Superheroes Who Never Were: Comicbook Movies and the Actors Who Nearly Starred in Them

     October 20, 2013


Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.  Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man.  Chris Evans as Captain America. These are just a few staples to be found in the superhero movie genre that have really established themselves as their characters.  For some, it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing these bigger-than-life figures, but for many of these movies, each role was nearly given to someone else.  In this article, we’ll walk you through some of these scenarios of possible alternate casting, cases where we can delve into what exactly happened and the very different franchises they could have been.  Hit the jump for more.

Dougray Scott as Wolverine


Dougray Scott, of Mission: Impossible 2, was originally Bryan Singer’s first choice to play the Canadian mutant.  Unfortunately, due to additional shooting that was needed to finish out M:I2, Scott couldn’t accept the role.  With filming about to being on the first X-Men movie, Singer decided to give the relatively unknown Aussie theater performer, Hugh Jackman, a chance to shine and that was history.  To this day, Scott feels no animosity towards losing the role and is content with his movie and television resume.  While this portrayal of Wolverine would have most certainly been different than Jackman’s, that’s nothing in comparison to what would have been had comic creators Stan Lee and Chris Claremont had their way when they were pitching the X-Men film in the 90s.  Lee and Claremont had meetings with James Cameron to try to not only establish an X-Men movie franchise, but to also place Bob Hoskins, of Roger Rabbit fame, into the role.  Quite a reversal!

Jake Gyllenhaal as Spider-Man


To be fair on this one, Tobey Maguire was always going to be Spider-Man as he had always been director Sam Raimi’s choice for the role.  However, before filming began on the much anticipated sequel to the first film, Maguire suffered a back injury which could have put a serious kink into getting Spider-Man 2 off the ground.  A backup plan of placing Jake Gyllenhaal into the Web Slinger’s shoes was created and Donnie Darko was set to play Spidey, until Maguire stated that despite his injury, he was more than able to retake the role.  After the first Spider-Man movie franchise, the two found themselves as brother in the appropriately named film, Brothers.

John Krasinski as Captain America


That’s right, before Chris Evans put on the Star Spangled shield, John Krasinski, aka Jim from The Office, was nearly Steve Rogers in Marvel Studios’ Phase one movie.  As one of the frontrunners that some folks were pulling for, Krasinski read for the role numerous times and many outlets believed this to be a sure thing.  While it ultimately didn’t pan out, I think this could have worked as Cap is someone who is very down to earth and likeable.  Certainly this may have seemed like an unorthodox choice, but that’s what everyone said about Heath Ledger as the Joker.

Willem Dafoe as Batman


Before Michael Keaton was cast as Bruce Wayne in the original 1989 blockbuster, there were talks in the halls of Warner Brothers of casting a certain actor from a little known movie named Platoon as the Dark Knight.  In an interview, Dafoe was quoted as saying “Very early, they talked to me about playing Batman,” he said. “I hate to spread these things because unless you remember it well, you’re stoking the fires of bullshit,” he continued, “But I remember. I’ve had my brush with these things.”  As we know, eventually Dafoe would don the cowl of the Green Goblin in Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise, but it’s interesting to think about what would have been had he been patrolling the rooftops of Gotham City rather than menacing the streets of New York City.

Nicolas Cage as Scarecrow


Yeah, you really can’t finish off a list like this without mentioning Nicolas Cage as Superm…wait, he was going to be the Scarecrow??  Following the critical darling that was Batman and Robin, Joel Schumacher was apparently in negotiations to do one more movie in the Batman franchise, entitled Batman Triumphant.  The villainous Scarecrow, fear gas-wielding psychoanalyst Jonathan Crane who would later appear in the Christopher Nolan franchise of Bat films, was set to be the main antagonist in the next installment.  Schumacher, as told in an interview later down the road with Cage, had apparently visited Nic on the set of Face Off to discuss him being the villain.  While ultimately it didn’t pan out, along with many other attempts for Cage to appear as a comic book character on screen, he eventually found himself in the flaming seat of Ghost Rider later on.

Leave a comment below with other actors who were nearly comic book heroes and villains!

  • Tom

    And also Nicolas Cage as Kal-El.

  • AdeoAdversary

    Nicolas Cage as the Scarecrow. This needs to happen!!!!

    • Murdoch

      I think he’d make a better Carnage.

  • Bob

    Gyllenhaal was also almost Batman over Christian Bale in Nolan’s Batman series.

    • The Flobbit

      Thank god that ever happened…

    • Anthony

      I guess his sister would have not been bruce waynes love interest in dark knight then lol.

      • lightenup69

        Now…if it was Angelina Jolie and her brother they might still have gone through with that casting decision.

  • Zoidbert

    I love the idea of John Krasinski as Captain America for the reasons you cite, plus he’s got more of the stature I always imagined Cap would have.

    • LEM

      Plus he wouldn’t need the wings on his helmet they could just paint his big ass ears white.

  • iRenkcok

    how about Nolan’s first choice for Cillian Murphy as Batman?

    • LEM

      That would have been strange because his face is more suited to be a villain.

      • DavidisALLright

        Which sucks because he’s been somewhat typecast that way for nearly a decade. He’s a wonderful actor though.

    • WAldenIV

      He wasn’t Nolan’s first choice. Nolan like him a lot but knew he wasn’t right for that role.


      That wasn’t his first choice, Murphy just auditioned for Batman (along with every other 20-something year old in Hollywood). Nolan didn’t think he was right for the role, but was very impressed by his audition. He then convinced Warner Bros. to cast Murphy as Scarecrow.

  • CaptainUnkown

    Before Eric Bana became an enormous green rage monster, Johnny Depp was going to play Banner.

  • Colonel_Neville_Wraithchild

    james earle haley should be the wolverine. short dude, enourmous badass.

    • Snarky

      Jackie Earle Haley? Or James Earl Jones? ;)

      • Colonel_Neville_Wraithchild

        ha, you’re right man, my bad, i meant jackie earle haley

    • Chris Starscream

      Nope…he is perfect for a comic role but not that one…Jackie eagle haley as carnage. Short, tiny, ginger, psychopath… can’t go wrong

  • LEM

    Bill Murray was also in the running to be Batman.

    • The Flobbit

      Was his arch villain the Gopher?

  • Nathan

    Willem Dafoe would have been amazing as Batman. Really, when you get down to it, just about anyone can play Bruce Wayne. But only so few can play Batman.

    • filmquack

      Batman really isn’t that hard… Pretty much all of Batman’s key character building “acting” moments happen as Bruce Wayne falling out of character. Otherwise as batman, the actor is just a guy with half his face covered growling. This is not a slight against the complexity of the character, but of the acting required to play the two halves of said character. Batman may be who Bruce truly is, while Bruce Wayne is the mask, but all of the heavy lifting as an actor happen’s with the mask off.

      • The Flobbit

        There is a large man in a black suit and cloak that has something different to say to you.

      • nub

        christian bale was a horrible batman but a great bruce wayne with a great batman costume and great director.

    • Ukulelemike

      Not necessariy. I always thought Michael keaton made a very good Batman, but a lousy Bruce Wayen, while Val Kilmer made a great Bruce Wayne, and a crummy Batman.

  • The Flobbit

    People need to stop saying that unorthodox casting choices might be good because oh look, we all badmouthed Heath Ledger and he blew us all away. Enough already.

    • NYCS

      No, we didn’t. Stop trying to defend Batfleck with that old saw.

  • Snarky

    I cannot imagine Bob Hoskins as Wolverine. I’ve tried and I just can’t wrap my head around it. I want so badly to be able to, though.

    • Pickafukinfite

      Watch The Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa – then you might start to get it

  • Shithead

    Oprah as Wonder Woman would of been amazing!

    • The Flobbit

      Have. Would HAVE. Now leave.

  • Jake

    “he eventually found himself in the flaming seat of Ghost Rider later on.”

    And it sucked balls. But at least he redeemed himself in his brilliant performance as Big Daddy in Kick-Ass.

  • The Flobbit

    Nic Cage would be terrifying as the Scarecrow. I can just picture him…


  • SmileyOfChaos

    Willem Dafoe needs more crazed villain roles. Just look at that face!

  • SmileyOfChaos

    Willem Dafoe needs more crazed villain roles. Just look at that face!

  • jo

    John Krasinksi would’ve been awesome in CA: The First Avenger but I have a hard time picturing him as a member of the Avengers.

  • Tosyma

    Schumacher made the worst Batman films ever.

    • Fidel Reyes

      In Youtube search for ‘Honest Trailers: Batman & Robin’, all the backup you need for that statement is stated in that 4 minute trailer.

  • Adrian Duarte Aguilar

    Madonna as Catwoman in Batman returns

  • Adrian Duarte Aguilar

    Madonna as Catwoman in Batman returns

  • Martin Phipps

    Chris Claremont also wanted Harry Connick Junior to play Gambit.

  • Martin Phipps

    Chris Claremont also wanted Harry Connick Junior to play Gambit.

  • osarumen erhunmwunsee

    i would have preferred Chris benoir as wolverine if he was still alive. chris is short, and mean.

  • osarumen erhunmwunsee

    i would have preferred Chris benoir as wolverine if he was still alive. chris is short, and mean.

  • Buggs

    Chris evans as captain america is a joke and has ruined for me one of my favourite comic book franchises

    • BOB DOWN

      Check out the latest CAP AMERICA movie u numbnutz , then see how truly useless your opinion is .
      What a twerp you are !!!!!

    • BOB DOWN

      Check out the latest CAP AMERICA movie u numbnutz , then see how truly useless your opinion is .
      What a twerp you are !!!!!

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  • Preemptive_Thinking

    “from a little known movie named Platoon” . . . . WTF?

    • HyrumBeck

      you didn’t notice the sarcasm font?

  • 75grasshopper

    Dafoe was Jesus

  • Guest

    I should have been Wolverine! I’m shorter than Hugh. You dropped the ball on that one Singer.

  • demoncat_4

    would have added Bridget Nielson as she hulk even got as far to be painted up green as a screen shot. plus robin williams as both the riddler and the joker.

  • JR

    John Krasinski would have been all wrong for Cap.

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