A STAR IS BORN

Superhero movies are in their heyday right now. There’s no more surefire a box office bet than a solid superhero tale. Even the biggest stars in the business recognize the genre’s potential, with more and more of them joining superhero films every day – and the ones that haven’t often expressing their interest. <p>And even though not a week goes by without some major superhero production landing a big “get,” there are still some top names not attached to any comic book project. So we started thinking about who some of these major stars would play in some of the big upcoming projects on the horizon. <p>The key to this list is matching these actors to uncast roles that we know (or can assume) will be in some of the superhero films set to hit theaters in the next few years. We’ve touched on some of these roles in other “casting call” type articles, but we promise we’re not going back on our word. This is all about finding the perfect character for a given actor, not picking the dream actor for a given role.

MATT DAMON as WILL MAGNUS

Will Magnus may seem like an odd role for a star like Matt Damon – how many of you said “Who?” when you read that header? But that’s kind of what makes it perfect. Think about Damon’s turn as a solitary scientist in <i>The Martian</i>, then add some of the psychopathy of his lonely astronaut in <i>Interstellar</i>, and you can see the troubled creator of the Metal Men coming to life. <p>Magnus is enough of a blank slate that Damon could really define the character, taking the bare bones of Will Magnus and making him the DC Cinematic Universe’s biggest mad scientist. Just think Bruce Banner with an army of weirdo robots, and you’ll start to see the appeal.

LEONARDO DiCAPRIO as TONY STARK

If (when?) Robert Downey, Jr. retires from the role of Tony Stark, Marvel is going to have to pull in some serious star power to convince fans that the franchise should continue. RDJ has been the face of the MCU since its launch, so whoever replaces him will have some monumental shoes to fill. <p>Enter Leonardo DiCaprio. While the “always-a-bridesmaid” Oscar nominee might balk at taking on an established role, we think the role of Stark would be a perfect fit for DiCaprio. His natural charisma and unparalleled good looks would sell him as the high-flying billionaire, while he could likely bring some much needed eccentricity to the role as well. DiCaprio even played Howard Hughes, one of the main inspirations for Stark, in <i>The Aviator</i>.

BRAD PITT & ANGELINA JOLIE as BLACK BOLT & MEDUSA

Who better for Hollywood’s premiere “power couple” to play than Marvel’s own royal family? Although they only just recently reunited on-screen together, but assuming you could get their names on the dotted line, there would be no one bigger Marvel could sign to <b>Inhumans</b>. And adding a couple of much needed marquee names might make <b>Inhumans</b> a much bigger proposition to kick off the post <i>Avengers: Infinity War</i> MCU. <p>Plus, it just makes sense. Brad Pitt has the chops – and the recognizable face – to pull off the silent king of Attilan. His screen presence is almost unparalleled, which is probably the biggest requirement for Black Bolt. Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie could undoubtedly pull off the perfect balance of seduction, regality, power, and presence to make Medusa come to life on the big screen. Plus, you know fans would buy even Marvel’s top heroes kneeling before her…

TOM CRUISE as KRAVEN

There’s hardly a bigger leading man in recent memory than Tom Cruise. He’s been at the forefront of film culture for almost thirty years, and he hasn’t lost a step, as proven in his latest turn as Ethan Hunt in <i>Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation</i>. Hero of course comes to mind immediately when it comes to Cruise, but we’re going in a different direction. Sony and Marvel Studios are likely going to want as much distance from the last two incarnations of the film franchise as they can get, which means a brand new villain, with a lot of star power attached. <p>Cruise hasn’t been bad much, but his role as the cold-hearted killer-for-hire in Michael Mann’s <i>Collateral</i> proved he can credibly going against type. He’d be a one-two punch as master-hunter Kraven (our pick for the film’s big bad), bringing a huge name to the production, and adding a fresh twist not only to his career, but to a villain we haven’t seen on-screen yet.

CHARLIZE THERON as SUE STORM

It’s hard to imagine <b>Fantastic Four</b> getting another chance at a first impression any time soon, but if they did, we’d suggest bringing the team to the screen in media res – that is, foregoing yet another crack at their origin in favor of a more mature team with their complex dynamics already in place. <p>Following in that vein, Charlize Theron would be a perfect fit for the Richards family’s matriarch. Theron, no shrinking violet, would provide a stark contrast to previous takes on the role. Her ability to portray a self-possessed, competent heroine giving the FF’s heart a much stronger beat – and make her a likely fan favorite in the process.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY as GREEN ARROW

<i>Arrow</i> is so popular, and its star Stephen Amell so well-liked, that DC Films would have a hard sell casting someone else as Oliver Queen. But who better to win over skeptical fans than the irascible Matthew McConaughey, whose unexpected depth and “good ol’ boy” attitude would bring a version of Green Arrow to the screen that is very different than Amell’s TV version. <p>McConaughey would also add some much needed star power to the upcoming <b>Justice League</b> films. Putting him alongside the young up-and-comers already in place would play right into Ollie’s occasional role as the JLA’s odd man out.

JOHNNY DEPP as THE PENGUIN

It may seem odd to cast someone who is widely considered one of the most desirable men on the planet as a character known for being grotesque, but that’s part of what makes Johnny Depp as the Penguin such a perfect, subversive idea. Ugliness and oddity aren’t all physical, and Depp is no stranger to playing that side of the coin. Anyone who doubts his ability to play a garish, caricature of a villain need only look to his turn as <i>Sweeney Todd</i> to see the kind of whimsical ruthlessness that defines Oswald Cobblepott. <p>Depp’s eccentricity could truly shine opposite Ben Affleck’s blunt force Batman, and Robin Lord Taylor’s turn as Penguin on <i>Gotham</i> has proven, if nothing else, that audiences are more than willing to buy a more dapper version of the owner of the Iceberg Lounge. And the fact that Depp would be putting to bed the monstrous version of Penguin created by his filmmaking mentor Tim Burton in <i>Batman Returns</i> is just icing on the cake.

DENZEL WASHINGTON as JIM GORDON

Yeah, there’s a contingent of fans that will lambast this idea out of the gate, but we’re gonna be honest – we don’t care. Denzel Washington is a badass. The kind of badass who doesn’t need a cape and cowl to execute superheroic levels of justice. The kind of badass who can look Batman in the eye without blinking. A badass like Commissioner James Gordon. <p>While early reports indicate that Gordon may be retired by the time the new Caped Crusader makes his debut in <I>Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice</I>, that doesn’t mean Batman won’t need a confidant if he gets a new solo film. And who better to take on the role of a world weary, jaded Gordon than Denzel? Just imagining his back and forth with Ben Affleck’s Batman as the Dark Knight pulls him out of retirement is giving us chills.

SANDRA BULLOCK as SELINA KYLE

Sandra Bullock has been a cinematic mainstay since the mid-‘90’s when she captured America’s collective heart. So what better way to take that girl-next-door image and turn it on its head than to cast her as Ben Affleck’s romantic foil in a potential Batman movie? (And who else remembers their first movie together <I>Forces of Nature</I>? For those that do, this could clean the slate.) <p>As Selina Kyle, Bullock would be able to explore a character archetype that is somewhat at odds with her well-known image. And make no mistake, Bullock has more than enough action chops to pull off the role, and she’s worked opposite Affleck enough that their chemistry would be natural – a must for one of comic books’ most tumultuous relationships.

TOM HANKS as THE WIZARD

We have to admit, there’s a little bit of a personal reason for us connecting Tom Hanks to <b>Shazam</b>’s Wizard. Hanks was the star of <i>Big</I>, a 1980’s comedy about a young boy who wishes for adulthood. And even though there’s no superhero element to <i>Big</i>, that idea shares something of a connection with the story of Billy Batson, a powerless teenager who becomes the world’s mightiest adult when he speaks a magic word. <p>While we were inspired to connect Hanks to <b>Shazam</b> because of <i>Big</i>, it’s Hanks’s endlessly winning personality mixed with his unexpected gravitas that make him an ideal mentor to the young Billy Batson and his older alter ego. If DC Films takes <b>Shazam</b> in a more family friendly direction, Hanks would also add some much needed recognition in that department.

Hollywood Superhero Holdouts: 10 Top Actors & Who They Should Play

Date: 29 January 2016 Time: 09:14 PM ET