Like its eponymous comic book hero, Superman changed everything. Richard Donner’s 1978 classic was not the only cinematic adaptation of a superhero property, but it was the first to apply top tier production values and an A-list cast to the story of a comic book superhero. The recruitment of Julliard graduate Christoper Reeve, method man Gene Hackman, the veteran Ned Beatty and screen legend Marlon Brando elevated the material and showed Hollywood (and the world) what a comic book movie could be when taken seriously. Ever since then, superhero movies have drawn some of the finest talent in show business.
Superhero movies have launched the careers of fledgling actors (Chris Hemsworth, Gal Gadot) into the stratosphere while redefining the careers of others (Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr.). Nowadays, everyone who’s anyone in Hollywood has a superhero movie or two under their belt. Michelle Pfieffer is currently showing the world that she’s got what it takes after a 25 year hiatus from comic book movies as Janet Van Dyne in Ant-Man and The Wasp. Yet, while some actors couldn’t be happier playing in the superhero ball pit, there are some who (for various reasons) we’ll never see don the tights again, despite their awesome contributions to the genre.
15. EDWARD NORTON
After turning in a damned fine performance in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, the world assumed Norton’s presence in The Avengers would be a slam dunk. Alas, the lead-up to the 2012 team-up movie would sour Norton’s experience working in comic book movies for life. Reports on why Norton was jettisoned from the MCU are conflicting, his agent implied that Marvel got cold feet when it came to Norton’s price tag while Marvel’s official statement debunked this, declaring that the role required “an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.”
Maybe he really is difficult to work with? Norton’s response to the unpleasantness was classy, but he later revealed that he was glad not to be constrained by the demanding contracts that comic book roles require, so it seems unlikely that we’ll be seeing him in a superhero movie any time soon.
14. KIRSTEN DUNST
While her interpretation of the character varied quite a from her comic book counterpart, for many Kirsten Dunst is Mary Jane Watson. That said, Dunst has been quite open since 2007 about how she was sick of constantly being cast as the damsel in distress and she took umbrage when a producer suggested that she “fix her teeth” for the role.
Looking back, the actress has admitted that while she would happily have made a fourth Spider-Man film in the wake of the disappointing Spider-Man 3, she’s less than enthusiastic about the current state of affairs in superhero cinema. She has openly admitted to not caring about the subsequent Spider-Man reboots since Sam Raimi’s trilogy and by her own admission, the fact that superhero movies are generally harder for women who are “35 and hate working out” make them less than appealing to the actress.
13. TOBY KEBBELL
British thespian Toby Kebbell is both talented and versatile but his promising career was almost cut short by the disastrous flop that was Josh Trank’s well-intentioned but ill-advised Fantastic Four. Not only did the film draw the ire of fans, Kebbel’s turn as Doctor Doom was particularly singled out for its almost flagrant infidelity to the source material.
Alarm bells began ringing for fans when it was rumored that Victor Von Doom, one of the most compelling villains in comic book history, would be recast as an antisocial Russian internet troll called Victor Domashev. Some hasty revisions and reshoots couldn’t save the characterization, despite a competent performance by Kebbell. The actor has since admitted that the fans were “not wrong” and it appears that the film’s difficult shoot and scornful online reception have put Kebbell off superhero movies for life.
12. HUGO WEAVING
For long-time Captain America fans, the prospect of venerated actor Hugo Weaving (who also crushed as V in V For Vendetta) as the iconic Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger was a lifelong dream come true. Predictably, Weaving turned in a great performance, channeling Werner Herzog’s voice and hamming it right up as Marvel’s super fascist. Moreover, the combination of prosthetics and digital effects gave us the first ever comic book accurate depiction of the Red Skull on screen.
It was saddening, then, to learn of Weaving’s unwillingness to return to the role stating that while Marvel could contractually force him back into the role he’d much rather they didn’t. With the character shot off into the multiverse by the tesseract and presumed dead there’s little hope for his return (outside of a slip of the tongue from Samuel L Jackson).
11. CILLIAN MURPHY
Christopher Nolan’s naturalistic crime drama approach to the Batman mythology was always going to appeal to a particular caste of actors who would not usually consider making a comic book movie. Thus, while the casting of Irish actor Cillian Murphy as Dr Jonathan Crane aka The Scarecrow was certainly a coup for the director we shouldn’t expect to see him in the MCU or DCEU any time soon.
The actor (who originally auditioned for the role of Batman) has been quite vocal in his disdain for the current crop of superhero films, stating “I don’t know where they’re coming from anymore”. While he speaks fondly of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, he’s clearly married to their realism, while today’s superhero movies appear to be moving quite emphatically in the other direction.
10. TERRENCE HOWARD
Since Don Cheadle has made such a great impression on the role of Rhodey since 2010’s Iron Man 2 it’s almost hard to remember the difficult circumstances under which his predecessor Terrence Howard left the MCU. Howard got a hefty payday ($4.5 million) for his appearance in the first Iron Man and while the actor signed a multi-picture deal with Marvel Studios they would later balk at Howard’s projected $8M paycheck, deciding that the money would be better spent on securing Robert Downey Jr.
While things turned out okay in the end (Howard moved on to great roles including playing Nelson Mandella and Cheadle continues to crush it as Rhodey), it’s easy to see why the actor has developed a lifelong aversion to superhero movies.
9. NATALIE PORTMAN
When she brings her A-game, Natalie Portman is a terrific actress. Her performances in Black Swan and even V For Vendetta speak to her capability. It’s also abundantly clear when she’s either phoning it in or not feeling a particular connection to the role at hand. When it comes to her turn as Jane Foster opposite Chris Hemsworth’s Thor it’s clear that her heart’s not really in it… and if you can’t get enthusiastic about kissing Chris Hemsworth that can’t be a good sign.
Rumor has it that the actress was incensed by Patty Jenkins’ firing from Thor: The Dark World and only completed her work on the sequel due to her contractual obligation. Whatever the reason, the actress has been quite open about the fact that as far as she’s concerned she’s “done” with superhero movies.
8. ERIC BANA
Ang Lee’s philosophical and introspective Hulk movie may have left a sour taste in the mouths of fans who were expecting a CGI monster slug-fest. While the film may have been divisive, its star Eric Bana’s performance is generally counted among its successes. Despite expecting to return in sequels, Bana is far from disappointed to be out of the superhero game.
Let’s face it, the actor has made a career out of his versatility (lest we forget, he began his career as a stand-up comic in Australia) and looking back it’s clear that commitment to the role of Bruce Banner would have hampered his ability to play a wider range of roles. While he certainly doesn’t regret his turn as the neurotic genius and his emerald skinned alter-ego, he’s unlikely to be amenable to the kind of multi-picture contract most superhero movies demand.
7. JESSICA ALBA
Jessica Alba is a fine actress but her casting as Sue Storm/Richards was one of many curious missteps that plagued Tim Story’s Fantastic Four films of the early ’00s. The predominant thinking at the time seemed to be to cast the prettiest actress available for any given role rather than her suitability (see also Jennifer Garner as Elektra) resulting in some misplaced priorities from the studio and the director that left the actress floundering and uncomfortable in front of the camera.
Left with little directive other than to look hot (famously one of Story’s directions to Alba was to “look prettier” when she cried), it’s no wonder the young actress felt frustrated and under stimulated by the experience. In fact her experiences on set made her consider quitting acting altogether and her current priority is running her hugely successful business, The Honest Company.
6. MICHAEL SHANNON
In re-imagining the Superman origin story with Man of Steel, Zack Snyder clearly took a leaf out of the handbook of his predecessor Richard Donner in surrounding a relatively unknown leading man Henry Cavill with stalwart veteran actors. Michael Shannon did a great job of bringing depth and dimension to the fairly one-note character of General Zod, but it’s clear his interest in superhero movies evaporated as soon as he cashed his paycheck.
When asked about his predictions for the outcome of Batman v Superman last year, Shannon began a lengthy diatribe detailing just how little he cared. While a digital dummy of General Zod made a brief cameo in the film and his likeness was used as a basis for the monster Doomsday, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be seeing Michael Shannon in a superhero movie ever again.
5. HUGH JACKMAN
How do you top a role you’ve been playing for almost two decades and practically defined for a whole generation? You can’t! More importantly, you shouldn’t! After 17 years playing the X-Men’s resident adamantium laced bad boy Wolverine even the most ardent fanboy would admit that Jackman has earned a break from the role.
After years of being such a wonderful ambassador for the character; keeping himself in the impeccable shape that the role demands as well as living in the constant spotlight of fanboy scrutiny, we could forgive Jackman even if he wanted to live out his years eating cheeseburgers and burning X-Men comics. Ending on the mic drop that was Logan was just the icing on the cake for both the actor and his legions of fans.
4. CHRISTIAN BALE
While many love Ben Affleck and some will never be over Michael Keaton, there are a great many in between for whom Christian Bale will always be Batman. While the Welsh actor has made an indelible impression on The Dark Knight’s cinematic legacy but when it comes to the idea of returning to superhero movies, the actor has been emphatically unenthusiastic. A dedicated character actor, Bale has never really been comfortable with the leading man status that the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne forced him into.
The actor is clearly at his most comfortable when transforming his body to disappear into the role (as evidenced by his massive weight loss for The Machinist and in his casting as Dick Cheney in the upcoming Backseat). Bale clearly yearns for challenge and variety and it’s unlikely that he could expect either from another superhero role.
3. ANDREW GARFIELD
Given his earnest and capable performances opposite on-again/off-again girlfriend Emma Stone in the Amazing Spider-Man movies, it’s unfortunate that history may well remember Garfield as the Val Kilmer of the Spider-Man films. While the actor clearly had his heart set on playing the character for at least a trilogy, he’s since remarked that he’s glad his time in the red and blue suit was cut short.
Since the films (particularly the second) were received less than warmly by fans and critics, his perfectly respectable performance was largely thrown out with the proverbial bathwater. Although Garfield has been vocal in his gratitude at getting an opportunity to play his favorite superhero, he has also publicly stated that he’s much happier just being a fan again.
2. MICKEY ROURKE
From Gene Hackman to Sir Ian McKellen, the role of the comic book movie villain has a knack of drawing respected veteran actors. When Mickey Rourke was cast as Ivan Vanko/Whiplash in Iron Man 2 many (including Rourke himself) assumed that the villain would be given a little more depth and exploration than was afforded Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger.
It appeared, though, that the studio had a very specific idea of the movie they wanted to make, putting them at loggerheads with director Jon Favreau and Rourke himself. Many of Rourke’s scenes were cut down with a lot of his improvised dialogue excised from the final film. The actor has been spitting out sour grapes ever since, badmouthing Marvel Studios whenever he gets the chance.
1. JACK NICHOLSON
When you’ve had a career as long and diverse as Jack Nicholson’s, the last thing you want to do is double down. While he would later be superseded in the minds of most fans by Heath Ledger, Nicholson had a run of almost 20 years as the definitive onscreen Joker. Aside from a persistent rumor in the late ’90s that he’d appear in a nightmare sequence in a Joel Schumacher directed sequel to Batman & Robin, the veteran actor has shown no interest in returning to superhero cinema. And why would he?
The chaotic production of Tim Burton’s Batman required the actor to sink some of his own money into the project. Don’t feel too bad, though, he made a lot of money by securing a cut of the merchandising rights on all Joker products. Even if he weren’t semi-retired it’s unlikely he’d ever get a deal that good again.
Which actor do you wish did another superhero movie? Let us know in the comments!
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!