Face/Off1 of 9
To paraphrase a San Diego local TV news anchorman from the 1970s, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a big deal. Over the course of 12 years, 23 movies, and several TV shows (that may or may not be continuity depending on who you ask), these Marvel films have defined a generation - and defined actors' careers.
People knew who Robert Downey Jr. was before Iron Man. But after 2008, he is Iron Man forever more. The same could be said for the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, and others.
But not every MCU casting is or was for the long haul - some actors haven't even stuck around for more than one movie, including a title character.
Despite the massive budgets, huge appeal, and a well-honed formula, it doesn't always work out between Marvel and their talent, and sometimes characters are recast due to personality conflicts, changing story needs, or even shifting eras in time.
Would it surprise you to know the first actor hired for the Marvel Cinematic Universe was one of the first to be replaced? Or that Iron Man's dad has had more looks than a Skrull playing dress-up?
Newsarama has dug through the MCU archives and pointed out the most significant recastings - and why they happened.
James "Rhodey" Rhodes / War Machine2 of 9
Terrence Howard was the first actor cast for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Before Downey, before Favreau, before Jackson, and before Paltrow. Cast right after his Oscar nomination for 2006's Hustle & Flow, Howard was reportedly the highest-paid actor of 2008's Iron Man - which came back to haunt him and the studio once the film was a success. According to Entertainment Weekly, Howard was asked to take an estimated 50% to 80% pay cut for Iron Man 2. Howard ultimately did not reprise his role, although EW didn't report if it was Howard or Marvel which decided to walk away from the negotiation table first.
With Howard out, Don Cheadle was called to step into the void - and he did. Cheadle went on to play Rhodey (and ultimately, War Machine) in two Iron Man films, one Captain America, film, and three Avengers movies to date.
Tina Minoru3 of 9
The strange case of Tina Minoru may be the most "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" MCU recastings - mostly because the first Tina Minoru, played by Linda Louise Duan, appeared in a very brief cameo in 2016's Doctor Strange, and wasn't even named outside the credits.
Meanwhile, the Tina Minoru of Runaways TV fame, played by Brittany Ishibashi, is, according to showrunner Josh Shwartz, actually an entirely different character based on the same character from comic books, Tina Minoru.
Bruce Banner / The Hulk4 of 9
As only the second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Incredible Hulk forms one of the core building blocks of the overall MCU narrative and introduces Bruce Banner/The Hulk, one of the most beloved Avengers and an MCU cornerstone. But the Banner/Hulk we meet in this film is very different that the one recruited to help find the Tesseract in the Avengers.
Ed Norton’s portrayal of Banner isn’t quite the quirky, put-upon Banner of Mark Ruffalo’s many appearances hence – he’s analytical, inward, and frankly not very charming. In other words, a very different guy from Ruffalo’s “always angry” everyman trying to get his super brain and gamma body to work together.
Ruffalo is the MCU’s biggest recast – James Rhodes may be just as iconic, but Hulk’s the only leading man to get a makeover (even if he hasn’t had a solo film with Ruffalo thanks to complicated movie rights).
Interestingly, many other aspects of The Incredible Hulk have been somewhat forgotten in the years since 2009 – Sam Sterns/The Leader’s evolution hasn’t been shown and Emil Blonksy/Abomination and Betty Ross remain out of the spotlight. But on the other hand, Thunderbolt Ross has remained a surprisingly resilient presence in the MCU, and many plot elements of Incredible Hulk laid groundwork for later MCU Easter eggs and plot devices.
Fandral5 of 9
Though they didn't survive into the post-Thor: Ragnarok status quo, Thor's allies the Warriors Three were key players in his first two films. This included Fandral, who was played by Josh Dallas in 2011's Thor, but recast for its sequel, 2013's Thor: The Dark World, with Zachary Levi, who also played the role for a brief moment in Ragnarok, picking up his sword.
So why the change?
Well, it's pretty simple - Dallas was starring in ABC's Once Upon a Time during The Dark World's filming, and his TV schedule kept him from resuming the role.
Enter Levi, the star of another former NBC show Chuck. Interestingly, Levi's thunderous superhero career didn't end with Ragnarok - he also took the starring role in 2019's Shazam!, based on the DC hero.
Thanos6 of 9
When Thanos made his MCU debut, it was in a brief glimpse at just his face - he didn't even have any lines. But an actor still portrayed him - and that was Damian Poitier.
By the time Thanos made his first full appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy, Josh Brolin had been cast, who went on to play the Mad Titan in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame while pulling double-duty as Cable for Fox.
Interestingly, Poitier went on to appear as one of Crossbones' henchmen in Captain America: Civil War.
Red Skull7 of 9
Red Skull's surprise recasting in Avengers: Infinity War wasn't so much a matter of looking for something different in the actor's performance as it was a simple matter of of Captain America: The First Avenger's Hugo Weaving not being happy with the money offered, according to the actor himself.
Enter The Walking Dead's Russ Marchand, who took on the role of Red Skull in voice and motion capture for a pair of appearances in Infinity War and its sequel Avengers: Endgame.
Marchand, a gifted impressionist, managed to capture Weaving's voice and mannerisms - but with a more detached, alien feeling stemming from Skull's decades alone on Vormir.
Howard Stark8 of 9
James Rhodes wasn't the only character recast between 2008's Iron Man and 2010's Iron Man 2 - Gerard Sanders, who portrayed Howard Stark in a cameo in the first film was recast with John Slattery of Mad Men fame when Howard's role was elevated for the sequel.
Slattery went on to play Papa Stark in Captain America: Civil War and 2019's Avengers: Endgame.
But he's not the only actor to take the role since Sanders departed.
Dominic Cooper portrayed the role of a younger Howard Stark in his World War II days in Captain America: The First Avenger and in ABC's Agent Carter.
1 of 9
2 of 9
3 of 9
4 of 9
5 of 9
6 of 9
7 of 9
8 of 9
9 of 9