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With Avengers: Endgame in theaters, we have to wonder: Who were the actors who were almost cast as the Avengers and in Marvel movies? Stars like Chris Evans, Tom Holland and Chadwick Boseman as household names now, but when Marvel was casting their movies, these actors were almost passed up for other stars. The Marvel cinematic universe has been around for more than a decade, so there’s been more than a few A-listers who have auditioned to play Marvel’s iconic superheroes. Some of them, like Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson, nailed their auditions and scored their parts, while others were only a hair short from joining the Marvel cinematic universe. Still, there are some who even turned down roles in the beloved franchise, which left the parts open for actors like Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pratt to step into them and bring them to life on screen.
The Marvel cinematic universe is one of the most well-known franchises in the world. (There’s a reason it’s made billions of dollars in the decade it’s been around.) We can’t imagine anyone other than Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Chris Evans as Captain America, but there was a time when Marvel wasn’t so sure who to cast. Find out which actors were almost cast as the Avengers and other Marvel characters ahead.
Adrien Brody (Ant-Man)
Brody was one of many actors considered for Ant-Man a.k.a. Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd.) Brody talked about the Ant-Man rumors in a 2010 interview with Screen Rant, in which he revealed that he hadn’t heard from Marvel himself but his agents had. “I haven’t been involved in any of those discussions – I have mentioned it to my reps who have been kind of covert about their response as well, which is very strange to me. I said ‘Is there any validity to this, what is this?’ and they said ‘Well…it’s too early to say,'” Brody said. “It was very strange and I kind of dropped it at that…Not everything that is bandied around the Internet is factual, but sometimes there are elements that do stem from truth that people who are in the middle of it aren’t aware of either. We’ll see.”
As for what he thought about the possibility of stepping into Lang’s tiny (and gigantic) shoes, Brody responded, “I’m enthusiastic about it. The key is to constantly push the boundaries and to find things that allow me to be creative and do things that, you know, I enjoy and grow from.”
Other actors considered: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ewan McGregor
Morris Chestnut (Black Panther)
Before Chadwick Boseman. There was Morris Chestnut. The actor was rumored to play Black Panther a.k.a. T’Challa before Boseman was cast. In 2013, Chestnut hinted that he was cast as Black Panther when he posted the cover of a Black Panther comic book with the caption: “It’s time to get familiar with the Black Panther character!” Though the post was soon deleted, fans believed at the time that Chestnut was hinting that Black Panther would make a surprise appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Chestnut fanned the rumors again when he tweeted that Black Panther may be in the second Avengers before his standalone movie. “Not final. #BlackPanther may be in #avengers2 first” Chestnut tweeted in response to a fan who wrote, “Can’t wait to see this movie.”
Other actors considered: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Noel Clarke, John Boyega.
Emily Blunt (Black Widow)
It’s well-known that Blunt was almost cast as Black Widow/Natasha Romanova before Scarlett Johansson. According to Vulture, Blunt was Marvel’s first choice for Black Widow, but she couldn’t accept the role because of her contract with 20th Century Fox, which obligated her to make her next film, after The Devil Wears Prada, another 20th Century Fox movie. Because of this, Blunt turned down Marvel to star in 2010’s Gulliver Travels, while Johansson debuted as Black Widow in 2010’s Iron Man 2. In a 2018 interview with Yahoo, Blunt confessed that she was OK with not being Black Widow, as it allowed her the opportunity and time to star in other projects she was passionate about.
“I don’t think I would have been able to do a lot of projects that I’ve loved doing,” Blunt said. “I think that was a nerve-wracking prospect for me to not be able to choose, and the choices I have are often all I have, so you can’t really plan for anything else. You can’t predict what’s going to happen, what’s going to catch fire and what’s not, so if I make the choice for me, and not because I’m contracted, I think that’s an exciting prospect.”
Other actors considered: Natalie Portman, Eliza Dushku, Gemma Arterton, Angelina Jolie
Jensen Ackles (Hawkeye)
According to CBR, Ackles’s original Marvel audition was for Captain America, but after he was turned down for Chris Evans, the studio offered him the role of Hawkeye in 2012’s The Avengers instead. Per CBR, Ackles considered it but ultimately turned it down because of scheduling conflicts with his CW show, Supernatural, which is when Marvel cast Jeremy Renner instead. Some suspect that Ackles turned down Marvel because of his relationship with Warner Bros. (Supernatural was on WB for several seasons), which has ties with DC Comics.
John Krasinski (Captain America)
Like his wife, Emily Blunt, Krasinski also almost was a member of the Marvel cinematic universe. According to Vulture, Krasinski was one of many actors who were on Marvel’s short list to play Captain America/Steve Rogers before Chris Evans was cast. In a 2018 interview with Yahoo, Krasinski talked about how he was almost cast as Captain America and how, if he was cast, he likely wouldn’t have made his 2018 film, A Quiet Place, because of how busy and different his life would be. “I think A Quiet Place definitely wouldn’t exist,” Krasinski said.
“There are benefits, and Chris Evans seems to be having a wonderful time,” he continued. “I love Chris, I’ve been a friend of his for a while. Those movies are so much fun and I love watching them, I tell him I’m first in line to see his new movies. It’s that zen thing of let life take you where it may and I never would have been here if I had gotten ‘Captain America.’”
Side note: Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky Barnes, also auditioned for Captain Americe before Marvel decided that he would be a better fit for the Winter Soldier.
Other actors considered: Ryan Phillippe, Garrett Hedlund, Mike Vogel, Chase Crawford, Scott Porter
Charlize Theron (Captain Marvel)
According to a 2015 OK! magazine article, Angeline Jolie was rumored to direct Captain Marvel, with Charlize Theron as its lead. OK!’s source explained that Marvel was interested in Jolie as Captain Marvel‘s director and thought the best way to convince her would be to cast her close friend, Theron, as Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers, played by Brie Larson. “The girls realized that they have a very similar outlook on life and quickly bonded over everything from their adopted children to their prospective Hollywood projects,” the source said. “Marvel has been courting Angie to direct the project and Charlize is a clear fan favorite for the starring role. If Charlize were to get the part, Angie would almost certainly sign on to work with her new pal.”
In 2015, Olivia Wilde also responded to rumors that she was in talks for Captain Marvel. “It’s amazing. That’s the thing about the interweb isn’t it? People can come up with ideas and suggest them and then it becomes a snowball. I was thrilled. I think that would be amazing but I had nothing to do with it,” Wilde said on The Late Show with James Corden.
Other actors considered: Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Bryce Dallas Howard
Joaquin Phoenix (Doctor Strange)
Phoenix (who was also rumored to play The Hulk after Edward Norton was recast) was among the names considered for Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. In a 2018 interview with Collider, Phoenix confirmed the rumors that he was considered for Doctor Strange and explained why he turned the role down. “I take a lot of time and consideration when making decisions and what I’m gonna work on, always. So, in some ways, the process, which is obviously reading a script and meeting a filmmaker and then continuing to have meetings and discussions with Todd [Phillips],” he said. “I think he’s very impressive and he seems to have a very interesting understanding of this world and what he’s trying to say. And so there is something very appealing about that and working with him on this particular project. It feels unique, it is its own world in some ways, and maybe, mostly, it scares the fucking shit out of me or something. It might as well be the thing that scares you the most.”
Phoenix continued, “”I think they make some great, fun movies. There’s nothing wrong…I’m not a fucking, like, cinephile. I’m not a snob and I’m totally fine with…I enjoy those movies sometimes, and I think they keep the fucking industry going in some ways, so I don’t have a problem with it at all. I think that everybody was, is… I’m trying to figure out how to say this most diplomatically, okay… I think everybody was really happy with how things turned out. All parties were satisfied.”
Phoenix was telling the truth in that he doesn’t look down on supehero movies, like critics assumed. The actor will star in the DC Comics’s Joker in 2019.
Other actors considered: Matthew McConaughey, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jared Leto, Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Star-Lord)
Gordon-Levitt, who was the runner-up to play Ant-Man before Paul Rudd was cast, also auditioned for The Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Star-Lord/Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt, so it’s more than likely that Marvel is fond of the actor. (In 2013, Deadline reported that Gordon-Levitt was “in the mix” for Star-Lord.) Lee Pace was also considered for Star-Lord, though the actor was later cast as Guardians villain, Ronan.
Other actors considered: Joel Edgerton, Jim Sturgess, Eddie Redmayne, Zachary Levi
Sam Rockwell (Iron Man)
Iron Man/Tony Stark could’ve looked a lot different. The hero, played by Robert Downey Jr., was almost played by Sam Rockwell. According to Vulture, Rockwell was a hair away from being cast as Tony Stark. Director Jon Favreau’s favorite from the start was Downey Jr., but if Marvel rejected the star (based on Downey Jr.’s reputation at the time), Favreau’s second choice was Rockwell. Rockwell did make it to the Iron Man universe, though, as Iron Man 2 villain, Justin Hammer.
Other actors considered: Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage
Timothée Chalamet (Spider-Man)
Oscar nominee Chalamet was among those considered for Marvel’s Spider-Man/Peter Parker reboot, which eventually went to Tom Holland. In a 2018 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Chalamet looked back on his audition for Spider-Man and how he bombed it, which is why he was cut from the process. “I read twice and I left sweating in a total panic,” Chalamet said. “I called my agent, [UTA’s] Brian Swardstrom, and I said, ‘Brian, I thought about this a lot and I have to go back and knock on that door and read again,’ and he told me the story of Sean Young and how in an attempt to become Catwoman had scared everyone away when she showed up at the studio gates in costume.”
Other actors considered: Nat Wolff, Asa Butterfield, Liam James, Nick Robinson
David Duchovny (The Hulk)
The role of The Hulk/Bruce Banner was originally given to Edward Norton, who played the character in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. However, because of Norton’s not-so-great relationship with director Louis Leterrier, the actor was recast for 2012’s The Avengers, with Mark Ruffalo in the role instead. (“Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors,” Marvel said in a statement after it was announced that Norton was recast. “But instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members. The Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble.”
Among those almost cast as The Hulk was Duchovny, who was neck-in-neck with Norton for the role. According to Indie Wire, Duchovny was one of Marvel vice chairman Peter Cuneo’s favorites, but the actor was eventually passed over for Norton—only for Norton to be recast for Mark Ruffalo for the rest of The Hulk’s Marvel films.
Other actors considered: Joaquin Phoenix
Alexander Skarsgård (Thor)
Skarsgård (whose father Stellan starred as Dr. Erik Selvig in Thor and Thor: The Dark World) was on Marvel’s short list to play Thor, the God of Thunder. Chris Hemsworth, who eventually landed the role, was cut early on after a bad audition. After Hemsworth’s brother, Liam, made it to Marvel’s final few for the God of Thunder, Hemsworth lobbed for a second shot. It paid off, and he was cast as Thor. (Liam and Chris’s brother, Luke, also played Thor in a play in Thor: Ragnarok.)
In a 2009 interview with MTV, Skarsgard confirmed that he was almost cast for Thor and even tried on the character’s costume. “Yeah, I met with [Marvel Studios chief] Kevin [Feige] a few times and the director [Kenneth Branagh],” he said.. “There was definitely some truth in that, yeah.” He continued, “It depends on the circumstances. It’s pretty hard to say [whether I’d take another comic role]. It depends on the circumstances – who the director is, and what the character is. But of course [I’d be interested in looking into it]. I think it’s every little boy’s dream; it would be a person’s dream to play an action hero.”
Tom Hiddleston, who plays Thor antihero Loki, also auditioned for the character. After he was cut, Marvel recommended him for Loki, the God of Mischief, which he landed. “That was what I was being considered for, because I’m tall and blonde and classically trained,” Hiddleston told Den of Geek in 2012. “And that seemed to be the mould for what Thor was, he was to be a classical character.”
Other actors considered: Joel Kinnaman, Charlie Hunnam
Scarlet Witch (Saoirse Ronan)
Elizabeth Olsen plays Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximioff in the MCU, but Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan was almost cast. According to Vulture, director Joss Whedon actually had Ronan in mind when he was writing the script for Avengers: Age of Ultron, in which Scarlet Witch debuts. Ronan confirmed the rumors in a 2015 interview with SyFy. “I love Joss and I love those films, and I love his handle on them and how he portrayed these kinds of superheroes,” Ronan said. “So yeah, I’d love to be in it.” In the end, Ronan reportedly passed, which is when the role was cast with Olsen instead.