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15 Actors Born To Play Superheroes (Or Supervillains)

by  in Lists, Movie News, TV News Comment
15 Actors Born To Play Superheroes (Or Supervillains)

Whether it’s Robert Downey, Jr.’s brilliant portrayal as the egomaniacal Tony Stark/Iron Man or Chris Evans’ down to earth and patriotic idealism of Steve Rogers/Captain America, it is often the actors cast in superhero roles that can make or break the success of a superhero project. The same is true of the small screen, with Stephen Amell’s portrayal of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow and Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen/Flash.

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While no superhero project is guaranteed to be a box office success, casting the right actor for a role is important in establishing the direction they intend to take the character. With the run of success surrounding the superhero genre, there is still a bevy of acting talent that could do very well if given a role in a superhero film. Whether as a hero or a villain, there are plenty of actors out there yet to take their first steps into the world of superheroes. The only question is this: which ones would be up to the tall task of basking in the spotlight?

15. Natalie Dormer


When you sit atop one of the highest seats in Westeros and are an heir to one of the richest houses on the continent, you know you’ve got it made. Like the Tyrell’s family creed “Growing Strong,” Dormer has seen her acting stock grow thanks to the wide-reaching popularity of the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones,” and her portrayal as Margaery Tyrell is one of the strongest on the show, especially given the position of women in the context of the story. In addition to her work on HBO, Dormer also has a prominent role on the Starz series “The Tudors,” which gives her plenty of work when it comes to political medieval settings.

As well as she functions in these period settings, a change of venue could be right up her alley, and what better setting to thrive in than one where she literally has the power to defend herself with more than just political maneuvering? Dormer could fit into the hero mantle better than people think. While Chris Hemsworth is doing a good pretty job as Thor for the time being, should Marvel decide to follow the comics route and give the title to a female character, Dormer would be a more than suitable replacement to wield Mjolnir in Hemsworth’s place.

14. Aaron Paul


Paul has established a solid career and came into prominence following his stint as Jesse Pinkman in “Breaking Bad,” but has not been in a ton of big time roles since the series’ end. This is rather unfortunate, as Paul is an underrated actor who has not had an opportunity to shine since cooking blue meth alongside Bryan Cranston’s Walter White. But he is the perfect actor to add the personality and flair needed for superhero films.

Paul certainly doesn’t have the positive track record when it comes to films, many of them unfavorably received by critics and having a tendency to flop at the box office. But these films are not making full use of Paul’s talent the way a series like Breaking Bad did. Shows like “BoJack Horseman” (which Paul is an executive producer on as well as voicing Todd Chavez), are proof of his talent. A sustained role in a superhero film could be the answer to Paul finally finding success on the big screen.

While casting him as the lead would be a bit of a gamble, playing a hero like Green Lantern’s Guy Gardner would be right up his alley, especially given the character’s strong emotional pulls and more hot-tempered personality. Alternatively, should someone ever cast the infamous story surrounding the fallen Robin Jason Todd, Paul has the ability to nail his complex and dark character beats.

13. Leon Thomas III


A lesser known actor, Thomas is still best known for his time on the Nickelodeon series “Victorious,” where he played Andre Harris, a student and best friend of lead character Tori Vega, portrayed by Victoria Justice. Through Andre, Thomas displayed his musical ability as a student of the fictional performing arts school while getting into various antics with his friends. While he is definitely not a big-time name that can along draw large crowds and box office numbers, Thomas is a young cornerstone that superhero franchises could build around, especially with his humorous personality and laid back style.

Given that the bulk of his acting work has been on television, Thomas would benefit from sticking to TV, especially as superhero series continue expanding their cinematic universes on the small screen. There’s no doubt that Thomas would play the hero, and a role like former Milestone Media’s Static Shock would fit the young actor quite nicely. His personality aligns well with the electrified hero, who, like Andre Harris on Victorious, never seems to be short of words or funny moments. Given that Black Lightning is set to get a series in the near future, resurrecting Static for live action with Harris in the role would draw plenty of interest, especially given the popularity of the series .

12. Omari Hardwick


When it comes to playing the long-awaited Green Lantern’s John Stewart, many fans are quick to jump on the Idris Elba bandwagon, and rightfully so. But an under-the-radar talent like Hardwick should be someone who warrants a hard look for membership into the Green Lantern Corps. Hardwick, who is best known for his portrayal of nightclub owner/drug lord James “Ghost” St. Patrick, has the hard-lined personality to play a Green Lantern like John Stewart.

Like Paul, Hardwick does not have too many marquee film or TV credits, but his lead role in “Power” has been nothing short of compelling. The duality of playing such a role is easier said than done, and the show’s popularity has viewers wondering every week what actions Ghost will take next.

As the tough gritted John Stewart, who is very socially conscious, business-oriented and hard-lined, Hardwick would remind fans just what made the character so popular from the comics and the Justice League animated series. While there is no doubting Elba’s ability to play Stewart or his ability to draw crowds, Hardwick would be among the best actors who are worthy of joining the Green Lantern Corps as one of its most iconic members.

11. Mila Kunis


A proven and established name that could pull viewers to the box office, Kunis is notably missing a superhero role from her resume. With the lack of female heroes in TV and films from either Marvel or DC, Kunis could be next in line for a starring role in her own dedicated property. Out of the number of female actors, she should be one of the main options to expand the comic film and television universes, especially when it comes to starring female heroes as the leads. 

Lauded for her performance in the psychological thriller “Black Swan,” Kunis gradually became more of a household name while being previously known for her work in “Max Payne” and “The Book of Eli.” Having acted in those previous films in addition to “Oz The Great and Powerful,” Kunis is accustomed to acting in high-intensity action and thriller films. Saying that, she has also acted in her share of comedies as well, ranging from “Friends with Benefits” to “Ted” and “Bad Moms,” making her an ideal fit for a wide range of directions for her superhero role to take. Her penchant for playing dramatic characters would lend itself well to a dramatic turn on a troubled hero like the X-Men’s Rogue, a role that’s right up her alley.

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10. O’Shea Jackson, Jr.


A west-coast rapper who was an exact clone of his father Ice Cube in the biographical film “Straight Outta Compton,” Jackson shined in his cinematic debut of the iconic West Coast rapper in the famous rap group NWA. While Jackson is still coming into his own as an actor, he would do well to capitalize on this whole acting thing, particularly when his portrayal of Ice Cube is still fresh enough in everyone’s minds.

Now, the glaring aspect about Jackson is that “Straight Outta Compton” is the only film he’s acted in up to this point. But he is still very young at 25, and while he would no doubt be a risk, given his lack of further acting experience, it would be one worth taking, and could be even more worth it if he is given a support role. Wesley Snipes is still very much remembered for his portrayal of the vampire-slaying Blade back in the late 90s. Bringing a hero like Blade back as a younger incarnation would be nothing short of glorious, and is a superhero role Jackson could thrive in. Given this opportunity, this could truly cement him as a potential star in the making.

9. Anna Kendrick


Coming into her own out of the “Twilight” saga and later gaining further mainstream popularity from hero role as Beca Mitchell in “Pitch Perfect,” Kendrick is an Oscar-nominated actor with plenty of crowd appeal and has the fun personality to shine as a superhero. Based on her ability, there is no doubt she would fit in more with the Marvel crowd, especially when it comes to their lighter tone and atmosphere.

Now, it is worth noting that Kendrick has not really had much in regards to active-action roles since the Twilight Saga, as her resume over the past few years has been mostly consumed from comedies and dramas. The closest thing she’s had to “action” has been the very forgettable “Mr. Right,” which should barely qualify as action. But that should not be a deterrent from her talent. If there’s one thing viewers shouldn’t underestimate about superhero movies, it’s their ability to choose the right actors for the right roles (mostly) and give them the opportunity to succeed. Kendrick fits the bill, especially if she is given the ability to express her comedically awkward personality that makes her such a personable actor. 

Kendrick has already lobbied to play both Squirrel Girl for Marvel and, more recently, as the Robin to Ben Affleck’s Batman. Chances are, given the nature of these pitches, she was just being her playful self. But if anyone could absolutely slay one or both of those roles, it would absolutely be Anna Kendrick.

8. Nate Parker


Having put forth strong appearances in films like “Red Tails,” “The Great Debaters” and “Pride,” Parker is one of the younger black actors who can often fly under the radar, especially as other actors like Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan start to spread their own wings (or sharpen their own claws, as is the case with Boseman). However, it is those kinds of actors that can often have the ability to shine the brightest, and Parker could easily take up the mantle of a superhero as a lead role. He is already a proven commodity, and given his acting ability, he could thrive on the big or small screen, though we’re inclined to give him the bigger screen in this instance. 

Samuel L. Jackson plays one hell of a Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a potential film/series of the S.H.I.E.L.D commander would draw plenty of interest, especially given the success of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If there is an actor that could put forth a younger portrayal of Nick Fury, Parker has the potential to be that guy. An organization like S.H.I.E.L.D needs a strong  director to lead it, and Parker has the mentality needed to tackle the role. Given the intellectual nature of the characters Parker typically plays, Mr. Terrific could also be hero rightfully suited to his interests.

7. Josh Radnor



A long-forgotten name (with a face many will know), Radnor made it big in “How I Met Your Mother” as the idealist, love-pursuing, and pretentious character known as Ted Mosby. Following the series finale of the show, Radnor appeared to vanish from the limelight entirely for some time, with his most recent role in television being in the PBSS medical drama “Mercy Street.” But Radnor, as with all superheroes, could be destined for something much greater than himself. 

While Neil Patrick Harris seemed to have eclipsed Radnor as the face of “How I Met Your Mother,” one of the elements that made the series so compelling was his performance as Mosby, who told this grand (yet strangely overly detailed) story of his escapades prior to meeting the woman of his dreams, as well as the development, trials and tribulations he endured before meeting her. Without a strong actor to play that role, the show falls flat without Radnor, who provides the substance to Harris’ style. It would be fun to see him play a hero like Ted Kord as the Blue Beetle. Ted Mosby himself believed in the grand idea of fate. So why not Radnor?

6. John Krasinski


Best known for his role as Jim in “The Office,” Krasinski has not been totally unattached from superhero roles in the past. In fact, he was in the running to be cast for the role of Captain America before it was given to Chris Evans. He would have definitely been an interesting casting choice, and while some may have questioned if he had the physical capacity for the job, seeing him in “13 hours” leaves little doubt that he could pass the superhero eye test.

But the past is the past, and that doesn’t mean that Krasinski should completely throw in the towel. In fact, he should keep his eyes open for the next wave of superhero auditions, and casting directors should not hesitate to reach out to the former “Office” superstar. With the humor and wit he delivered, he’s got the makings to play a good hero in either Marvel or DC. Given how Marvel’s cupboard continues to overflow with acting talent, DC could certainly use an actor of Krasinski’s caliber, using him to play a hero like Booster Gold would be well worth it, especially given the hero’s penchant for pride and showing off. He could also pull off the wisecracking pilot Hal Jordan, who is very much in need of an image fix after the disaster of the 2011 “Green Lantern” film. Krasinski may have not been able to lift Cap’s shield, but it does not mean that a career of a superhero should not be in his future.

5. Tatiana Maslany


While she is not as well known by the mainstream audience, Maslany is among one of the most talented actors on television today, particularly in Canada, having earned 14 awards for her role in the critically acclaimed series “Orphan Black.”

Maslany has rightfully received plenty of praise for her performance in the sci-fi series, where she plays a jaw dropping 12 different characters that each have their own different personalities and backgrounds. If she can play so many different characters in one series, there is little doubt she could thrive as a single superhero. Heroes like DC’s Zatanna Zatara would be a fun role for Maslany to undertake, and one that she could quickly thrive in, especially given the character’s line or work and her unique magical abilities. Zatanna, who is very similar in abilities to John Constantine, would need a very different kind of actor to integrate with the occult magics the character delves in, and  if there is anyone who could make a lesser known magical DC hero thrive, it would be Maslany.

RELATED: 12 Marvel Heroes Who Have Never Had a Solo Series – But Should

4. Gerard Butler


When it comes to developing superhero stories, a compelling villain is just as important, if not more so, than the hero themselves. There are some actors who would make great heroes, and those who would make great villains. At the very least, Butler could be a villain with a bit more flair and personality that the live-action adaptations often lack.

Fortunately , Butler still apparently has a craving for action movies, having appeared in a wealth of them over his career, ranging from “Reign of Fire” to “Olympus Has Fallen” and its sequel “London Has Fallen.” But of course, no one can forget arguably his most famous role to date as King Leonidas in the “300” franchise. As emotional and bloodthirsty as he is on the Spartan battlefields, Butler could trade in his sword and shield for a super villain role. The way King Leonidas implanted fear into the minds of his enemies makes it easy to see Butler as someone like Sinestro of the Yellow Lantern Corps, spreading fear throughout the galaxy the likes of which has not been seen before.

3. Olivia Wilde


Despite having a respectable resume, Wilde still lacks that one iconic role that she can call her own. Up to this point, her most recognizable films are in “Rush,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” and “Tron: Legacy,” which all feature the actress in supporting roles. But it certainly does not mean that she is not capable of doing more and succeeding in a larger role.

While she could certainly pull off playing the hero, it might behoove Wilde to go the Tom Hiddleston route of villainy, which proved that you don’t have to play the hero to have a career-defining moment in superhero films. As many heroes as there are, the quality of villains has been relatively lacking in firepower and overall name recognition. Playing an anti-hero like Catwoman could do wonders in giving Wilde that iconic moment that she just doesn’t seem to have yet. Even a hero like Mia Dearden — a sidekick of Green Arrow on the verge of anti-heroism — would be a great opportunity for her, and could serve to further expand the mythos of the Arrow-verse that hasn’t yet been explored.

2. Charlize Theron


Given her massive amount of work, Theron is a household name. Having played a variety of roles from serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster” to her latest masterpiece as rebel soldier Imperator Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” she has more than made her impact in major film productions. Surprisingly, none of those roles involve any sort of time as an official Marvel or DC hero (even if she did play the lead role in “Aeon Flux”). The closest thing Theron has done to a superhero film was starring in “Hancock” alongside Will Smith. But, given her extensive work in action movies, Theron is more that capable of joining the elite ranks of either Marvel or DC.

If we had to choose, Theron would likely thrive better down the route of Marvel. However, instead of playing the shining hero, Theron could make just as compelling a villain. With a revamped iteration of Spider-Man set to debut in May, Theron would be an interesting choice to cast as a more mature Black Cat, a villain who has abilities that revolve around probability manipulation (which is a fancy way of saying she can manipulate bad luck) in addition to her advanced martial arts training. The villain was set to make her debut in “The Amazing Spider-Man” run before the deal between Sony and Marvel resulted in recasting Tom Holland as the vaunted web-slinger and starting the franchise anew. Seeing Theron introduced as the Black Cat in the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be nothing short of exciting, especially given the character’s history in Marvel.

1. Tom Cruise


Now, Cruise might not have the same kind of mainstream popularity that he used to have when compared to his colleagues, but it doesn’t mean that he has lost any of what has made him such a great Hollywood actor. In fact, he remains one of the best action stars in Hollywood, having received acclaim for his roles in actions films like “The Last Samurai,” “Edge of Tomorrow,” and the “Mission Impossible” franchise.

It’s long past time for Cruise to hop on the superhero bandwagon, but as a supervillain. It’s easy to see what an actor like Robert Downey, Jr. can do as Iron Man, and the big bucks Marvel has sought to put into their genius, billionaire playboy philanthropist. Cruise could experience his own renaissance as a supervillain, which has undoubtedly been the biggest criticism of the films. While he wouldn’t come with a cheap price tag, investing in the quality of your villains makes for a better product. As Loki, Tom Hiddleston proved that Marvel, and superhero films in general, can have compelling heroes AND villains. If there is someone who can make supervillains great again, it’s Cruise.

What other actors should be tapped to play superheroes or super villains? Let us know in the comments!

dc, marvel, superhero
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