Stating that the DCEU is in dire straits is like saying you need oxygen to breathe: no duh. Man of Steel was a tonally confusing intro. Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was so apocalyptically bad the entire superhero genre is still recovering. Suicide Squad was a stitched together mess that didn’t deserve its own star-studded cast. Wonder Woman was a shining diamond in the rough, but was more laudable for the progressive values it represented than its actual cinematic quality, though it was still a fantastic movie. And now Justice League has carefully tiptoed into theaters, overwhelmingly receiving the underwhelming reaction of “meh.”
So where exactly did DC go wrong in reinventing the Marvel shared-universe formula? A good place to start would be with the cast, which ranges from brilliant to highly questionable. Over the years, dozens of actors have been rumored to be in talks with Warner Brothers and DC to play characters from their extensive pantheon. Some rumors might have left you eager to see them realized while others made you cringe at the mere thought. With that context, here are some DCEU casting rumors that you wish came true and a few you’re thankful never happened.
15 WISH IT WERE TRUE: JOHN KRASINSKI AS GREEN LANTERN
As one of the most down-to-earth, humble, and artistically-sound comedic actors in Hollywood, it’s a wonder as to why John Krasinski hasn’t already been cast as a superhero. If Paul Rudd can bring a man with shrinking powers to life, then Krasinski certainly can try his hand at it with any number of goofy heroes. In mid-2017, twitter went crazy at the suggestion that John Krasinski would make a good lead for a comedy-driven Green Lantern movie.
The fan-theory spiraled out to the point where Krasinski was contacted by a fan to ask how he’d landed the part. In response, Krasinski responded “Wait…have I? That’s awesome!” Obviously, Krasinski hadn’t actually been cast and DC’s apparent devotion to the dark and gritty theme makes it unlikely they’d take things in a fully comedic direction.
14 THANKFULLY NOT TRUE: JAMIE DORNAN AS GREEN LANTERN
That’s right, Jamie Dornan, the guy from the lackluster 50 Shades of Grey movies, was reported in late 2016 to be in talks to play Green Lantern in the Justice League movie. Obviously this didn’t come to fruition as the Green Lanterns were virtually nonexistent in the film, but wouldn’t that have been a little sketchy? Apart from being in 50 Shades of Grey, Jamie Dornan is mostly known for having almost no charisma and zero romantic chemistry in 50 shades of Grey.
The only way he could reasonably play a Green Lantern, presumably either Kyle Rayner or Hal Jordan, is if the entire movie was designed to be devoid of anything resembling human emotion. Since there haven’t been any Green Lanterns in the DCEU yet, this is probably a dud rumor, but it hasn’t been outright denied yet. That doesn’t mean anything though, right? Right!?
13 WISH IT WERE TRUE: JOHN CENA AS SHAZAM
Shazam, or Captain Marvel as older comic fans will always remember him, has always been a character built around one thing and one thing alone: pure childhood wish fulfillment. The concept of a child inhabiting not only the body of an adult but a super-powered adult was meant to exemplify the dreams and aspirations of youth given form. And who better to bring that to the big screen than the wrestler-actor John Cena, already the most child-friendly superhero in real life.
He could easily match a child-actor’s emotional range and his impressive physique would make him a perfect superhero. Not to mention he’d be acting opposite Dwayne Johnson, inviting comparisons to Wrestlemanias 28 and 29. Unfortunately, Zachary Levi was recently announced to be playing Shazam, killing off the dreams of kid wrestling fans and Make-a-Wish recipients everywhere.
12 THANKFULLY NOT TRUE: JUSTIN BIEBER AS ROBIN
Just say it to yourself out loud. Justin Bieber as Robin. Now breath a deep sigh of relief because that is not happening nor, hopefully, will it ever. The former teen pop sensation turned cultural joke and celebrity gossip machine was briefly rumored to be playing the Boy Wonder in 2016’s Batman V. Superman, a rumor he did nothing to quell by posting a picture on twitter of a phony script for the film. To say the comic book community didn’t take the rumor well would be an understatement.
The fact that the rumor was swirling right after the ‘Batfleck’ controversy certainly didn’t help things. Luckily, the whole thing seems to have been a prank on the part of Bieber and his fans which was quickly dismissed as too implausible to be sincere. Still, what a terrifying thought though.
11 WISH IT WERE TRUE: BRYAN CRANSTON AS LEX LUTHOR
Coming off of Breaking Bad, a show often credited with sparking a television renaissance, Bryan Cranston was not only on top of his game but had proven himself as both a comic and dramatic actor. His bald, grizzled look had become iconic in his performance as the show’s lead, the morally ambiguous Walter White. He’d blurred the lines between protective and sadistic in a way that simultaneously showed off the character’s intelligence and malice.
Remind you of any particular bald DC villains? Then Jesse Eisenberg was cast and…well the less said about his erratic performance the better. At Comic Con, Cranston was asked why he wasn’t cast and he confirmed the awful truth: that he was never in the running for the role and all the hype had been pure fan speculation. Everyone who saw Batman V. Superman is left to wonder what might have been.
10 THANKFULLY NOT TRUE: JENA MALONE AS BARBARA GORDON
It was considered big news when Jena Malone, star of Sucker Punch and three out of four Hunger Games movies, appeared in stills released from the set of Batman V. Superman. Rumors swirled as to who she could be playing, but most seemed to agree that she must be Barbara Gordon, alter ego of Batgirl. Then the movie was released in theaters and she didn’t even show up. Even in the ultimate edition released on disc, she has one scene and only a few lines.
Though she’s very much a hit-and-miss actress, there’s no reason Malone couldn’t have done justice to Batgirl, but she wouldn’t have had a chance if she was given zero screen time to work with. Thankfully, the Batgirl role is still open as Malone was playing a character named Jenet Klyburn. Not that you’d know that from any on-screen indication.
9 WISH IT WERE TRUE: RYAN POTTER AS ROBIN
Robin is inarguably one of the most important characters in Batman’s mythology and his lack of genuine film representation in recent years has been a significant detriment to Batman movies of the last decade. Even Michael Cera’s lego version of the character in The Lego Batman Movie was a refreshing return of the Boy Wonder. After the disastrous Batman V. Superman it was announced that Ben Affleck would be helming a solo Batman movie.
In response, actor and martial artist Ryan Potter released an exciting audition tape showing off his humor, stunt capabilities, and combat prowess. He ended the video by appealing to Affleck to let him play Robin. The video went viral and fans seemed largely behind the idea. Though the role of Robin hasn’t been cast or even confirmed, Affleck has stepped down as director, so it stands to reason that this dream is more or less dead.
8 THANKFULLY NOT TRUE: ARMIE HAMMER AS GREEN LANTERN
Armie Hammer is a dynamic actor, that much cannot be disputed. His twin roles in The Social Network and performance in J. Edgar have solidified him as a great dramatic presence, but his dual failures in The Lone Ranger and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. have thrown into question his ability to carry an action movie. Despite this, rumors have circulated for some time of him being cast as various superheroes, primarily Green Lantern or Shazam.
There’s even been fan art, theorizing what an Armie Hammer superhero would look like. Surprisingly, Hammer has come close to the superhero realm before, being tentatively cast in the failed George Miller project Justice League Mortal. However, ten years down the line, Hammer is quick to put to bed any and all rumors of him getting involved in the DC movies.
7 WISH IT WERE TRUE: JOSH GAD AS PENGUIN
In May of 2017, Tony-winning actor Josh Gad posted a photo to twitter of the infamously rotund Batman villain the Penguin. Promptly, the internet went insane with joyous intrigue. Gad is mostly known for playing upbeat or naïve characters, but is also known for his impressive range and the idea of him playing Oswald Cobblepot is not only believable, but desirable.
Apparently aware of the noise he’d made online, Gad revealed in his next interview that he was just playing around and “putting things out there.” Fans were immediately disappointed, but interest was resparked a month later when Gad tweeted another photo, this one of him posing in the DC offices with Geoff Johns and Jon Berg. Gad is either an expert-level internet troll, or this rumor hasn’t quite been debunked yet.
6 THANKFULLY NOT TRUE: CHRIS PINE AS HAL JORDAN
In mid-2015, rumors started to circulate that Chris Pine was in talks to play a DC character. Though it was unclear who it was at the time, fans and various gossip publications speculated that the Hollywood pretty boy was in line to be cast as Hal Jordan, one of the Green Lanterns. Around the same time, it was more accurately reported that Pine had signed to play Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman movie.
Though it was unknown at the time, Pine had in fact been tentatively offered a choice between the roles of Hal Jordan and Steve Trevor. Considering his performance in Wonder Woman was nuanced and may have been one of the best films he’s ever made, he clearly made the right choice, leaving the part of the Green Lantern open for other actors to claim.
5 WISH IT WERE TRUE: SCOOT MCNAIRY AS DICK GRAYSON
Around the shooting of Batman V. Superman, photos from the set leaked showing actor Scoot McNairy wearing blue stockings, indicating that his legs would be digitally removed in the movie. Considering that Zack Snyder had already confirmed that the film would have a darker, more violent tone, rumors started to form that McNairy was playing an alternate version of Dick Grayson who had been maimed either in his time as Robin or Nightwing.
This, fans conjectured, would leave him a broken and despondent man with a loathing for any and all superheroes who could have a major impact on the story. The truth, as it turned out, was much more tragic. McNairy played Wallace Keefe, yet another confusingly placed pawn in Luthor’s nonsensical plan to…what was he even trying to accomplish again?
4 THANKFULLY NOT TRUE: COMMON AS JOHN STEWART
It’s no secret that rapper Common has been making something of a name for himself as an actor in recent years. Though he lacks any measure of versatility, his powerful look and presence has made him semi successful in small roles and cameos over the years. But he is certainly not a strong enough actor to carry an entire movie on his shoulders, which makes his desire to play Green Lantern John Stewart a bit odd.
Strangely enough, the rumor of him playing Green Lantern actually has some basis in truth. Mad Max director George Miller was once slated to direct the proposed Justice League Mortal in 2007 and Common was initially cast as Stewart. The movie never got made, but Common has apparently never lost his passion for the role. He’s already been denied the part, but kudos to the man for keeping the dream alive.
3 WISH IT WERE TRUE: MICHAEL JAI WHITE AS BLACK MANTA
Michael Jai White has a strange relationship with superhero movies. He got his break with minor roles the cult classic Toxic Avenger series and the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films before making one of the most notoriously bad comic book movies in Spawn. He’s had multiple roles in the DC animated universe and his small role in The Dark Knight let him act opposite Heath Ledger in his famous “why so serious?” scene.
In all this, he’s demonstrated incredible range and his talents as an extremely physical actor have been more than confirmed. In mid-2016, he announced his desire to play the Aquaman villain Black Manta, a request director James Wan has tentatively denied. But just imagine it, who better to play the vengeful but reserved Manta than a man who’s lived a mirrored journey as an actor?
2 THANKFULLY NOT TRUE: MICHAEL K WILLIAMS AS BLACK MANTA
Ever since the overwhelmingly lukewarm reception to Justice League, new gaze has been cast upon the upcoming Aquaman film, which was wrapping production when Justice League came out. Early in the film’s conception, it was confirmed that the primary antagonist would be long-time Aquaman villain Black Manta. Immediately, the internet championed The Wire actor Michael K Williams for the role, making noise on Twitter to voice their opinions.
Williams himself was enthusiastically onboard, but director James Wan quickly denied the casting. Though he never explained his reasoning, it seems the internet has come around to his way of thinking. While he certainly has the hard gaze, scarred look, and fervent intensity to take on the role, Williams is best at playing larger-than-life, obtuse personalities, not stoic and calculating characters like Black Manta.
1 WISH IT WERE TRUE: GRANT GUSTIN AS THE FLASH
When it was announced that the Justice League movie would include the Flash, all eyes looked to Grant Gustin, who at the time had recently expanded the CW’s Arrowverse by playing Barry Allen on The Flash television show. Though it was not confirmed at the time, there seemed to be a silent agreement that if Gustin could carry the character on the show, he could bring the speedster to the big screen and combine the newly born DCEU with the already successful Arrowverse.
However, The Flash hadn’t even gotten through its first season when it was announced that Ezra Miller would play the part. Of course, some years later Gustin has more or less established himself as the definitive Flash of the modern era and Miller didn’t make much of a splash in his first full outing as the character. Hindsight is 20/20.