Hollywood is a fickle business. A lot of things have to come together for a movie to be made and many times, these things are in flux. Directors come and go, scripts change, concepts are altered, and actors are replaced. Sometimes these changes work out and the movie is the better for it. Other times, the alternative would have been a better option. That’s the curse of the movie business; you have to make decisions and hope that you made the correct one and arguably the most important decision is casting. You can’t make a movie work with a bad cast.
As superhero movies began their rise to mainstream popularity, more and more actors started to be linked to these movies. Whether these links formed from fan rumors or leaked director preference. Many of these rumors turned out to be just that; but you can’t help but wonder how these castings would have worked out had the rumors actually been true. Some of them would have likely improved the character while others would have probably turned out to be lesser choices. With that in mind, here are 8 Superhero Casting Rumors That Would’ve Been Better Than What We Got (And 7 That Would’ve Been Worse).
15 BETTER: EDDIE MURPHY AS ROBIN
It may be hard to believe now, but before Tim Burton got ahold of it, Batman was considered a comedic character. So when Warner Bros were looking to make another movie based on the character, that’s the direction they wanted to go. In that vein, there were rumors of a Batman movie starring Bill Murray as the Caped Crusader with Eddie Murphy as Robin... yes, Eddie Murphy.
We're not saying it would’ve been good, but it would’ve been better than Chris O’Donnell. If you have to go with the campy route, it would’ve been better to lean further into the absurdity than to make it semi serious. O’Donnell was unfunny and annoying. If Eddie Murphy was cast, there’s no way anyone would’ve been able to take anything seriously, thus changing the framing of the movie. Plus, Eddie Murphy at his best is a side-splitting presence who can make anything enjoyable.
14 WORSE: TOM CRUISE AS IRON MAN
When the Marvel Cinematic Universe was nothing but a thought, Jon Favreau needed to cast somebody to play Tony Stark in Iron Man. Tom Cruise had long been flirting with the possibility of playing the character, but eventually he lost interest and Jon Favreau fought to cast Robert Downey Jr instead. The rest is history.
Cruise may have the more storied career, but Downey is the better actor for this role. In Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr has given us an extremely complex character who projects confidence in spades and is a master of deflecting others from his true feelings which can usually be seen just below the surface. The story of Tony Stark lines up with the story of Downey’s career. Tom Cruise is no doubt a talented actor, but this role required the services of Robert Downey Jr. -- there’s no other Iron Man.
13 BETTER: JOAQUIN PHOENIX AS THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Ok, put the pitchforks away and hear us out. Mark Ruffalo is an exceptional actor and he has made for a tremendous Bruce Banner and Incredible Hulk. He is a chameleon, effectively playing everything from a deeply troubled Banner in Avengers: Age of Ultron to a befuddled Banner in Thor: Ragnarok.
But if there was one thing to nitpick about his character, it’s his anger. Ruffalo just doesn’t portray that deep well of unresolved anger that is bubbling just below the surface of this unsuspecting scientist. This would be rectified if the rumors of Joaquin Phoenix portraying Dr, Bruce Banner came to fruition. Joaquin Phoenix is also incredible actor, but he has made a career of playing characters with a fire so powerful that it threatens to overtake them at times. Ruffalo is an amazing Hulk, but Phoenix just checks more boxes.
12 WORSE: VIGGO MORTENSEN AS WOLVERINE
X-Men was set to help perpetuate the revival of superhero films after Batman and Robin killed them. This was to be the first live-action adaptation of the classic Marvel comics team, therefore, they considered many actors in order to get the roles right. The most recognizable of the X-Men, Wolverine, had numerous actors vying for the role.
While Hugh Jackman would eventually go on to be the definitive on-screen version of Wolverine, Viggo Mortensen was in the running to portray the clawed mutant. There just isn't another Wolverine. Despite his success as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Hugh Jackman performed so well that many people are questioning whether or not to recast the character now that he decided to retire. Jackman was able to be both animalistic and vulnerable. His Wolverine is iconic and it's hard to imagine that anybody could have done better than him.
11 BETTER: SIGOURNEY WEAVER AS EMMA FROST
Sigourney Weaver carries herself with such poise and is always a powerful presence. After her first role as the assertive Ellen Ripley in the 1979 sci-fi/horror classic Alien, Weaver had been considered a leading lady. With a striking appearance and take charge attitude, she became one of Hollywood’s go-to strong female leads.
It's because of this success that she would have been perfect to play the telepathic Emma Frost. After Brett Ratner’s disastrous X-Men 3: X-Men United crashed, details about Brian Singer’s potential version of X-Men 3 surfaced and it was revealed that Emma Frost would have been in it, with Weaver rumored to play her. Emma Frost finally made an appearance in X-Men: First Class and was portrayed by January Jones, who didn't work at all -- her attempt at being cold came across as wooden. There's no doubt Weaver would have been powerful but still dynamic as Frost.
10 WORSE: HELEN HUNT AS JEAN GREY
Helen Hunt was at her best in the ‘90s. She landed role after role and was universally loved in nearly all of them. Therefore, when word began to spread that Brian Singer would be directing an X-Men movie, Helen Hunt was rumored to be a part of such a big endeavor, namely as Jean Grey.
Dutch actress Famke Janssen ended up portraying Jean Grey in the original X-Men trilogy and she actually performed extremely well in the role. Janssen came across as a striking woman who always had more power than she let on and was determined yet vulnerable. There’s no reason to doubt that Helen Hunt could have also pulled this off, but an important thing Janssen has over Hunt is stature. Janssen just looks like she had the potential to be more powerful than any of the other X-Men. Helen Hunt just never had that threatening presence.
9 BETTER: KARL URBAN AS RICK FLAG
Karl Urban has to be one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood. To be able to flawlessly go from the neurotic and sarcastic Leonard “Bones” McCoy in to the ruthless Judge Dredd takes talent. Therefore, it’s all but certain that he would’ve brought much more to the role of Rick Flag in Suicide Squad.
When Tom Hardy stepped down from the role, Karl Urban was one of the actors considered to replace him and it’s easy to believe that he would’ve done more than Joel Kinnaman. In Suicide Squad, Rick Flag was essentially a bag of flour in a movie littered with interesting characters. It’s unclear if it was the characterization or Kinnaman’s performance because he wasn’t given much to do, but there’s no denying that Urban would’ve brought something unique to the character no matter what problems there may be with the script or characterization.
8 WORSE: MICHAEL C. HALL AS DAREDEVIL
After years of dominance on the big screen, Marvel decided to take advantage of a growing Netflix and start a connected universe on the streaming platform. The first of these series of shows was Daredevil which proved to be a smash hit. Much of that success was due to Charlie Cox’s dedicated performance as the Man Without Fear. However, while the casting process was ongoing, it was rumored that Michael C. Hall of Dexter was being eyed for the role.
Hall’s most famous role was of a manipulative, cunning serial killer... the literal opposite of Daredevil. Matt Murdock is an earnest man who has an unshakeable moral code, as shown when he faced off with the Punisher. Hall may look the part, but his prior experience paints him as a different kind of character.
7 BETTER: DENZEL WASHINGTON AS LEX LUTHOR
Denzel Washington is one of the most talented actors of our generation. If you want to see raw acting prowess at work, look at his performance opposite Viola Davis in Fences. Washington made a career of disappearing into his role and has turned in amazing performances in basically everything he’s been a part of.
Washington was rumored to be considered for the part of Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman. He may have been a little old, but that's nothing a little makeup can't fix. But the regal intensity and sense of superiority that Luthor possesses are the most important thing in portraying Luthor and those are traits that Washington can play with ease. We think we can all agree that, no matter what, it would’ve ended up better than Jesse Eisenberg’s jittery portrayal of the character.
6 WORSE: JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT AS ANT-MAN
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the most diverse actors in Hollywood. He can portray anything from a smooth-as-silk thief to a terrified but determined bike delivery messenger. However, while Gordon-Levitt is a chameleon on screen, he doesn’t have the ability to change his appearance. Therefore, it’s fortunate that the rumors linking him to Ant-Man weren’t true.
The characterization Marvel was going for with Scott Lang is similar to the comics, a somewhat goofy everyman who stumbles into greatness. People would not have believed it if Marvel cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He has one of the most striking appearances in Hollywood and looks equipped to handle anything. The appeal of having Paul Rudd in the role is that he could be any one of us. He's relatable and he did a fantastic job in his first foray into superherodom. Gordon-Levitt would’ve been good, but Rudd was the right man for the job.
5 BETTER: AMBER HEARD AS THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
When Fox decided to reboot Fantastic Four, it was rumored that they pursued Amber Heard for the role of Susan Storm. Kate Mara is a good actor, but she wasn't a fit for this. Mara was plenty caring and concerned for her the three boys, she just didn't portray the edge that Sue Storm is known for having.
Susan Storm may be gentle in most instances, but if you push her or threaten the people she cares about, she will unleash a rage to rival Bruce Banner. Her ability to create nearly impenetrable force fields is extremely powerful if used offensively. Amber Heard is a well rounded actor who can portray the caring presence that Sue Storm is. However, her edgy performance as Mera in Justice League shows that she has the fire necessary to play Susan Storm accurately.
4 WORSE: JOSH HUTCHERSON AS SPIDER-MAN
When Spider-Man 3 was mauled by the critics, the talk of a reboot began to grow in earnest. Out of the many casting rumors for the role of Spider-Man, Josh Hutcherson of The Hunger Games was one of the names that rose above the din.
However, Andrew Garfield was one of the best things about the Amazing Spider-Man series. There may be complaints about his portrayal of Peter Parker being too “cool" but a lot of that was due to the script. Garfield’s actual performance as a jittery Peter Parker was only topped by his quippy, confident portrayal of Spider-Man. Many things needed to be changed about this series, but Andrew Garfield was not one of those things. Plus, if this materialized, we wouldn't have gotten Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, which was another instance of spot-on casting.
3 BETTER: ANNE HATHAWAY AS BLACK CAT
Anne Hathaway turned in a tremendous performance as the morally ambiguous Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises. However, she could have traded one cat-themed character for another. When details about Sam Raimi’s unreleased Spider-Man 4 began to paint a picture of what the project would have been like, rumors surfaced that Anne Hathaway would have been Raimi’s choice to play Felicia Hardy, aka Black Cat.
Felicity Jones, aka Jyn Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, portrayed a costume-less version of Felicia Hardy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Her role in the movie was too inconsequential to gauge her performance, but there's no doubt that it would have been raised a notch if Anne Hathaway were in the role. That would have been a fantastic nod to her performance as Catwoman. Also Anne Hathaway is a truly tremendous actor, while Felicity Jones is less proven.
2 WORSE: RASHIDA JONES AS HOPE VAN DYNE
When it was established that the female lead of Ant-Man was to be Hope van Dyne, mad speculation began about who would portray her and what she would be like since Hope is an original character. Rumors began that Rashida Jones of Parks and Recreation was being considered for the role after the obvious chemistry she had with Paul Rudd in I Love You Man.
Rashida Jones is a fine actor, but there's no way she’d be able to bring the same amount of suppressed anger balanced with efficient poise that Evangeline Lilly did. Rashida Jones may have more chemistry with Rudd, but Hope van Dyne was so much more than a love interest for Scott Lang. And, with her future as a superheroine looming, Marvel made the right choice with Evangeline Lilly.
1 BETTER: TARON EGERTON AS CYCLOPS
While Cyclops, in the comics, is a complex character within the X-Men, he hasn’t seen the same respect on the screen. James Marsden did a good job portraying him in X-Men and X2, but he was primarily presented as an obstacle to Wolverine and Jean Grey getting together. His younger version appeared in X-Men: Apocalypse played by Tye Sheridan. He was ok in the role, but he leaned into Cyclops’s uncertainty about controlling his powers and we didn’t really see a glimpse of the leader he would become.
When the studio was casting for X-Men: Apocalypse, Taron Egerton was rumored to be considered for the role of Cyclops. Imagine how much better that would’ve been. Egerton has an easy charisma that would’ve given us a look into the leader that Cyclops destined to be. And whatever you think about the second Kingsman movie, it shows that Edgerton has range.