Actors Who Almost Got The Big Role – Superhero Edition
Last week when I was working on the post Actors Who Almost Got The Big Role, I quickly realized that I could do a full list just on Superhero films. And with "Iron Man 3" taking over the world box office and "Man of Steel" due out in couple weeks, now seemed like a great time to do it. And funny enough, most of the greatest "almost" stories for Superhero movies come from Batman films.
In the 80s when “Batman” was being shopped around, there was talk of the film continuing the campy style of the Adam West “Batman” television series, and comedic icon Bill Murray was a confirmed top contender for the role. It was later decided to shift the tone of Batman to be more in line with the darker feel of the comics at the time. When Michael Keaton, who at the time was mainly known for comedic work, was cast as Batman, many fans believed Warner Bros. to be continuing with the campy idea and flooded the studio with thousands of protest letters.
Two films going over schedule caused two actors to drop out of "X-Men", allowing one actor to rise to stardom. Jim Caviziel's film "Frequency" ran over schedule, causing him to pass the role of Cyclops to James Marsden. And filming of "Mission: Impossible 2" starting running so much over schedule that Dougray Scott had to drop out of the role of Wolverine just days before filming, passing the role to a then-unknown actor named Hugh Jackman.
Shortly after the turn of the century, Joss Whedon was approached by Warner Bros. to write and direct a big-screen adaptation of Wonder Woman. While many names like Sandra Bullock and Kate Beckinsale were tossed around for the role of the Amazonian Princess, Buffy/Angel alumni Charisma Carpenter was reportedly the only actress confirmed to be in talks to play the title character. Not too long after, Whedon left the project due to creative differences with the studio over the direction of the film, and a Wonder Woman project has yet to see the light of day.
Marlon Wayans signed on for the role of Robin in both “Batman Returns” and “Batman Forever”, being a mechanic named Robin who helps Batman with the Batmobile, finally becoming his sidekick. Wayans went through costume tests for “Batman Begins” but his part was eventually scrapped for the film as he was only set to appear for 5 minutes and wasn’t vital to the film. When Joel Schumacher was brought on to direct “Batman Forever” he decided to recast the role of Robin and Wayans’ contract was paid out.
The development hell of "Superman Reborn/Lives" is a well-known Hollywood battle, spanning a decade and running through directors like J.J. Abrams, Tim Burton, and McG. And through all the rewrites and change of leadership, only one man was ever confirmed for the role of Clark Kent/Superman, Nicolas Cage. Cage was brought on board for "Superman Lives" by director Tim Burton with a script by Kevin Smith. However, director Tim Burton decided to change to his own writer to rewrite Smith's script, causing the production to halt and be delayed even more due to money disputes with the studio. The above picture is a recently discovered wardrobe test, showing Cage is a Superman suit of a similar design to Batman’s suit in Tim Burton’s “Batman”. When the project was cancelled, Cage was still paid his $20 million fee as his contract had a “play or pay” clause.
After Tim Burton and Michael Keaton left the Batman franchise, William Baldwin was on the top of the list for director Joel Schumacher for the role of Batman. Schumacher reportedly told Baldwin that though he was his main choice for the cape and cowl, the studio wanted to go with Val Kilmer. When Kilmer declined to return for the follow-up, Schumacher again told Baldwin he was his top choice, only to see the part given to George Clooney a few days later.
The movie that kickstarted Marvel’s stellar lead-up to “Avengers” fame had been thrown around Hollywood for almost 20 years. In the 90s, Tom Cruise was repeatedly credited as the front-runner for the role of Tony Stark, until delays and script disputes thankfully caused the project to be shelved until Robert Downey Jr. stepped into the suit.
When the third modern Batman film was still set to star Michael Keaton, former model turned actress Rene Russo was tapped to play Bruce Wayne’s love interest, psychologist Dr. Chase Meridian. But when Michael Keaton left the project and was replaced by Val Kilmer, Russo (who is 3 years younger than Keaton but 5 years older than Kilmer) was deemed too old to play Kilmer’s love interest and was replaced by Nicole Kidman, who is 7 years younger than Kilmer.
After the success of “Rocky”, Stallone threw his name into the hat to play Superman in Richard Donner’s adaptation. His name was seriously considered, until Marlon Brando, who had already been cast as Jor-El, said he didn’t want to work with Stallone.
Better known for roles in films like “Stripes” and “Blade Runner”, Sean Young’s career looked to be continuing its upswing when she was cast to play Batman’s love interest, photographer Vicki Vale, in Tim Burton’s “Batman”. But an accident during horse-riding training for the film left Young injured and unable to continue the project. When “Batman Returns” rolled around a couple years later, Young decided she wasn’t done with Batman and lobbied to be cast as Catwoman, going as far as to wear a homemade Catwoman suit on talk shows and sneaking onto the set to plead her case to Tim Burton, who reportedly hid behind his desk until Young left.
Jim Caviziel makes a second appearance on this list, and again its because of another film that he lost out on another role. It’s believed that Caviziel’s portrayal of Jesus in “Passion of the Christ” made director Bryan Singer remove him from contention because Singer didn’t want a man who just played Jesus to play a Jesus allegory.
Like Marlon Wayans, Williams signed on for a Batman movie with the understanding of a return for a future film. Williams signed on to play District Attorney Harvey Dent in Tim Burton’s “Batman” with the clause in his contract that he would return as Two-Face if the villain was ever used. Again like Wayans, when Schumacher took over as director for “Batman Forever”, Williams’ contract was bought out and the role was recast with Tommy Lee Jones.