We always hear about the actors who love the comic book character they play. These are the actors who are massive comic book fans and can’t stop talking about it. We know how hard Ryan Reynolds pushed to get Deadpool going. We know how much he loves the character. Since he’s played two and a half superheroes in four separate comic book movies, most people would just assume that he likes comic books. Many of you know about Nicolas Cage, who, well before he ever became Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider, was a massive comic book geek. He was known to have one of the best comic book collections; his own stage name “Cage” is from Luke Cage, and one of his sons is named Kal-El after the birth name of Superman. Dude likes comic books.
With the surplus of comic book movies and TV shows, there will come a time soon when almost every working actor has played in a comic book movie. We’re going to see a bunch of interviews with actors that love comic books and can’t believe they’re living out a dream.
But what about those who don’t read comic books? Where are they at? Are there any actors who don’t like comic books? Yes, there are. As each year brings more and more comic books and their characters into film and television, this list will continue to grow. So let’s look at the actors who have played superheroes in a movie or a TV show but didn’t read the comic books. Maybe, if we’re lucky, it will give us some indication about their performances. Maybe only comic book fans can play their characters brilliantly. Oh wait, never mind. We already forgot about The Green Lantern, Wolverine: Origins, Blade III, Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider 2. At least Deadpool was good. Here are 15 actors who play superheroes but never read the comics.
15. Mickey Rourke – Whiplash in Iron Man 2
Mickey Rourke, who played the villain Whiplash in Iron Man 2, is not a fan of Marvel. He’s said it on numerous occasions. It doesn’t help that his experience in shooting “mindless comic book movies” was a nightmare for him. In an interview about his character, he said, “[W]hen I did Ivan Vanko in Iron Man, I fought… You know, I explained to Justin Theroux, to the writer, and to [Jon] Favreau, that I wanted to bring some other layers and colors [to the character], not just make this Russian a complete murderous revenging bad guy. And they allowed me to do that. Unfortunately, the [people] at Marvel just wanted a one-dimensional bad guy, so most of the performance ended up the floor.” Maybe Rourke does read comics today, but we can guarantee he isn’t reading Marvel comics.
14. Edward Norton – Bruce Banner/The Hulk in The Incredible Hulk
There’s a line between graphic novels and comics; it can be a fine line or a bold one, depending on who you ask. Edward Norton, the man who played the Hulk in The Incredible Hulk, sees the two mediums as vastly different. He enjoys the dark and seriousness of Frank Miller-type graphic novels, nothing like the more light-hearted Marvel franchise of which he was a part of. Here’s exactly what he had to say: “I grew up on all the graphic novels. Frank Miller. I was obsessed with that stuff, so I think it’s this rich pool of stuff that’s become almost, y’know, a whole modern-day canon of mythic stories for a lot of us, and we kind of all sit around hoping that someone’s gonna make a film—make films out of that type of material that captures how serious it felt for us at that time in our life when—because nobody read comics because they’re cartoonish. They read them because they’re dark and serious and long. That’s what was great about the best ones.” This makes it seem like Norton might have been happier playing out a DC character if he had to be in comic books.
13. Idris Elba – Heimdall in Thor
Has Idris Elba come out and said that he doesn’t read Marvel comic books? No, not exactly. He did, however, speak begrudgingly about playing the character Heimdall, in the Thor series of films. He seems to treat Marvel movies as lesser than other films, such as Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. When he was called back in to do some final shots for Thor: The Dark World, he had this to say: “24 hours ago, I was Mandela… Then there I was, in this stupid harness, with this wig and this sword and these contact lenses. It ripped my heart out.” While he says that these quotes were misquoted or the product of sloppy journalism, it does sound like the fantastical elements of the comic book world are things that he is not interested in, to say the least. Maybe he does read them and just scowls the entire time.
12. Jim Carrey – Colonel Stars & Stripes in Kick-Ass
It’s safe to say that Jim Carrey is not a fan of the Kick-Ass comics. Perhaps he was at some point, but things changed after the Sandy Hook shootings, and Carrey’s hard stance on gun control seemed to leak into his outlook on violence in film, which is odd considering his profession. He said, “my character is a guy that came from a violent background who is trying to turn it around and he uses a gun with no bullets in it. These are things I am considering now because I just feel like we don’t cause the problem, but we don’t help it much either.” Well, Kick-Ass is a violent comic. If its title didn’t give Carrey an indication of what was between the covers, the first movie should have.
11. Scarlett Johansson – Black Widow in MCU
As she tells it, after Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson sought out the part of the Black Widow. She grabbed some comic books and did her homework on the character, but she admits that she didn’t like comic books at all growing up: “Superheroes weren’t my thing growing up,” she said. “I watched movies and read a lot but I never read comics.” Today, though, Johansson is loved by Marvel fans and she respects the world that she’s been so integral to. She’s got the character to a point now where it’s her own and she can develop it beyond the pages of the comic books, so there’s a good chance she doesn’t still read them, but we can’t say for sure.
10. Chris Hemsworth – Thor in Thor
Before Thor, the giant Australian Chris Hemsworth, knew little about his character. He said that he had heard about him, but had never read any comic books growing up. When he auditioned, he went in with very little information and had to develop his knowledge through research while shooting: “My introduction to the character was the first audition; I hadn’t read the comic books previously and didn’t know too much about it. The audition process was across sort of three or four months, and I was involved, and then out of the picture, and I sort of got a second chance, and through that period I read some of the comics, and by the last comic book I read, I felt far more informed than I was previously about it.”
9. Elodie Yung – Elektra Natchios in Daredevil (TV)
When Elodie Yung went in to audition for the part of Elektra for the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, she had no idea how big the role was or what would be required. As she puts it, she “had no clue who Elektra was.” Once she was given the part, she began to look into the character a bit, but she seems to only use the comics as a jumping off point. She has been open about trying to build the character into more of a human on the screen than what is shown in the comics. When asked about her interest in other comics, Yung expressed that she’d “never had to read comics before.” The fact she had to for this role indicates that there isn’t a whole lot of interest in the medium. That’s ok. Not everyone can love them.
8. Halle Berry – Storm in X-Men/Catwoman in Catwoman
When Bryan Singer first brought on Halle Berry to play Storm in X-Men, the response from comic fans was a little tepid. Berry certainly doesn’t seem like a comic book fan, and it turned out that she wasn’t. When asked if she went back and did some comic research, she said, “You know, I didn’t. Bryan didn’t want it. The people who didn’t grow up with the series, he didn’t want us to.” They were given some reading material to get prepared, but not much. Now, 16 years later, Berry says that things have changed. In what might even be a veiled shot at Batman comics and her role as Selina Ky… er, Patience Phillips/ Catwoman, Berry told comic fans, “Before I did Storm, I wasn’t a fan of that comic book. I didn’t grow up reading comic books. It’s not what I did,” she said. “But I’m now a fan of that one for sure.” What do you mean, “that one”?
7. Krysten Ritter – Jessica Jones in Jessica Jones
Krysten Ritter knows how to endear herself to comic fans. Right after she was cast in the role of Jessica Jones in the Netflix series, Jessica Jones, she was asked if she was a fan of the comics: “I wasn’t. It’s so brand new! This is like my first interview. I wasn’t, but I am now reading the Jessica Jones comics and devouring them. And [I’m] hooked.” Ritter has even gone on to say that, after reading the comics, she was saddened that she wasn’t exposed to them as a young girl. For her it’s a world that she now loves and that’ll get Marvel fans singing her praises, even if she drops the ball at some point.
6. Christian Bale – Batman in The Dark Knight Trilogy
Whenever a storyline is split between comic book and graphic novel, there is always going to be a divide between fans. That’s how it went with Christian Bale, who played Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy. He admits that he was never and still isn’t a comic book fan, but he does read the Batman graphic novels. In regards to his initial interest in the movies and the character, Bale says, “I had first read a graphic novel – I’m not a comic book fan at all, I never have been – but… I got offered Asylum and read it and was really intrigued by it because it was nothing like it seemed in the Batman TV series, nothing like it seemed in the Batman movies either. I thought it was so much more interesting. I read Batman Year One and like the Dark Victory and stuff, and I thought, ‘This is good stuff. There’s a really great character here. The way that they play it is fantastic.'”
5. James McAvoy – Professor Xavier in X-Men
James McAvoy, like many new-age superhero fans, was never a fan of the comic books, but he enjoyed the television series’ and films. He said in an interview, “I was a fan of the X-Men cartoon growing up as a teenager… The first couple of movies as well were really good, but I never read the comic books ’cause we didn’t get them in my country.” His geographical restrictions aside, McAvoy being a fan of the cartoon probably rubs some purists the wrong way, but the cartoon was awesome, so no one should be too hard on the guy. Plus, Professor X’s storyline in the cartoon is a quality one and gave him plenty of background information on the character. Lesson one: you will need to shave your head at some point.
4. Will Smith – Deadshot in Suicide Squad
Upon getting the role of Deadshot in the Suicide Squad film, Will Smith had not heard of the character of Deadshot and was not familiar with the Suicide Squad at all. After he was given the job, he read some though, which is amazing considering how he also has to read all those amazing stories that his daughter, Willow, claims to write, and all those mind-numbing Tweets that his son, Jaden, puts out every day. All told, Smith seems like quite the accomplished reader.
3. Charlie Cox – Matt Murdock/Daredevil in Daredevil
When Charlie Cox was brought in to audition for the role of Daredevil in the Netflix show of the same name, he had no idea what he was getting himself into, and, in his mind, that ignorance really helped him. When asked if he was a fan of comics, he said, “I was not, no. I get asked that question quite a lot and I always get nervous when I answer, but the truth is I wasn’t. I had never read a Daredevil comic and I hadn’t seen the film. In a strange way it ended up being quite helpful because when I was allowed to read the scripts early on in the audition process, I was allowed to read the first two episodes, and when I eventually got the job I was able to go away and immerse myself in the comics and the history and this incredible back-catalogue and identify which series and writers and illustrators best represented the show that was being written. In a way it was good that I didn’t have any preconceived ideas on who the character should be.”
2. Jesse Eisenberg – Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman
Jesse Eisenberg has been asked this question a number of times in interviews after it was first discovered that he doesn’t read comic books and doesn’t even watch comic book movies (or any movies for that matter). He did, however, go back and read a few things about his character, Lex Luthor, to prepare for the role, but he never went too deep. When talking about if he enjoyed Superman comics growing up, Eisenberg said, “No, I mean, I didn’t mind it. But I knew nothing about it. I think it must have maybe skipped my very brief window of generation, maybe like five years. Because I didn’t know anything about it, but I knew older people that really liked it. And then I have a younger cousin, who’s very young, he’s four, and he loves it.”
1. Heath Ledger – The Joker in The Dark Knight
A lot of people talk about the preparation that went into Heath Ledger creating the Joker for The Dark Knight. There are stories about the role consuming him, even killing him, but what really went into it? Apparently, it wasn’t comic books. Though Ledger did say that he watched a lot of the past Joker performances on TV and film, he did not and could not read the comics. When asked what comic book versions of the Joker went into his creation, Ledger said, “Well, The Killing Joke is the one that’s being passed around and Arkham Asylum kind of. But I really tried to read the comics and put it down.”