As expected, the process of recasting Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman in the X-Men movies, has begun. If nothing else, you have to give the man his due. Jackman holds the record for number of years portraying the same Marvel superhero in a live-action format, giving life to Wolverine for over 16 years.
It’s highly unlikely another actor is going to surpass that kind of longevity, and Marvel Studios surely isn’t expecting a nearly two-decade run from their next Wolverine. The casting of Jackman at a young age, and the actor’s loyalty to the role, created a unique circumstance. So, what exactly should Marvel be looking for in a new Wolverine?
What Marvel will want is an actor who is convincingly tough, with a believable soft side and sense of hard-fought wisdom. A credible Wolverine has to be just as authentic in the action scenes as the quiet moments. Having a sense of humor wouldn’t hurt either, especially considering the direction of Marvel’s films since Guardians of the Galaxy.
This is where Marvel runs into the problem of being a little too successful. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is over 10 years old now, and the television tie-ins keep coming. Dozens of superhero roles have already been filled. Some great actors have been squandered in small parts (Idris Elba as Heimdall, most notably.) Other actors have seen their careers made by these roles (Chris Pratt transitioning from a cult favorite sitcom actor to legitimate action star, for example.)
Marvel looks for a certain “type” when it comes to casting tough guys, and many of the actors best suited to portray Wolverine have already appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
THAT OTHER VIOLENT, DANGEROUS ANTIHERO
Perhaps the biggest breakout star from The Walking Dead, Jon Bernthal’s intense performance as Shane Walsh foreshadowed his ability to play damaged, violent characters. Even as fans were griping about the series’ drastically reduced pacing in Season 2, Bernthal’s increasingly unhinged performance was enough to keep the show interesting.
After his character was killed off, Bernthal made an unexpected blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in a hallucination sequence. This required his character to have a beard, heavy on the sideburns. As The Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick immediately noted, Bernthal looked just like Wolverine.
Bernthal’s commitment to his performances, the dark intensity he seems to channel easily, would’ve been perfect for the role. Too bad he’s already played another ultra-violent, testosterone fueled Marvel icon. Sadly, Bernthal’s days as the Punisher are done thanks to the series' cancellation by Netflix. Now that he's so recognizable as the Punisher, there’s no chance of Marvel recasting him as Wolverine.