some superhero experience on his resume, starring as the titular character in the short-lived FOX sitcom The Tick back in 2001. The 6’3 actor certainly possessed the look of the man formerly known as Captain Marvel in his days as Elaine Benes’ on-again, off-again boyfriend, and his comedic skills would have been put to good use as a 12 year old boy in a superhero’s body.
We still don’t know when exactly the Shazam movie will be arriving in theaters—despite assurances from Black Adam himself that it will be sooner rather than later—but we do know that whoever signs on to play the world’s mightiest mortal has a tall task ahead of him. If only, Mr. Warburton, if only.
7 Cary Elwes as Green Arrow
The dashing Englishman was something of an icon in the late ‘80s thanks to his starring turn in the Rob Reiner classic, The Princess Bride. His star has faded a bit in the years since, but Elwes has stayed busy, playing the lead in the original Saw film and landing recurring roles in shows like The X-Files and Psych.
He’s no stranger to the comic book world either, providing the voice of Aquaman in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and appearing in the doomed NBC pilot Wonder Woman as Henry Detmer, the day-to-day operations manager of Diana Prince’s company, Themyscira Industries (shudder). But there’s no denying that the self-professed DC fan’s ideal Justice League role is that of Oliver Queen, Star City’s favorite masked vigilante. His role in Mel Brooks’ 1993 film, Robin Hood: Men in Tights proved Elwes’ capabilities with a bow and arrow, if nothing else.
As the hit CW series prepares to enter its fourth season, the Green Arrow’s following has never been greater. The show’s darker take on the Emerald Archer is very different than the more light-hearted tone Elwes would have likely chosen to adapt for the role. But who says brooding is a required trait of every Justice Leaguer?
6 Benedict Cumberbatch as Martian Manhunter
Like John Stewart’s Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter (a.k.a. J’onn J’onzz) owes quite a bit of his popularity to the animated series Justice League. Fans have long clamored for a chance to see J’onzz in a live-action film.
While he may feature in the DCEU somewhere down the line, Cumberbatch will almost certainly not be the man to bring him to life. Set to star in Marvel’s Doctor Strange next November, the 39 year old is firmly committed to the MCU for the foreseeable future. While the movie doesn’t enter into production for a few more months, Cumberbatch appears more than ready to get started.
5 Michael B Jordan as Cyborg
The voice actor behind Victor Stone in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox was a popular fan choice for a number of live-action comic book roles, but when he was cast as Johnny Storm (a traditionally white character) in the Fantastic Four reboot early last year, the Internet went bananas. The backlash was largely unfounded of course, especially given the level of talent Jordan has displayed throughout his young career.
Though Fox has yet to officially cancel plans for an F4 sequel, few expect to ever see a follow-up to the critical/commercial bomb. Availability likely won’t be an issue, but fans hoping to see Jordan don a different pair of superhero tights (or cybernetic armor, in this case) shouldn’t hold their breath. F4 was an unmitigated disaster that almost certainly left a bad taste in the mouths of everyone involved. Don’t shed any tears for Jordan, though. He appears to be well down the road to recovery.
4 Zoe Saldana as Hawkgirl
A hugely popular actress amongst fanboys for her roles in Avatar and the Star Trek series, Saldana would be an ideal candidate for any version of Hawkgirl the DCEU chose to incorporate into their shared universe. If she wasn’t already locked into Marvel’s, that is. The 37 year old is already signed on to reprise her role as Gamora in the 2017 sequel to last summer’s breakout hit, Guardians of the Galaxy. Saldana has demonstrated her worth as an action star several times over, but it’s her controversial casting in the upcoming Nina Simone biopic that has Hollywood buzzing. A strong showing could allow Saldana to take the next step as an actress, leaving Hawkgirl fans wondering “what if?”
Hawkgirl would likely prove to be a worthy addition to the male-dominated superhero world, but her presence in The CW’s upcoming DC’s Legends of Tomorrow series would seem to indicate that the DCEU has no plans to use the character anytime soon.
3 Brandon Lee as Nightwing
The son of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee was well on his way to carving out a name for himself in the acting world before he was tragically killed on the set of the 1994 film, The Crow. The multitude of sequels and reboot attempts are themselves a testament to the fine performance the 28 year old gave in his final film role.
While Nightwing certainly isn’t considered to be among the primary members of the Justice League, he’s served on the team on several occasions in the past. A rumored appearance in Batman v Superman has the original Boy Wonder back in the headlines, although that may only come in a flashback sequence and may not even be Dick Grayson. Regardless, Batman’s first sidekick remains a hugely popular character, and Lee would have been a perfect fit for the part.
2 Jon Hamm as Superman
After years of working as a struggling actor, Hamm broke out in a big way in 2007 with his starring role as advertising executive Don Draper in AMC’s Mad Men. Now a household name, Hamm has been a fan-favorite for a number of superhero roles; most notably, Superman. Despite referring to the genre as “a young man’s game” in interviews, fans held out hope for his casting in Man of Steel right up until Henry Cavill officially landed the part in January of 2011.
With memorable appearances in films like The Town and Bridesmaids, Hamm’s career certainly hasn’t suffered as a result of missing out on his chance to portray the Last Son of Krypton. Surely though, had Zack Snyder elected to bring an older, more experienced Superman to the big screen, Hamm’s name would have been at the top of the list.
The 44 year old Missouri native can currently be seen on Netflix’s latest hit series, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.
That concludes our list of actors that we feel would have been ideal candidates for a Justice League film. The minds behind DC’s shared universe have made their share of controversial casting decisions thus far, but perhaps these actors would have eased the concerns of fans to a certain degree.
What are your hopes for the live-action Justice League film? Do you feel that the actors on our list are well-suited for their roles, or are you more comfortable with what DC currently has in place? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be in theaters on March 25th, 2016; Suicide Squad on August 5th,2016; Wonder Woman — June 23rd, 2017; Justice League — November 17th, 2017; The Flash — March 23rd, 2018; Aquaman — July 27th, 2018; Shazam — April 5th, 2019; Justice League 2 — June 14th, 2019; Cyborg — April 3rd, 2020; Green Lantern — June 19th, 2020.