The Best of Comic Book Movie Casting
Last week, I put together a list of the Worst Comic Book Movie Castings, with Nic Cage taking top honors for his role of Ghost Rider in two films. Sadly, there were a lot of Batman characters on that list! Anyway, I’m back with a list of the Best in Comic Book Movie Casting, and things are a bit more spread out this time, with characters from both Marvel and DC, but being that DC seems to only like Batman, my options were a bit more limited as far as castings go. One thing you will notice, however, is that all of the films that these actors/characters were part of are among the top comic book movies out there. Coincidence? I think not. Actors, along with story, can make or break a film and when you get the right people to play the right roles, you will have a fantastic product. On to the list!
15- Chris Evans as Captain America: When director Joe Johnston and Marvel Studios set out to cast the iconic and coveted role of Steve Rodgers/Captain America, they knew they had a difficult task in front of them. Fans were throwing all sorts of names out in hopes they would land the part: Mark Valley, Jenson Ackles, Armie Hammer, Aaron Eckhart and numerous others. After months of speculation and rumors, Chris Evans had landed the part. Some were skeptical, others were on board from the get-go. Either way, Evans surprised us all when the film came out and fully embodied the look and characteristics of Cap to the extreme. He carried this over into his portrayal of the character in the massive blockbuster, Teh Avengers as wellhe I look forward to seeing the character and Evans in more films and watch them soar to even higher levels of awesome.
14- Chris Hemsworth as Thor: This movie had a lot of folks asking a lot of questions: How will they handle Asgard? Will it be on Earth or Asgard? What about the Rainbow Bridge? Who Will play Thor? That last question had a lot of folks stumped. One name that kept coming up was Triple H of the WWE and praise Odin that never happened! But when it came time to pick and actor, they looked to a little known Australian actor who had recently had a part in JJ Abram’s hit Star Trek as Captain Kirk’s father that met his demise very early in the film. After some serious bulking up and donning the costume, fans were in awe of how well he fit the role. As the character went from his solo movie into the Avengers, he only go better. Looking forward to seeing the upcoming sequel Thor: The Dark World this fall.
13- Hugo Weaving as Red Skull: In all honestly, I think there were really only two people who could have played this role well: Mads Mikkelsen and Hugo Weaving, who ended up playing the part. Weaving is notorious for his voice and his ability to sound like the most evil thing on the planet, so it only seemed natural for him to bring Red Skull to life. Needless to say, it worked. I could go on and on about the talent of Weaving, but I think we all know how awesome the guy is and no matter what role he is playing, he brings it all with him and this was no exception. At this point, we don’t know if Red Skull will be back for The Winter Soldier, but we do know that Weaving didn’t sound too interested in reprising his role. Shame.
12-Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler/Kurt Wagner: When I was younger and used to tag along with my parents to their weekly bowling league, I spent most of that time playing the classic X-Men video game and the character I always chose was Nightcrawler. So when I learned that Bryan Singer would be adding the character to the X2: X-Men United line up, I was elated. But who would play the part? I had no suggestions to be honest but Singer brought in Alan Cumming, who I had only seen in Golden Eye, or at least paid attention enough to know him from that film. It was a perfect choice. Cumming embraced the role wholly and brought an emotional aspect to the character that you wouldn’t expect. Not to mention, he gave us one of the best scenes ever captured in a comic book movie.
11- Ron Perlman as HellBoy: When the first Hellboy film released, I really didn’t know that much about the character; still don’t for that matter. Regardless, I knew that visionary director Guillermo Del Toro was the man behind the camera, so I knew that the film would be worth watching. What little I know of the character still doesn’t keep me from knowing that Perlman was the ideal actor for the part. As the Devil’s offspring, the role is not one that many people can embrace and actually make work, but Perlman does it and brings with him the humor and the strength needed for the role. Sadly, it doesn’t look like we will get to see Perlman and Del Toro back for a third round, as the film
10- Hugo Weaving as V: The only actor to appear on this list twice, Weaving took a character that never has his face shown and made it one of the more memorable performances in a comic book film. James Purefoy was originally cast in the role, some of which made it into the film, but was forced to drop out and director James McTeigue brought in Weaving as a replacement. Weaving gives life to V without ever seeing his face and he became one of my favorite characters on film. Not to mention he gave one of the most tongue-twisting speeches I’ve ever heard. Teamed with other incredible actors like Natalie Portman, Stephen Frye and John Hurt only made the performance that much better.
9- Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr/Magneto: Feelings of the film’s direction aside, it’s hard to deny that Michael Fassbender gave an absolutely stunning performance as the Master of Magnetism in X-Men: First Class. Bringing an almost James Bond feel to the character was a unique, but daring spin that worked quite well. Fassbender brought the intensity and emotion needed to portray Magneto, something that Sir Ian McKellen did as well, but not to this extent. In the film, Lensherr is hell-bent on getting revenge for his and his family’s treatment in the camps and Fassbender takes that to heart, which you can see in the numerous scenes where he does get pay back. Throughout the film, you can see his frustration with humans growing and in the final moment of him going over to the other side is wrought with pain and anger. Oh! And that helmet! Brilliant!
8- Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach: Considered to be one of the most faithful comic book to movie adaptations, Watchmen also stunned viewers with fantastic visual effects, superb character portrayals and slow-motion sex scenes. Director Zack Snyder did an amazing job in casting actors for his roles, including a relatively unknown Jackie Early Haley in a pivotal role in the film. The harsh, yet troubled Rorschach needed an actor who wasn’t afraid to spread their wings and take on a bit darker role. Easily one of the better performances in the film, Haley’s added raspy voice was exactly how I imagined it to be while reading the graphic novel. Couldn’t think of a better person for the part.
7-Mickey Rourke as Marv: Quite possibly one of the most unique films to hit theaters in recent years, Sin City brought together an incredible cast that included Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Powers Boothe, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Elijah Wood and the late Britney Murphy. But one person stood out in the crowd: Mickey Rourke, who played the hard-hitting love-stung Marv, who was dead-set on finding out who killed his love Goldie. His voice over work was superb and his on-screen presence was just that, a presence; you couldn’t take your eyes off him. It’s not easy to stand out in a crowd of actors of this quality, but Rourke makes it look easy and I look forward to seeing him again in A Dame to Kill For.
6- Mark Strong as Sinestro: Green Lantern was supposed to be the Star Wars of a new generation; with its spectacular images of space and incredible use of CGI. Needless to say, it fell a bit short. OK, a lot short. I could go on for a while about the lack of awesomeness that Green Lantern had, but I want to focus on the one shining star in the film: Mark Strong as Sinestro. We barely got to know this mentor turned foe and that’s a real shame, because Strong was a perfect selection for the role. A confident, almost arrogant mentor that is tasked to bring Hal Jordan to a higher level. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see nearly enough of him, and due to the lack of box office performance, we might not ever get to see Strong really get going in a sequel. Here’s to hoping things can get worked out for a better sequel.
5- Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier: One of the things that really got me interested in comics was the popular 1990′s X-Men cartoon series. That, coupled with my occasional viewing of Star Trek: The Next Generation lead me to believe that Patrick Stewart would be the perfect choice to play Professor X if a movie was ever made. I’m sure I’m not the only person to think that, but I’m glad I wasn’t because having seen him portray the role in three films and a cameo (so far), I still think it was fantastic casting. The look, the voice, the persona, all of it was perfect. While Patrick Stewart will be reprising his role in Days of Future Past, we don’t know of any future films he could be involved with. Hopefully more will come along.
4- Tom Hiddleston as Loki: When they announced who would be playing Thor‘s half-brother in the film, a lot of people, myself included, had to look the guy up to see if we’d seen him in another movie. Although he was a rather obscure choice, it was a match made in Asgard, as Hiddleston portrays Loki near perfectly. The arrogant and the sniveling aura that surrounds Loki in the comics is brought to life with a talent that is hard to come by these days. The role required that those features be amplified in The Avengers and Hiddleston answered the call with ease, once again being one of the highlights of the film; the scene with Johannsen’s Black Widow comes to mind. Truly a stunning scene for both of them.
3- Heath Ledger as The Joker: As with several of the characters/actors listed today, this casting came out of nowhere and it wasn’t until people actually saw his performance did they see the genius behind Christopher Nolan’s choice. While his portrayal may not be the most accurate and true to the comics, Ledger brought a whole new version of the character to the big screen. He was dark, creepy and at times, down right frightening. Ledger was known for immersing himself into a role, and sadly, as some believe, this may have led to his demise. Being one of only a few who have been awarded a posthumous Oscar Award, Ledger took the Joker to a new level, and I feel bad for whoever attempts to take on the role in the future, as he will always be compared to Ledger’s incredible portrayal.
2- Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man: Notorious for being a bit of a play boy and all around fun-having person, RDJ seems the obvious choice for the role of billionaire Tony Stark and his alter-ego Iron Man. But at the time of the casting, it really came as a surprise. For a while, it was thought that Tom Cruise was actually going to play the part, but luckily, things changed and RDJ got the part. What makes this work so well is that RDJ doesn’t really have to act in order for him to play the role. If you’ve seen him in actual interviews, he is almost the same as Tony Stark, so the role pretty much comes naturally to him. The sly, yet compassionate Stark isn’t far from the fan-loving Downey that we see so often when he interacts with the public.
1- JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson: So, after all those awesome actors, you were wondering who would land on top. Well, it’s none other that Mr. State Farm himself, JK Simmons. One of my favorite things about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films was actually this character. He was hilariously ruthless towards Peter Parker, dead -set on making the teen’s life a living hell at work and Simmons played the role perfectly. JJJ is a loud, pompous and sarcastic man, and few people would be able to duplicate the portrayal that Simmons gave us. We have yet to see JJJ in the new rebooted series, but it is likely that we will see him pop up in the planned sequel. Will Simmons be asked to come back or will Webb (assuming he returns for the sequel) go a different route? Being that production recently started and no word has been given on whether or not JJJ has joined the cast, I’d suspect we’ll have to wait a while to see.
There are obviously numerous other actors and characters I could add to this list, as there have been some incredible castings in comic book movies. Jeffery Dean Morgan as the Comedian in Watchmen, who played a troubled and washed-up hero. Christopher Reeve as Superman, the role that got many people interested in comic book characters and movies. Wesley Snipes as Blade, a movie that started the current movement of comic book films that is still going strong. More recently, Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, who gave us a much more accurate version of the web-slinger, in this geek’s opinion. I could go on for a while on the honorable mentions, but these 15 roles really stand out to me as the best of the best. As more and more movies are adapted from our beloved comic books, I look forward to seeing many more great actors cast as our favorite characters.