10 Celebs Who Refused Superhero Roles (And 10 Who Took Them And Tanked)

Superhero movies have become commonplace, seemingly with no end in sight. You'll seldom meet someone who hasn't seen one, and more often that fandom isn't measured to seeing just the movies. The fans also lament all kinds of choices creative teams have done with their respective films. The stars that join the casts of these costumed cinemas either enhance the film or are looking to become megastars. The unknowns looking to make a name for themselves are generally hurled into the stratosphere of celebrity; the already established stars become nothing short of rulers of the entertainment world.

Every so often, though, the stars don’t align for the celebrities and they have to quit the project. Other times, even if the film is a success, the actors who have been cast in the role have a couple of fans scratching their heads. While it is hard to think of other celebrities playing such established roles, all of these actors could have made for extremely different films. There are those who will go down in history, such as Heath Ledger's Joker. Then, of course, there are those that leave us dumbfounded like Jared Leto's take on the famous villain. Regardless of people's own personal takes and opinions, there is definitely a consensus about who was the best and worst at playing these roles. In turn, there are also many surprised expressions over fans' faces when they learn who was about to play their favorite character!

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Emily Blunt
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Emily Blunt

In 2010, Emily Blunt took part in an adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels. Starring Jack Black, the new take on an old beloved classic was a box office bomb and critical failure. But that double-whammy must feel like a triple whenever Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow hits the screen.

First debuting in Iron Man 2, Johansson has appeared in six Marvel movies to date and is set to star in her own solo adventure. Blunt was originally supposed to play the role before having to back out due to scheduling conflicts with the Jack Black clunker. Her career didn't suffer, though, and she claims to not regret the decision. However, she can't be terribly fond of Gulliver’s Travels, either.


Throughout the '90s, there was no bigger action star literally and figuratively than the Austrian oak himself. Once the casting was announced for the big bad Mr. Freeze in Batman And Robin, fans were perplexed to see Arnold Schwarzenegger cast in the role. While DC wasn't beholden to it, the guy was portrayed as more brains than brawn with cool one-liners.

Fans have watched him on The Animated Series for several years. However, Arnold's casting, along with the rest of the cast, led to one of the worst bat-flicks ever. In fact, “Chill out” still sends horrifically cold shivers down fans’ spines.


When Fox was originally looking for their Wolverine, they were looking for a big name to play the Canucklehead. Their big-time choice was Russell Crowe. He passed and suggested his buddy, Hugh Jackman. But remember, Fox wanted star power, so they went with Dougray Scott. At the time, Scott had just finished starring in Drew Barrymore’s Ever After, so he was more of a name than Jackman was at that moment.

He was also handpicked by Tom Cruise to co-star as the villain in Mission Impossible II. Thanks to Cruise’s choice, Scott was locked into shooting that film and had to drop out of Bryan Singer’s first X-film. Jackman’s career was made the day he was cast, and he hopefully sends thank you cards to Scott and Cruise ever since.


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Another Batman, another collective groan heard throughout the fanboy community, especially when the choice was Ben Affleck, aka one of the least memorable superhero actors of all time. His Daredevil film wasn’t bad, but it crammed a lot of storylines into one film. That left a bad taste in a lot of fans’ mouths and Affleck got a bad wrap.

When it was announced that he was playing Batman in Zack Snyder’s Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice fans were left with that same bad taste again, despite Affleck seeing a career resurgence. While it was a little surprising that he was cast, Affleck still wound up being one of the brighter spots of all of the DCEU.



To be fair, Terrence Howard was kind of a big deal when he was cast to play James Rhodes, the future War Machine in 2008’s Iron Man. After being nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Hustle And Flow, character actor Terrence Howard became a household name and he helped the first armored adventure go on to do big business.

Big fans of the comic books knew that Rhodey eventually would become War Machine, and Howard knew that as well. However, when it came time to suit up for Iron Man 2, according to Howard, his initial deal from Marvel was rescinded. Howard believes that the money was paid to RDJ instead. Howard obviously quit over feeling slighted and his loss has been Don Cheadle’s gain ever since.


Jared Leto Joker

Seemingly every generation, an actor comes along to give the clown prince of crime a definitive vision to terrorize Gotham -- Cesar Romero, Nicholson and Hamill, and of course Heath Ledger in recent memory. Because of Ledger’s tragic demise, while making The Dark Knight, any actor taking over the role would be doomed from the start. Those were some massive clown shoes to be filling.

The critics and fans combined were left divided over Jared Leto's take. The Joker was now a tattooed punk-rock version of the character, which no one asked for. The divide grew when the divisive Suicide Squad hit theaters and Leto’s Joker was on the fringes of the film’s proceedings.


Sean Young Catwoman Batman

Somewhere, in the multiverse, there is a world where raven-haired actress, Sean Young isn't just known for playing a replicant in Blade Runner and being the villain in Ace Ventura. In some other universe, Young is also known for playing Vicki Vale in 1989’s Batman. The actress was slated for the role before breaking her collarbone getting ready to film a scene at Wayne Manor that was eventually cut from the film anyway. Young was forced to quit the film.

The zanier part of this story is what happened once Young’s arm was healed. According to the director, Tim Burton, Young appeared on the set of Batman Returns in a full homemade Catwoman suit to campaign for the role. She also made an appearance on The Joan Rivers Show in her costume.


Playing Ghost Rider was one thing, but Nicolas Cage playing Superman?! It just seems like everyone involved in the decision-making process left their brains in mason jars. This was something that actually almost happened. The left field combination of Kevin Smith and Tim Burton would have starred Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel in a film called Superman Lives.

Smith and Burton together induced a nerdgasm for fans, but this was not the right project for them. The idea of Cage as Superman is further detailed in the documentary The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened? Either way, this never came to pass, which many fans still feel was like dodging a speeding bullet.


Zachary Levi Fandral

In the world of Thor, the Warriors Three is a trio of Asgardian adventurers. So, it's only fitting that three different actors came and went and then came again to play one of its charter members - Fandral the Dashing. Stuart Townsend, who is no stranger to being replaced on set (he was originally Aragorn in Lord Of The Rings), walked off this project for creative differences.

So the creative behind the film went after and signed Zachary Levi. But his commitment to the show Chuck forced him to have to quit. Once Upon A Time’s Josh Dallas was cast instead. But for The Dark World, the reverse happened and Dallas had to leave the film because of his show, leaving the door open for Levi to take the role.


Tony Stark as Iron Man

Back in 2008, Marvel was planning and plotting its plans for cinematic world domination. At the same time, Robert Downey, Jr. was on the bottom rung of his rebuilding phase. While always a respected actor among his peers, RDJ was also a wild party animal who had run-ins with the law. No one could have ever thought that he would become the face of a franchise.

So casting RDJ to play Iron Man, while not much of a stretch in the looks department, still seemed a little off. But out of all these interesting choices, it's one of the few that paid off and paid off in droves. He has become the father of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and even when he is gone from the universe, he will be remembered for his brilliant performance as our favorite genius billionaire playboy philanthropist.


Alan Moore might not be a fan of adaptations of his comic book stories, but that hasn't stopped DC from giving them a go. Watchmen, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, and V For Vendetta, and several others have captivated filmgoers for nearly 20 years.

V is one of the more popular Moore films out there. It was the first film produced by the Wachowskis after The Matrix films, and the film’s theme of rebellion has always been a powerful one. The man under the mask was played memorably by Hugo Weaving, but he was a replacement for James Purefoy, and six of that actor’s scenes made it into the film. Purefoy left the project six weeks in, depending on whose story you believe. He either just didn't want to play the role anymore due to creative differences or he wasn't a fan of acting in a mask.


George Clooney as Batman

When it comes to who is playing Batman, it is always a touchy subject. There are so many disagreements on who was the best Batman, and who was the worst. There is, however, one thing all fans seem to agree on, and that was the questionable casting of George Clooney as Batman. This was a casting that definitely raised some eyebrows, as the now iconic actor did not look like he was ready to become a superhero.

When Joel Schumacher cast George Clooney to be his Batman in Batman And Robin, there was a groan throughout fandom. The franchise at that point was on shaky legs with Burton and Keaton both being gone. Val Kilmer was not returning, but somehow Clooney would charm his way into donning the cape and cowl in the movie. It is now considered so bad that even he jokes about it.



Ask fans born from 1978 to 1982 who their favorite Batman is, and plenty of them would say Michael Keaton. This is partly because of nostalgia, partly because there weren't many bat-actors to base that choice on. However, this is mostly in part because Michael Keaton was amazing in the role. By the time Batman Forever was ready to start filming, director Tim Burton was out and Keaton wasn't far behind.

Burton was asked to be the producer of the project. Keaton wasn't a fan of the new direction the film was going to take on Batman and ultimately decided the $15 million wasn't worth his time, and did not sign for the role.


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Ryan Reynolds has the kind of vulgar humor that he can use to Deadpool’s advantage. He can pull off that character all day, every day. He does also have the physique to pull off just about any superhero role. However, fans everywhere were scratching their heads when he was cast as Hal Jordan in 2011’s Green Lantern.

The finished film is nothing to write home about. There are a humongous amount of scenes on the cutting room floor, and it is known that Reynolds was not treated nicely by the director, Martin Campbell. Campbell had wanted Bradley Cooper for the role, but DC wouldn't budge on their choice for Reynolds. So, all of this together turned what should have been the Star Wars of comic book movies into a running joke in the Deadpool movies.



The Marvel Cinematic Universe used to be a simpler place; just good guys fighting bad guys, without all sorts of intergalactic interwoven drama. This left Captain America to do what he does best: punch out bad guys. Hugo Weaving was tapped to play the Red Skull in the first film.

The Matrix and Lord Of The Rings actor was a prime fit to play such a megalomaniacal villain. However, Weaving did not have a worthwhile experience and didn't like the make-up process and stated he wasn't going to come back unless contractually obligated to do so. Disney and Marvel aren't big negotiators, so they did not force the issue. Thus, Weaving quit and impressionist extraordinaire, Ross Marquand, took over the role in Infinity War.


Any kind of superhero article that talks about actors who were surprisingly cast in roles, are bound to bring up Nicolas Cage. Considering how outlandish he has been with all of his roles, it is really no surprise that he would take a superhero that had a flair for the dramatic. It's pretty cool that he's a big comic book fan, but he failed to impress us with this role.

As an actor, he's known for unintentionally comical over the top performances. One might think that would help him playing Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider. Unfortunately, it didn't. So if you're wondering why the character was regulated to a TV show, albeit a good TV show, now you know you can blame Nicolas Cage.


Annette Bening once admitted in an interview to Inquirer that she would have loved to play Catwoman. The actress, who had just come off stunning turns in The Grifters and Bugsy, was cast to play Selina Kyle in Batman Returns. The actress went to all of the pre-production meetings and costume fittings for both Kyle and the uber-tight vacuum-sealed Catwoman suit.

However, Bening decided to put her family first. She got pregnant and had to drop out of the project. Bening is an acclaimed actress who has always put her kids first and still won awards for the roles that she played. Of course, this all worked out for Michelle Pfeiffer, who got to lap up Bening’s role and become an icon in the process.


X-Men Apocalypse Cyclops and Jean Grey

People can say what they want about James Marsden’s performance of Cyclops in the original X-Men trilogy, but he seemed like he fit right in with his fellow outcasts. He played Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes coupled with an unwarranted jock mentality to absolute perfection. More importantly, he was also an effective and believable team leader. When the series was rebooted, they cast Tye Sheridan to play Scott Summers.

While Sheridan is pretty decent in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, he plays Cyclops as a little whiney teen, with very little to no hints of a brilliant tactician who would one day lead mutant armies into all kinds of battles. Hopefully, the actor can turn around what was written for him in Dark Phoenix.


He's been mocked and heralded for his portrayal as Bane, lauded on for his Mad Max, and is about to shatter expectations of what a superhero can be when Venom hits theaters. But Tom Hardy has another superhero franchise on his plate for a moment -- he was set to play Rick Flag for the DCEU, specifically in Suicide Squad.

Flag is the military field leader of Task Force X and Hardy would have been a good fit for the role. However, his obligations to Leonardo DiCaprio and The Revenant forced him to bow out before filming started. Joel Kinnaman, known for his role in The Killing, took over the role.


The progression of X-Men Origins: Wolverine to Logan should be a thesis for all aspiring filmmakers to learn how to butcher a character and bring them to prominence. The first solo adventure for Wolverine not only tried to shoehorn in story elements that had not existed in the comic books, but they also tried to shoehorn characters into the story that had no place in being there.

Gambit is certainly one of the more popular mutants. However, the combination of a non-Cajun, too-young, Taylor Kitsch playing the role was very out of place. Fox was looking for a cash grab and possible spin-off movies and the Friday Night Lights star took the risk hoping it would pay off. It didn't and the film is generally considered one of the worst comic movies ever.

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