Stan Lee will star in his own movie. Not the real Stan Lee, but the character Stan Lee. Stay with us here…
Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee will be the focus of a new movie in development from 20th Century Fox. The film will not be a biography, however, despite being based somewhat on the iconic comic book writer’s life. Instead, elements of his story will be incorporated into a “period action-adventure movie.” That’s right. Stan Lee will be the lead character in an adventure movie, with a secret identity and everything. (LEGO video game Stan Lee would be so proud.)
The most important question is, who will play Stan Lee? At 93 years-old, Lee will have to hand the reins to someone who can portray a limber, suave, James Bond-like character, while maintaining his trademark sense of humor and charisma. Each character actor on this list has proven himself superb at playing unique characters. Along with their height and thin frames, they also resemble a young Stan Lee (or in some cases, a not so young Stan Lee). With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the actors we think should play Stan Lee in the upcoming film.
12. Jesse Eisenberg
While he may have ties to DC Comics, thanks to his role as Lex Luthor, Jesse Eisenberg would be fantastic at bringing Lee’s quirky nature to life on screen. In “The Social Network,” he played a man with an enormous ego who worked tirelessly, and in a somewhat underhanded way, to see his idea come to fruition. His twitchy performance was rewarded with nominations for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. In “The Double,” he played two roles that are on opposite ends of the personality spectrum, proving his versatility. Meanwhile, in “Now You See Me” and its sequel, Eisenberg was able to play a smooth operator with more than his share of confidence. Action would be no problem for the “Zombieland” actor, who, along with having to dodge the undead, also had to perform a bevy of stunts in “30 Minutes or Less.”
11. Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks has proven many times that he can play just about anyone. He has two Oscars sitting on his shelf, one for playing a simple-minded hero in “Forrest Gump,” and another for portraying a dying man in “Philadelphia.” He has also played a WWII army captain in “Saving Private Ryan,” a creative corporate magnate in “Saving Mr. Banks,” and a variety of strange characters in “Cloud Atlas.” He could easily pull off wearing a Stan Lee-esque mustache, as evidenced in his turn as Chesley Sullenberger in “Sully.” Stunts and action scenes wouldn’t be a problem for Hanks, either. He chased clues and ran from villains in “Bridge of Spies” and the “Da Vinci Code” movies. Finally, if Hanks can make audiences grieve for a volleyball named Wilson, as he did in “Castaway,” he could make them care about Stan Lee’s imaginative creations.
10. Zach Woods
Zach Woods isn’t a household name, but he has become recognizable thanks to his work in some small, but hilarious roles. In fact, he’s made playing insecure, neurotic characters his stock in trade. In “The Office” TV series, he played Gabe Lewis, a desperate corporate sycophant who was willing to do just about anything to get ahead. He played another simpering crony in “Veep.” He currently plays the incredibly insecure, but affectionate Jared on “Silicon Valley,” where he’s part of a cast that’s been nominated twice for Screen Actors Guild Awards. Woods also resembles Stan Lee, thanks to his tall, lanky frame, and because he’s done so much comedy, would be able to rattle off snappy hero sound-bites with ease. He could stretch his skills to portraying more dramatic moments, as well. Playing Stan Lee in a feature film could be just the chance Zach Woods needs to break into the celebrity stratosphere.
9. Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele may seem like an unusual choice for playing Stan Lee, mainly because he looks nothing like the Marvel mogul. But he’s also proven that he can impersonate just about anyone on his Comedy Central sketch show “Key and Peele,” which he co-created with Keegan-Michael Key. During the show’s run, Peele successfully mimicked terrorists, a Nazi officer, old women, and even President Obama. But the one impersonation that could win him the job of playing Stan Lee… is his impersonation of Stan Lee. In 2014, Peele played The Man in a comedy sketch where the comic book legend pitches a variety of characters that are based on his own life as an aging gentleman. Peele nails Lee’s enthusiasm and mannerisms, but also shows Stan’s steely side when it looks like the youngsters at the meeting are going to turn down his ideas. His performance in that skit, and his versatile acting talent, means he would be a successful, albeit perhaps unexpected choice to play Lee.
8. Hayden Christensen
Hayden Christensen has starred in mainly independent and art house films since he played Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones” and “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.” While his performance in the “Star Wars” movies was largely panned, he still displayed good acting skills in other projects. For instance, he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Supporting Actor as Kevin Kline’s miscreant son in “Life as a House.” As another tall, thin actor, Hayden could arguably play Stan Lee just based on his looks. But more than that, he showed he could play a real-life character when he portrayed Stephen Glass in “Shattered Glass,” about a journalist who started fabricating most of his articles. He was convincing as a desperate man who was so desperate to make a name for himself, he concocted stories to gain notoriety. Sound familiar?
7. Oscar Isaac
What Oscar Isaac lacks in stature, he makes up for in personality. Isaac landed roles in big summer blockbusters, as well as parts in meaningful TV miniseries. While he doesn’t look much like Stan Lee, the strength of character he brings to his roles would make up for his appearance. He played Poe Dameron in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” with loads of charm, while as the titular villain in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” he exuded power and intensity. In both “Ex Machina” and “Inside Llewyn Davis,” he played thoughtful men with rich inner lives. Then, he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for HBO’s “Show Me a Hero,” in which he played an ambitious New Yorker, who winds up becoming a reluctant hero. If that story arc didn’t prepare him for playing the wily Stan Lee, nothing could.
6. Thomas Middleditch
Thomas Middleditch is largely unknown, which would make him an interesting choice to play Stan Lee in a feature film. Audiences wouldn’t attach any past performances to him, or compare him to his previous roles. At the same time, Middleditch is an accomplished comedic actor. He paid his dues in TV guest roles, like Jeb Schrute on “The Office,” and sketch comedy shows, like “Funny or Die Presents…” Now he stars as the brilliant, but terrifically socially awkward Richard on “Silicon Valley.” He definitely has the comedy chops to play someone like Stan Lee, who is fond of cracking wise. Middleditch was nominated for a primetime Emmy Award in 2014 for his work on “Silicon Valley,” and has the requisite height and thin build to play Stan Lee.
5. Andrew Garfield
Some may argue that Andrew Garfield has already played Stan Lee in a feature film. Stan Lee created Spider-Man, after all, so he no doubt sees himself in the web-slinger. Andrew Garfield played Spider-Man in both “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” His take on Peter Parker was to use a rambling, stream-of-conscious way of speaking, usually to Emma Stone, his girlfriend both on and off-screen. Prior to the Spider-Man movies, most of his acting was in British films and TV series, having grown up in the UK. He won the role of Spider-Man after playing Zuckerberg’s friend-turned-enemy in “The Social Network,” for which he received a Golden Globe nomination. His long, lean frame would make him a perfect choice to play a young Stan Lee, and his attachment to the film would certainly garner a lot of hype.
4. Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper is a much sought-after actor in Hollywood. He was nominated by the Academy a whopping three times for Best Actor, and received two similar nods at the Golden Globes. While he gave award-worthy performances in “American Sniper,” “American Hustle” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” his earlier work in the TV show “Alias,” starring Jennifer Garner, is what makes him a great choice to play Stan Lee. In “Alias,” Bradley Cooper played Will, the spy who invented lots of gadgets and devices for Garner’s Sydney to use in the field. His work on “Alias” means he is no stranger to the action that would be required in a “period action-adventure movie.” Plus, Bradley Cooper’s slick style in “American Hustle” proves he looks good in suits from the ’60s and ’70s.
3. Edward Norton
Edward Norton is another actor on this list who already has ties to Marvel. Whether Marvel wants to remember it or not, Norton played Dr. Bruce Banner, a.k.a. The Hulk, in “The Incredible Hulk” in 2008. Ironically, the film wasn’t a smash success at the box office, falling short of its projected budget of $150 million, but it did earn critical acclaim for Norton’s portrayal. He has also given tremendous performances in more than one pop culture touchstone, like “Fight Club,” “American History X” and several Wes Anderson films. Norton was nominated for three Oscar Awards, and won a Golden Globe for Best Actor for “Primal Fear.” Thanks to these performances, he became famous for deftly playing a diverse set of characters. Stepping into the shoes of Stan Lee would not only be well within his abilities, it would also be a nice tongue-in-cheek joke for 20th Century Fox to aim at Marvel.
2. Bryan Cranston
Bryan Cranston is game for just about anything. He’s been part of some crazy parodies on late-night talk shows and in funny YouTube clips. He also offered a joke about a fan’s mother, followed by an obligatory mic drop, during a 2015 Comic-Con panel. Surely he would be game to play a nerdy, artistic, bigger-than-life personality who is fond of bad puns in a movie about Stan Lee. Bryan Cranston is of course most famous for playing Walter White on five seasons of “Breaking Bad.” Prior to that, he had a long career in Hollywood, including starring in the Emmy-winning “Malcolm in the Middle,” and recurring as the dentist Tim Whatley on “Seinfeld.” He also showed serious dramatic chops when he played Jack O’Donnell in the Oscar-winning “Argo.” As Stan Lee, Cranston would be able to sling funny catchphrases, while also delving into the more serious side of the comic book creator.
1. Hugh Jackman
Wolverine. What better actor to play Stan Lee, who created the X-Men, than the guy who is beloved around the world for playing the ultimate mutant, Wolverine? If the movie about Stan Lee is to show him as an action hero, then Hugh Jackman is the right man to play him. Hugh Jackman rose to fame as Wolverine in 2000, when he debuted his sideburns and his abs in “X-Men.” Since then he reprised his role as the metal-wielding mutant seven times, with another Wolverine movie coming in 2017. He also starred in the musical “Les Miserables,” for which he received an Academy nod. Hugh Jackman checks all the boxes for what would be required to play Stan Lee: He’s tall, he’s lean, he can act, and he’s already a superhero.
Did we leave anyone out? Who do you think should play Stan “The Man” Lee? Let us know in the comments!
No release date has been set for 20th Century Fox’s Stan Lee movie, but we’ll keep you posted as development continues.
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