Since the comic book movie boom set off by Iron Man and the massive hit that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, superhero roles have become some of the most coveted by actors in Hollywood. They represent a lot of things for those who audition; a change in career focus, since many of them come with multi picture deals, as well as an opportunity to be a part of something that a lot of us dream about from a young age. The superhero film role is mythical, and it's no wonder so many incredible actors take more than one shot at appearing in a superhero film. For many, that’s via multiple auditions for various roles, or being cast in a different role than what they initially auditioned for.
Especially considering how superhero movie roles tend to evolve over time in long term plans, like, for instance, with Bucky Barnes in the MCU, sometimes the initial role that compelled an actor to audition isn’t the best and only opportunity to be a part of a superhero franchise. Other times, the roles actors ultimately get cast in are far from the dream they chased in their original superhero audition. We’ve all been given the advice that, if at first you don’t succeed, you should try try again. For a lot of actors trying to break into comic book hits, this was just the advice they needed. Here are 20 times actors might not have gotten the role they auditioned for, but still appeared in superhero flicks.
20 JASON MOMOA AS BATMAN
Before he was cheering and riding on top of cars in hype trailers, Jason Momoa was one of many actors brought in to read for the role of the Caped Crusader. Zack Snyder met with a lot of actors before landing on Ben Affleck for the role, something Momoa suspected. So he decided to try something that would make him stand out, and play a down and out Bruce Wayne who’d been defeated in the alleyway.
It might not have gotten him the role of the rich guy, but he doesn’t seem to have been forgotten. Momoa’s standalone, Aquaman, is one of the more anticipated comic book movies of the year, and is slated to be a standout of The Worlds of DC.
19 JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT AS STAR-LORD
Joseph Gordon-Levitt , the onetime 3rd Rock From The Sun actor, didn’t want to stop as playing a space man moving to Earth, and he eventually auditioned to play an Earth man moving to space. By the time Levitt’s Guardians of the Galaxy rumors were floating around, he had already appeared as John Blake in The Dark Knight Rises, and was rumored to appear in Justice League.
He didn’t manage to break the superhero character name ice this time around, however, as Chris Pratt ended up in the role. Much like some other actors on this list, it seems like JGL’s superhero role will be limited to a barely named law enforcer. For now, anyway.
18 MADS MIKKELSEN AS MR. FANTASTIC
Mikkelsen’s hilarious interviews are severely underrated, and it’s his willingness to be unapologetically himself and human that make them as great as they are. Though he comes off as human, he has a host of auditions to play meta-humans. Though he ultimately ended up in Doctor Strange, it wasn’t his first shot at the MCU, nor was it his only shot at playing a Marvel character.
In an interview, Mikkelsen told the awkward tale of auditioning for the role of Mr. Fantastic, and how the audition wasn’t about lines, but the length of his arms. He ended up running out of the audition, which we’re sure, was a hilarious ordeal.
17 TOM HIDDLESTON AS THOR
Tom Hiddleston was so perfect as the personification of mischief, and we wouldn’t want him anywhere else. But fans know that Hiddleston was one of a few solid top contenders for the titular role of Thor.
Lots of incredible actors were in the running for the role, and it’s rumored that many of them screen tested, including Liam Hemsworth and Hiddleston. According to decision makers, he came in “ripped” and ready to go and did a “tremendous” screen test but “he just wasn’t Thor.” When he read as Loki, they knew they had found what they were looking for and credit the success of the character to being brought to life by Hiddleston.
16 SEBASTIAN STAN AS CAPTAIN AMERICA
Chris Evans’ name has become so synonymous with Captain America, that looking at others in the running for the part, honestly, feels weird. But to Sebastian Stan, it was his journey to being a part of the MCU. Stan auditioned for and was in the running for Cap, and was crushed to hear he didn’t get the role.
Later, the team brought another role to his attention, one that seemed small in the Captain America: The First Avenger, but had enough potential to lock him into a nine film deal: James Buchanan Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier. This role might seem like a consolation prize to the man who wanted to play Cap, but we suspect he might be able to wield the shield eventually.
15 SAM ROCKWELL AS IRON MAN
What really makes Tony Stark an interesting character is that he isn’t, in the traditional sense, nice. Large ego, kind of a brat, and sharp tongued, his personality lends to being played by someone who otherwise could nail a quippy villain role. That’s why it makes sense that Sam Rockwell was in the running for the part.
Rockwell was in contention to play Tony Stark as Director, Jon Favreau, thought he had a specific charisma that would have made him right for the role. The spot ultimately went to Robert Downey Jr., but Rockwell didn’t have to wait in the wings too long and was eventually cast as the villain, Justin Hammer.
14 JAMES FRANCO AS SPIDER-MAN
A host of A-list actors were once in contention to play Sam Raimi’s version of the web slinger, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Cruise. But one of those who came really close was the eventual confused villain of the story, James Franco.
Franco said he screen tested for the part in an audition that he supposed costs “thousands of dollars.” He, ultimately, didn’t get the role, but was given the part of Harry Osborn instead. As far as he knows, no one else auditioned for the role, but his performance sold him as the right guy for the job. We think Franco did much better as the suave but sad rich kid with daddy issues.
13 CILLIAN MURPHY AS BATMAN
Cillian Murphy has done such a good job at playing the villain, that it’s had to imagine him as one of the most notorious heroes of all time, Batman. But someone did, considering he auditioned for the role of Batman in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. Cillian Murphy has a lot of potential to play complicated heroes, as he has done for multiple seasons of Peaky Blinders. We think he fits the mold of a Bat Family member.
But Cillian wasn’t right for the patriarch of the Bat family, but wasn’t sent home empty handed. He was later cast as the Scarecrow and the first villain to pop up in the Nolan Bat Universe.
12 LEE PACE AS STAR-LORD
Lee Pace has been having a lot of fun teasing the return of his Guardians of the Galaxy character, Ronan the Accuser, in Captain Marvel. As Ronan, Pace is perfect at balancing the menacing villain with the comedic edge of GOTG. This is made especially obvious in his showdown with Thanos over one of his many coveted Stones.
But Pace wasn’t only in the running for the blue and black villain, he was once in contention for the rag tag gang’s leader, Star-Lord. Though he made the short list, Pace was not the right guy for the role.
11 CHRISTOPHER MINTZ-PLASSE AS KICK-ASS
Matthew Vaughan’s 2010 take on the genre was a foul-mouthed story of a superhero having no business being a superhero. In finding the actor for the job of playing the “not a superhero type,” they ended up casting Aaron Taylor-Johnson. In a stunning turn of events, he got, well, big, and ended up appearing in the MCU as Quicksilver.
But before he was cast, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, best known for his role of McLovin in Superbad, read for the part. According to him, Vaughan didn’t like any of his audition for the titular role, and cast him as the villain, Red Mist, instead.
10 HEATH LEDGER AS BATMAN
The more fun versions of these stories are the actors who auditioned to play the hero and ended up being cast as the villain. When it comes to what happened with Heath Ledger, it might have been the greatest gift. Initially, Batman Begins director, Christopher Nolan, was meeting with a host of young actors to dawn the cowl, and one of those actors was Health Ledger. As Nolan explains it, Heath was “very gracious,” but had no interest in being in a superhero film.
But the “grittiness,” of what Nolan created ended up appealing to Ledger, who then came back and was ultimately cast as the Joker, giving one of the most stunning performances of all time.
9 JUDE LAW AS SPIDER-MAN
We’re not sure that the naturally charming and suave Jude Law would have been right for the transforming nerd type role that Raimi made of Peter Parker, but at some point, he was in contention for the role.
It took a long time for Law to pop back up in comic book culture. There was a good chance he lost any dreams of being a comic book film star to Tobey Maguire, but not so. As we barrel into the close of Phase Three of the MCU, 2019 is going to bring us Captain Marvel. Though his role was somewhat under wraps, Law is finally in a comic book film, and looks like he is Mar-Vell (or not?).
8 JAKE GYLLENHAAL AS SPIDER-MAN
We are excited that Jake Gyllenhaal is finally getting the comic book role he deserves, though it might mean he will be a one off villain in Spider-Man: Far From Home. The seasoned actor has finally popped on in Instagram, joking in Tom Holland’s stories, and making his first post acting shocked that he isn’t, in fact, playing Spidey.
This joke isn’t founded on nothing. When Tobey Maguire injured himself while filming Spider-Man, runner up, Gyllenhaal, was asked to step in. He got into shape and trained for the role, but ultimately, Maguire got healthy in time to hold onto the webshooters.
7 SCOTT EASTWOOD AS CAPTAIN AMERICA
Being the offspring of one of the most famous actors of all time can bring both a lot of pressure and a lot of opportunity. For Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott, it is probably a balance of both.
Eastwood has lived up to his name as the perfect son of a legendary actor and really went for it when he was in contention to play Captain America. Though he didn’t end up beating out Chris Evans, that wasn’t it for Eastwood in comic book film. He came back around again for DC’s Suicide Squad as Lieutenant GQ Edwards. It’s not exactly the leader of the Avengers but, good for you, Scott.
6 MICHAEL B. JORDAN AS FALCON
Michael B. Jordan has had a few kicks at the comic book can. He was once up for the role of Harry Osborn in Marc Webb’s resurrection of the Spider-Man franchise, and was the second of the Fantastic 4 Human Torch alumni to end up in the MCU. However, Killmonger wasn’t his first shot at joining the MCU. Jordan once auditioned for the role of Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
It might have taken him a few shots before making it in the big leagues, but Jordan did not disappoint, and became one of the most talked about MCU villains, despite only appearing in one installment.
5 RACHEL MCADAMS AS LOIS LANE
Rachel McAdams, though being from Canada, has a history of playing America’s sweetheart types. McAdams played emergency room doctor and love interest, Dr. Christine Palmer, in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, but this wasn’t the only superhero role she was considered for.
Prior to playing Strange’s love interest, she was in consideration for the role of Lois Lane. After Anne Hathaway opted for a role in Nolan’s Batman films, the slot of Lane was left open, and McAdams was a top contender. She didn’t end up winning the spot, but, not to be deterred, she won her comic book role alongside Strange.
4 CHANNING TATUM AS THOR
Though there has been some turmoil associated with the project, word is that the Channing Tatum Gambit project is still in the works, and Tatum will play the card throwing mutant.
Channing Tatum went from being cast as the boring meathead to really coming into his own in comedic, and the big business he built around Magic Mike. Turned out he has more charisma than a lot of people thought, and he had once hoped to bring that to the role of the Asgardian God of Thunder, Thor. He ultimately wasn’t cast, as the directors were rumored to want someone more Nordic, but they ended up with a different charismatic meathead.
3 MADS MIKKELSEN (AGAIN) AS MALEKITH
Mads Mikkelsen is one of the most talented villainous actors of our time, and brings a sympathetic edge to his characters that make them extra compelling. He brought that to Le Chifre in Casino Royale, and blew that away as the titular role in Hannibal.
He ultimately ended up as Kaecilius in Doctor Strange, but this wasn’t the first Marvel role for which he was courted. Mikkelsen was closely associated with the villain role in Thor 2, alongside Loki, of course, Malekith. He didn’t end up with the part, but, even more perplexing was his story about auditioning for Mr. Fantastic.
2 JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT (AGAIN) AS ANT-MAN
Ant-Man was one of the more effective attempts at the MCU outrunning its drama with more quirky installments in the franchise. With impeccable casting Paul Rudd brought charming humor to the role, and ultimately to the franchise, but he wasn’t the only name rumored to be associated with the role of the shrinking man.
Yes, the young guy who played the oldest guy on 3rd Rock From the Sun was once considered for the role of Ant-Man. But, the role went to Rudd, and as of now, Levitt’s only superhero film appearance has been as Blake, or Robin or whatever in The Dark Knight Rises.
1 JASON MOMOA (AGAIN) AS DRAX
Aquaman himself wasn’t only in contention for Batman. With his large stature, beefy build, and deep voice, he is a walking prototype for the live action version of a host of comic book characters. One of the more obvious ones in recent memory is Drax of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
But Momoa decided not to pursue the role, as he was afraid of being pigeonholed as the silent brute type, in line with his roles in Game Of Thrones and Conan the Barbarian. He left the role behind him, but didn’t leave comic books in the dust. He is now not of space, but of the sea.