Taking the 1978 Richard Donner’s Superman movie as the starting point for modern superhero films, there have been over twenty movies based on characters from DC Comics. Five different actors have donned on the cape and cowl on the big screen, Superman has had three different live-action movie incarnations and Warner Bros.’ DCEU has released four movies since 2013. A lot of big names have been, and still are, associated with DC Comics movies.
Before superhero movies became the money-making machines of today, finding an actor willing to star in a superhero film was no easy task. Warner Bros. has gone after some pretty big names when casting their DC Comics movies and a good number of actors turned them down, either due to scheduling conflicts or lack of interest. Some of them expressed regret over their decision, while others have sworn off superhero movies altogether. Not so long ago, we took a look at the 15 actors who turned down roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Likewise, we have scoured the web and found 15 actors who turned down roles in movies based on DC Comics. Nolan’s Batman Trilogy and the current DCEU could have looked a lot different had these actors said yes.
15. JAKE GYLLENHAAL
Judging by the number of actors who turned down roles in Suicide Squad, casting must have been a lengthy and exhausting process. Before The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman took on the part of Rick Flag, Warner Bros. offered it to first to Tom Hardy and then to Jake Gyllenhaal. Hardy, who previously played Bane in Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, turned down the role due to scheduling conflicts.
The studio then approached Jake Gyllenhaal, who passed on the opportunity to become part of the DCEU. While Gyllenhaal never gave a clear reason for turning down the part, the most likely obstacle was the movie’s script. However, this is not the first time Gyllenhaal was considered for a superhero role. In 2007, Sam Raimi wanted to cast him in Spider-Man 2 after Tobey Maguire’s injury.
14. CHARLIZE THERON
DCEU’s Wonder Woman reportedly missed out on casting the Academy Award winner, Charlize Theron. Wonder Woman director, Patty Jenkins and Theron had previously worked together on the biographical crime drama Monster, which received wide critical acclaim and won numerous awards.
In a recent interview, Theron stated that Patty offered her a role in Wonder Woman, which she unfortunately had to turn down due to engagement on various other projects. Theron did not say which part she was offered, but we have some guesses. While the first obvious choice is Antiope, her early death in the movie makes it unlikely that the role was indeed intended for Theron. On the other hand, the second more likely option, but maybe not so glaringly obvious, is Doctor Poison. Whatever the role, Charlize Theron would have been great in Wonder Woman, so here’s hoping we get to see her in the sequel.
13. MATT DAMON
Now that Ben Affleck is Batman, the rumor mill is brimming with speculations about Matt Damon joining the DCEU. Back in 1997, these two actors and friends got their start in Hollywood by writing and starring in Good Will Hunting. So, it wouldn’t be a surprising if Damon does appear in DCEU’s upcoming The Batman movie, something that Damon himself stated he’d be open to.
However, Damon had already passed on an opportunity to star in a DC Comics movie. Back when Christian Bale was still Batman, Warner Bros. offered Damon the role of Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face, but due to scheduling issues he couldn’t take it. Damon has since stated that you don’t always get to do everything you want to and that the studio was right to cast Aaron Eckhart, who is great actor. Hopefully though, Affleck will find a way to bring his friend into the DCEU.
12. NEIL DIAMOND
Casting the 1978 Superman movie wasn’t an easy task. Back then, actors weren’t exactly lining up to star in superhero movies. Before Christopher Reeve was finally cast in the role of Clark Kent, Superman’s producers approached a number of actors with the part but each and every one of them ran like hell. Their most surprising choice was Neil Diamond.
Alex and Ilya Salkind, the father-son producer duo, called Neil in for a meeting and offered him the part. However, after concluding that pursuing his music career would be the more lucrative option, Diamond turned down the offer. Reportedly, Diamond gave the producers quite the laugh at the meeting before ultimately passing on their offer. Instead, the role went to Christopher Reeve, at the time an unknown stage actor.
11. ETHAN HAWKE
After Tim Burton’s Batman Returns’ unsatisfactory performance at the box office, Warner Bros. decided it was time to make the Batman movies more family-friendly. They asked Burton to step down from the director’s chair and brought Joel Schumacher on board to give Batman a new look.
Upon Burton’s departure, Michael Keaton refused to reprise his role as the Caped Crusader. But before the part landed in the hands of Val Kilmer, both William Baldwin and Ethan Hawke were considered for the role of Bruce Wayne. Ethan Hawke, who at the time was best known for his performance in Dead Poets Society, was even offered the part. However, out of fear that taking a role in a superhero movie would damage his credibility as an actor, Hawke turned down the offer. The actor has since lamented his decision, realizing he could have used this as a stepping stone for bigger roles.
10. JON HAMM
A Green Lantern movie has been in the works for quite some time before it was finally realized with Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan. Back in 1997, Kevin Smith was asked to write a script for the movie but turned down the offer. Finally, Warner Bros. got Martin Campbell on board and Green Lantern hit the theaters in 2011.
However, Reynolds wasn’t the studio’s first choice to portray Green Lantern. Bradley Cooper, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake and Sam Worthington were approached by Warner Bros. but ultimately either rejected the project or weren’t offered the part. The one contender that admitted to being offered the role of Hal Jordan is Mad Man star, Jon Hamm. Hamm stated that Warner Bros. came after him pretty hard for Green Lantern, but that he refused because he didn’t like those kinds of movies.
9. CAROLINE MUNRO
The first modern superhero movie, Superman, came out in 1978 to wide critical acclaim and financial success. A lot of big stars and nobodies where in talks for various roles in Richard Donner’s hit motion picture. The English actress and model, Caroline Munro, was even offered a part in the movie.
Munro is best known for her numerous roles in horror movies, as well as for being a Bond Girl. Warner Bros. came to Munro with the part of Ursa, ally of the villainous General Zod. However, the actress turned down the part in favor of appearing in The Spy Who Loved Me with Roger Moore as James Bond. According to the actress, her agent at the time advised her that it was wiser to go with the already successful Bond franchise than with the untested Superman.
8. PIERCE BROSNAN
When Tim Burton was given the green light for his 1989 Batman, he met with a number of actors to star in the movie. Eventually, the controversial choice was made and the role went to Michael Keaton. One of the actors Burton met with was none other than the future Bond star, Pierce Brosnan.
In his youth, Brosnan was a huge fan of the Dark Knight, but still laughed at Burton’s offer to play the character on the big screen. According to the actor, his response was something along the lines of “any guy who wears his underpants outside his trousers cannot be taken seriously.” While Brosnan still built an impressive career, especially with the Bond movies, he has expressed regret over his rushed decision. And we can’t help but regret it too, since Brosnan clearly has the looks and the chops for a great Bruce Wayne.
7. JOSH HARTNETT
Josh Hartnett was once a rising star in Hollywood. Movies such as Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor made Hartnett a sough-after actor for a number of different roles. In recent years, the actor has gone on record stating that at one point he was considered for superhero roles including Batman, Spider-Man and Superman.
In 2004, Hartnett was offered the role of Superman in Warner Bros. first attempt at a Batman/Superman crossover. Hartnett turned down the offer because he realized that superhero roles had the potential to define him and he did not want to be labeled as Superman for the rest of his career. While this particular Superman movie never got made, the project continued and Superman was rebooted in 2006 with Brandon Routh in Superman Returns.
6. LEONARDO DICAPRIO
Before his big break in James Cameron’s Titanic in 1997, Leonardo DiCaprio was approached by Warner Bros. with an offer to portray Dick Grayson, aka Robin, in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever. DiCaprio met with the director but turned down the role because he wasn’t feeling ready for that kind of a movie. The part of Robin landed in the hands of Chris O’Donnell and considering how everything turned out, we doubt Leo is losing sleep over this “missed” opportunity.
About 7 years later, DiCaprio was approached by Sony Pictures for the role of Peter Parker in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. However, DiCaprio passed on the offer saying that he wasn’t ready to put on a superhero suit. Lately, there have been rumors that Leo could be DCEU’s new Joker, so perhaps he was waiting for a villain role to come his way.
5. ANTHONY HOPKINS
One of Hollywood’s most highly regarded actors, Anthony Hopkins, is one of those actors who never cease to impress with incredible performances. In 2011, Hopkins appeared as Odin in Marvel’s Thor movie, however, this wasn’t the first time Hopkins was offered a part in a superhero movie. Before Michael Caine became Alfred Pennyworth in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, the role was intended for Hopkins.
Reportedly, Nolan offered Hopkins the role, but Hopkins turned it down for unknown reasons. Surprisingly, not long after turning down the role of Alfred, Hopkins joined J.J. Abrams and Brett Ratner’s Superman: Flyby as Jor-El. However, this project was scrapped and Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns made it to the big screen instead. Hopkins said that he was ready to do the movie with Brett, but once he was out of the picture the deal fell apart.
4. JOE MANGANIELLO
The Magic Mike star, Joe Manganiello, could be joining the DCEU as Batman’s nemesis Deathstroke. His casting was announced back in 2016, however, The Batman has since changed directors and possibly the script as well, leaving Manganiello’s role hanging in the air.
But, this wasn’t Manganiello’s first attempt to join the DCEU. Before Henry Cavill was cast as Superman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, the role was offered to Joe Manganiello. Apparently, Snyder liked his performance in HBO’s True Blood and approached him with the part. Ironically, the show was the main reason he was offered the part and the reason he had to turn it down. Due to conflicting schedules with True Blood, Manganiello had to pass on Snyder’s offer. While we have no doubt that he would have made a fine Superman, we can totally see him as Deathstroke too.
3. HEATH LEDGER
The future Clown Prince of Crime, Heath Ledger, almost became the Dark Knight instead. Christopher Nolan offered Ledger the role of the Caped Crusader in Batman Begins, but Ledger turned him down stating that he “would never take part in a superhero film.” Clearly, Nolan’s Batman movie changed his mind because Ledger signed on to play The Joker in the sequel before the first draft of the script was completed. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Heath Ledger gave an amazing performance in The Dark Knight, winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor approximately one year after his tragic death. While it may be hard to imagine Ledger as Batman, we probably never would have picked him for The Joker either. Yet, his Joker is by far the best live-action Joker of all time. And who knows, perhaps he would have made a great Batman too.
2. KATIE HOLMES
Yes, we know what you must be thinking, Katie Holmes did play Rachel Dawes in Nolan’s Batman Begins. And while the actress was originally cast as Rachel in Nolan’s first Batman movie, she opted not to reprise her role in the sequel, The Dark Knight. Reportedly, Holmes was offered a large sum for the part, but still turned it down in favor of doing Mad Money.
In case you don’t remember Mad Money, don’t sweat it. The movie was a box office flop and received rather unflattering critical reviews. On the contrary, The Dark Knight set box office records and received tremendously positive reviews. Still, when asked if she had regrets about abandoning the trilogy, Holmes stood firmly by her decision and even gave Maggie Gyllenhaal her blessing.
1. JAIMIE ALEXANDER
Taking on a role in a comic book-based movie is a decision that carries consequences. Not only does the part usually label the actor, it also has the power to prevent them from ever being cast in another comic book movie adaptation. While actors such as Ryan Reynolds and Chris Evans played different comic book characters, others did not get the same opportunity.
Thor’s Lady Sif, Jaimie Alexander, was one of the front-runners for the role of Diana Prince in DCEU’s Wonder Woman. In a recent interview, Alexander explained that although she would have loved the opportunity to portray one of her favorite comic book characters, her contractual obligations to Marvel prevented her from doing so. Undoubtedly, Jaimie Alexander would have made an excellent Wonder Woman, however, she’s equally awesome as Lady Sif. Besides, Gal Gadot turned out to be the perfect fit, so it’s a win-win.
Which of these actors and actresses would you have liked to see in DC Comics movies? Let us know in the comments!
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