As of November 2018, the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) or Worlds Of DC (as it was re-branded at San Diego Comic-Con this past summer) consists of five films. Man Of Steel kicked things off in 2013 and was followed by Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Suicide Squad in 2016, then Wonder Woman and Justice League in 2017. Aquaman is next up, releasing in December 2018. Then 2019 will see Shazam! and Joker hit screens, followed by Birds Of Prey and Wonder Woman 1984 in 2020.
The films thus far have all been relative financial successes, except Justice League, but they generally pale in comparison to the all-conquering Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. They've also all been torn apart by fans and critics alike, with the exception of the universally beloved Wonder Woman, so it's no surprise that DC is looking to do something of a soft reboot in 2019. There will be less focus on the inter-connectivity of the movies, with more Joker-esque standalone movies planned, and more emphasis on making films with a variety of tones, as opposed to the overall dark tone championed by Zack Snyder. There have been a huge amount of characters used in the DCEU so far, with many more set to come as well. This has led to a massive number of actors and actresses being linked with roles both large and small. This list will detail 20 Hollywood mainstays who almost starred in DCEU/Worlds Of DC films. Just imagine how different these roles would have been if these guys had been cast!
20 MATTHEW GOODE AS SUPERMAN
English actor Matthew Goode has been in the orbit of the DC Extended Universe for as long as it has existed. Goode starred as Ozymandias in Zack Snyder's controversial 2009 Watchmen film and starred with future-Lois Lane Amy Adams in 2010's Leap Year. Then when the casting process began for 2011's Man Of Steel with Snyder directing, Goode reportedly was the runner-up to Henry Cavill for the role of Clark Kent/Superman.
Sources suggested Snyder was thinking of heavily augmenting Goode with CGI when in the Superman costume, similary to how Ryan Reynolds' Hal Jordan was depicted in Green Lantern. Goode then apparently met with Snyder about an unspecified role in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice as well, but that never transpired either.
19 OLGA KURYLENKO AS WONDER WOMAN
Actress Olga Kurylenko started her career as a model at the age of 16 and later rose to fame in Hollywood with roles in 2007's Hitman and 2008's Bond movie Quantum Of Solace. She reportedly was one of three main candidates for the role of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in Zack Snyder's Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
The role, obviously, went to Gal Gadot, who went on to star in her own hugely successful solo movie and had a main role in Justice League as well. Kurylenko commented in 2014 that the thought of nabbing the role did cross her mind, but there were many other roles out there. She said was happy for Gadot and was looking forward to watching the film, which was a very gracious and level-headed way to look at things.
18 JOSH BROLIN AS BATMAN
Josh Brolin has experienced one of the best years of any actor in recent memory in 2018. He first starred as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and cemented his status as one of the greatest (and most talked about) villains in superhero movie history. He then also appeared as a completely different Marvel character, the time-travelling hero Cable, in Deadpool 2.
It was a nice reward for an actor who had appeared in several forgettable comic book movies before (Jonah Hex and Sin City: A Dame To Kill For). In fact, his success meant that he was able to look back on the discussions he had with Zack Snyder about playing Batman and say that he was really glad it wound up not happening. He even said he hadn't given it a second thought since! Ouch.
17 MATT BOMER AS SUPERMAN
Magic Mike and The Nice Guys star Matt Bomer has a long and complicated history with the role of Superman. When Superman: Flyby was in development in the early 2000s, with a script by JJ Abrams and director Brett Ratner attached, Bomer was briefly Ratner's choice for the role, even screen-testing for it.
The project then fell apart when Bryan Singer's Superman Returns took shape. Bomer was again in the running for Man of Steel, but lost out. In 2012, author Jackie Collins spoke of a rumour that Bomer lost out on Flyby because producers found out he was gay, but a source told E! News that this wasn't true. In the end, Bomer did eventually play the last son of Krypton when he voiced the character in 2013's Superman: Unbound animated film.
16 TOM HARDY AS RICK FLAG
The Variety casting announcement had one very big name attached to the role of Rick Flag: Tom Hardy. Yes, the man we once called Bane was initially cast in Suicide Squad, but was forced to bow out due to shooting on The Revenant overrunning by three months. He has since commented twice on losing the role, saying in May 2015 that he was upset because he thought David Ayer's script was great.
He then said, in December 2015, that his annoyance at losing the money Suicide Squad would have paid him really bummed him out, but that anger helped inform his antagonistic Revenant character John Fitzgerald. Hardy did eventually star in another comic book movie, of course, and Venom will likely work out better for him in the long run.
15 JOE MANGANIELLO AS SUPERMAN
Joe Manganiello rose to fame playing werewolf Alcide Herveaux in HBO's massively successful romantic vampire saga True Blood. It was, in fact, his commitment to this role that forced him to drop out of the running to play Superman in Man Of Steel. In a 2017 interview with MTV's Happy Sad Confused podcast Manganiello said that he had a 90-minute meeting with Zack Snyder in which they discussed his vision for the new version of Superman.
He also met the producers and his measurements were even taken for the costume. Scheduling conflicts with HBO then reared their head and even though his agent tried to work a deal, it was to no avail. Manganiello was later cast as Deathstroke in the DCEU and made a cameo in the Justice League post-credits scene.
14 JOHN CENA AS SHAZAM!
Thor and Chuck star Zachary Levi was announced as Shazam in October 2017, ending months of speculation on who would be playing the adult superheroic version of Billy Batson in the DC's first attempt at a more family-friendly, funny movie. Previously, one of the names most heavily linked with the role was WWE superstar and actor John Cena, whose musclebound boy scout image seemed perfect for the character.
But, as of September 2017, Latino Review reported that he was out of the running and only a few weeks later it was revealed that Levi had nabbed the coveted role. Incidentally, Levi even said he initially didn't see himself as the hero because he felt he lacked the physicality and star power required, so auditioned for a different role in the film.
13 ELODIE YUNG AS WONDER WOMAN
Fans will undoubtedly recognize this actress, who was widely believed to be in the running for the role of Wonder Woman alongside Gal Gadot and Olga Kurylenko. French actress Elodie Yung appeared in 2013's G.I. Joe: Retaliation as Jinx and then went on to even bigger geek fame with her role as Elektra Natchios in the second season of Daredevil on Netflix.
She then reprised this role in 2017's The Defenders. Unlike Kurylenko, Yung has never publicly spoken about being considered for Wonder Woman, but it's generally accepted that she tested for the part and got down to the final three choices. With her exotic looks and physicality, she would've been a good fit for Diana, and we're glad she got to flex her superheroic muscles later as Elektra.
12 GARY SINISE AS GENERAL SAM LANE OR WADE EILING
This casting rumor should give fans an idea about just how fluid and ever-changing Suicide Squad was when it was in the development process. Gary Sinise, star of Forrest Gump and CSI: New York, was attached to play a military general in the film. JoBlo said it was General Sam Lane (father of Lois) and Latino Review said it was General Wade Eiling, an Atom villain played by Clancy Brown in CW's The Flash show.
But, in the end, neither character wound up being in the film and the talk of Sinise went away. David Ayer's script reportedly went through many drafts and countless changes were made (the biggest being the nature of The Joker's role), but this shows that entire characters might have been written and then dropped completely as well!
11 CRISTIN MILIOTI AS THE HUNTRESS
There was a funny series of Fargo connections in the casting of Birds Of Prey. As we know by now, Mary Elizabeth Winstead won the role of The Huntress, beating out Cristin Milioti, who was reported to be in close contention. Both actresses had important roles in seasons of FX's excellent Fargo TV show, with Winstead appearing in season three and Milioti in season two.
The connection then got even weirder when Ewan McGregor was cast as Black Mask, the villain of the movie. He had starred alongside Winstead in Fargo, playing her lover and fellow criminal, and the two actors had begun a real-life relationship soon after. Maybe Winstead had a hand in convincing him to jump on board the superhero movie train?
10 JESSE EISENBERG AS JIMMY OLSEN
Jesse Eisenberg's performance as a wacky Lex Luthor in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice was one of the most poorly received aspects of a film that was torn apart across the board by fans and critics. But what some fans might not know is that Eisenberg originally met with Zack Snyder to discuss a very different role in the film, and one that arguably might have suited the actor better: Jimmy Olsen!
It transpired that Eisenberg said no after finding out Olsen's role was a one scene cameo in which he was offed, with Snyder effectively trying to pull a move similar to Drew Barrymore's role in Scream; the famous person who is written off unexpectedly early. But Snyder then saw the potential for Eisenberg as a younger, more modern Lex Luthor...
9 OPRAH WINFREY AS AMANDA WALLER
When Variety broke the initial casting news of Suicide Squad in December 2014, most of the main names in the cast were present and accounted for: Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto, Cara Delevingne and Jai Courtney. But there was one important role that had yet to be cast at that point: Amanda Waller, the tough-as-nails leader of Task Force X.
Variety reported that there were three actresses in contention for the part: Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and none-other-than talk show icon Oprah Winfrey! Oprah was apparently Warner Brothers' top pick for The Wall. She never commented publicly on the casting, so we'll likely never know if she lost out to Davis or turned the role down.
8 ED HARRIS & MAX MARTINI AS RICK FLAG SR. AND JR.
Joel Kinnaman wound up replacing Tom Hardy as soldier Rick Flag in Suicide Squad, but during the press rounds for his 2015 thriller Run All Night it was hinted that he had perhaps tried to recruit Ed Harris, his co-star in that movie, into the DC film. Westworld star Harris said that there had been something Kinnaman had asked him to look at and think about doing, but he wasn't sure if it was Suicide Squad.
Rumors had initially circulated in 2015 that there would be a Rick Flag Sr in the film as well, and Harris was Warner Brothers' top pick, but when those rumors had first surfaced it was with Max Martini (Pacific Rim) playing the younger Flag, not Kinnaman (or Tom Hardy). In the end, one Flag was all we got.
7 NICOLE KIDMAN AS QUEEN HIPPOLYTA
Nicole Kidman (Batman Forever) is making a return to the DC Universe in the upcoming Aquaman solo movie, playing Arthur Curry's mother Queen Atlanna. But, she was actually offered the chance to play another DC Queen a few years earlier when Warner Brothers approached her to play Queen Hippolyta in Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman.
Kidman's schedule didn't allow her to accept, as opposed to her not wanting to be involved in the project, which might explain why she signed on only a few years later for such a small role in Aquaman. Or perhaps the fact that James Wan (The Conjuring) was directing that movie might've sealed the deal for her, with reports emerging a few months ago that Kidman is a huge fan of his work.
6 RON CEPHAS JONES AS THE WIZARD
Ron Cephas Jones, who fans will recognize from Luke Cage and the NBC hit This Is Us, was announced to play The Wizard in Shazam back in January 2018. Jones seemed ideal to play the wise 3000-year-old sorcerer who bestows Billy Batson with his superpowers, but then news broke in July that scheduling conflicts had forced him to pass on the role.
He was replaced by Djimon Hounsou, and his casting in Shazam led to a neat pub quiz fact: his role as Korath The Pursuer in the upcoming MCU Captain Marvel movie meant that he would be appearing in both DC and Marvel's Captain Marvel movies in 2018 (as that is Shazam's true superhero name).
5 ALEC BALDWIN AS THOMAS WAYNE
News broke on August 27th 2018 that Alec Baldwin would be playing Batman's father, Thomas Wayne, in Todd Phillips' upcoming Joker movie. However, just two short days after that announcement, Baldwin dropped out of the project, citing scheduling issues. He was replaced less than a month later by Brett Cullen.
It's tempting to wonder if Baldwin nixed his involvement after rumours circulated that his Thomas Wayne would be a thinly veiled stand-in for the man he impersonates on SNL. He reacted poorly to that idea and perhaps he didn't want to go back to that well so soon after parodying him so effectively already.
4 GUGU MBATHA-RAW AS BLACK CANARY
Birds Of Prey is scheduled for a February 2020 release and is being directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs). It will see the return of Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn alongside several new female characters to the DCEU: Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Huntress, Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya and Jurnee Smollet-Bell as Black Canary.
However, a scant week before Bell's casting was announced, several other actresses were in the running for the role of Black Canary, including Gugu Mbatha-Raw, known best for A Wrinkle In Time. Canary had traditionally been white in the comics, but there is a much-needed push for diverse talent in the role. In the end they went for Bell, a lesser known name than Mbatha-Raw, but undoubtedly a great talent.
3 SHIA LABEOUF AS L.T. 'GQ' EDWARDS
In September 2016 Variety released an interview with Shia Labeouf in which he said he had sworn off starring in big budget Hollywood blockbusters after bad experiences making the likes of the Transformers sequels and Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, even throwing some shade at Steven Spielberg in the process.
However, he did reveal that he had been lined up to re-team with with his Fury director David Ayer in Suicide Squad, playing the Lt. 'GQ' Edwards role that eventually went to Scott Eastwood. He said he met with WB but got the impression they felt he was too 'crazy', and though they said he is a good actor, the studio was reticent to invest in him.
2 DWAYNE JOHNSON AS BLACK ADAM
Now, before anyone gets mad at us, we know that Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is currently signed on to play Black Adam on-screen at some point. However, considering it was first announced more than four years ago, why has he not yet actually appeared in a DC film as the character in any way, shape or form?
We're still going to file this one under the 'almost' category, as fans assumed that the upcoming Shazam! movie would be the perfect place to debut Adam, but producer Hiram Garcia said they risked compromising both characters by cramming them into one movie. In truth, we've been finding it harder and harder to imagine with every passing year that it will truly happen, so we'll believe it when we see it.
1 ARMIE HAMMER AS ALMOST EVERYONE
Armie Hammer has to be top of the list when it comes to actors who are constantly linked with superhero roles. Over the course of his career his name has been thrown around in relation to Green Lantern (with Hammer routinely trolling fans by fanning the flames of social media rumors), Shazam (with Dwayne Johnson saying Hammer would be his choice for the role of Billy Batson), and even Batman, not long after Hammer starred alongside the Superman himself, Henry Cavill, in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Of course, there was also the time a 19-year-old Hammer was cast as Batman in George Miller's Justice League Mortal, a project which fell apart during development in 2008. Surely Hammer will finally play a superhero at some point... right?