The inspiration for a screenplay comes from all sorts of sources. A writer’s imagination, an already published novel, real life events, and of course the world of graphic novels and comic books. As of late, graphic novel and comic book adaptations are becoming more and more common and profitable, with many high profile actors tackling roles that allow them to become a super hero, a mutant, or even an anti-hero bent on revenge. For some actors, the allure of the graphic novel and comic book film is strong enough that they appear in multiple roles, in multiple franchises, lending their skill and likeness by helping the character jump off the page and onto the big screen. Here are 20 notable actors that have played multiple graphic novel and comic book roles.
20. Ben Affleck: Daredevil/Batman
Ben Affleck is an interesting case in Hollywood. The actor/writer/director has stared in some of the biggest flops in film history (Gigli, anyone?) but has also starred in cult classics like Mallrats and Dazed and Confused. Furthermore, early in his career he won an Oscar as a writer for Good Will Hunting, and after a period of making mediocre movies he began a directing career, putting a trio of fantastic films to screen culminating in another Oscar in 2012 for Argo. During his up and down career, Affleck has managed to land a few lucrative roles as comic book characters as well, first as the title character in Marvel’s Daredevil a film that made $179,179,718 million at the box office, and next, and more controversially, as Batman in the next franchise reboot of the caped crusader’s exploits in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. While the casting of Affleck as Batman has caused almost universal disdain from fans around the world, it will be interesting to see how well he steps into Christian Bale’s bat suit, and the film is sure to be a box office hit.
19. Chris Evans: The Human Torch/Captain America
Chris Evans is probably most famous for his roles playing comic book characters. Evans’ first comic book role was as the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four in 2005 and its sequel, Rise of the Silver Surfer released in 2007. While the Fantastic Four films were not universally well received, Evans’ performance in them garnered enough notice in Hollywood to cast him in his most important role to date, Captain America. Evans has appeared as Captain America not only in the first two films of that franchise, but also in The Avengers and its upcoming sequel. Furthermore, Evans’ also appeared in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a film based on a graphic novel, making the actor a common choice when adapting films from the illustrated page.
18. Lena Headey: Madeline Madrigal/Queen Gorgo
Best known nowadays for playing Cersei Lannister on HBO’s massive hit show Game Of Thrones, English actress Lena Headey has played a queen before. Though it seems impossible to forget, Headey played Queen Gorgo in the film adaptation, and its sequel, of Frank Miller’s graphic novel sensation 300. Before Game of Thrones, 300 was probably her best known role, but Headey has had a long and illustrious career spanning over two decades that includes another stint in a comic book movie, the 2012 Karl Urban reboot of the Judge Dredd comic series, simply called Dredd. In the film Headey plays Madeline ‘Ma Ma’ Madrigal, a drug kingpin, yet again showcasing the actress’s fondness for tough roles.
17. Scarlett Johansson: Silken Floss/Black Widow
One of the most recognizable females in Hollywood, Scarlett Johansson is talented, beautiful and at age 29, still in the prime of her career. She’s also not afraid to cross genres and take risks when choosing film roles, acting in everything from period piece dramas to high voltage action films based on comic books and graphic novels. Her first foray into the realm of characters adapted from the illustrated page was in Frank Miller’s poorly received adaptation of The Spirit in which she played femme fatale Silken Floss. Though The Spirit wasn’t exactly the success initial hype expected it to be, Johansson’s next comic book role catapulted her into action movie stardom when she began playing Black Widow in Marvel’s Iron Man and Avengers franchises, a role she will reprise next year in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
16. Jim Carrey: The Riddler/Colonel Stars and Stripes
Canadian funny man Jim Carrey is one of the most famous and recognizable comedic actors in all of Hollywood. His performances in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber alone have cemented his place in the upper echelon of bankable box office stars. His turn in serious roles has earned him praise for his ability to portray dramatic characters as well, a further testament to his versatility. Adding to his resume, Carrey has also, perhaps naturally, acted in films based on comic books, first playing the Riddler (one of the film’s sole bright spots) in Joel Schumacher’s 1995 Batman Forever, and most recently in 2013’s Kick-Ass 2. Carrey actually withdrew his support from Kick-Ass 2 not long before the film’s release, stating that following the tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut he could not support the level of violence in the film. Despite this, his presence in the film surely contributed to its success at the box office.
15. Tommy Lee Jones: Two-Face/Agent K
Although predominantly known for his dramatic roles, most notably his portrayal of Sheriff Ed Bell in the Coen brothers’ masterpiece No Country for Old Men, Tommy Lee Jones is also another alum of Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, portraying Harvey “Two-Face” Dent alongside Jim Carrey in the 1995 comic book film. In addition, his affinity for taking roles in comic book films doesn’t stop there; Jones has also appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger and most prominently in the Men in Black series of films as Agent K, a series of films that most fans may not even be aware are based on a comic series from the early 1990s. These comic book films, along with his more dramatic roles, have made Tommy Lee Jones one of the most recognizable and successful actors of the past few decades.
14. Norman Reedus: Scud/Daryl
Norman Reedus and “cool” have become synonymous ever since he stared as Murphy McManus in The Boondock Saints in 1999. Since, the actor and artist has solidified his cool image and displayed his talents as a strong actor by staring in the sequel to The Boondock Saints as well as American Gangster, while also adding a few comic book and graphic novel-based roles to his resume. Reedus played Scud in Blade II, a franchise based on a Marvel comics series, and most famously he currently stars in AMC’s The Walking Dead based on Robert Kirkman‘s graphic novels of the same name. Funny enough, his character Daryl, who has become one of the most beloved on the show, doesn’t even appear in the graphic novels. After Reedus auditioned for the role of Merle but was deemed too young by producers, they wrote the character of Daryl specifically for him, allowing him to work many nuances into the character without the constrains of source material – not that the show closely follows the graphic novel anyway…
13. Idris Elba: Moreau/Heimdall
Forever immortalized to this writer as DCI John Luther in the BBC’s fantastically dark crime drama Luther, Idris Elba has begun to make a massive name for himself on this side of the pond, most notably for his Golden Globe nominated portrayal of Nelson Mandela. Elba’s growing success is justified; a phenomenal actor who plays everything from cynical cops to South African Presidents, to Norse Gods with ease. That’s right, Elba is also a member of the comic book club, appearing as Moreau in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance alongside Nicolas Cage and as Heimdall, the keeper of the Rainbow Bridge in Asgaard, in both of Marvel’s Thor films. Elba will reprise his role as Heimdall in the upcoming Avengers film, Avengers: Age of Ultron.
12. Benicio Del Toro: Jack Rafferty/The Collector
One of the more critically acclaimed actors of the past two decades, Benicio Del Toro has starred in some of the most well regarded films since he began appearing on the silver screen. Among those films, The Usual Suspects, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Traffic and Che stand out the most. Apart from his absurdly comic performance in Fear and Loathing… or his dead on depiction of Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Steven Soderbergh’s sweeping biopic, Del Toro has also made time to act in comic book films himself, recently as The Collector in the second Thor film, and in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. His most notable performance in a film based on a comic book or graphic novel still goes to his portrayal of corrupt cop Jack Rafferty in Sin City.
11. Brandon Routh: Superman/Todd Ingram/Dylan Dog/The Atom
The man that Warner Bros. decided was going to relaunch the Superman franchise, Brandon Routh made his comic book film debut playing the Man of Steel in 2006’s reboot Superman Returns. While the film was by all accounts a commercial success and received decent reviews from critics, the proposed sequel that spent four years in development ultimately fell apart, with studios saying the $400 million return wasn’t enough to push forward on a sequel. In the interim, Routh played Todd Ingram in the graphic novel based Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and also added to his comic based resume by playing the title character in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night in 2010. Routh was also cast as The Atom in CW’s third season of Arrow.
10. Chris Pratt: Barry (Wanted)/Peter Quill
While Chris Pratt has ultimately hit the big time in the comic movie world with his role in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, starring as Peter Quill, his initial roles in page to screen adaptations were far more modest. Initially playing supporting roles in the Angelina Jolie vehicle Wanted, and the Megan Fox fest Jennifer’s Body (a film that was ironically enough adapted into a graphic novel and not the other way around), these roles were minor for Pratt. After Guardians of the Galaxy there’s no doubt we’ll see more of Pratt not only in comic book films, but also as a leading man as well, with a starring role in the Jurassic Park reboot in the works.
9. Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Blake/Johnny
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of those rare child actors who’s managed to maintain a relevant career into adulthood while avoiding the pitfalls that destroy many young careers. He’s also managed to continuously choose smart roles to portray on the big screen which add continuing credibility to his resume. Among those roles have been three different stints in comic book and graphic novel films, first staring in the first G.I. Joe film, and then following that up with prominent roles in both Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises and the Sin City sequel A Dame to Kill For. Gordon-Levitt may soon be returning to the big screen in another adaptation of a graphic novel, as he has been rumoured to be working on a film version of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.
8. Eva Green: Artemisia/Ava
Though French actress Eva Green made her film debut in the controversial The Dreamers in 2003, it wasn’t until three years later that North America became familiar with the beauty when she starred as Vesper Lynd in the James Bond film Casino Royale. For a woman who says she’s drawn to acting because it allows her to “wear a mask” it’s no wonder she’s appeared in two separate Frank Miller graphic novel adaptations; 300: Rise of an Empire, and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
7. Halle Berry: Storm/Catwoman
Oscar winning actress Halle Berry is one of the most recognizable women in Hollywood. Not just another pretty face, Berry has the acting talent that has allowed her to transcend the glare of the camera and maintain a lengthy and lucrative career over the past 25 years. Along the way, Berry, like many of her peers, has tried her hand at the comic book genre, with varying results. While her role as Storm in the wildly successful X-Men franchise has been met with acclaim, her starring role in a failed attempt at a Catwoman franchise has been universally reviled. A box office failure, Catwoman is considered not only one of the worst comic book-based films of all time, but one of the worst films of all time, period.
6. James McAvoy: Wesley Gibson/Charles Xavier
Classically trained Scottish actor James McAvoy has an interesting film resume. On one hand he has acted in films many would associate with a classically trained actor from the U.K., heavy, dramatic films like Atonement and The Last King of Scotland, both of which earned him nominations for numerous awards. And the you have the fun, action packed comic book films he’s equally becoming known for, such as Wanted, in which he plays the main protagonist, and the X-Men: First Class film and its sequel where he portrays a young Professor Charles Xavier. The diversity of such roles, as well as his stint on the original British version of the hit show Shameless lends credence to McAvoy’s versatility on screen.
5. Michael Fassbender: Stelios/Burke/Magneto
Although Michael Fassbender is finally capitalizing on his talent by becoming increasingly successful in North America over the last few years, truth is, the extremely talented German-born actor has been one of the most consistently watchable actors since he first appeared in the graphic novel adaptation of 300 in 2007. Since then, Fassbender has accentuated his serious, critically acclaimed roles in films like Hunger, Shame and 12 Years a Slave with further comic book films like Jonah Hex and more recently and successfully, the X-Men: First Class series of films playing a young Magneto.
4. Hugo Weaving: V/Red Skull
One of the most recognizable actors in the world, Australian Hugo Weaving has appeared in some of the most successful film franchises of all time, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the Matrix trilogy, as well as The Hobbit and Transformers films, among others. Unsurprisingly, Weaving has lent his considerable talents to comic book and graphic novel based films as well, playing the title character of V in V for Vendetta in 2006, and more recently as Captain America’s nemesis in Captain America: The First Avenger.
3. Josh Brolin: Jonah Hex/Young Agent K/Thanos
Easily one of the coolest actors in Hollywood, Josh Brolin got his start in the cult 1980s film Goonies. Since, Brolin has gone on to build a hugely successful career in Hollywood, playing many different types of characters in various genres of film. While No Country for Old Men and Milk may be his most critically acclaimed performances, Brolin has actually appeared in a few comic book films as well. First as Jonah Hex in Jonah Hex, a film that should have been much better than it was, as well as appearing as a young Tommy Lee Jones (talk about perfect casting) in the third Men in Black film, and most recently as the voice of Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy.
2. Mickey Rourke: Marv/Ivan Vanko
When on thinks of a role that was just made for someone, in the world of graphic novels, Mickey Rourke and the role of Marv in Sin City comes to mind. The talented Golden Globe winning, Oscar nominated Rourke may have given one of his best on-screen performances in the Frank Miller adaptation of his own graphic novel, and it was a role that actually helped Rourke remake a name for himself as a leading man in Hollywood. Although The Wrestler may always be known as his pinnacle performance (and rightfully so), Rourke has added to his comic book resume playing Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash, in Iron Man 2, and reprising his role of Marv in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
1. Natalie Portman: Evey/Dr. Jane Foster
Arguably one of the most beautiful and talented young actresses in Hollywood, Natalie Portman has appeared in a number of different genres of film, comic book adaptations being no exception. Indeed, Portman is an Oscar winner, a versatile actress and Luke Skywalker’s mother, all at the young age of 33. She’s also appeared in a few movies based on graphic novels or comic books as well. First, Portman starred as Evey alongside Hugo Weaving in V for Vendetta in 2006 and followed that by playing Norse God Thor’s human love interest, Dr. Jane Foster, in Marvel’s Thor in 2011 and again in 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. With her talent and affinity for taking comic book roles and the continuation of the Thor movie franchise, it’s a good bet Portman will again star in a comic book role in the near future.