Superhero movies require an enormous amount of effort on the part of their cast and crews. Not only do they entail typical industry standard pains like multiple location shoots, grueling 12-hour days (and the same flavors of chips at every craft service table), they have the added bonus of irritating costumes, flying harnesses and, oh yeah, stunts that can lead to instant death. For every diva actor that throws a hissy over a fellow cast member forgetting their lines or a grip forgetting their coffee, there’s one that’s literally imperiled by the restrictions of their costume to the point of having blackouts and the constant threat of bladder betrayal. The scenes they shoot under the real stress of these conditions can cause tempers to flare, resulting in many lead actors threatening to march off-set.
To some directors, actors are as expendable as props and are only necessary to move the story along. To others, they’re the key components in realizing the fantastical narrative of the superhero storyline. In either case, they either get listened to, or they threaten to quit the production, which means lengthy reshoots, rewrites, and sometimes recasting roles altogether. Here are the scenes that almost caused your favorite superhero actors to hang up their capes!
15 KRYSTEN RITTER - JESSICA JONES
The material featured in Netflix’s Jessica Jones was dark to say the least. Based off of the gripping series of comics by the same name, it dealt with issues of the emotional trauma, psychological manipulation, and sordid violent events that created Jessica Jones’ persona.
When the series debuted, not many superhero comics dealt with the pressures of being a superhero, and all the responsibilities the role contained.
The scenes involving Jones’ nemesis Kilgrave towards the end of the first season, which involved her being trapped in her childhood home and forcing her to relive the trauma of not only their toxic relationship but also the tragic death of her family, were almost too much for Ritter to stomach. Going to such a dark head space in order to give the scenes authenticity almost made her quit the series altogether and not agree to a second season.
14 JIM CARREY - KICK-ASS 2
After the success of the movie Kick-Ass, a sequel was greenlit which entailed the exploits of other citizens taking up the mantle of superheroes. Nicolas Cage, who’d appeared in the first film, wasn’t in the mix for Kick-Ass 2. Filling in with star power was Jim Carrey who signed on as Stars and Stripes, a reformed mobster now pledging himself to fighting crime.
Several scenes involving extreme violence caused Jim Carrey a lot of vexation in the wake of mass shootings in the US. He almost quit the film until the writers made his character a born again Christian who refused to use guns. Even after the film was released, he withdrew his support from it, declaring he could no longer support such violent features.
13 MICHAEL KEATON - BATMAN
As the first actor to ever don Batman’s cape and cowl in a feature film, Michael Keaton was under a lot of scrutiny. Not just because this was the Caped Crusader’s first foray onto the big screen, but because he was primarily known as a comedic actor and fans weren’t sure he could pull off either Batman’s brooding demeanor or Bruce Wayne’s charisma. Their fears were assuaged however when he turned out a sterling performance.
Acting in the Batman suit was no easy task for Keaton, who had never worn anything like it.
During the scenes involving chasing Jack Nicholson’s Joker around the toxic waste refinery, Michael Keaton couldn’t turn his head properly, having to turn his entire chest if he wanted to look from side to side. Almost hitting his head on several steel beams almost made him quit the film, but he was persuaded against it.
12 JESSICA ALBA - FANTASTIC FOUR
In the same year that she made Sin City, Jessica Alba starred in The Fantastic Four alongside the future Captain America, Chris Evans. The film wasn’t well received, especially when it was put alongside genre defining contemporaries like Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins. Critics called the film one-dimensional, plotless, and the acting especially thin. The last point particularly hurt Alba, who has admitted to being sensitive about criticism since she was young.
Alba felt the critique of her acting lay in the script she was given. In the first half of the movie in scenes involving Reed Richards and her in his lab, she felt actor Ioan Gruffudd got all the best technical lines, leaving her to simply react even though Sue Storm was a scientist herself. She began add libing some lines, to the irritation of screenwriter John August. Their resulting argument almost made her quit the film.
11 ANDREW GARFIELD - THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
After Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy went out less than triumphantly with Spider-Man 3, Sony was anxious to reboot the franchise while still keeping its hold on the rights to it. They cast Andrew Garfield as the friendly neighborhood web slinger and reworked his origin story yet again, though his love interest this time around was Gwen Stacy, not Mary Jane Watson.
A huge Spider-Man fan, Garfield was extremely excited to be given the chance to play Spidey. However, he had a difficult time being strung upside down via the extensive rigging required for some of his scenes. He complained of headaches and nausea, and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to keep to the shooting schedule because he had to stop production and be taken down whenever he felt too sick to continue.
10 BEN AFFLECK - BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
Following in a long line of actors who have played the Dark Knight, Ben Affleck became the fourth star to get into the Batsuit. His casting was controversial, not unlike Michael Keaton’s had been when the first Batman film was made. Affleck had recently been on a career upswing and finally seemed to have the caliber of acting required to play a no-nonsense, middle-aged Bruce Wayne who had become disillusioned with his role as a superhero.
As much a fan of Batman as Affleck was, he hated doing anything involving motion capture. To combat Superman, Batman developed a special armored Kryptonite suit, which for Affleck meant a great deal of time spent with tiny balls peppering his body so that some of the more extreme stunts in the suit could be rendered in CGI. He was so frustrated with the process that he frequently threatened to walk off the set.
9 MICHELLE PFEIFFER - BATMAN RETURNS
As the first cinematic embodiment of Catwoman in Tim Burton’s stylistic Batman Returns, Michelle Pfeiffer was slinky and seductive. As Selena Kyle, she perfectly captured the mousy personality needed to make her transformation into the confident and enigmatic Catwoman all the more compelling.
Catwoman’s costume consisted of a latex suit that seemed to be painted on her skin. She said that getting into her outfit was an ordeal that took hours, and a generous amount of baby powder to make sure it didn’t stick to her skin when she took it off. This made bathroom breaks almost nonexistent once she was in it which, coupled with how hard it was to breathe in it, made her almost faint several times. She only agreed to keep shooting if she only had to be in the suit a certain amount of time during the day.
8 HUGO WEAVING - CAPTAIN AMERICA
For a quirky Aussie actor who prefers indie dramas, Weaving has built up a respectable career of starring in blockbusters. From Lord of the Rings to The Matrix Trilogy and Transformers, he’s been a part of some of the biggest cinematic franchises of the last two decades (presumably to finance him making all those indie films). He was perfectly cast as the villainous Red Skull in the first Captain America.
Unfortunately, Weaving had to act under a heavy amount of prosthetics. Though he did spend about half the movie using his real face, the first scene where he was in full Red Skull warpaint proved incredibly uncomfortable (this from the guy who acted behind a mask in V for Vendetta). He was tempted to leave the production, telling them that they could put any actor under the prosthetics and no one would know, but he was persuaded to stay.
7 MICKEY ROURKE - IRON MAN 2
The villain in Iron Man 2 was a laser whip wielding bruiser played by the very serious Mickey Rourke. The Wrestler star has a bit of the Daniel Day Lewis about him, completing diving into every role with total commitment. This was at odds with the “mindless comic book movie” he felt Marvel execs were pushing. He wanted to bring a fully formed villain to the screen, not a two-dimensional pushover that lacked complexity.
At every turn he disagreed with decisions regarding his character development, especially given that he had plenty to say about Ivan Vanko’s backstory and origins. He was dissuaded from quitting several times, but persuaded not to with the promise his character would have depth. Most of his best scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, and now he has nothing good to say about his experience.
6 JAIMIE ALEXANDER - THOR: THE DARK WORLD
The ferocious and beautiful Lady Sif was a highlight of the first Thor film and was a welcome addition to the adventures in Thor: The Dark World. She is a powerful guardian of Asgard and a friend to Odin’s favorite son, Thor. Heroic cinematic moments call for death defying stunts, and in the course of filming, Alexander did several of her own. Unfortunately, one particular stunt very nearly paralyzed the star.
Shooting from a particularly high altitude, Alexander lost her footing and fell down some wet stairs in the rain. She herniated a disk in her Thoracic spine, dislocated her left shoulder, and chipped eleven vertebrae. She was almost forced to quit production entirely, but healed enough through physical therapy to be able to shoot her remaining scenes before production wrapped a few months later.
5 TOMMY LEE JONES - BATMAN FOREVER
Batman Forever was not everyone’s cup of tea, and the entire cast basically had problems with the third Batman film. Since Michael Keaton bailed on reprising his role a third time to round out the trilogy, Val Kilmer and his lips stepped in. It was the film that would step away from the moody and noir aspects of the previous films and fully embrace a dizzying DayGlo color spectrum.
While everyone knew that Jim Carrey would bring his wacky energy to the role of the Riddler, no one was really expecting Tommy Lee Jones to be so animated as Two-Face. Though they shared many scenes together, Jones couldn’t stand Carrey, and threatened to quit several times if his co-star didn’t stop upstaging him. He became so irritated that if he had to stay, he would do so without interacting with Carrey beyond the scenes they filmed.
4 MATTHEW GOODE - WATCHMEN
Watchmen was a decidedly dark superhero film directed by Zack Snyder that explored the existential themes of the graphic novel by the same name. In it, several different types of superheroes spent time pontificating on the parameters of their roles in society, and contemplating the ramifications of their actions. Matthew Goode played Ozymandias, one of the most prominent characters, who was originally to be played by another actor (whose likeness still appeared on all the concept art that Goode used to prepare for the role).
Goode knew he was not the Ozymandias fans wanted, because he made the mistake of reading their vitriol online while he was filming. This impacted his acting style and delivery, and in scenes where Ozymandias had to get particularly personal about the fate of humanity, Goode almost wanted to quit, thinking that fans wouldn’t believe him in the role.
3 CHARLIZE THERON - AEON FLUX
Aeon Flux was a uniquely avante-garde animated series that aired in the early to mid ‘90s, focusing on the missions of Aeon Flux, an assassin in the employ of the Monicans, a secret group plotting to overthrow a dystopian government. The series inspired comics, a video game and finally, a feature film starring Charlize Theron.
The film was not particularly well-received, through no fault of Theron’s, who did a great job of conveying Flux’s mysterious charisma and brutality. The film required a series of intensely physical stunts, most of which Theron performed herself. In fact, she almost died on the set when she broke her neck performing a backflip. She had to quit production, but made a miraculous recovery two months later, and was actually able to return and continue filming.
2 MICHAEL CHIKLIS - FANTASTIC FOUR
While not the best received superhero film of the early ‘00s, the Fantastic Four movie took one of the most well known (if not fairly tame) super teams and explored their origins with a mixture of action, humor, and practical as well as CGI effects. The cast was solid but the script suffered from a lack of originality, ending up with the famed four coming off as nothing more than caricatures.
Michael Chiklis was tapped to play The Thing, who in the comics could manipulate his form to go from The Thing’s rock-like appearance back to his human form. In the film version he was The Thing all the time, and practical effects were used to put Chiklis in a giant foam suit which proved very difficult to move in. Many times he suffered heat stroke, and would have quit if not for the coercion of his castmates.
1 ERIC BANA - HULK
Before Eric Bana took on the role of Bruce Banner and his angry alter ego, The Hulk, audiences had come to associate bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno with the role. Of course that televised version of The Hulk didn’t have the technology to make him the size he needed to be, so audiences were understandably excited when news of Ang Lee’s version hit theaters. It was shortly before Phase 1 of the MCU, and Marvel execs didn’t yet have a cohesive idea as to what a typical Marvel movie should look like.
Eric Bana, though at first thrilled with the opportunity to be the first cinematic Hulk, quickly became discouraged with the amount of motion capture necessary to embody his movements. He threatened to walk off the set several times during his first motion capture scenes when he couldn’t give the creative team what they wanted.