In 2013, Spanish-German actor Daniel Bruhl appeared on the big screen alongside Chris Hemsworth in the critically-acclaimed "Rush." That won't be the last time Bruhl shares a film with an Avenger. Bruhl has received great acclaim in recent years including a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for "Rush" and notices for his work in "The Fifth State," "Inglourious Basterds" and "The Bourne Ultimatum." In 2016, Bruhl will be joining some Avengers on-screen in an official capacity after being cast in 2016's "Captain America: Civil War."
While we know Bruhl will be appearing in, according to reports, ">a villainous role, just which foes's shoes he will step into remains a mystery. There are many villains in Captain America's rich history that Bruhl would be suited for, and considering the scope of Marvel's "Civil War" event in the comics, there are many additional villains beyond Cap's traditional rogues gallery that could take part in the conflict between Captain America and Tony Stark. While moviegoers have already seen the Red Skull, Arnim Zola, Batroc the Leaper and Crossbones, the Sentinel of Liberty's nemeses are plenty, and yet Marvel Studios could opt to go in a different and far more unexpected role for Bruhl. Join us as we open some redacted S.H.I.E.L.D. files and try to surmise the role Daniel Bruhl has been chosen for.
Baron Zemo almost has to show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point. Without him, there is no Masters of Evil or Thunderbolts. Zemo has long been Cap's second greatest foe (behind the Red Skull) and has been a major part of many seismic historical Marvel events. Could the half-German Bruhl be the man that finally brings the elder or younger Zemo to life on the big screen? The core conflict of "Civil War" will seemingly be Tony Stark versus Steve Rogers, but could there be a greater threat, a true evil ready to strike as the heroes are distracted by their own ideological battle? Or, as the Avengers are fractured, could another team of heroes, led by Zemo, rise up and take their place as part of a widespread villainous conspiracy? Regardless of the approach taken, Zemo is an integral part of Captain America's mythology and Bruhl has more than enough gravitas to bring the part to life.
The Resurrected Red Skull
Johann Schmidt has found many ways to cheat death, making sure that a Red Skull always returns in the comics. It seems a plunge into the void of the Tesseract could be survivable by the Axis powers' greatest menace. Viewers of "Captain America: The First Avenger" never saw the Skull die -- he merely fell into another world. Perhaps he not only survived, but thrived and hatched a plan for revenge, plotting his return to earth at precisely the moment when his archenemy is otherwise distracted by the Civil War. Actor Hugo Weaving has made it pretty clear he has no interest in returning to the Marvel Universe, so perhaps Bruhl has been chosen to inherit the role. At the end of the "Civil War" comic book series, Captain America was assassinated by a sniper's bullet (sort of), which turned out to be part of the Red Skull's scheme to punish his mortal enemy. Could the cinematic version of "Civil War" also end with the Red Skull in a new guise, this time played by Bruhl, triumphant? An intriguing prospect and certainly a set up for future "Captain America" films perhaps starring Sebastian Stan's Winter Soldier as the new Cap. Considering Stan is reportedly contracted for a total of 9 Marvel movies, following the comics and making Bucky Barnes Steve Rogers' replacement for a time doesn't seem that far-fetched. But following writer Ed Brubaker's comic book template means a Red Skull is a necessity, and maybe Bruhl is exactly the man to help set everything in motion.
Viewers saw Dr. Whitehall use what he referred to as the "Faustus Device" on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.", and perhaps it's time to meet the inventor of that device, the evil Austrian psychologist Dr. Faustus. Faustus has been an enduring foe of Cap's since the Silver Age and Marvel Studios usually doesn't name drop established characters unless there is a plan for that character somewhere down the road. Could Tony Stark's dark turn have more to with manipulation than it does ego? If there's any chance Bruhl is practicing the phrase "Mr. Stark, tell me about your mother" in an Austrian accent, Marvel's long game will again pay off in 2016.
Looking beyond Cap's familiar foes, the events of "Civil War" open up plenty of other possibilities for Bruhl. Nitro was the villain who incited the tragic conflict between Tony Stark's faction and Steve Rogers' freedom fighters. In the pages of "Civil War," with the New Warriors as unwilling and tragic accomplices, Nitro caused a horrific accident that killed hundreds of school children in Stamford, Connecticut. This tragedy caused Tony Stark to create the Superhuman Registration Act, which in turn kicked of the "Civil War." While the New Warriors have yet to be introduced to the MCU, perhaps Nitro, an unregistered and unregulated super human, could be a part of the movie and cause a similiar tragedy that leads to the conflict between Cap and Iron Man without the teen heroes. Looking further back in comic book history, Nitro actally caused the original Captain Marvel to contract cancer, and with a "Captain Marvel " film down the pike, perhaps Bruhl's Nitro can play the same role for the original Captain Marvel and help establish Carol Danvers as a legacy hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With "Doctor Strange" on the horizon, expect some supernatural flavor to start appearing in the Marvel Universe very soon. Cap had plenty of World War II conflicts with vampiric Nazi Baron Blood, and "Captain America: Civil War" could be an opportunity to introduce some supernatural threats that will be played out in future Marvel films. And since we're always hopeful that Blade will make his way into the Marvel Cinematic U, Blood's inclusion in the Civil War would be a perfect reason for Cap to call the daywalker to action.
Sidewinder or Cobra
When Marvel Studios announced the official subtitle for the third "Captain America" film, studio head Kevin Feige pulled a teasing bit of bait-and-switch and told those in attendance that the movie would be entitled "Captain America: Serpent Society," not the more expected "Civil War." While later clarifying that he was only joking, perhaps it's worth reading a bit into his misdirect and considering a group of villains who could appear in the film. The Serpent Society were major Captain America foes in the '80s, with the evil serpentine group led by Sidewinder becoming a mainstay of Mark Gruenwald's run on the title. Later, the Squad was taken over by one of Marvel's oldest costumed villains, the Cobra. Bruhl could easily bring his intensity to either master criminals if the Serpent Society mention was more of a sleight of hand tease than a throwaway joke.
If the film follows Steve Rogers' arc from the "Civil War" comic, Cap could find himself going underground and becoming an enemy of the state. In a time of national crisis, this could necessitate a new Captain America to keep the peace and provide a symbol of hope. Enter John Walker, the right wing-leaning soldier who took Cap's place in the '80s and later became the Avenger known as U.S. Agent. Walker could certainly be a fan-favorite addition to the world of Marvel's films, and he's just the sort of intense but nuanced character Bruhl has built his reputation on. Seeing the black clad U.S. Agent could certainly be a thrill for Marvel fans who remember the days when Walker called himself Captain America. Although Bucky Barnes may have something to say about it...
While this is the biggest longshot on the list -- by far -- Agent Skye on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." recently namedropped Frank Castle's partner and confidant Microchip. As mentioned earlier, Marvel doesn't usually spit in the wind when it references comic book characters and history. While Frank Castle has already been played by Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson in recent films, now that Marvel Studios has the rights back to the character it's possible Marvel wants to give their grimmest vigilante a new lease on life. Castle could be introduced to the MCU as a highly trained soldier or S.H.I.E.L.D. agent whose family gets get caught in the crossfire of the "Civil War" conflict, leading to the birth of every criminal's nightmare, the Punisher. It also seems somewhat fitting that a conflict between super heroes could set up the greatest anti-hero in Marvel history. It seems like only a matter of time before the Punisher returns on film, TV, or one of Marvel's upcoming Netflix series, and perhaps Bruhl could just be starting his association with the character and the studio with "Captain America: Civil War."