VOICE OVER: Andrew Tejada
WRITTEN BY: Mimi Kenny
These actors almost played some pretty iconic DC and Marvel superheroes. For this list, we'll be looking at performers who came close to suiting up as iconic comic protagonists. Our countdown includes Cillian Murphy, John Krasinski, Leonardo DiCaprio, and more!
Top 10 Actors Who Almost Got Superhero Roles
Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Actors Who Almost Got Superhero Roles.
For this list, we’ll be looking at performers who came close to suiting up as iconic comic protagonists.
What’s your dream superhero casting? Let us know in the comments!
#10: Cillian Murphy
Bruce Wayne [AKA Batman]
Cillian Murphy made multiple memorable appearances in Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy as the evil Dr. Jonathan Crane aka “The Scarecrow.” But he nearly played the Caped Crusader himself. The Irish actor was in the running to play Batman in the Nolan films and even did a screen test as both Bruce Wayne and his alter ego. Ultimately, the part went to Christian Bale. Fortunately, Murphy wasn’t bitter and praised his fellow cast member for taking on the dark knight role. The casting decision paved the way for this duo of fantastic actors to face off against each other in electrifying scenes. Murphy truly made for a terrifying and intimidating Scarecrow.
#9: Jack Black
While “Green Lantern” is a laughably bad attempt at a superhero movie, it could’ve been much funnier. There were plans for a completely different version of the movie that starred Jack Black. Instead of playing Hal Jordan, he would’ve starred as an everyman named Jud Plato who inadvertently winds up with a Power Ring. As you’d expect with a Jack Black movie, the script had a humorous tone and edgy material that wouldn’t be acceptable by today’s standards. But fans couldn’t stand his story while it was in production back then either. After they reacted negatively to a leaked version of the comedic script, the project got more serious. But whether it had Ryan Reynolds or Jack Black, this superhero movie seemed doomed to fail.
#8: Saoirse Ronan
Wanda Maximoff [AKA Scarlet Witch]
Although Saoirse Ronan isn’t even 30 years old yet, she’s already received four Oscar nominations from her wide range of roles. But one world she hasn’t ventured into yet is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ronan nearly broke into that world when she was in the running to play Wanda Maximoff in "Avengers: Age of Ultron." Despite being an early favorite, the role ultimately went to the spectacular Elizabeth Olsen. While we absolutely love what Olsen's done in the role, we still can’t help but wonder how different the MCU would look if casting went differently. Could you imagine "WandaVision" with Saoirse Ronan as the enchanting Avenger?
#7: Dougray Scott
Logan [AKA Wolverine]
Over the years, fans have celebrated Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine for being faithful to the spirit of the character while adding new layers. But the once-unknown Aussie actor got the part somewhat by accident. Originally, Scottish actor Dougray Scott was cast as the clawed mutant. But “Mission: Impossible 2” got in the way. While Scott was playing the film’s villain, the production ran behind schedule. The actor also got injured while doing one of his motorcycle stunts. With time and his injury working against him, it was impossible for him to jump into the Wolverine role. Years later, Scott praised Jackman’s performance. Now that’s what we call a heroic attitude.
#6: John Krasinski
Steve Rogers [AKA Captain America]
While Captain America has superhuman abilities, the character is supposed to feel like an everyman too. This is why casting John Krasinski, who played the relatable Jim Halpert on “The Office”, seemed like a no-brainer. But the actor’s audition didn’t go as expected. While trying on the Cap uniform, he said the sight of a ripped Chris Hemsworth walking by was a bit discouraging. However, Krasinksi still tried his best to nail the audition for Steve Rogers. He ultimately lost out on the part to the very fit Chris Evans. Coincidentally enough, Krasinski later got ripped playing characters like Jack Ryan. Maybe his audition encounter inspired him to get as jacked as Captain America.
#5: Emily Blunt
Natasha Romanoff [AKA Black Widow]
Towards the end of the 2000s, Emily Blunt started her climb up the A-list. So, it’s hardly a surprise that she was tapped to play lethal spy Black Widow in “Iron Man 2.” But Blunt wasn’t available because she was contractually obligated to appear in the poorly received"Gulliver's Travels”. While she would’ve killed it in the role of an Avenger, Scarlett Johansson did wonders as Black Widow. But Blunt’s Marvel story might not be over. Fans have been clamoring to see the actress and her husband John Krasinksi play Sue Storm and Reed Richards in the future. It would be simply fantastic if they got to enter the MCU side by side.
#4: Sandra Bullock
Diana of Themyscira [AKA Wonder Woman]
When a live-action “Wonder Woman” was in the works in 1996, Sandra Bullock was strongly considered as a candidate that could wield the Lasso of Truth. We could totally picture the Oscar winner handling both the physical and emotional aspects of being the legendary heroine. However, the project got stuck in development hell for over a decade. When Bullock was asked about being Wonder Woman in 2009, she said a film with her in the lead was “dead.” It’s a shame that the strong actress never got to portray the powerful heroine. Even famed “Wonder Woman” actress Lynda Carter thought Bullock would’ve been great as one of DC’s greatest icons.
#3: Leonardo DiCaprio
Dick Grayson [AKA Robin]
While we would love to see Leonardo DiCaprio in a superhero movie, his tendency to go for challenging one-off roles seems to make his casting in a comic franchise unlikely nowadays. But we did come close in the past. Once upon a time in the 90s, the actor was considered to play Batman’s sidekick Robin in “Batman Forever.” But he passed on it after meeting with director Joel Schumacher. Instead, Chris O’Donnell took the part of Robin for “Batman Forever” and the notoriously awful “Batman & Robin”. While we imagine DiCaprio is very glad he dodged that bullet, it was disappointing to hear that he could’ve pushed to play Spider-Man at one point. But rumors that he threw support behind Tobey Maguire made us very satisfied.
#2: Tom Cruise
Tony Stark [AKA Iron Man]
Since Iron Man wasn’t always a well-known hero, the character always needed an actor with true star power to pull audiences in. So, Marvel thought that famous Hollywood mainstay Tom Cruise would be perfect. The superstar was asked to play Stark when the company was first getting the project off the ground. But as development went on, Cruise said he felt like the studio wasn’t crafting a script that would’ve done justice to the character. He later fully supported Robert Downey Jr.’s take on the hero. Since fans got incredibly excited about rumors of Cruise playing an Iron Man in Dr. Strange 2, it’s safe to say people still want to see the superstar in the red suit.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
Joaquin Phoenix, Doctor Strange
The “Joker” Actor Could’ve Put On a Red Cape Instead of White Face Paint
Vin Diesel, Hellboy
Before Lending His Deep Voice to Groot, The Actor Could’ve Played the Gruff Demon
Josh Brolin, Bruce Wayne/Batman
This Towering Actor Was Nearly Both the Heroic Bat & Maniacal Titan
Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Parker [AKA Spider-Man]
After Almost Taking Tobey Maguire’s Place as the Hero, Gyllenhaal Played a Webhead Villain
Jason Momoa, Drax the Destroyer
The Future King of Atlantis Passed On Being a Guardian of the Galaxy
#1: Nicolas Cage
Kal-El [AKA Superman]
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…Nicolas Cage? Unbelievably, Cage wasn’t just in the running to play Superman in Tim Burton’s “Superman Lives.” He was cast and actually got to test out a version of the suit. Cage would’ve earned $20 million to star in a Kryptonian script written by legendary creator Kevin Smith. However, the project was put on hold in 1998. Unfortunately, this pause was kryptonite to Cage’s chances of playing a live-action Superman. He did get to lend his voice to the role in the animated "Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.". But if you’re eager to see Cage as the man of steel, “The Death of Superman Lives” documentary will save the day.