Every kid has wanted to be a superhero at some point. There’s just something about doing things beyond the capabilities of any other human and earning the attention of your peers who are forced to do more mundane, earthbound tasks. Whether you wanted the strength of the Incredible Hulk or to be the Batman, there’s no doubt that being a superhero captured your imagination. Therefore, actors who get this chance to be in a comic book world to some degree tend to jump at it. They get to live out their childhood fantasies and be involved with the superheroes they spent their childhoods reading about.
However, life can be disappointing sometimes. There are numerous instances where an actor was chosen to be in these movies but couldn’t for some reason. They may have either been fired or forced to resign, but for one reason or another, they had the role of a superhero, supervillain, or supporting character taken right from underneath their noses. Sometimes this happens for the better and their replacement becomes an icon in the role. And sometimes these instances are heartbreaking with a fan favorite character departing a beloved role. Here are 15 actors who decided that being in a superhero movie or show wasn’t for them.
15. EDWARD NORTON IN THE AVENGERS
Many people try to pretend that The Incredible Hulk didn’t exist as a part of the MCU. However, though the more interesting premise at the beginning was dropped for a more generic superhero movie, Edward Norton’s portrayal of Bruce Banner was excellent. He was reserved and neurotic, but also determined to cure himself. It’s unfortunate for him, though, that he couldn’t play well with others.
Edward Norton has a reputation as a difficult actor to work with. And though they worked with him through The Incredible Hulk, something happened after that and the MCU announced that it will not bring him back for The Avengers. Norton claimed that he just grew out of the character and the fledgling MCU claimed that he couldn’t perform well in a team environment. Either way, it worked out eventually as Mark Ruffalo has taken his place and has been a delight as Banner.
14. CALISTA FLOCKHART IN SUPERGIRL
Location can make or break jobs. There are a great deal of jobs that people don’t take because of an inconvenient; that was the case with Calista Flockhart in Supergirl. Flockhart portrayed the larger than life Cat Grant, founder and owner of CatCo, the news outlet where Kara worked. She was a superb presence on the show and brightened up every episode with her particular brand of informed superiority.
When the show was on CBS, they filmed in Los Angeles which was doable for Flockhart. Unfortunately for Flockhart’s fans though, the set of Supergirl had to make the move to Vancouver once it officially became a part of the Arrowverse and had to change channels to the CW. At that point, Flockhart was unable to shoot there regularly and she was unable to be a regular on the show any longer.
13. VAL KILMER IN BATMAN AND ROBIN
After Michael Keaton stepped down as the Caped Crusader, Val Kilmer had the unenviable task of replacing that era’s definitive Batman in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever. Kilmer was inoffensive at best as Batman, but found himself in a franchise that had made a sudden 180-degree turn into camp territory. This studio-mandated shift would be enough to make anybody regret their decision.
Kilmer revealed in an interview during the 2012 Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo that the film was too “cute” for him. He suggested that they ask people who love the source material for feedback on the direction of the film. As millions of Batman fans could probably tell, nobody decided to take his advice. Therefore, Kilmer decided that it wasn’t worth the trouble and left the franchise after Batman Forever.
12. MICHAEL ROSENBAUM IN SMALLVILLE
Smallville was one of the most popular live-action superhero shows on television. Much of the show’s success had to do with the devious performance of Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor. He started out as Clark Kent’s friend and then eventually morphed into the man who would one day become Superman’s enemy. But, to the dismay of fans, he left the show after season seven, but the reason may surprise you.
Rosenbaum wanted to do comedy. During an interview, Rosenbaum revealed that his grandmother advised him to pursue a career in comedy. Rosenbaum actually started out his career in various sitcoms, so the idea wasn’t too far out of left field. Though fans would have preferred his menacing presence to remain on the show, he decided to try something different. Plus, he came back for the final episode of the series anyway to placate fans.
11. JAMES PUREFOY IN V FOR VENDETTA
A mask is often times an integral part of being a vigilante. And there may be no character with a more important mask than V from V for Vendetta. The whole purpose of the Guy Fawkes mask he sports is to mark V as a symbol of English revolution.
English actor James Purefoy was in line to play the masked vigilante, but was disheartened by the fact that the mask would never come off. Purefoy found it difficult to act the way he would have liked behind a mask and argued that most other costumed vigilantes of the time got to show at least their eyes. However, the Guy Fawkes mask was, obviously, a non-negotiable part of the character and Hugo Weaving, made famous by his role as Agent Smith in The Matrix, replaced him and did an unforgettable job.
10. DOUGRAY SCOTT IN X-MEN
There was very nearly another Wolverine. If it hadn’t been for the Mission: Impossible series, Dougray Scott would have donned the claws instead of Hugh Jackman. When Bryan Singer began casting for X-Men, he approached Russell Crowe to play Wolverine. Crowe turned it down, but instead recommended Hugh Jackman for the role. Though Jackman interviewed, the studio decided to go with Dougray Scott instead.
1999 was a busy year for Scott, however. In addition to being cast as Wolverine, he had been handpicked by Tom Cruise to play the villain in Mission: Impossible 2. The studio had allowed for this, but they didn’t allow for all of the production issues that caused M:I-2 to go several months over schedule. With no other choice, Singer had to recast Wolverine and chose Jackman, which was very fortunate for the fans.
9. COLIN DONNELL IN ARROW
Nearly every superhero has had an important loss define them; some superheroes have had several and Green Arrow is one of them. One such loss he sustained was his best friend Tommy Merlyn played expertly by Colin Donnell. Merlyn seemed like a one note character at first until his raw emotions began to show underneath the guise of the “irresponsible best friend” trope. However, as talented actors often do, he landed another role that would see him as a main character in an ensemble cast.
Chicago Med is a spinoff of the popular series Chicago Fire and Donnell was cast as a main character once the show began in 2015. Therefore, he had to leave Arrow in order to fulfill that commitment. Tommy Merlyn was killed in the season one finale “Sacrifice” after running into a collapsing building to save Laurel, his girlfriend at the time.
8. COLTON HAYNES IN ARROW
From the moment he revealed that his name was Roy Harper, people were intrigued by Colton Haynes. And from moment he selflessly defended Thea from knife-wielding muggers, people fell in love with him. Roy was Oliver’s hot headed but loyal partner during season two and three. But to the dismay of the fans, he was written out of the show in the back half of season three.
Haynes had a valid reason for retiring from the superhero life, however. According to him, he was having health problems due to the rigors of shooting combined with pre-existing stress in his life. This led to him asking to be written out of the show. While his reasoning is understandable, we have to wonder what his arc would have been had he remained on the show.
7. ANNETTE BENING IN BATMAN RETURNS
After the success of 1989’s Batman, Warner Bros immediately greenlit a sequel that would also be helmed by Tim Burton. He decided to double down on the gothic aesthetic established in Batman and introduced the Penguin as mutant outcast instead of a short crime boss and Catwoman in a costume resembling something from the realm of BDSM.
Annette Bening of American Beauty was originally supposed to bring Catwoman to the big screen. However, she became pregnant which would make shooting acrobatic scenes in a tight costume very difficult, so she had to drop out of Batman Returns. Michelle Pfeiffer was then cast as her replacement and she gave an unforgettable performance as Selina Kyle. Bening is a very talented actor, but Pfeiffer was so liberated and flighty once she became Catwoman. She was a wild card in every scene she was in which elevated the movie that much more.
6. VICTOR GARBER IN LEGENDS OF TOMORROW
Oh man, this one broke our hearts. Victor Garber was introduced on The Flash as Professor Martin Stein who was a physicist and one half of Firestorm. He moved to Legends of Tomorrow with his new partner Jax and became an integral member of the team during their three seasons. However, Victor Garber yearned to return back to Broadway and was set to take a leading role in the Broadway production of Hello, Dolly.
The showrunners of the Arrowverse, at that point, had to write him out of the show and they did so during the four-night crossover: “Crisis on Earth-X”. During the crossover, Stein sacrificed himself in order to save Jax in one of the most emotionally charged scenes in Arrowverse history. This gave Garber the freedom to go perform on Broadway while the rest of us Arrowverse fans were left crying our eyes out.
5. TERRENCE HOWARD IN IRON MAN
Money makes the world go round. And in this instance, it was the reason for Terrence Howard’s departure from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In 2008’s Iron Man, Howard played Air Force Col. James Rhodes, Tony Stark’s best friend. He did a fairly good job as the colonel and his role as War Machine was even hinted at during the final act. However, when Iron Man 2 released in 2010, it was Don Cheadle who was playing Rhodey.
There is a lot of he said/she said in this matter, but the bottom line is that Howard and Marvel did not agree on what he should be paid for the sequel. This negotiation eventually turned more hostile and the two parties parted ways, leaving behind plenty of ill will.
4. TOM HARDY IN SUICIDE SQUAD
The DCEU, or whatever it’s called these days, garnered a massive amount of excitement once it was announced; there was a great audience demand for the concept of cinematic universes. Many stars hoped to become a superhero in this burgeoning universe. One such actor was Tom Hardy who was cast as Rick Flag in Suicide Squad. The choice seemed perfect as Hardy is a chameleonic actor who would also be a huge box office draw.
This marriage was not to be, however. Before the movie even started shooting, Tom Hardy dropped out. There were rumors that he was upset with the direction of the movie, but Hardy himself actually clarified that shooting The Revenant ran over schedule and forced him to drop out of Suicide Squad. He told the media that he actually loved the script and would’ve loved to do it if he could’ve.
3. FRANZ DRAMEH IN LEGENDS OF TOMORROW
Once Victor Garber left the show, it seemed like only matter of time before Jax left as well. He needed Stein to become Firestorm. So without his literal other half, he was powerless. That hadn’t stopped Jax before though; he was still a vital part of the team. He served as the engineer on the ship and was a driven leader figure who never gave up and was never afraid to fight.
But it still would not be the same without Stein serving as his father figure. Jax lasted one more episode after Stein’s death, but was eventually written out of the show in the mid-season finale. He left the Legends in a tearful scene to find his next adventure. This was also true in real life. Franz Drameh is a young, talented actor with a bright future ahead of him. He was just ready to explore what came next.
2. ED SKREIN IN HELLBOY
The advent of social media has given many people a tool to rally together and speak up on topics that they’re passionate about. One of these topics has been whitewashing, the practice of casting white actors in roles that are people of color in the source material. Even juggernauts such as the MCU haven’t been immune with controversies arising from portrayals of The Mandarin and The Ancient One.
These public outcries of whitewashing were also responsible for Ed Skrein, also known as Ajax from Deadpool, to step down from the Hellboy reboot. Skrein was cast as Major Ben Daimo, whose character in the comic books is Asian. Once he realized that the character in the source material was of Asian descent he stepped down so that the role could “be cast appropriately”. It was a good move on Skrein’s behalf that worked towards bucking a troubling trend in Hollywood.
1. MICHAEL KEATON IN BATMAN FOREVER
This had to be a tough decision at the time but, ultimately, it turned out to be the right one. Batman is in a deadlock with Superman and Spider-Man as the most recognizable superhero in existence. Therefore, playing the definitive version of one of these characters guarantees recognition, more acting roles in the future, and lots of money. Michael Keaton had this when he played Batman in Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. However, when Joel Schumacher took over the series, he refused to appear in the next film.
When Warner Bros decided to course correct the Batman series after Batman Returns, they replaced Burton with Schumacher who infamously asked “Why does everything have to be so dark?” Keaton said he knew that the Batman Forever was in trouble at that point and refused to sign on for a third film after he read the script.
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