Do all these multiverse stories leave you wondering about alternate versions of the MCU? Let’s talk about who almost played some of the most iconic roles in the franchise.
In an upcoming book, MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios, authors Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, and Gavin Edwards reveal secrets to making the Marvel movies. In Vanity Fair, casting director Sarah Haley Finn revealed details about filling the big shoes of the iconic superheroes, and all the people that nearly took them to the big screen. So, here’s a glimpse at what the Marvel Cinematic Universe almost looked like.
A Sons Of Anarchy Star Nearly Played Thor
The casting director, Finn, admitted to Vanity Fair that it was a struggle to find an actor to play Thor. They needed “an actor who could play Asgardian, which we equated to Shakespearean, almost, and yet be completely earthbound and relatable.”
Back in 2004, the Sony film producer behind Amazing Spiderman and Venom eyed Daniel Craig for the lead role. But by the time the movie entered production for Marvel, Craig already committed to the James Bond franchise.
Director Kenneth Branagh had one rule when casting the god of thunder: “Don’t let it be like Fabio.”
Marvel also considered Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam; Joel Kinnaman, who would later appear as Rick Flag in Suicide Squad; True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård; Tom Hiddleston; and Liam Hemsworth.
Chris Hemsworth was filming Cabin in the Woods when director Drew Goddard and producer Joss Whedon realized the actor was not being touted as a contender for the role. He had booked a screen test with Marvel, but they never called him back. They pushed for him to land the role of the Asgardian god.
The casting directors and Branagh didn’t want to lose Hiddleston, who had auditioned for Thor. Branagh had previously worked with Hiddleston on the detective series Wallander and knew he had the range the role would need going forward.
Thor writer Zack Stentz explained, “The singular mandate above all other mandates was that they wanted Loki to be the villain for The Avengers. They literally said, ‘If you fail at everything else, please just give us a villain as good as Magneto in Loki.’”
Chris Evans Took Some Convincing To Play Captain America
The casting directors were keener to have a better-known name to play Steve Rogers. Lots of big names were in the running for the role, including Garrett Hedlund, Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles (who went on to play Soldier Boy in The Boys), Gossip Girl’s Chace Crawford, and John Krasinski.
Krasinski even had a screen test for the role, wearing his suit and acting alongside Chris Hemsworth. The actor, who appeared briefly as Reed Richards in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, has often joked that seeing Hemsworth’s physique made him realize he was not “jacked” enough for the role.
Another actor who read for the role of Rogers was Sebastian Stan, but the team saw something edgier in the actor. Ultimately, Marvel hired him to play Bucky Barnes in a nine-picture deal. Chris Pratt also read for the role, but the Parks and Recreation actor was “not quite a fit,” for the MCU at that point in time.
“Casting Captain America was super hard and it took a long time,” Kevin Feige admitted. “I started to think, ‘Are we not going to be able to find Captain America, and if we can’t get Captain America, what are we going to do with Avengers? Is the whole thing going to fall apart?’”
Chris Evans was always high up the list but had declined the audition, perhaps due to playing Johnny Storm in two previous Fantastic Four moves. They liked the fact he was American, as well as being a funny and charming actor. Finn explained, per Vanity Fair: “He has this vulnerability as well as strength, so we could take him from skinny Steve to Captain America.”
Marvel brought Evans in to see the artwork and sell him on the idea of joining the MCU. He apparently took an agonizing weekend to decide, admitting it was “The ultimate job offer, on the biggest scale. I’m supposed to say no to this thing. It felt like the right thing to do. You see the pictures, and you see the costumes, and it’s cool. But I’d now woken up the day after saying no and felt good—twice.”
Robert Downey Jr. was the one to call Chris Evans and encourage him to take on the role. Marvel even downgraded the contract from nine movies to six, a trilogy of Captain America movies and three Avengers films. Luckily Evans was convinced, and he rest is history!
Chadwick Boseman Was Almost A Guardian Of The Galaxy
MCU casting director Sarah Haley Finn revealed that vesting Chris Pratt is one of her proudest moments. Although he was known for comedy roles, his Captain America audition impressed her enough that he was the first choice when it came to casting Guardians of the Galaxy.
Although she had Pratt in mind, other actors still auditioned first before she finally convinced them. Adam Brody, Lee Pace, Joel Edgerton, and Eddie Redmayne were all reportedly up for the role.
She saw Chadwick Boseman for the role of Drax and Lupita Nyong’o for Gamora. Although both parts went to other people (Dave Bautista and Zoe Saldaña, respectively), the pair made a big enough impression to be cast in Black Panther.
Jason Momoa was also up to the role of Drax but was sick of being typecast as a “brute.” He also revealed that he felt the role was too similar to Ronon on Stargate Atlantis. In a Facebook Live Q&A, James Gunn confirmed that Danny DeVito was also considered to voice Rocket, but they ultimately felt his vocals were “too old.”
Olivia Wilde was apparently the top choice for Gamora, but she felt “something was wrong.” The actress was reportedly tired of being typecast as hard-faced women. Karen Gillan was originally brought into the MCU to audition for Sharon Carter in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which went to Emily VanCamp). She later landed the role of Nebula because the casting director loved how she still looked angelic, even when angry.
Joker Actor Signed Up For Doctor Strange
Benedict Cumberbatch was always the first choice for Scott Derricks for the role of Stephen Strange in Doctor Strange. The actor originally turned down the role due to scheduling conflicts with Sherlock and his on-stage run in Hamlet in London.
After deeming Cumberbatch unavailable, Marvel considered Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, and Tom Hardy. In the summer of 2014, Joaquin Phoenix entered negotiations. The deal abruptly fell apart in October after the Gladiator actor felt uncomfortable about the compromises required to join the MCU. It was reported he was especially concerned by the lengthy press commitments.
After Phoenix pulled out, Marvel also added Ethan Hawke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, and Matthew McConaughey to the mix. Ultimately, the studio pushed the whole production back so Cumberbatch could film.
Which almost-casting surprised you the most?
Did any of the actors considered for the MCU surprise you? Tell us about your alternate-universe superhero fancasts in the comments below. Meanwhile, for more on Marvel, make sure to check back to That Hashtag Show.