A STAR IS BORN1 of 12
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 expressed their interest.
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.
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 MAGNUS2 of 12
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 The Martian, then add some of the psychopathy of his lonely astronaut in Interstellar, and you can see the troubled creator of the Metal Men coming to life.
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 STARK3 of 12
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.
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 The Aviator.
RYAN GOSLING as NAMOR4 of 12
There aren't many actors currently in Hollywood with a higher profile than Ryan Gosling. Hollywood's current "it" guy has a franchise in the making as the star of the new Blade Runner 2049, but it's inevitable that he'll at least be courted by a superhero movie sooner or later.
While he's still got time to write his own ticket, Gosling ought to think about the role of Namor, the Sub-Mariner. We know that seems like an odd choice, but hear us out.
First of all, Namor's the kind of character that is defined enough in comic books, but to general audiences has plenty of room for a strong actor to make their mark (kinda like Benedict Cumberbatch with Doctor Strange). But more than that, Namor's powerful arrogance would seem almost charming behind Gosling's confident, soulful eyes. Gosling could flex muscles he's rarely flexed by playing, at best, an anti-hero.
And who couldn't see Charlize Theron's Sue Storm (assuming we get our way!) making eyes at the slightly younger Gosling, or being drawn to his charisma. ("Hey (Invisible) girl...")
Consider this a prototypical case of matching the role to the actor, rather than the other way around.
TOM CRUISE as KRAVEN5 of 12
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 Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. “Hero” of course comes to mind immediately when it comes to Cruise, but we’re going in a different direction.
Cruise hasn’t been bad much, but his role as the cold-hearted killer-for-hire in Michael Mann’s Collateral proved he can credibly going against type. He’d be a one-two punch as master-hunter Kraven, a villain for the inevitable sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Cruise’s manic charisma would be a perfect compliment to Kraven’s inherent machismo, and Cruise would bring some star power to a role that could disappear under a less magnetic actor.
Cruise may be attempting another franchise play in the Universal Mummy Universe, but with that film's box office failure, Cruise may wind up looking for another destination.
CHARLIZE THERON as SUE STORM6 of 12
It’s hard to imagine Fantastic Four 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.
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 ARROW7 of 12
Arrow 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.
McConaughey would also add some much needed star power to the upcoming Justice League 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.
EMMA WATSON as CHEETAH8 of 12
Casting the beloved Emma Watson as a villain may seem like a stunt, but believe us, there’s a very intriguing case for why the Harry Potter star would be a perfect fit as the Cheetah, a possible villain for Wonder Woman 2.
Given the increased role Cheetah has had in Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman comic book run, we think there’s a good chance we could see her become at least one of the villains of the blockbuster sequel – and we think Emma Watson is a spot-on (see what we did there?) choice to portray her.
First of all, yes, the obvious appeal is that playing Cheetah opposite one of the biggest cinematic superheroes in recent memory would give Watson a chance to flex her wings in a genre role in a way that would be easily separated from her time as Hermione Granger.
Then of course there’s the star power – the big flaw in the first Wonder Woman was the film’s lackluster villain. Putting an emphasis on someone like Watson in that role would recommit the franchise to adequately challenging Gal Gadot’s Diana.
And we’ve left out the real sell: Watson’s acting chops would make her a perfect fit for the role of Dr. Barbara Minerva, a cursed archaeologist born not far from Watson’s own real life hometown.
DENZEL WASHINGTON as J. JONAH JAMESON9 of 12
Yeah, there’s a contingent of fans that will balk at this idea out of the gate, but we’re gonna be honest – we don’t care. Denzel Washington has the perfect level of humor, gravitas, and gruffness to take the role of J. Jonah Jameson.
And, with an iconic take from J.K. Simmons that has yet to be recast in any subsequent iterations of the Spider-Man franchise casting a looming shadow over the role, Denzel is exactly the kind of actor who could make the part his own while leaving Simmons’s take alone.
Think of Denzel’s Alonzo Harris energy channeled through the lens of a mentor for Peter Parker – a kind of sarcastic guiding hand. Denzel would be the perfect kind of actor for a prestige cameo in a supporting role.
SANDRA BULLOCK as SELINA KYLE10 of 12
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 Forces of Nature? For those that do, this could clean the slate.)
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.
On top of that, Catwoman will play a major role in the reported Gotham City Sirens film - and a more experienced take on Selina Kyle from Bullock, might also make for a great straight woman to Margot Robbie's somewhat younger Harley Quinn.
TOM HANKS as THE WIZARD11 of 12
We have to admit, there’s a little bit of a personal reason for us connecting Tom Hanks to Shazam’s Wizard. Hanks was the star of Big, a 1980’s comedy about a young boy who wishes for adulthood. And even though there’s no superhero element to Big, 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.
While we were inspired to connect Hanks to Shazam because of Big, 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.
With another actor known for his comedic timing, Zachary Levi, cast in the role of the guy we won't call "Captain Marvel," a warmer, more iconic Wizard might be the perfect mentor to the nascent hero.
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