Kristen Wiig was recently cast as the villain, Cheetah, for the second Wonder Woman movie. While she has had her share of defenders, Wiig’s casting has also drawn considerable criticism throughout superhero movie fandom. Some fans just cannot see how a comedic actress like Wiig would be right for a major villain role. This knee-jerk discontent, though, is essentially par for the course when it comes to superhero film casting.
Seemingly every time an actor is cast for a major superhero role, there is outrage through the fandom. Very often, this outrage then looks silly in retrospect. Of course, it never looks particularly dignified to freak out over the casting of a movie role before you see the actor in that role. When the actual movies come out and the vision of the casting bears out, it could change completely, and often has in the past. Will that be the case with Wiig? Well, as a talented actor, that is very likely! So to prepare ourselves, let us take a look at 15 instances where fans were outraged over an actor being cast in a superhero film and it all turned out well in the end.
15. MICHAEL KEATON AS BATMAN
Nowadays, thanks especially to social media, you can easily go online to register whatever concerns you have with an upcoming superhero movie. That was not the case back in the 1980s when the news was released that Michael Keaton was cast as Batman in the then-upcoming Tim Burton Batman film. Therefore, it is difficult to measure the level of outrage there was over this casting. But it was crazy!
People would write letters to the editor at the Los Angeles Times to explain why Keaton, then mostly known for his comedic work, was all wrong for the role. Heck, even the producers of the film thought it was weird to see “Mr. Mom” as Batman. However, it soon became clear to everyone that Tim Burton was spot on, as Keaton became an icon in the role.
14. HEATH LEDGER AS JOKER
As noted, there is often outrage online when a superhero actor gets cast. However, in the internet era, no actor’s casting drew quite as much ire as the casting of Heath Ledger as the Joker for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Despite the fact that Ledger had just done the critically acclaimed Brokeback Mountain, he was still mostly seen as the fresh-faced hero of films like 10 Things I Hate About You and Knight’s Tale.
Of course, Ledger showed everyone by not just doing a great job in the film but actually winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as the classic Batman villain. Tragically, the award was earned posthumously, as Ledger overdosed on prescription medication before the movie even opened.
13. HUGH JACKMAN AS WOLVERINE
It is hard to believe this now, but back in the late 1990s, people were really invested in the idea of Wolverine being accurately adapted into film. By “accurately adapted,” we mean that people really wanted whoever played Wolverine in an X-Men movie to look like Wolverine, who is barely over five feet tall. Thus, short actors were the choices of devoted fans, with Glenn Danzig (literally the same height as Wolverine) being a popular pick.
So, when a six foot two inch tall Australian actor best known for his musical theater work got the role, fans were none too impressed. Of course, Hugh Jackman soon made the role his own and after a stunning ten film appearances as Logan, fans are now struggling to see anyone else as Wolverine in a movie.
12. GAL GADOT AS WONDER WOMAN
When it came to the casting of Wonder Woman, the problem that many fans had is that, much like they had with Wolverine’s height, there was a specific body type that they had in mind for Wonder Woman. That type could best be described as, well, Amazonian. So, when you have a very specific look in your mind, anything that deviates from that is going to drive you nuts.
Gal Gadot definitely deviated from that sort of body type; while she is a very athletic woman, she is lithe and thus was seen as far too skinny by many fans. Luckily, once they saw her in action, she more than lived up to the expectations one would place on an Amazonian warrior and she has quickly become the best part of the DC Extended Universe.
11. MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN AS KINGPIN
Something that will always seem to draw some controversy when it comes to superhero casting is when producers decide to cast an actor who is of a different race than the comic book character. In recent years, this has become a lot more common, simply because everyone seems to understand that when everyone was invented 60 years ago by white people, they’re all going to be white. That isn’t just not a realistic option, it’s also just boring!
However, in the early days of Marvel superheroes, producers were more hesitant to make any changes like this, and it simply came down to them not being able to find a big enough white actor to play the Kingpin in 2003’s Daredevil that led to them to the late, great Michael Clarke Duncan. The movie ended up not really working, but Duncan won over fans with his depiction of the Kingpin.
10. MARK RUFFALO AS BRUCE BANNER
When Mark Ruffalo was cast as Bruce Banner for The Avengers, he had the problem of following up an actor, Edward Norton, who had really impressed a lot of people in The Incredible Hulk. Norton had originally expressed a desire to continue in the role, so when he was replaced, Ruffalo was already in the hole with a lot of fans, simply because they missed Norton.
Also, however, this was soon after Disney had purchased Marvel, so fans were waiting for Disney to screw up the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Ruffalo’s casting was seen as an example of that happening. Obviously, fans loved Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and it all worked out swimmingly, but for a while there, the angle was all about how Disney was ruining everything.
9. ANNE HATHAWAY AS CATWOMAN
One of the biggest fears in doing a superhero movie is that you will become so linked to that character that fans won’t accept you in other roles. This fear of being typecast certainly seemed legit in the case of Adam West from the 1960s Batman series and Christoper Reeve from the Superman film franchise. However, sometimes that fear of typecast goes in the other direction!
When she was cast as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, Anne Hathaway was getting to the point where she was beginning to be typecast as the sweet lady who stars in romantic comedies (with her successes in The Princess Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada). Fans had a hard time seeing her as a seductive cat burglar, but Hathaway ultimately won them all over.
8. ZENDAYA AS MJ
The fan reaction to Zendaya’s casting in Spider-Man: Homecoming was like a roller coaster ride. At first, the reactions were normal enough. No one really batted an eye when she was initially cast, since the movie was filling so many different roles for classmates of Peter Parker. It just didn’t seem like a big deal that Zendaya, a popular Disney Channel actress, would be cast.
Then it seemed like she might be playing Mary Jane Watson and the crazies came out in force, with many fans outraged at the idea of a non-white Mary Jane Watson. Ultimately, she was playing someone named Michelle and not Mary Jane and the crazies backed off. Then the movie came out, she was excellent in it and the twist was revealed — she’s not Mary Jane Watson, but she probably is “MJ.” Reactions remain mixed, but most of the audience were so in love with her performance that it was a moot point by then.
7. VAL KILMER AS BATMAN
The hilarious thing about superhero casting is that there is this bizarre little cycle where the actor is announced for the role: fans freak out like crazy, the movie comes out, the actor is great in the role, fans love the actor in the role, then the actor leaves and what happens? The fans freak out that the actor that they freaked out about being cast in the first place is now gone!
That’s the unenviable situation that Val Kilmer was placed into when he took over from the now suddenly iconic Michael Keaton as Batman in the third Batman film, Batman Forever (also the first film with Joel Schumacher as director instead of Tim Burton). Kilmer, though, quickly ingratiated himself to the fans as Batman. The problem, however, was that he did not ingratiate himself to Schumacher, and Kilmer ended up being a one and done Batman.
6. CHRIS EVANS AS CAPTAIN AMERICA
Fans often have a bit of a one-track mind when it comes to superhero casting. One of the difficult feats for an actor, then, is to get fans to look beyond the little area that they have pigeonholed them into. That was the problem facing Chris Evans, who had committed the cardinal sin of having already appeared in a superhero movie as the Human Torch.
Not only was Evans already another superhero when he was cast as Captain America, but he was another superhero who was known for being a comic relief sort of character. So getting fans to look past his comedic turn as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four and to accept him as Captain America was no small feat. Luckily, Chris Evans was more than up to the task and now fans barely recall his turn as the Human Torch.
5. CHRIS PRATT AS STARLORD
Decades after anticipating audiences could not accept the casting of comedy film star Michael Keaton as Batman, fans were having a similar difficulty seeing sitcom star Chris Pratt becoming Starlord in the Guardians of the Galaxy. One of the biggest issues is that Pratt’s character, Andy, on Parks and Recreation, was known for his partying and his not-equally-super physique.
When Pratt was cast, it was with the knowledge that he would have to lose a lot of weight. However, he convinced James Gunn that he was up for it and he did get his body into amazing shape for the film. Before the movie was released, though, Gunn even got into an argument online with a fan who was tearing apart Pratt’s casting! As an actor, it must be nice to see a director stand up for you.
4. AMY ADAMS AS LOIS LANE
Despite being one of the most acclaimed actors of her generation, Amy Adams somehow drew a great deal of fan outrage when she was cast as Lois Lane in The Man of Steel. With Adams being such a great actress, it was surprising to see fans not feeling her. Of course, being snubbed isn’t new for her, having five Academy Award nominations without a single Oscar to her name.
Fan over her casting as Lois mostly boiled down to Adams looking a lot different than previous versions of the character. and the fact that she was nearly 40 when Man of Steel came out (she was also nine years older than her Superman co-star, Henry Cavill). However, shockingly enough, a great actress like Amy Adams ended up doing a great job as Lois Lane. Her scenes were some of the best ones in Justice League.
3. BEN AFFLECK AS BATMAN
Ben Affleck was walking into a double firestorm when he was cast as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. First of all, like Chris Evans, he had already played a superhero in a movie before, as he starred in the 2003 Daredevil film. Unlike Evans, though, he did not even have the benefit of doing a good job in his previous superhero role, as Affleck’s turn as Daredevil was quite disappointing. Secondly, Affleck was following in the footsteps of a very popular Batman, Christian Bale, who had played the role through three hit films.
While the films that Affleck has appeared in as Batman have not always had the best responses from fans, he has managed to surprise many fans by being one of the best parts of each of the films that he has starred in as Batman (Dawn of Justice and Justice League).
2. ROBERT DOWNEY JR. AS IRON MAN
It is hard to conceptualize this right now, after he has been the heart and soul of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a full decade, but when he was cast as Iron Man in 2007, Robert Downey Jr’s career was majorly on the skids. He had gone through a major problem with drug addiction that saw his mug shot end up in newspapers everywhere. When he was given a shot to have a comeback on Ally McBeal, he was excellent…and then got fired for having another relapse.
So when Marvel pinned the hopes of its Marvel Cinematic Universe on Downey Jr, fans were less than enthused. This was more like the Ruffalo case, where it was less that fans thought he was a bad actor and more that they were worried about the circumstances. Obviously, Downey Jr. proved that Marvel’s faith in him was well-placed.
1. IDRIS ELBA AS HEIMDALL
As noted earlier, the idea of casting actors as comic book characters where the actor is of a different race than the comic book character, has proven to be quite controversial with superhero movie fans. However, these views have mostly been about major characters. Michael Clarke Duncan, for instance, was playing the main villain of the Daredevil film.
Therefore, when there was so much fan outrage over the casting of Heimdall in Thor with black British actor Idris Elba, it was a shock. How many Heimdall fans are there, really? Yes, it was more about the idea that people felt that Norse gods should all be white (since they were Scandinavian gods), but still, it seemed like a major tempest in a teapot. Sure enough, Elba was great as Heimdall in all three Thor films so far.
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