It’s not an easy task for movie executives to find exactly the right actor to guide a well-loved comic book character off the page and into real life. Fans are infamously very protective over their favorite heroes and villains, any bad casting is always heavily scrutinized. Hollywood has fumbled the ball many times over the years with A-list actors in superhero roles, whether it turned out to be from bad direction, bad writing or horrible editing. For every performance like Gal Gadot’s in Wonder Woman, there’s one like Ryan Reynolds’ in Green Lantern.
While this is sad enough on it’s own, it’s worse when fans already had an actor in mind for a role and it ends up being someone completely off-base. It seems like superhero movies are being hit the hardest, possibly because the genre just found its legs within the past decade or so. No amount of acting awards guarantee a stellar performance, especially if the dialogue is wrong or if the actors receive poor direction. On that note, CBR takes a look at some of the more notorious casting faux pas in comic book history. As always, if you feel that we’ve missed any, or have grievances towards our picks, let us know in the comments section!
15. VIOLA DAVIS AS AMANDA WALLER
As the person in charge of running DC’s Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller is a no-nonsense, ruthless high-ranking government official. She uses guile, political connections and sheer intimidation to get what she wants, no matter what the cost, and often in the name of national security. The character has been depicted in various animated and live action projects, including Smallville and Arrow.
When news broke that Oscar winner Viola Davis was set to play Amanda in the Suicide Squad film, it lent a certain credibility most superhero movies lack. After all, her performances in previous movies like The Help and Fences along with her Emmy-winning performance in ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, this would possibly be the best casting the film would ever see. However, Amanda was limited to only a handful of scenes throughout the movie and coming off as one-dimension in the parts she showed up in.
14. JENNIFER GARNER AS ELEKTRA
Elektra is one of the most infamous fighters in the Marvel Universe. A violent mercenary who falls for Matt Murdock’s Daredevil, Elektra was famously killed by one of her own sai at the hands of Bullseye, however, she was later resurrected by The Hand. She has had a prominent role in Netflix’s Daredevil and The Defenders series.
In 2003, Jennifer Garner was at the height of her prime-time television career after taking home both a Golden Globe and SAG Award for her role as Sydney Bristow in Alias. Garner was looking to translate her action star status into films and was cast as Elektra in 2003’s Daredevil. Despite the whitewashing, fans were optimistic the actress would be more than capable of pulling off the role, unfortunately they were wrong. Despite getting an Elektra spin-off two years later, the movie was widely panned for its flimsy plot and goofy special effects.
13. RYAN REYNOLDS AS GREEN LANTERN
The character of Green Lantern originally debuted in the DC Universe in 1940. A frequent member of the Justice Society and Justice League, the mantle of Green Lantern has been passed around to several individuals throughout the years. Each Green Lantern wore a Power Ring that gave them amazing abilities to fight evil and the characters have been featured frequently in various animated DC projects.
Ryan Reynolds was cast as Hal Jordan in the first live-action Green Lantern movie in 2011. While Reynolds didn’t have the kind of star power back then as he does now, he did gain some notoriety with his action roles as Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity and originating his role as Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Unfortunately, the film flopped, partly due to campy acting and cheesy special effects. Reynolds would later redeem himself with 2016’s Deadpool.
12. MARGOT ROBBIE AS HARLEY QUINN
A character that originated in the Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn was the frequent accomplice and lover of The Joker. She would eventually become more of an antihero, often found in the company of Catwoman and Poison Ivy, the latter serving as Harley’s close friend and romantic interest. She has been featured in a variety of other roles and was portrayed by Mia Sara in the Birds of Prey live action television series.
Margot Robbie was cast as Harley in 2016’s Suicide Squad. She had also previously starred in The Legend of Tarzan and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot the same year. Coined as one of Hollywood’s new “It” girls, DC no doubt wanted to capitalize on her growing popularity. While she definitely had the look down, fans didn’t like the movie’s focus on the abusive relationship between Harley and The Joker and that her character was basically just eye candy.
11. ELLEN PAGE AS KITTY PRYDE
Kitty Pryde first appeared in Uncanny X-Men in the early ’80s as the youngest member ever. With her ability to “phase” through solid objects, computer skills and being taught how to fight by Wolverine, Kitty quickly became a fan favorite and a stalwart member of the team. Throughout the years, the character has been featured in a variety of animated series and had cameo appearances in the first two X-Men movies.
Ellen Page was an award-winning actress thanks to her work in 2005’s Hard Candy when she was cast as Kitty in X-Men: The Last Stand. While the movie itself underwhelmed fans, it was particularly noted how watered down her depiction was, reducing her to just being part of a teenage love triangle. Fortunately, the actress had the opportunity to shine a little bit more when she returned to the role for 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.
10. JENNIFER LAWRENCE AS MYSTIQUE
Mystique is a shape-shifting villainess who is the biological mother of the X-Men’s Nightcrawler and is also the adoptive mother of Rogue. After spending years as a supervillain, Mystique has often crossed over into being more of an anti-hero and joining the X-Men on occasion. She has been featured in many X-Men related animated series and first appeared as a live action role in 2000’s X-Men.
In 2011, Jennifer Lawrence had just garnered some critical praise for her role in the movie Winter’s Bone and was looking to build upon that popularity when she was cast as Mystique in X-Men: First Class. While it was nice to have a fresh take, Mystique was given more screen-time in every X-Men movie that followed thanks to Lawrence’s rising star, but this lead to an over-saturation of a character who had already been changed so much from it’s source material.
9. KARL URBAN AS JUDGE DREDD
Based on a series of British comic books with appearances as early as 1977, Judge Dredd is a law enforcement and judicial officer in a dystopian future, where “street judges” are allowed to summarily arrest, convict, sentence, and execute criminals. The character has been featured in a number of movie and video game adaptations, with his live action debut in 1995 played by Sylvester Stallone.
In 2012, Karl Urban was cast in a feature film reboot of the character. At the time, Urban was best known for his supporting roles in The Lord of the Rings and Star Trek movies, so audiences had seem him in action before. However, Dredd was a critical and box office flop, thanks to bad writing and an underwhelming lead.
8. OSCAR ISAAC AS APOCALYPSE
As a “Class 5 Mutant,” Apocalypse is one of the X-Men’s most powerful supervillains who has been around since the late ’80s. He is so old, he is thought to be one of the world’s first mutants and typically has his cadre of Four Horsemen at his side. Apocalypse is responsible for changing the hero Angel into his darker Archangel persona and is constantly trying to rid the world of humans, whom he views as weak.
Oscar Isaac had been working for almost a decade in the industry before landing his breakout role as Poe in 2015’s hit sequel Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He then joined another successful the following year, playing Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse. Unfortunately, his stoic performance as the ancient mutant fell flat with audiences and was widely panned as one of the worst villains in a superhero movie.
7. BRANDON ROUTH AS SUPERMAN
Superman is possibly the best known superhero ever and has been around since 1933. An alien from the planet Krypton, he crash lands on Earth and becomes its most fearless protector. The character has been featured in many animated and television series and had one of the first successful superhero movie franchises from 1978-1987.
Brandon Routh was a relative newcomer to the acting scene when he was cast as Clark Kent in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns in 2006. He had previously done some decent television work with roles on MTV’s Undressed, Gilmore Girls and Will & Grace, but this would be his first big movie role. Singer was going for a more grounded, human take on the Man of Steel, but audiences weren’t feeling it due to multiple plot holes and terrible chemistry between the actors.
6. KATE MARA AS SUE STORM
The Invisible Woman (Sue Storm-Richards) is a founding member of the Fantastic Four and was the first female superhero created by Marvel during the Silver Age of Comics. With the ability to render herself, along with others, invisible as well as project powerful fields of invisible psionic energy, Sue eventually become one of the most formidable fighters in the Marvel Universe.
After Jessica Alba’s bland depiction of Sue in the first two Fantastic Four movies left audiences underwhelmed, fans rejoiced when Kate Mara was cast in the role for the team’s 2015 reboot. Mara had garnered some success throughout the years, with substantial roles in TV shows like 24 and American Horror Story, along with movies (Brokeback Mountain and 127 Hours). However, the Fantastic Four reboot was trashed by critics and fans due to its terrible dialogue, plot and lack of chemistry between the four main actors.
5. HALLE BERRY AS STORM
The daughter of a tribal princess from Kenya, Storm is a mutant with the ability to control weather and is also the first African American female superhero in Marvel Comics history. A mainstay member, and often leader, of the X-Men, Storm has been featured in a variety of animated television series, video games and made her feature film debut in 2000 with X-Men.
Coming off of her Golden Globe win for her work in 1999’s Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Halle Berry wanted to strike while the iron was hot and landed the role of the X-Men’s Storm in 2000. Audiences were hoping Berry could bring the warmth and heart of the character to life, but instead gotten a wooden performance, with limited dialogue that was often in a peculiar accent (that was later dropped).
4. RAY STEVENSON AS THE PUNISHER
The Punisher is a vigilante who employs murder, kidnapping, extortion, coercion, threats of violence, and torture in his campaign against crime. Debuting in 1974, he was Marvel’s first anti-hero, often clashing with the views of other superheroes in his methods. A war veteran and a U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper, Frank Castle has a brutal nature with a take-no-prisoners attitude.
While the Punisher had had some previous success in live action feature films, portrayed by Dolph Lundgren in the 1989 and Thomas Jane in 2004, the character was set up for an even darker, grittier reboot in 2008 with Punisher: War Zone starring Ray Stevenson. Stevenson had been acting for a while, with roles on TV shows like Rome, so most viewers had somewhat heard of him. Unfortunately, his performance came off as robotic and failed to impress audiences.
3. FINN JONES AS IRON FIST
Iron Fist is a practitioner of martial arts who wields a mystical force that allows him to summer and focus his chi. He had his own solo series in the ’70s and later teamed up with Luke Cage to form a superhero team called Heroes for Hire. Iron First has appeared in several animated television series and video games.
When it was announced that Iron Fist would join the Netflix ranks of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, fans were ecstatic. Finn Jones, who previously had multi-season stints on TV hits like Hollyoaks and Game of Thrones, was cast as Iron Fist/Danny Rand. This initial whitewashing of the character enraged some fans, and Jones’ performance didn’t help any by portraying the character as a pompous and spoiled rich boy.
2. ED NORTON AS THE HULK
Debuting in 1962, The Hulk is the green-skinned, muscular humanoid alter ego of reserved physicist Bruce Banner. Bruce is accidentally exposed to gamma rays, transforming his life forever, by splitting his body and personality with the Hulk. Despite his rather unpredictable behavior, Hulk has been a member of the Avengers, Defenders and Fantastic Four throughout the years and even had his own live action TV show in the ’70s.
Following the lukewarm reception of Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk, Marvel Studios reacquired the film rights and rebooted the character in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk starring Ed Norton. While it did decent at the box office, and there were plans to have Norton reprise the role of Banner in The Avengers, Marvel Studios decided to go in a different direction and Norton was ultimately replaced by Mark Ruffalo.
1. TERRENCE HOWARD AS JAMES RHODES
James “Rhodey” Rhodes, aka War Machine, first appeared in 1979 as Tony Stark’s best friend who also took to wearing an armored battlesuit to fight evil. Rhodey would go on to be a member of various Avengers teams, Force Works and the Secret Defenders. He subbed for Tony following his relapse into alcoholism in 1983 and resumed the role of Iron Man following Tony’s purported death in 1992.
Terrence Howard was at the pinnacle of his acting career in 2007 when he was cast as Rhodey in Iron Man. With critically acclaimed performances in Hustle & Flow, Lackawanna Blues and Idlewild, audiences were confident Howard would make a great War Machine. Unfortunately, the actor turned out to have no chemistry with Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark (we would later learn why due to behind-the-scenes drama), causing the role to be recast with Don Cheadle in subsequent sequels.
Do you agree that these roles were miscast? Let us know in the comments!
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