Film studios obviously have the most to lose when it comes to superhero films, since they often sink over $100 million into the production (and then promotion) of these films, so when one does not do so well (even when it does “okay” but not amazing), then the studios can lose tens of millions of dollars. So the stakes clearly are the highest for the studios. However, this doesn’t mean that these films don’t come with major risks to the lead actors, as well.
If you star in a superhero movie and it flops, that can have major negative effects upon your career. Ryan Reynolds was lucky enough to make it past the debacle that was Green Lantern with the success of Deadpool. Other actors aren’t so lucky. Therefore, it is only logical that actors want these films to be as good as possible and sometimes that results in them fighting for changes in the script of the film. Here are 16 superhero actors that demanded changes be made to the superhero movie that they were making on. NOTE: In many of these instances, “demand” is a bit more forceful of a word for their collaborative process.
15. BEN AFFLECK (BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE)
The amount of actors out there who have written successful screenplays is not exactly significant, let alone those who actually won Academy Awards for their screenwriting, so when you hire one of those actors, you should expect that they are going to have some opinions about your film’s story. That was certainly the case in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, when Academy Award-winning screenwriter (for Good Will Hunting) Ben Affleck was cast as Batman.
Not only had Affleck won an Oscar for writing, one of his last projects before Batman v Superman was Argo, which won Best Picture and which Affleck directed and produced. So Affleck had a lot of opinions about Batman v Superman and at times, he literally rewrote the script while he was on set, dressed up in his Batman armor.
14. EDWARD NORTON (INCREDIBLE HULK)
In 2002, Edward Norton’s girlfriend of the time, Salma Hayek, starred as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in the critically acclaimed film, Frida. Norton had a role in the film as Nelson Rockefeller, but his bigger role was behind the scenes where he rewrote the screenplay for the film (uncredited). At this point in his career, Norton had also gotten into film production.
Thus, when he took over from Eric Bana as Bruce Banner in 2008’s Incredible Hulk, he soon wanted to make his own mark on the film by rewriting nearly the entire film. It was significant enough that Norton actually pushed to be credited for his writing work (which is very difficult to do, due to Writing Guild restrictions). Some early posters even credited Norton, but ultimately he was denied credit.
13. WESLEY SNIPES (BLADE 2, BLADE: TRINITY)
The Blade films were interesting in that Blade was really the first Marvel superhero film to actually succeed in the marketplace, and yet it was not given the respect that it is likely due for the influence upon Marvel’s cinematic dominance in the years to come. All three films in the Blade trilogy were written by David S. Goyer and starred Wesley Snipes.
The first film, which was a bit of a Cinderella story, had a relatively calm production, but once it was a hit, Wesley Snipes naturally wanted more input on the second film in the trilogy. That seemed to go decently enough. However, when Goyer was then promoted to being the director of the third film, Snipes did not like it at all, and they clashed over the script (and other things) all throughout the final film.
12. JIM CARREY (BATMAN FOREVER)
The Riddler in Batman Forever had been written with Robin Williams in mind, so when they ended up with Jim Carrey in the role, he naturally wanted to put his own spin on things. Thus, throughout the production of the film, Carrey would consistently improvise his own dialogue for his scenes. This irritated his co-star, Tommy Lee Jones (who played Two-Face in the film).
Carrey recalled once going out to the dinner during filming and seeing Jones. He went to say hi and he remembered, “[T]he blood just drained from his face. And he got up shaking — he must have been in a mid kill me fantasy or something like that. And he went to hug me and he said, ‘I hate you. I really don’t like you.’ And I said, ‘What’s the problem?’ and pulled up a chair, which probably wasn’t smart. And he said, ‘I cannot sanction your buffoonery.'”
11. HALLE BERRY (X-MEN: THE LAST STAND)
Halle Berry was already an established film star when she was cast as Storm in the first X-Men movie. However, her career was turned upside down when she made the independent film, Monster’s Ball (about a woman who develops a relationship with a prison guard she meets while visiting her husband in jail). She ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Actress, the first African-American woman to take home the top honors.
This led to a re-write of the second X-Men film to give her a bigger role to reflect her newfound cachet. When it came time to do a third film in the trilogy, Berry would only agree to do the film if they beefed up her role in the final film. So Storm got to take over Xavier’s by the end of the movie.
10. CHRISTOPHER REEVE (SUPERMAN III)
After two hit Superman films, Christopher Reeve was a bit unwilling to return for a third one. The producers behind the movie, however, were not about to pass up the chance to do another film in the series, as it was practically like printing money at the time. So they played a bit of a game of Chicken, seeing who would back down first. The producers even brought in another actor to play Superman. Ultimately, though, they backed down and caved in to Reeve’s demands, which were that he would get to rewrite the story for Superman III.
A similar scenario occurred for Superman IV (but budget cuts led to that film’s story not resembling its original form). Interestingly, Superman III had Richard Pryor, who was known to improvise, but he was so happy to be in a Superman movie that he followed the script exactly.
9. MARLON BRANDO ON SUPERMAN
The first example on this list where an actor’s demands ended up not getting met was Marlon Brando on Superman. Brando, you see, took the role pretty much solely for the money. This was to a tune of a hefty $4 million upfront fee plus a significant cut of the gross. It was so significant that the filmmakers then cut him out of Superman II to avoid having to pay him the same percentage for the second film.
When he got to the filming, he tried to come up with ways to change the film’s script so that he could appear in the movie less. He felt that Jor-El did not have to be viewed as a human. He could come to Superman in the form of pretty much anything (he even amusingly suggested perhaps as a talking bagel). Ultimately, though, Brando caved in and did it the way that it was written.
8. CHRIS HEMSWORTH (THOR: RAGNAROK)
Recently, Chris Hemsworth made waves when he noted that he was now contractually finished playing Thor and that he didn’t see himself returning to the character. However, he then added such a significant caveat that it effectively rendered his earlier point moot. That is, he noted that he didn’t see himself returning to the character… unless there was a really good script.
Hemsworth had a similar attitude towards the third Thor script, as he wanted the character of Thor rewritten to add more humor. He was sick of being the straight guy in the humor scenes. He wanted Thor to be funny and so Taika Waititi worked with him, allowing Hemsworth to improvise a goodly chunk of Thor’s dialogue to make it funnier. It worked, and Ragnarok became a smash hit. Pun intended.
7. WESLEY SNIPES (BLACK PANTHER)
Before Blade put him on the superhero map, Wesley Snipes originally wanted to do a different comic book superhero. He had been working on a Black Panther movie for many years. Throughout the 1990s, it seemed like there was always some sort of Black Panther movie in pre-production. The problems throughout the process was that the scripts were never there.
Snipes rejected pretty much every script that was sent his way on the project, including one by acclaimed writer/director John Singleton that would have re-envisioned Black Panther as less of a traditional superhero and more of a civil rights activist. Snipes later recalled, “I love John, but I am so glad we didn’t go down that road, because that would have been the wrong thing to do with such a rich project.”
6. JEFF BRIDGES (IRON MAN)
The first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was Iron Man and when he showed up to work on the film, Jeff Bridges was shocked. There was only a loose script, not a finalized one, and indeed, he and the other actors on the movie were allowed to help shape the movie. This is probably the lightest example in terms of an actor “demanding” script changes, in that Bridges actively was shocked to be given the opportunity to make changes.
He helped develop the character of Obadiah Stane for the film and he underwent a dramatic change as the screenplay was re-written. Originally, Stane did not even become Iron-Monger in the first film! He was originally set up to become the villain for the sequel, but they decided to move his villainous debut up a film.
5. ROBERT DOWNEY JR. (IRON MAN 2)
Like Bridges, Robert Downey Jr. played a major role in shaping his character of Tony Stark in the first Iron Man movie. However, when the movie was a blockbuster hit, that gave Downey Jr. even more control for the second film in the series. The original script for Iron Man 2 was written while Downey Jr. was filming the first of his Sherlock Holmes movies.
When he returned from England, they allowed him to effectively rewrite the entire screenplay to provide for his vision of the character. Jon Favreau noted at the time, “Robert is a real partner in the process. He’s been very involved in the screenplay. When he went away to do Sherlock Holmes, he was still part of our creative process…. he’s a great writer, too. So we really are sharing the responsibilities.”
4. MICHAEL KEATON (BATMAN FOREVER)
Initially, the whole gang was going to get back together to do the third Batman film, with director Tim Burton and star Michael Keaton both attached to the project. They had even went about casting a female lead for the film, Rene Russo, based on her age appropriateness for Michael Keaton. However, Tim Burton eventually ended up leaving the film and then Joel Schumacher was brought on board, along with a new screenplay.
Keaton, though, wasn’t having it. “I tried to be patient, but after a certain point, I was like, I can’t take this anymore, this is going to be horrible. But, look, there was some really horrible taste in the ’90s, and I probably contributed to that, unfortunately.” The studio sided with Schumacher, so Keaton left the movie. Russo was replaced with Nicole Kidman when Val Kilmer took over the Batman role.
3. EVANGELINE LILLY (ANT-MAN)
Like the aforementioned Batman film, the Marvel film Ant-Man underwent a significant change when the original writer/director for the project, Edgar Wright, left the film due to creative differences with Marvel. Much of his original screenplay ended up being used in the eventual film that was directed by Peyton Reed (Wright still got a credit on the screenplay).
However, Reed worked with his actors to allow them to shape the picture, as well, with Evangeline Lilly grabbing at the opportunity to re-develop her character of Hope Van Dyne in the film. Lilly recalled, “I met with Paul Rudd in New York City before they really came out with the official new draft. I got a chance to sort of say, ‘Hey, why don’t you beef up my character and give her a really full arc?’”
2. THOMAS JANE (PUNISHER 2)
Like a few different Marvel characters, the Punisher has had a difficult time translating to the silver screen. The issue is that the basic concept of the Punisher is that he is a man who is out for revenge after his family is killed. What action film does that not describe?
So the trick was to come up with a distinctly Punisher story. The 2004 Punisher film managed to mostly pull that off, but apparently the sequel did not. Thomas Jane backed out of appearing in it, noting “What I won’t do is spend months of my life sweating over a movie that I just don’t believe in. I’ve always loved the Marvel guys, and wish them well. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to search for a film that one day might stand with all those films that the fans have asked me to watch.”
1. MICKEY ROURKE (IRON MAN 2)
Someone who is not a fan of superhero movies is Mickey Rourke, who played the villain Ivan Vanko (also known as Whiplash) in Iron Man 2. Like their other actors, Jon Favreau and Justin Theroux allowed Rourke to help to re-shape his character, but as it turned out, not a whole lot of that made it into the movie.
Rourke lamented, “If they want to make mindless comic book movies, then I don’t want to be a part of that. I don’t want to have to care so much and work so hard, and then fight them for intelligent reasoning, and just because they’re calling the shots they… You know, I didn’t work for three months on the accent and all the adjustments and go to Russia just so I could end up on the floor.”
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