Fan-casting is likely as old as cinema itself, when surely once upon a time, the Baker Street Irregulars argued about which silent star should play Sherlock Holmes on the silver screen. As long as there have been vivid stories of larger than life heroes, eager fans have had their hearts set on who should be the gifted thespian to embody that hero for the movie-going audience. Yet now, in the modern age, editing software has allowed those bold fan-casters to share their vision with the world, a bold glimpse at what could have been, or still could be. Some may be just wishful thinking, others retroactive reimagining, and still others are folks who think Leonardo DiCaprio should play literally every role.
However, occasionally there are some choices so inspired, they genuinely make us wish that somehow the powers-that-be had listened to a random internet user and brought things to life their way. While many of these entries have already made their MCU debut with different actors, a few have yet to be cast for the big screen. We’re just saying, Marvel, there’s still a chance to do the right thing here. You don’t even have to thank us. We’ll just take points on the gross.
16 ANNA KENDRICK AS SQUIRREL GIRL
First of all, this is no dig at Milana Vayntrub. Best known for This Is Us and those AT&T commercials, Vayntrub is currently cast in the Freeform series New Warriors as the beloved Squirrel Girl, and we don’t doubt that she’s going to knock it out of the park. But considering this fan casting has been a dream for so many Doreen Green fans, including the actress herself, we feel like this one is a no brainer.
Academy Award nominated actress Anna Kendrick had expressed in interviews multiple times her desire to play the quirky C-Lister recently revived by Erica Henderson. Sure, we understand that a TV show budget can’t afford a star like Kendrick, nor would she necessarily want to be bound to the grueling shooting schedule of a TV show. That said, Marvel, when you’ve got A-List talent wanting in, you might as well open the door for them.
15 WALTON GOGGINS AS CARNAGE
As anyone who read comics in the '90s can tell you, Carnage can be garbage in the wrong hands. If/when Carnage is introduced into the MCU, after Sony’s attempt to exploit its Spider-Man license outside the MCU inevitably crashes and burns, careful consideration will have to be made to who dons the symbiote suit, especially since Marvel already struggles with its villains.
Might we suggest, as this fabulous fan Photoshop does, the dynamic character actor Walton Goggins. First coming to prominence in the Oscar-winning The Accountant, and then the hit show Justified, the brilliant Goggins has shown his range in everything from The Hateful Eight to Vice Principals. With his Alabama twang and folksy menace, nobody is better suited to play Cletus Kasady.
14 CAM GIGANDET AS IRON FIST
We get it, Cam Gigandet isn’t a household name, but in fairness, neither was Finn Jones before he was plucked from a bit part on Game of Thrones and thrust into K’unlun. Gigandet appeared in Twilight and the Cher musical Burlesque, but it was in the martial arts movie Never Back Down that he really showed his combat chops.
Now, we’re not gonna Finn Jones-bash here. If you want that, go literally anywhere else on the internet that deals with superheroes (including Netflix, where his Danny is roundly excoriated both on the show and in the comments). We’ll just say that the above image is pretty much what you’d picture for a gritty Iron Fist befitting the Netflix series. And it’d be pretty great to have an Iron Fist who actually knew how to fight, right?
13 BRIAN TEE AS NAMOR
The Submariner is one of the oldest Marvel characters, and a significant part of many of Marvel’s greatest events throughout the years, yet there hasn’t even been an inkling of his potential appearance in the MCU. That’s likely because nobody seems to know who even has the film rights to the character. Is it Disney? Is it Universal? Howard Hughes' Caddo Company?
Wherever Namor is, he’s gonna need an actor, and we would like to suggest Brian Tee? You might remember him as the Drift King in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift or as Noburo Mori in The Wolverine. The Japanese actor also stood out as Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and we’re confident he could truly shine as the regal Atlantean.
12 SYLVESTER STALLONE AS THE PUNISHER
It took four tries to get the Punisher right, and we’re not gonna try and pretend that John Bernthal isn’t the ideal Punisher for today’s Marvel universe. That said, this Photoshop couldn’t stop us from imagining a world where a young Sylvester Stallone donned the skull shirt, bringing the gritty, Rambo-esque sense of chaotic vengeance upon the streets of '80s New York.
This Frank Castle would have been the perfect blend of Stallone’s Cobra-style cool with his later Cop Land demons, and given him an opportunity to spread his wings as an actor at a time his fame and hubris were undoing a lot of his credibility. Come on, you can already picture the VHS tracking lines as Stallone chomps a cigar and blows away NYC street gangs straight out of The Warriors, can’t you?
11 MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY AS MYSTERIO
To date, Mysterio has never appeared on the big screen. It almost happened back when Sony planned its haphazardly hinted-at “Sinister Six solo movie.” That plan never came to fruition when Sony’s whole Amazing Spider-Man franchise collapsed, so now all hope lies with Marvel to bring Quentin Beck to the silver screen. And while this may seem an ambitious idea, Marvel has already scored more than a dozen Oscar winners for the MCU so far, what’s one more?
McConaughey would make a perfect Mysterio. Imagine our still-uncertain-of-himself hero, Peter Parker, subjected to the probing questions of Dr. Ludwig Rinehart, played with the somber menace McConaughey once brought to Rustin Cole on True Detective. Or imagine him, in full helmet and cape, atop a building, relishing in the same dramatic flourish he brought to the Man in Black in The Dark Tower. Get Matt on board, and we’d all be down for a Sinister Six solo movie.
10 RHONDA ROUSEY AS CAPTAIN MARVEL
Yes, we know Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson has already been cast as Captain Marvel. She’s a great actress, and she’s sure to crush it in the role. That said, there is something a little frustrating about the female representation in the MCU.
Far be it from us to sound body-shaming in any way, and while the fact that the actresses who have donned costumes thus far in the MCU have clearly done physical training for the roles, there seems to still only be one female body type depicted in the MCU to date. It would have been refreshing to see a Captain Marvel who was a bit more imposing, with a bit more mass and tone. While MMA fighter turned actress Rhonda Rousey doesn’t have the resume of Brie Larson, it would have been fun to see a Carol Danvers who rivaled Thor in a bicep contest.
9 NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU AS ADAM WARLOCK
Don’t think Nikolaj Coster-Waldau can pull off a celestial being of great power? Stop what you’re doing and watch Gods of Egypt. Did you do it? How bonkers was that movie, right? Geoffrey Rush fighting a space worm? Bonkers!
Sorry, got sidetracked there. The point is, Coster-Waldau has already demonstrated his ability to play a god-like figure in Gods of Egypt, and a man struggling with his destiny in Game of Thrones. His whole resume has seemingly been an audition for the role of the iconic Marvel hero teased at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (maybe not The Other Woman, fine, but the rest…). Not to mention, let’s face it, it didn’t take much work to make Coster-Waldau look like he just fell out of a page of Infinity Gauntlet.
8 MATTHEW MODINE AS DR. STRANGE
Aside from those who had been calling for his casting on Tumblr with the calm, rational reserve Tumblr is known for, the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme was greeted with a satisfied shrug. We all knew he was capable of the role, and he certainly delivered an entertaining performance, even if his American accent never quite feels right.
But this was an opportunity to come out of left field with a choice, and to do something bold. Particularly to broaden the scope of the MCU in terms of age. Casting a middle aged superhero in Iron Man was part of what made the film stand out, given the perspective of a man with half his life behind him making such a drastic change. While Strange still needed to be cocky, it would have been nice to see somebody else just as wizened, just as worn, to stand toe to toe with Stark and break from the monotony of heroes in their early 30s. Modine, a veteran actor of great and under-appreciated talent, could have brought an entirely new and unexpected aspect to the role.
7 NATHAN FILLION AS NOVA
Well, we almost got him as Simon Williams, aka Wonder Man, if those set photos of the movie posters that never appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are to be believed. But the fact of the matter is, it is a truth universally acknowledged that the former Malcolm Reynolds belongs somewhere in the MCU.
Ever since the first Guardians was in pre-production, folks surmised/hoped that Fillion’s past partnership with director James Gunn would result in his playing the role of Nova. Yet, while Fillion did have a cameo as the voice of an alien, the role of Richard Rider was left unfilled. Of course, Marvel could choose to go with Sam Alexander’s Nova, for which Fillion would be too old, there’s no denying that there’s nobody better to play Rider than the man behind the iconic Captain Hammer.
6 KATRINA LAW AS ELEKTRA
Elektra just can’t seem to catch a break. From a bland solo movie in the pre-MCU days to being an afterthought in a muddled Daredevil Season 2 and an…odd creative choice in Defenders, there’s not a real audience connection with one of Marvel’s most unique and dynamic women.
Now, we’re not gonna lay the blame for that entirely on the shoulders of Elodie Young, the actress who appears as Elektra on Netflix. Performers can only do so much with underserved characters. But you know who did a hell of a lot with a poorly written character? Arrow’s Katrina Law. Look back on Nyssa Al Ghul’s early episodes, and you’ll see an underwritten character made into a fan favorite by Law’s commitment and charisma.
5 EVA GREEN AS MEDUSA
Several episodes of Inhumans have already aired on ABC. Did you know that? Don’t be surprised if you didn’t. The series, despite high expectations, was released to zero fanfare, abysmal critical reception and even worse ratings. Originally intended to be a movie, rumored inter-office politics between Marvel Studios and a certain high-up exec cause the film to get cancelled and pushed to TV, where it looks as though it was assembled the week before air-time.
Now imagine Inhumans had gotten its due. Instead of just marketing it like “ABC’s Game of Thrones,” producers would have actually spent the money to make it so! It’s not as if Eva Green is opposed to television, evidenced by her work on Penny Dreadful. Photoshops like this help us disappointed fans imagine what Inhumans could have been if it hadn’t been an afterthought.
4 CHRISTIAN BALE AS CAPTAIN BRITAIN
Every hardcore comics fan has that one character they love that everyone else scoffs off as a joke. No matter how much you go, “But guys, they’re cool, I swear!” you stand alone. Vindication, it seems, only comes in the form of a screen debut. Remember, Green Arrow fans, the rush you felt when Arrow became a hit and suddenly everyone quoted “You have failed this city”? Or how Aquaman fans got a rush at the first sight of Momoa’s badass Arthur Curry?
All we’re saying is, it's time Captain Britain received the same recognition. A fantastic character, with great runs from writers like Alan Moore and Chris Claremont, Captain Britain can be a great character in the right hands. And nobody is better to portray the Britannia bad*ss than Oscar winner Christian Bale.
3 CHARLIZE THERON AS CAPTAIN MARVEL
Our whole entry here could really just say, “I mean, did you see Atomic Blonde?” But really… did you guys see Atomic Blonde? Between the transcendent Mad Max: Fury Road and her commanding performance in the aforementioned Atomic Blonde, Theron has taken a mid-career turn to become one of the most dynamic and engaging action stars of our time, regardless of gender.
How has she not popped up in the MCU already? Her work on Atomic Blonde shows she’s not afraid of the comic book medium, and her appearance in the forgotten Hancock shows she can handle superhero material (far better than Hancock’s writers could, anyway). Not to mention, Carol Danvers as she is today is a dead-ringer for the Oscar-winning South African actress.
2 JAMIE FOXX AS BLADE
We’re not going to pretend like the ideal blade isn’t still Wesley Snipes. We’d be foolish to declare otherwise. Hell, his Blade kickstarted the entire comic book movie boom as we know it today, and we’ll be forever grateful. But Marvel doesn’t seem to be jumping on his offers to reprise the role, and Snipes is getting a bit long in the fang to play the daywalker, so let's have a back up plan.
And what better backup plan can there be than Django himself, Jamie Foxx? True, Jamie and Marvel don’t always mix well, as we learned from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but between his powerful performance in Django Unchained and his imposing role in this year’s Baby Driver, there’s nobody better to take the mantle from Snipes as Marvel’s legendary vampire killer.
1 BARACK OBAMA AS NICK FURY
Look, it's not like he’s doing anything else these days, right? After eight years of having to deal with Congress, taking on HYDRA would be pretty easy. Hell, we could have avoided the plot of Iron Man 3 altogether with this guy. As soon as the Mandarin popped up, he would have told Tony Stark to go get him a coffee and sent Seal Team Six in to do the job.
Now, we recognize the former 44th president isn’t exactly an actor, but he held his own at the Correspondents Dinners and some SNL skits, so why not give the guy a shot? We’re just saying, if Samuel L. Jackson ever gets busy filming Black Snake Moan 2, we know a guy Marvel can call to fill in. He’s just gotta remember to tell Maria Hill to campaign in Michigan and Wisconsin.
Have you seen any photoshops that got your MCU fandom titillating? Let us know in the comments!