Hollywood is absolutely full of stories about actors who were almost cast in or who turned down iconic roles. Hearing one of these stories automatically makes us think of what could have been. I mean, we could be living in a world where Molly Ringwald was the hooker with a heart of gold in Pretty Woman. Without Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts may have never even been a thing and then who would People have named the Most Beautiful Person Alive this year? John Travolta could have been Forrest Gump! Who even knows what would have happened if Julia Roberts wasn’t in Pretty Woman and Tom Hanks wasn’t in Forrest Gump. The space-time continuum may have been broken forever. Alright, we’re exaggerating. The world would probably be pretty much the same, except that Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks would be a little less famous but it’s still crazy to think about.
On that note, there have been many changes in terms of Marvel actors. That’s right, the actors portraying the superheroes and villains in the Marvel Universe weren’t always the first choice for the role. Before Chris Evans was offered Captain American, or Robert Downey Jr. was offered Iron Man, or Scarlett Johansson was offered Black Widow, the role was offered to someone completely different. That’s right, the Avengers almost looked much, much different than the Avengers we all love and know. The Guardians of the Galaxy almost looked different. Doctor Strange almost looked different. Okay, basically every Marvel movie almost looked totally different.
Below are 17 actors who were almost your favorite Marvel characters. Some of them make sense and some of them are just so insane… like Lindsay Lohan. Just imagine a Marvel Universe with LiLo. It would be a different universe, that’s for sure.
17. Aaron Paul As Star Lord
While Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul was never officially offered the role of Star Lord, he did audition for the role. Yep, Aaron Paul auditioned and screen tested for Star Lord, as did A LOT of actors in Hollywood. America’s sweetheart Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, The Office’s John Krasinski, and Westworld’s James Marsden were all actors who auditioned for Star Lord. Basically, every dude in Hollywood was brought in to read for Star Lord. Of the shortlisted actors, Aaron Paul would have made a pretty decent Star Lord. Chris Pratt is, of course, the ultimate Star Lord but Aaron Paul would have also pulled off that lovable scoundrel vibe of the character.
Despite the fact that nearly every actor in Hollywood read for Star Lord, James Gunn claims that he knew it simply had to be Chris Pratt within 30 seconds of Pratt’s audition. In fact, Gunn even said he didn’t care that Chris Pratt lacked the hot superhero bod and that they would just CGI a six-pack on him. Of course, there was no need to CGI anything on Chris Pratt because he looked ripped in Guardians of the Galaxy.
16. Olivia Wilde As Gamora
Speaking of people who were almost in Guardians of the Galaxy, Olivia Wilde was almost Gamora. You can see this one, right? It totally makes sense. It made so much sense that Olivia Wilde was even offered this role but she turned it down. Why, oh why, would someone turn down a role in Guardians of the Galaxy? Apparently Olivia Wilde felt that she was playing too many “badass” women. (Uh, doesn’t every woman in Hollywood want to play badass female characters?)
After Olivia Wilde passed, Zoe Saldana was cast as the Gamora we all know and love now. It seems that Saldana loves playing badass women in blockbuster movies, as she’s not only starred in Guardians but also the Star Trek films and Avatar. One thing for sure, Zoe Saldana will take all the badass female character roles if Olivia Wilde doesn’t want them.
15. Will Smith As Captain America
Just imagine Will Smith as Captain America. Well, there was almost no need to imagine it because it was almost a real thing. It’s rumored that the role of Captain America was first offered to Will Smith. This isn’t a shocking idea since Will Smith has been headlining blockbuster films since the ‘90s, with films like Men in Black and Independence Day. Plus, even when Will Smith isn’t playing a superhero, he gives off this superhero vibe, right? You just know Will Smith is going to save the day in whatever movie you’re watching.
If the rumor is true, that means Will Smith turned down the role of Captain America then switched teams to play Deadshot in DC’s Suicide Squad. It’s also interesting that they then went with Chris Evans, who is 13 years younger than Will Smith.
14. Jason Momoa As Drax The Destroyer
Speaking of actors who turned down a Marvel role and went on to accept a role in the DC Universe, we now have Jason Momoa. Momoa was best known for playing Khal Drogo on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Jason Momoa seemed to be making a career of playing strong, uber masculine characters with not only his role on Game of Thrones, but also his roles on Stargate: Atlantis, Conan the Barbarian, and Frontier. He’s the go-to guy if you need someone who’s big and manly, which is why imagining him as Drax the Destroyer is easy. In fact, it’s so easy to imagine that Marvel straight-up offered Momoa the role. Jason Momoa turned it down though, because he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as the brutish character. (Err, it might be too late to start worrying about that, Jason Momoa.) And so, the role went to Dave Bautista.
Jason Momoa went on to join the DC Universe as Aquaman. He can be seen as Aquaman in 2017’s Justice League and a 2018 solo Aquaman movie. Considering Momoa scored a solo superhero film, it’s hard to critique his choice to go with Aquaman instead of Drax the Destroyer but it still would have been cool to see him rock the Drax role.
13. Tom Cruise As Iron Man
This feels like blasphemy because Robert Downey Jr. simply kills the role of Iron Man, but it was almost Tom Cruise as ol’ Tony Stark. It’s been reported that in the early 2000s, Tom Cruise was attached to the role of Iron Man. Like, Tom Cruise was pretty much locked in and ready to go. Cruise supposedly dropped out of Iron Man after he received the script, which he didn’t feel was up to his standards. Although many people also speculate that Cruise may have wanted to have the final say on everything, as he often does on his projects, and Marvel wasn’t down with giving Cruise all that power. Whatever the case, Tom Cruise was almost our Tony Stark but – thankfully! – it fell through and we now know Robert Downey Jr. as the Iron Man.
Other actors who were in early consideration for the role were Timothy Olyphant, Leonardo DiCarpio (CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE?), and Sam Rockwell. Because they were so impressed with Sam Rockwell’s audition for Tony Stark, they cast him as Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2.
12. Eliza Dushku As Black Widow
Eliza Dushku as Black Widow. I know, right? You can probably see it because it makes so much sense. It made sense to Dushku too, who lobbied hard for the role. During a 2009 Howard Stern appearance, the actress not-so-subtly said, “They’re doing Iron Man 2, and I’m so perfect for the Black Widow character, that they just need to get into it. They need to understand… I just learned Russian because I had to play a Russian girl in Dollhouse.”
Because of this very forward comment, fans assumed that Eliza Dushku was probably up for the role and trying to get buzz going for herself. Considering the fact that Joss Whedon was, at the time, heavily involved in the Marvel Universe, Dushku probably had at least one person on her side. Dushku previously worked with Whedon on both Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse. Despite Eliza Dushku’s not-so-gentle nudging and her relationship with Whedon, the role of Black Widow went to Scarlett Johansson.
11. Emily Blunt As Black Widow
Unlike Eliza Dushku, Emily Blunt didn’t have to beg for the role of Black Widow and that’s because it was totally hers. Yes, the role of Black Widow was first offered to Emily Blunt. By the way, if you’re keeping track – Emily Blunt was almost Black Widow and her husband John Krasinski was almost Captain America. This couple just seems to be so close but so far away from joining the Marvel Universe.
Unfortunately for Emily Blunt, she was under contract to 20th Century Fox at the time she was offered the role of Black Widow. Fox had her locked to star as the romantic lead in Gulliver’s Travels. So, that’s why Emily Blunt was forced to turn down the role of Black Widow to star alongside Jack Black in Gulliver’s Travel. Nothing against ol’ Jack Black or anything, but that really sucks for Emily Blunt.
10. Emily Blunt As Agent Peggy Carter
Emily Blunt had to turn down not one, but TWO Marvel roles. Poor, poor Emily Blunt.
After turning down the role of Black Widow in Iron Man 2, Marvel offered her the role of Agent Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s rumored that scheduling conflicts, yet again, kept her from playing the role of Carter. Though, whether it was scheduling conflicts has not been confirmed because Emily Blunt is classy AF. When asked about being unable to take the role of Agent Peggy Carter, Blunt declines to discuss because she feels it’s unfair to the actress who did play the role (Haley Atwell). Like we said, Emily Blunt is classy AF.
Because it always seems like Emily Blunt is just about to make her Marvel debut, her name was thrown around for Captain Marvel but that role ended up going to Brie Larson. One of these days, Emily Blunt, one of these days…
9. Channing Tatum As Thor
With these next few items, you’re about to find out just how weird casting Thor actually was. Let’s just say that the movie almost starred some surprising actors, one of whom was Channing Tatum.
Channing Tatum was heavily considered for the role of Thor, which seems right. In fact, most of us could have been totally okay with Channing Tatum, as he has the physique, the star power, and the ability to deliver that certain Marvel style humor. While Tatum has starred in some mega blockbuster hits, he’s yet to make his debut as a superhero (unless you consider his voice work as Superman in The Lego Movie). Though, Tatum is kind of lined up for his first superhero role. It has been announced that Tatum will play Gambit in a solo film, but that’s a film that’s been in development hell for a long, long time. When it comes to a Gambit movie, we’ll believe it when we finally see it and, until then, we’ll be waiting for Channing Tatum to finally play a superhero.
8. Tom Hiddleston As Thor
That’s right, Tom Hiddleston almost played Thor. Hiddleston auditioned for the role, which he obviously didn’t get, but the producers were so impressed with Hiddleston’s audition that they cast him as Loki instead. Yep, Tom Hiddleston auditioned to be a superhero and ended up cast as the villain but so is the way of Hollywood. In Thor, Marvel also cast Natalie Portman, who was considered for Black Widow. That’s one thing you can say about Marvel. When they really want an actor or actress to join the universe, they keep trying to get them a role.
Alongside Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam and Alexander Skarsgård also read for the part and it’s easy to see why they were both brought in, right? Daniel Craig, aka James friggin’ Bond, was another name in early consideration for the role. Our next entry on the list is yet another Thor and it’s probably the most surprising of them all.
7. Liam Hemsworth As Thor
That’s right, y’all! Marvel is tearing families apart. Okay, not really. There was no actual family drama between the brothers, but it is an interesting story.
Apparently, Chris Hemsworth’s audition for Thor went so terribly that he was ruled out early in the process but Liam Hemsworth was still in the mix for the role. In fact, it was narrowed down to four potential actors and Liam was one of them. Then, as fate would have it, Joss Whedon was talking to Chris one fine day. Whedon asked Chris why his little brother was up for the role and he wasn’t. Chris told Joss Whedon how his audition went bad and he failed to get a call back. Joss Whedon, who is apparently the nicest dude in Hollywood, talked to everyone involved with Thor and asked them to reconsider Chris Hemsworth. Apparently his second audition was better than the first, so much better that Chris snagged the role and his brother got the boot. Liam Hemsworth went on to star in the Hunger Games films so it’s not like we can feel all that bad for him in this scenario, but it is a crazy story.
6. Jim Carrey As Loki
We’ve already mentioned that Tom Hiddleston’s audition for Thor led to him being cast as Loki in the film, but Hiddleston wasn’t the first choice for Loki. Instead, Jim Carrey was an early favorite for the role of Loki, but there’s no word on what actually happened here. Either Marvel decided to go a different direction or they offered the role to Carrey and he passed. Whatever the case, Jim Carrey didn’t end up being our Loki.
It’s also been reported that Josh Hartnett and Charlie Cox were both in consideration for the role of Loki, but neither of them ended up landing it. Charlie Cox has gone on to star in Netflix’s Daredevil, entering the Marvel Universe in that way. So, it all works out in the end… unless you’re Josh Hartnett… or Jim Carrey. Really, it just worked out for Charlie Cox.
5. Joseph Gordon-Levitt As Ant Man
Joseph Gordon-Levitt was so close to being Ant-Man and we could have really gotten down with that but, of course, the role went to the lovable Paul Rudd. Though, one can easily see the similarities between Paul Rudd and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Both actors have strong comedic abilities and have a ton of star power. They also just seem like nice guys. Could you really imagine Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Paul Rudd being assholes in real life? No way. In the end though, Paul Rudd was the nice guy who won out.
JGL had previously read for the role of Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, so clearly there was something there that Marvel liked. Maybe one of these days Joseph Gordon-Levitt will finally get a role in the Marvel Universe. Also note-worthy is the fact that in The Dark Knight Rises, Joseph Gordon-Levitt played a role that was pretty much Robin but he never really got to totally be Robin. JGL, always so close but so far away from those superhero roles.
4. Rashida Jones As The Wasp
It’s well known that Marvel is very, very careful about when they introduce new characters into the universe. Ant-Man introduced Ant-Man but, in early drafts of the script, it was also supposed to always introduce the Wasp, who is a superhero love interest for Ant-Man. When Ant-Man was being developed for both Ant-Man and the Wasp, it was said that Emma Stone and Rashida Jones were both in talks to be the Wasp. Both actresses would have great comedic chemistry with Rudd, but we have to point out that Emma Stone is also 20 years younger than him. (Oh, Hollywood. Why must you keep casting much older guys with much younger actresses?) For whatever reason, the Wasp was cut so talks with Stone and Jones fizzled out.
When the Wasp was cut from the film, a human love interest was written for Ant-Man, and Evangeline Lilly nabbed that role. In a lucky turn of events, that love interest character is now being turned into the Wasp in 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp. So Evangeline Lilly landed herself a superhero role in Marvel kind of accidentally.
3. Matthew McConaughey As Dr. Strange
Marvel is itching to work with Matthew McConaughey.
Marvel’s first attempt to work with the alright-alright-alright actor was while casting Doctor Strange. It was said that Marvel was originally in final talks with Joaquin Phoenix to star as Dr. Strange but Phoenix ended up dropping out, which set the studio back to square one. After Phoenix dropped out, a ton of actors were rumored to be on the shortlist, including Ethan Hawke, Ewan McGregor, Oscar Isaac, Jared Leto, and, of course, Matthew McConaughey. In particular, Jared Leto was rumored to be lobbying hard for the part. While Leto didn’t get Dr. Strange, he went on to play one of DC’s most notorious villains in Suicide Squad so he’s doing just fine. Despite Leto’s lobbying, Marvel really wanted McConaughey. McConaughey was even in talks for the role, but his busy schedule just wouldn’t allow it and so Benedict Cumberbatch ended up with the role.
Because Marvel doesn’t just give up when they really want an actor, they offered McConaughey the role of Ego… Star Lord’s, um, father. That’s right, Marvel wanted Michael McConaughey to play Chris Pratt’s dad because that makes so much sense. The actors are only ten years apart, guys! McConaughey (thankfully) passed on the role to star in the upcoming The Dark Tower. Kurt Russell got the role of Ego, which makes 1000% more sense. Hopefully the next time Marvel tries to work with McConaughey, it will, uh, make biological sense.
2. Lindsay Lohan As Scarlet Witch
This one is almost too much. Lindsay Lohan was almost Scarlet Witch, or more accurately, Lindsay Lohan thinks she was almost Scarlet Witch. This story is so very bizarre, which is what makes it so funny. It was first reported that Lindsay Lohan went in to read for the role of Scarlet Witch, a role that obviously went to Elizabeth Olsen. Well, what happened? Why didn’t LiLo nab the part? The DUI Queen stated that she had actually gotten a call back for the role but her manager forgot to tell her to go to the call back and that’s why Elizabeth Olsen was cast. Hold on, though. It gets better.
On Lindsay’s OWN docu-series, she spoke about not getting a part she wanted in Marvel, saying that instead they went with an unknown. That’s right, Lohan thought Elizabeth Olsen was an unknown. Mind you, Elizabeth Olsen was an indie darling, having starred in Martha Marcy May Marlene and Silent House. She had also been in Old Boy and Godzilla. Oh, and she’s an Olsen so there’s that too. But no, according to Lindsay Lohan, Elizabeth Olsen is an unknown. Of course, this could have been Lohan’s way of sneakily insulting Elizabeth Olsen after getting the part over her.
1. Joaquin Phoenix As The Hulk
There was a point in time that Edward Norton was the Hulk in the Marvel Universe but that is no longer the case. By the way, that’s totally something that Marvel would like us all to forget about since it’s one of the mistakes in their perfectly executed universe. Edward Norton was replaced with Mark Ruffalo but, before Mark Ruffalo, Marvel had their eyes on someone else. That someone else was Joaquin Phoenix.
While he’s an amazing actor, Joaquin Phoenix was actually an extremely odd choice in replacing Norton. Edward Norton’s exit from the role of the Hulk has been riddled with rumors, including Norton not being compensated enough by Marvel and Marvel being unsatisfied with Norton’s work. It was even reported that Marvel felt Norton did not collaborate with everyone in the way they had hoped. It’s this particular reason that makes Joaquin Phoenix a weird choice, mostly because Joaquin Phoenix is certainly not known for working well with others. Obviously, Marvel is pretty hungry to work with Joaquin Phoenix, since they also wanted him for Dr. Strange. We’ll see if Marvel ever finds the perfect role for Joaquin Phoenix.
There you have it, 16 stars (and Lindsay Lohan) who almost played your favorite Marvel characters. What a different world it would be.