Should Will Smith Play Captain America?

by     Posted 4 years, 100 days ago


It‘s a rumor that’s been circulating within the back channels and undertows of the internet for a couple of years now.  Discussed and endlessly debated on message boards, argued back and forth by comic book fans, it’s caused so much distress and excitement within fan circles that you’d think they were arguing about a film that had already been shot and released into theaters.  And the rumor is this:  That Captain America, Marvel’s iconoclastic leader of the Avengers whose due for his own film in 2011 by director Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park 3, The Rocketeer) is going to be played by none other than Will Smith.

In some circles, Smith is believed to have been at least offered the title role in The First Avenger: Captain America.  If true, it’d be one of the most bold and daring casting decisions undertaken by Hollywood in recent years.  And also, by the sound of the voluminous fits being thrown by fan-boys all across the country, one of the most contentious.

And with the film set to go into production this summer, we can expect casting announcements any day now.  While I have no idea about the veracity of this rumor, of whether there’s even a hint of truth to it or an entirely fabricated suggestion which curiously gained traction within the echo chamber of the internet, I do have an opinion about the matter.  And the opinion is this:  Will Smith would make an incredibly awesome Captain America. To find out why, read on after the jump.

So far, Marvel has played it incredibly safe in the casting of their super-hero franchises:

captain_america_comic_image_01.jpgTobey Maguire in Spider-Man?  Makes perfect sense.  Tobey perfectly embodied the nebbish Peter Parker that we all grew up with in the comic books.

Robert Downing Jr. in Iron Man?  Spot on casting to play the smug middle-aged billionaire.

Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk?  While there was a mixed response to the Hulk’s first cinematic outing in Ang Lee’s Hulk, the second time around they definitely got it right.  Norton’s slim physique and mild-mannered persona offered the necessary and precise counter-balance to the raging muscle-bound Hulk.

But in his own way, Will Smith would also be a perfect casting decision.  There are three reasons for this:

will_smith_01.jpgThe first is that while die-hard comic fans have been having apocalyptic fits about the mere idea of making Captain America black, the larger movie going public isn’t as concerned about playing fast and loose with the source material.  Especially when the source material is a comic book.  Having the Fresh Prince on-board could serve as a box office insurance policy towards a super-hero that doesn’t have a lot of cosmetic flash.  While the film is sure to be endowed with a healthy budget and plenty of explosions, at the end of the day Captain America just doesn’t have Iron Man’s suit, Spider-Man’s ability to web sling his way in-between Manhattan skyscrapers, the visually interesting mutations of the X-Men, or the ability to transform into an angry green goliath when his feelings get hurt.  Is mainstream America really going to want to shell out money to see a super-hero whose origin involves only the drinking of a super-soldier serum and whose sole power is seemingly the ability to throw a shield?

All of which is to say that, both aesthetically and visually, Captain America is one of Marvel’s least interesting characters.  And not to mention, most boring.  Spiderman’s Peter Parker struggled with getting dates and paying the rent.  Iron Man’s Tony Stark got to play a womanizing alcoholic.  The X-Men had to hide out from a world that hated and feared them.  And the Hulk’s Bruce Banner was a man perpetually on the run from both society and himself.

Meanwhile, Captain America’s alter ego Steve Rogers was never portrayed as much else than an over the top patriotic boy scout with an unwavering belief in, to borrow a phrase from another overt morally absolute do-gooder, “Truth, justice, and the American way.”  All of which, unless you’re a raging Bush-era neo-conservative, may be a hard sell to a cynical public which has undergone a decade of war and one of the longest recessions in national history.

captain_america_image__2_.jpgHaving Will Smith play the shield wielding Avenger changes everything simply because Will Smith is one of those actors who exudes a seemingly inexhaustible supply of both charm and charisma.  A potentially very necessary attribute to have when playing an otherwise personality deprived super-hero.  And the exclamatory change in skin hue could help to alleviate the lack of super-power dazzle.  (It should also be noted that X-Men and Spider-Man aside, at least within the Avengers staple, only Iron Man has been a box-office success with both Hulk films under-performing.  Without a dynamic casting choice, Captain America would seem more likely to follow the route of the Hulk than of Iron Man in regards to ticket sales.)

The second reason is that Marvel has already experimented with an African-American Captain America.  Truth:  Red, White, and Black was a six-part mini-series by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker where they envisioned one of Marvel’s many alternate Universe world’s where Captain America was African-American.

The third reason Will Smith would make a great Captain America is that his skin color could provide the film with a certain political and cultural gravitas that would otherwise be missing from more traditional bleached casting.  This would be a resonance made all the more powerful if Marvel had both the imagination and the courage to set the film in the 1940s when Captain America was first created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby to fight the Axis powers in the pages of comic books.  Captain America’s origin story involves drinking an un-tested super-soldier serum , and with some slight variation, this could be transformed to reflect real-life periods in some of America’s darker corridors of history.  Places like Tuskegee, Alabama where the government used African-Americans in medical experiments.  Having Captain America both, fight Nazis overseas, while also being discriminated against on the home front could add considerable dimensionality to what would otherwise likely be a flat action film.

Will Smith image.jpgHowever, knowing that Marvel is trying to roll-out all of the film adaptations for the individual characters before the 2012 expected The Avengers, it’s probably safe to assume that like Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, The First Avenger: Captain America will also be set within this modern era.

On a final note, it’s important to remember, that there’s nothing about Captain America’s character that is dependent upon him being portrayed as white.  Captain America’s always been less a flesh and blood character than a representative avatar of the American ideals of liberty, equality, and freedom.  Seems to me that having Captain America be played by an African-American symbolizes those ideals quite nicely.  In an era when we’ve seen our first African-American President, why not also have our first African-American Avenger?


John Rico is the author of Blood Makes the Grass Grow Green and Border Crosser.  You can follow him  on Twitter at:  Johnny_rico99.  Agree or disagree with what he wrote or just want to leave a comment?  Feel free to contact him at

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  • kenegan

    my only concern is that the film will open in WWII and it stretches the realm of believability that an African American would lead the troops when everyone knows that blacks were segregated into their own units and were treated like second class citizens back then. I see the point your making and its an interesting choice but overall this is one time i believe that Cap should remain caucasian.

  • SkinnyD

    No, No, No, No. Would it be fair to make a Black Panther or Luke Cage movie with a white actor?

  • Pete

    Ummm, ok. Sorry to break it to you bud, but this really makes no sense.

    1) Captain America is very well know worldwide. He is just as popular a character as Spider-Man or Wolverine.
    2) Casting a black man to play Captain America will only come across as a politically correct move. That's it. There's no other way general audiences would look at it.
    3)Will Smith has repeatedly denied any rumor that he was up for this role. He has even said that it would be unacceptable to have a black actor play the part.
    4) The First Avenger: Captain America has already been confirmed to be a WWII period piece. It will not take place in modern times.

    On another note, Marvel did not cast Tobey Maguire to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Sony did because they own the movie rights to that character.

    You should really do your research before crapping something out just because the topic is popular.

  • manuelberk07

    Very nice article about medical insurance industry. But you could get medical insurance for your entire family at the best price from if you spent few mins you can find a good plan.

  • Digifreek

    Sure, Luke Cage. Not Black Panther. Panther's the king of an African nation that was never been conquered by Europeans. There's no way making him a white guy would ever make sense.

  • Ronin1013

    I truly dig Wil Smith, he's a talented cat, but this too big of a departure (and a gamble) and would bum me out… make him The Falcon, Cap's best friend.

    Rico clearly is pushing his own agenda, and has little regard for the source material… I can believe his following statement:

    “Captain America’s alter ego Steve Rogers was never portrayed as much else than an over the top patriotic boy scout with an unwavering belief in, to borrow a phrase from another overt morally absolute do-gooder, “Truth, justice, and the American way.” All of which, unless you’re a raging Bush-era neo-conservative, may be a hard sell to a cynical public which has undergone a decade of war and one of the longest recessions in national history.”

  • TLawrence

    your absolutely right

  • Scott Roberts

    Casting Cap is really the toughest and most important decision Marvel has to make for its films. An unknown would be best but Marvel really needs a strong actor above all else. The actor that plays Cap needs to be somebody that the audience will believe Iron-man(RDJ) and Thor (a norse God) would follow. If the actor that plays Cap cannot go head to head with RDJ's Stark and make you believe a God would respect and follow him, Avengers is a lost cause and all of Marvel's plans are shot. Will Smith would fit this description. I understand the outcry about Will Smith's color. Most comic book fans are purists that get made about costume changes so changing the color of one of the biggest marvel characters is blasphemy (Fury is not even a major player and he was black in the Ultimate line and fans are still up in arms) but if the movie is good and Smith nails it no one will care. In addition, the color of his skin could be used as another reason he was used as a test subject in WWII for the super soldier serum and b/c the serum was destroyed before another (white) soldier could be created, Cap (the first test subject) was the only one that could become the ultimate US soldier.

    • Alex

      Great response. I agree on most everything, except the purist thing — I’m not *that* picky — and Iron Man. It wouldn’t have to look like Iron Man would follow him. After all, Stark was on the exact opposite side during the Civil War. As far as I was concerned, the war was practically between those two, because they were, in my eyes, the figure heads of each group.

  • TLawrence

    HELL NO!!!
    just ridiculous

  • Michael Midnight

    Hey John, good article there. Just want to elaborate more on the second point. In that tale, it is actually an in-continuity story, whereby the *first* Captain America was indeed a black man, whose success paved the way for the Steve Rogers *white* Captain America. While the first Captain had some side effects, the serum was perfected with Steve. Personally I'm still conflicted with the idea but I love the last fact that you point out that Captain America was always an avatar for the ideas of America that knows no color, gender, or creed.

  • Allm0st

    I will not watch it, it is Captain America not Captain Africa America (not being racist here). But Cap is white not black, they can at least get the fucking skin color right. Will Smith is a great actor I enjoy a lot of his movies but he should not play Captain America.
    He can play Luke Cage or Black Panther or some other black super hero, but please not Captain America. It would just make me not watch it.

  • wheeliegood

    Honestly if they do it. I bet you he spend half of his time as captain america wearing a full face mask. Where no one knows that he is black. Then we get to watch the men that admire and fight along side this masked avenger; treat him as a second class citizen. Then during the third act he masked is removed (gasp) he is black. Everyone rallies behind him and he defeats the Nazis. Sacrifices himself and is frozen in ice. The army decides to keep his race a secret. Captian America dies a 'white' hero.

  • whatever

    I really think the better question to ask is – WHO IS YOUR ALTERNATIVE? The whole black/white thing doesn't move me – Steve Rogers is a cypher; make him asian – don't care.
    I would like to see RYAN GOSLING in the role taking on pretty much the same persona he adopted in The Believer (one of the most underrated movies of all time). I don't see that happening, sadly. I really don't want to see Channing Tatum (and I suspect he is on the list) walk away with it, so, if these are my choices, let it be Will Smith if he wants it. (By the way – the douche who suggested Smith take the Falcon is…well, like I said, a douche…)

  • Mike

    If he doesn't get cast, there still is a way of doing a Will Smith as Captain America movie. That way would be by doing a movie based on the Red, White and Black comic, in which African American soldiers were used as guinea pigs for the super soldier serum. And personally I think it would be an interesting way to expand on the Marvel film universe, than going on to make say, a Defenders movie or what have you.

  • [A]

    Exactly my thoughts!

  • Anonymous

    I am pretty sure that in Truth: Red, White, and Black, they were trying to recreate the serum that transformed Rogers and only one person lived, Isaiah Bradley AKA Black Captain America. So it wasn't before Steve.
    I think the only time where there was anyone who took the serum before Captain America, was in the Six Forgotten Warriors story arc in the Spider-Man cartoon. One of those “Six Warriors” was black by the way.
    Now if they want to make a movie about either of them it would be cool, but changing a classic character like Cap is just wrong to me.

  • Just A Guy

    I have to agree, I wouldn't want Channing Tatum to get the role either.

  • Allm0st

    I still won't see it because it still sounds like a politically correct film which is not what I want to see. I'm sure black men fought in WWII but it was a time when blacks were treated with racism and extreme prejudice.
    While I wasn't alive during those times it goes without doubt that a black man even born in America (African American) would not be recruited as a super solider nor allowed to have the title Captain America.
    It doesn't fit at all, if they want to do a modern Captain America I still won't watch it, because I just cannot see Will Smith, Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson or even Morgan Freeman playing Captain America. Those are all some of my favorite “African American” actors.
    I am a comic book fan and it's stupid to even think of a black man playing Steve Rogers, to be honest I would rather see a unknown cast. I know you was just making a point but damn it's just annoying to think of it.

  • Aeonstrife

    Making Captain America black leading the Allied troops during WW2 would be a very hard sell unless you change his costume to cover his face fully. This said no way should Will Smith be Captain America. If you are going black you need someone that can really play the role legit and not as a gimmick. I would say then to go with Denzel Washington.

  • Serg

    Captaibn America is white…bottom line.

    And I a life-lomng comic book fan, and I am Mexican, but we need to be truthful to the source material. Such as if they decided to make a Black Panther movie, and her happened to be white, I would appose that, the Black Panther is black and ruler of Wakanda.

  • james

    Personally if Marvel are going to the top of the A list for this movie, then Brad Pitt is probably a better option.

  • bunny

    HELLZ NAW!!!!! He'd look funny with blonde hair…
    As much as i love me some will smith,he just don't need this particular role…Have him play Luke Cage..that'd be cool

  • Michael Midnight

    Aw snap. I just checked Wikipedia. I only read the the single issues and didn't know the author commented on the whole “who came first” argument in the collected edition. I am wrong and you are correct sir!

  • Fantomas

    No. No. No…. and No! Just cast the character as portrayed in the comics and don't try to over think this thing. There is nothing racist about that. It would be weird to me to see a white guy playing Blade, Nick Cage or T'Challa as well. In fact, the more I think about it; casting Steve Rogers as a blond blue-eyed white male IS very important to the plot. There is a massive amount of irony in the idea that the mythical Aryan Superman that WW2 Germany dreamed about comes to fruition… and he shows up to kick their Nazi asses!

  • fnaber0412

    As for Captain America not being interesting or having some sort of obstacle to overcome like Spider-Man and the X-Men, how about the fact that he was frozen and woke decades later. Him not being in his own time and seeing how the world has changed is interesting enough.

    Also, I agree with the fact that in the 1940s there would be no way American soldiers would follow an African-American leader. And I strongly agree that film will just be seen as politically correct, and this would draw the wrong kind of attention to the film. Honestly, it's just plain cheesy.

  • darksiddous

    Three Words: Wild Wild West. Will Smith is a great actor. If they were to make it a modern day movie, he would work. But the idea of an african-american leading WWII troops is like…well like a black sheriff in old west…it only works if your making a comedy like Blazing Saddles.

  • whatever

    Biggest thread this site has ever had is hinged on race…lame. Wait – what? You're not racist? You don't care about race but the Captain America canon (what? I mean, seriously – what are we talking about, again?) must be defended. Cap has pink skin and yellow hair and blue eyes…do or die; ok, you win, young Hitler. Please – climb out of your mother's basement and go kill yourself. Do it now…I'll wait…

  • rsetlock3

    Nick is a white guy and an actor. However LUKE Cage is a black Marvel comic book hero.

  • Darrell Will

    You are obviously just a raging niggerlover that wants to destroy comic book history. Perhaps we should use your logic and make a movie about Martin Lucifer Coon and get David Duke to play him in the movie.

  • Sinew Jack

    Nice try. You'll need to be more clever than that however.

  • whatever

    No, not really – I think I made myself clear. We can open it up to any of your mildly downs, redneck buddies if you care to discuss the matter.

    • Anonymous

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  • whatever

    No, not really – I think I made myself clear. We can open it up to any of your mildly downs, redneck buddies if you care to discuss the matter.

  • Reformed_Geek

    I agree with most of the statements below – that the casting of Cap needs to be a relative unknown. He'll be spending a great deal of time under a mask and I think Will Smith, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon are all too big of names for this.

    You've got to remember that Robert Donwy Jnr's star is rising now, but before Iron Man he was still living in the shadow of his drug problems and most younger cinema goes didn't really know who he was. This is the biggest his name has ever been.

    As for having a black Captain America. I think it is a great idea, but one that should be saved for a later film. There have been black Captain America's who were used as test subjects for experimental versions of the super solider formula. A plot with a white Steve Rogers having to deal with this fact would be a great story.

    Also as Kenegan points out, all rumours I've heard point towards the film being set in WWII, and it would be historically impractical to have a African American leading tropps.

    Also, Steve Rogers is so much more than an “over the top patriotic boy scout with an unwavering belief in, to borrow a phrase from another overt morally absolute do-gooder, “Truth, justice, and the American way.” Maybe back in the 40s when all superheroes had flat characterisation, but the modern Cap is very different and often disagrees with his Government's stance which is what lead him to become Nomad and to standing against the hero registration act.

  • Reformed_Geek

    That was done with the Blue Marvel last year. African American superhero what I think was the 60s who wears a full face mask that everyone think is great, until during a battle his mask is torn and everyone turns against him.

  • repoman311

    If I had to go with my choice for Capo it would be Jeremy Renner (the Hurt Locker). Those who saw it know what a powerful actor he is, and I personall think he would play Cap as well as anyone. Will Smith is a fantastic actor, but i think the film will be marketed as HEY ITS WILL SMITH IN WORLD WAR II, BUT HES A SUPERHERO, kind of like how hancock was marketed, and we all know how that turned out. i agree with some things the writer of the article states, but my thought are this guy has never really read any of the major Cap storylines, or truely has a sense of who Cap is as a character. Yes cap cant sling webs or have a cool suit that can fly, but the serum allows him super human strength and cognitive ability. I think it is during the civil war storyline they explain the trajectory and Geometry needed to throw the shield. as i do appreciate the authors opinion, I due believe if it were a true journalistic look at this subject, it failed.

  • Reformed_Geek

    When I was watching Hurt Locker, I was thinking he'd be great for Cap.

    As for this abilites, if we presume that the serum injected into Emil Blonsky by General Grant in The Hulk was based on the super solider serum, we can see how Captain America will be able to move.

  • Steve Rogers

    Just because a character is fictional doesn't mean you can change his race just so a big named actor could play him.

    It wouldn't happen with a historical character. Nor would it happen with a character who was traditionally drawn as being black without there being a massive outcry from both the comic book and back communities. I'd have the same problem if they wanted to cast a caucasian actor as Blade, The Black Panther or as Luke Cage. I had the same problem when they cast an dark haired American as the blonde hair, English John Constantine.

    If you going looking for it, you can find racism everywhere. While I don't doubt that some people would be against the casting because of a racist mindset, I would say the majority are comic book geeks like myself.

    • Octorypus111

      LOL, a Caucasian Blade…. just can’t picture it. Every time i see blade I see Wesley Snipes. That guy is a great blade!!!! AWESOMENESS!!!

  • Staar84

    What about Wild Wild West? The character of James West was white in the original, and Will Smith worked there. And he was a sheriff that was during the Civil War. You know, the war about slavery…I think they should pick the best actor for the part, based on personality and athleticism, regardless of race. And if that happens to be Will Smith, then so be it.



    That Scientologist prick turns every film he's in into an anaemic piece of shit. The guys casting this: WAKE UP!! Are you fucks gonna ask Brett Ratner advice on directing too? Fucking retards..

  • InfiniteMonkey

    LOL! I love it! Well said mate!:D

  • filmguy

    Look, Will Smith is cool in my book. He has showed that he can perform drama, comedy, or action. However he IS NOT right for Captain America in any way shape or form. He does not have anything about that even remotely resembles that character both internally and externally. Someone like Sam Worthington would be a good choice. I heard a rumor back about Jensen Ackles being considered and I don't think he would be a bad choice either.

  • Keola

    “That Scientologist prick”

    Last I checked he was a christian and was just friends with a scientologist.

    “The guys casting this: WAKE UP!! Are you fucks gonna ask Brett Ratner advice on directing too? Fucking retards..”

    If anything they have already cast someone and just don't wanna say anything. This is probably to avoid getting shit from people like you. You know people that love to insult others and rant about something they have no control over.

  • I think I'm turning Japanese

    If Channing Tatum gets the role, I will never watch this movie.

  • I think I'm turning Japanese

    What about that guy from the TV series “Human Target”. He looks the part. Isn't that show based off of a Marvel comic anyways? I could be wrong.

  • Seratei Giburim

    NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!

    Please stop this KA to PC insanity already. Captain America is white and blond. Nick Fury is black.

  • jony_e

    Casting Will Smith as Cap America? jeez, why dont you just crap all over the comics 40 year history.

  • mike


  • Bob


  • Aaron Sullivan

    Good points in the article. I have to quibble about the notion that Marvel’s casting choices have been safe, though. That’s not how it played out with fan reaction at the time of the announcements. Iron Man’s entire casting in particular was genius and made the movie, but not safe.

    I’m not a big fan of the Captain America comics, so I’ll just say that using an aryan looking hero in WWII era to represent American values DOES seem a bit odd, no? The character is a bit of a blank internally, and making him a black man during WWII would be SO much more interesting to me as a viewer. Especially when he turns up in modern society later. It’d be a great duality where he sees Barrack Obama as president and yet people are very touchy about patriotism and nationalism, and then there is the effect of welfare, etc. Ripe material made even more ripe with the Red White and Black angle.

    Anyway, I get the negative reaction to it, but in this case I think we aren’t talking about being PC, we are talking about a way to make this hero more compelling.

    • Anonymous

      I would not call RDJ casting as safe by any means. Greatly cast, but not safe. But yeah, I agree with your last point.

  • Anonymous

    I think you bring up some valid points but I think that Christopher Pine should play captain america. He would need to gain a lot of muscle but I think he could pull it off.

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