The Ones That Got Away: The Avengers
For some odd reason, I enjoy taking a long sabbatical between each installment of my features. Regardless, I’m back to take a look at some of the actors that either pass over, missed out on or auditioned for in some of our most favorite franchises. Previously, I’ve tackled the likes of Superman & Spider-Man, as well as Batman & X-Men. For those wondering, the point of this series is to get your mind thinking about how different these films could have been had some other actor been cast in these now iconic roles. For instance, Jake Gyllenhaal has missed out on two huge roles in Spider-Man and Batman, while the role of Wolverine nearly went to Dougray Scott rather than the now superstar Hugh Jackman. As you can imagine, these films would have had a much different feel and look to them had they gone to a different actor.
This time around, rather than highlight two properties, I’m going to focus on one of the most successful ensemble films in film history with Marvel’s Avengers. There were quite a few roles to fill in the film and the films leading up to the third most successful film in history and naturally, there were a lot of actors vying for the coveted roles, some that may surprise you. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the ones that got away, both good and bad.
First up, let’s look at the role and film that really got the ball rolling for Marvel: Iron Man. For nearly six years, Tom Cruise was attached to play the philanthropist, billionaire playboy. I know that Cruise takes a lot of slack for his personal life, but it’s hard to deny that he doesn’t give it his all when he takes a role. For this reason, I don’t think it’s too terrible to think that he would have done a decent job playing Tony Stark and Iron Man. On the flip side of that, the man who takes every role he can, Nic Cage had shown interest in the
role for years, much like his desire to play Superman, which also nearly happened. The man who went on to play Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2, Sam Rockwell, was also nearly cast in the role. In the late 1990′s, Quentin Tarantino was approached numerous times to both write and direct an Iron Man film. There’s something to imagine.
Stark’s main lady, Pepper Potts, who has been portrayed very well by Gwyneth Paltrow, had her own share of options available. Kristen Bell, many peoples’ choice for the role of Harley Quinn, was considered for the part, as was Rachel McAdams. Famke Janssen, who most people know as Jean Grey, was also a contender.
Speaking of red heads, most folks know that Emily Blunt was all set for the role of Black Widow when she first showed up in Iron Man 2. However, she dropped the film in order to star in Gulliver’s Travels with Jack Black. Scarlett Johansson was chosen as her replacement. Both Eliza Dushku and Anne Hathaway were considered for the role. Hathaway, of course, went on to play another iconic female comic book character in Catwoman.
The next franchise that helped kick things off in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was The Hulk. Prior to The Incredible Hulk, we saw Ang Lee tackle the character with a rather polarizing take on the Jade Giant. We know that Eric Bana played the role of Bruce Banner in the film, but it was Billy Cruddup that was Lee’s first choice for the role. Boardwalks Empire star Steve Buscemi tested for the ole of Banner, as did Jurassic Park alum Jeff Goldblum. There’s a casting that I’d actually be interested in seeing!. Johnny Depp was also on the short list of actors. In regards to The Incredible Hulk, X-Files star David Duchovny was being considered for the role, which eventually went to Ed Norton, who dropped out of the role as production ramped up for The Avengers. At this time, a new actor had to be found and Joaquin Phoenix was courted for some time, but this was also the time that Phoenix was in full swing of attempting a rap career and attempting to show the world he was nuts for the documentary I’m Still Here. As we know, the role went to Mark Ruffalo, who won over the hearts of the nerd world.
Moving on to the world of Asgard and the God of Thunder, Thor, there were several actors who were vying for the role, some surprising, some not so much. Many folks know that Chris and Liam Hemsworth were the final two contenders for the part, which ultimately went to Chris, and we recently saw Tom Hiddleston’s audition tape, which will feature on the special features of Thor: The Dark World. Two actors that were on the short list for the role were Channing Tatum and Rikki Lee Travolta. Talk about a dodged bullet. WWE Superstar Triple H was rumored for the role, as was Hollywood hunk Brad Pitt. Alexander Skarsgard, whose father appeared in the film as Erik Selvig, was seen meeting with Kenneth Branaugh, but it was never confirmed that he was in talks for the role of Thor. James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, was the director’s first choice for the titular role. Charlie Hunnam and RoboCop star Joel Kinneman also tested for the role. Tom Hiddleston has portrayed the role of Loki with perfection, but can you imagine of Josh Hartnett had landed the role instead? Talk about different. I have a feeling it would have completely changed the story and feel of The Avengers. In the first Thor film, we saw our very first look at Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner. It seems this role was pretty much his to lose once it came his way. We recently learned that Jensen Ackles was forced to turn the role down due to his commitment with the hit series Supernatural. Marvel continues to keep in contact with him, so don’t be surprised if he showed up in a Marvel film before too long.
The final lead-in film to The Avengers was the Chris Evans-starred Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s been reported that Evans turned the role down three times before he finally agreed to take the part. Famously, John Krasinski, star of the hit comedy The Office, was being considered for the patriotic hero, but who else was in the running? The previously mentioned Jensen Ackles was one name on the list, as was Sam Worthington, who actually had talks with the studio over the role. The short-list of names included Garrett Hedlund, Channing Tatum, Scott Porter, Mike Vogel, Wilson Bethel, Michael Cassidy, Chase Crawford and Sebastian Stan, who went on to play Bucky, and now The Winter Soldier in the upcoming sequel. A hefty amount of actors auditioned for the role, including Twilight star Kellen Lutz, Ryan Phillipe and Alexander Skarsgard.
As you can see, this film, and the films leading up to it, could have been incredibly different. Especially when you look at the role of Loki. Hiddleston fills that role so well that it’s hard to imagine anyone else filling it. Had they chosen Hartnett, you’d have to wonder if Loki would be as popular as he is now and would he have had such a pivotal role in The Avengers? The same could be said for Hemsworth and Evans. Both have done a spectacular job as Thor and Cap, respectively, that you have to think if Marvel’s films would have been as successful as they were. Share your thoughts below on these “almost weres” and “nearly happeneds”!