Over the last two decades, Marvel has slowly but surely taken over Hollywood. From the mild success of Blade to X-Men and Spider-Man and then the MCU, Marvel films have dominated the box office and enthralled millions. Even non-comic book fans have loved these amazing adventures and the care taken to bring the characters to life. It helps that Marvel has been smart in their choices of who to play the roles. They have mastered making choices that seem bizarre but end up working out great (Chris Evans as Captain America or Chris Pratt as Star-Lord). Even smaller roles can end up becoming huge winners thanks to the casting involved. Whether a huge star or an Oscar winner, Marvel is great at getting A-listers to play these roles.
This leads to huge speculation on who could have played a part. Movie-making is a complex process and too often, rumors have a way of becoming fact. Tom Cruise recently stated that the years of rumors of him playing Tony Stark were just that, he was never actually offered the role. However, there are many cases of actors seriously considered for a Marvel movie. A few of them even go almost to production before bowing out for some reason or another, paving the way for someone else to take the role on. There are tons of examples but others stand out from the pack. Here are 25 actors nearly cast in Marvel movie roles and interesting to think how different the MCU could be today with these faces.
25 Eddie Redmayne as Star-Lord
The casting of Chris Pratt as Star-Lord is still a wild move by Marvel. No one expected the goofy chubby guy from Parks and Recreation to become a buff warrior. But another choice could have been even wilder. Eddie Redmayne was a serious candidate for the role (as well as being Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man) and was confirmed among those reading for it. It’s hard to imagine him as the sardonic Peter Quill. Then again, Redmayne also has an Oscar and starring in Fantastic Beasts so maybe he could have surprised fans here.
24 Summer Glau as Kitty Pryde
After making cameo appearances in the first two X-Men movies, Kitty Pryde was going to have a bigger part in the third film. Summer Glau was a major candidate, well known for the cult sci-fi show Firefly and the right age for the role. She read for the part and did a good job. In the end, the role went to Ellen Page who later became a star in her own right. Glau has gone on to various geek-flavored TV shows.
23 Alice Eve as Emma Frost
Most fans agree that the casting of January Jones in X-Men First Class was a huge misfire. She was beautiful but came off dull and almost bored, not the alluring figure Emma Frost should be. Which is why Alice Eve would have been a better choice. The British actress is known for some steamy roles but she also has some serious acting power. Eve was cast but then bowed out over issues of her limited role in the script. Perhaps had she stayed, it would have made the role much better.
22 Dougray Scott as Wolverine
It’s one of the greatest “could have been” castings in movie history. Right up until production began, Dougray Scott was the choice for Wolverine. The handsome actor was even being interviewed in magazines about the role. However, reshoots of Mission Impossible 2 forced Scott to bow out of the role. So Bryan Singer went to his personal choice, an unknown Aussie actor named Hugh Jackman. It launched Jackman’s career and now it is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role.
21 Helen Hunt as Jean Grey
When the first X-Men movie was being made, there were concerns over attracting non-comic book fans. The studio decided a good way to fix that would be bringing in some big name stars. Helen Hunt was coming off an Oscar win and was well known in Hollywood, so she was to be cast for Jean Grey. But when complications came up with other projects, Famke Janssen was cast.
20 Jessica Chastain as the Wasp
While she was mostly on the sidelines in the first Ant-Man, Janet van Dyne burst out wonderfully as the Wasp in the sequel. Evangeline Lilly has done great in the role yet it could have gone to a much bigger name. Jessica Chastain was being pushed for the part in 2013 when Edgar Wright was still going to direct it. She seemed interested but then Wright left and that faded. Chastain’s very busy schedule no doubt played a part as well so the role went to Lilly.
19 Jim Carrey as Rocket Raccoon
On paper, Rocket Raccoon should be an easy part to cast. All you need is a guy to do the voice and the CGI crew to craft him on screen. But even casting the right voice can be a tricky process. Originally, the choices for Rocket went to comedians like Adam Sandler and others. Jim Carrey was a major name pushed, as the man’s ability to pull off comedy and drama and his experience with goofy voices made him a major candidate. Carrey actually claimed to have never heard any offer but the reports persisted he was asking for more money than the producers wanted. Thus, Bradley Cooper got the part to bring this wild raccoon to life.
18 Joaquin Phoenix as Doctor Strange
Many fans hold Benedict Cumberbatch as the perfect Doctor Strange. He totally captures the character’s arrogance and power and is believable as a magical warrior. But almost up to production, Joaquin Phoenix appeared to be cast in the role. The actor is known for his quirky behavior which would fit Strange well. It fell apart at the last minute with Phoenix admitting to Variety that he did not want to commit to so many projects. He doesn’t hold any bad feelings and praises Cumberbatch for his portrayal.
17 Saoirse Ronan as the Scarlet Witch
Marvel has always done some offbeat castings and the Scarlet Witch was another example. Elizabeth Olsen isn’t what fans pictured but she has surprised them all with her performance. Yet the first choice by Joss Whedon was Saoirse Ronan, the Irish actress known for Atonement and Hanna. She was a contender and seemed interested in the role in interviews. However, Ronan decided to bow out, not giving any real reason but there is speculation that she didn’t want to commit to a major franchise. It’s also why she passed on playing Jean Grey in X-Men Apocalypse.
16 Mel Gibson as Odin
Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins was a great choice to play Odin in the Thor movies. He captures the regal power and is totally believable as the king of the gods. Yet a much different actor could have played the role. Mel Gibson was a major choice as Thor director Kenneth Branagh was a fan and thought he could bring an edge to the role. Gibson confirmed he was offered the role but turned it down, not liking the fancy outfits. Likewise, Disney was wary due to Gibson’s infamous reputation.
15 Gal Gadot as Nebula
Wonder Woman in the Marvel Universe? It almost happened. While she hasn’t totally confirmed it outright, it seems Gal Gadot was offered the role of Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy. In an interview with Vulture, Gadot talked about the role: “It would have meant shaving my head and dying my skin blue and I just couldn’t handle it.” Thankfully, Karen Gillan doesn't mind at all.
14 Rachael Leigh Cook as Rogue
In the comics, Rogue is a gorgeous woman who’s quite outgoing despite her power to take away a person’s life force with a touch. Casting Anna Paquin in the first X-Men movie was an intriguing choice and it worked out. But others were mentioned such as Sarah Michelle Gellar. A major candidate was Rachael Leigh Cook, who was just coming off of She’s All That. Cook backed out because she thought the film could not be pulled off.
13 John Malkovich as the Vulture
Michael Keaton won raves from fans playing the Vulture in Spider-Man Homecoming. Yet the character might have shown up far sooner if Sam Raimi’s planned Spider-Man 4 had gone through. Raimi wanted a smaller story after the third film and focused on the Vulture, who he imagined as an elderly man. He figured John Malkovich would be perfect in the part with his sinister edge and the actor seemed interested. However, the movie never came out as Sony decided to just reboot the entire series.
12 Jeff Goldblum as Bruce Banner
Bruce Banner is a quirky guy, he is a genius but also had an edge to him that comes out in his monstrous alter ego. It’s a role meant for a complex actor and Jeff Goldblum has mastered that over his career. Thus, it’s no surprise Ang Lee wanted Goldblum for the role of Banner in his 2003 Hulk film. Goldblum seemed interested but decided he wanted to take a break from blockbusters for a bit. The role went to Eric Bana with the movie seen as a misfire for Marvel. Goldblum eventually joined the MCU as the Grandmaster.
11 Channing Tatum as Gambit
Three times, Channing Tatum has had the chance to play the dashing, card-tossing Cajun mutant but it’s never happened. He was going to do a cameo as Gambit in X-Men the Last Stand but that ended up being cut. The character did show up in X-Men Origins: Wolverine but due to a scheduling conflict, Taylor Kitsch played the role. Then, Gambit was going to be in Deadpool but that was also cut before shooting began. Right now, a spin-off film starring Tatum is supposed to be coming but given it’s on its third director before production begins, it doesn’t look good. Somehow, this role just isn’t in the cards for Tatum.
10 Angela Bassett as Storm
As much as fans loved X-Men, there were complaints about Halle Berry as Storm. The actress just didn’t seem to pull off the power and regal beauty this weather goddess should possess. Maybe it would have been better if Angela Bassett had played the role as planned. She was attached to the early scripts written in 1995 where Storm had a far more prominent role. But Bassett wasn’t happy with the rewrites that pushed Storm more into the background. She thus left and it went to Berry.
9 Kate Hudson as Mary Jane Watson
There were a lot of actresses suggested for the role of Peter Parker’s love in the first Spider-Man film. Kate Hudson was just coming off her breakout role in Almost Famous and that gave her a major push for the part. Sam Raimi was a fan and personally approached Hudson for the part of Mary Jane. While she liked the idea, Hudson decided it wasn’t right for her and turned it down. She later explained that “the time just didn’t feel right” so Kirsten Dunst landed the role instead.
8 Jake Gyllenhaal as Spider-Man
It’s forgotten today but back in 2003, there was a major controversy over whether Tobey Maguire would continue as Spider-Man. Maguire was holding out for more money and also recovering from a back injury from a stunt gone wrong on Seabiscuit. There was the concern by Sony that Spider-Man 2 could be delayed and thus they reached out to Jake Gyllenhaal to be the replacement Peter Parker. It may sound crazy but look at how many guys have played Batman. In the end, Maguire reprised the role after all while Gyllenhaal made a little movie called Brokeback Mountain.
7 Jason Momoa as Drax
The casting of former pro wrestler Dave Bautista as Drax was an offbeat choice but it worked out well. Fans love the man’s thick-headed performance and funny lines. However, a major candidate was Jason Momoa who was coming off his breakout role on Game of Thrones. He was a favorite but Momoa told Zap2it that he backed out as he didn’t want to be typecast in “brute” roles. He also praised how Bautista did the role much better than he could have.
6 John Krasinski as Captain America
There were many doubters in Chris Evans playing Captain America. Evans silenced those doubts majorly with his performance in several Marvel films. However, there were a lot of other candidates, including another offbeat choice in John Krasinski. At the time, the actor was still best known for The Office but was making his way as a serious actor. It came down to him and Evans with Krasinski getting the call at home that it was going to Evans.
5 Anne Hathaway as the Black Cat
Sam Raimi had plans for a fourth Spider-Man movie but the poor reaction to the third film put that off. The movie would have introduced Felicia Hardy, an heiress who’s also the sultry thief the Black Cat. Raimi confirmed to Vulture that he dreamed of Anne Hathaway in the part, figuring she’d be perfect as a catsuit-clad thief. It never came off but life has a funny way of working out. In 2012, Hathaway ended up playing Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises.
4 Emily Blunt as the Black Widow
Emily Blunt is an actress most think would be a natural for the Marvel Universe but has never been able to take part. That’s not for lack of trying as she was offered the role of the Black Widow in Iron Man 2. It seemed ready to go but then Wilde hit a scheduling snafu with her role in Gulliver’s Travels. Thus, Scarlett Johansson got the part. Wilde was offered the role of Peggy Carter as well but had to turn it down too.
3 Olivia Wilde as Gamora
Zoe Saldana has been a terrific figure as Gamora. The “most dangerous woman in the galaxy” is a great fighter and has been playing a major role in the Infinity War. Originally, the part was offered to Olivia Wilde, a woman used to exotic roles. Adding green paint may have made it even better but Wilde turned it down so it went to Saldana. The famously private Wilde refuses to discuss why but it seems she may have been turned off at the full body paint job.
2 Liam Hemsworth as Thor
It’s famous how Tom Hiddleston actually auditioned for the role of Thor but the producers decided he was better for Loki. The producers were very interested in a young actor named Hemsworth…only it was Liam, not Chris. Liam went pretty far as Chris seemed to have blown his first audition. But while making Cabin in the Woods with future Avengers director Joss Whedon, Hemsworth was encouraged to make another go at it. This time, he nailed the audition and got the part that launched his career.
1 Wesley Snipes as the Black Panther
In the mid-1990s, Wesley Snipes was a serious star in Hollywood who could get any movie he wanted to make. He wanted to bring the Black Panther to life and joined with director John Singleton to do it. However, there were issues as Singleton wanted the Panther in a civil rights activist drama while Snipes wanted the costumed super-hero antics. The clashes led to the entire project stalled. So Snipes went to his back-up project: Blade.
Sources: Buzzfeed, Screenrant.com