9 Actors Who Almost Played Superheroes and Villains But Didn't

By Ethan Kaye in Comics, Daily Lists, Movies
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 7:59 am
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Whether you're on the side of Christian Bale or Michael Keaton, Brandon Routh or Christopher Reeve, or Tobey Maguire over whatever-unknown-they-get-to-play-Spider-Man, you know how important casting is to a movie. You get your duds, sure (Colin Farrell in Daredevil, anyone?), but that part could have easily gone to someone else. And sometimes, the guy you see in the tights wasn't the first guy who was picked for the role...

Here are nine notable actors who went past the stage of "internet buzz" or "studio chatter" and were actively pursued by studios and directors for big roles in some of the biggest, geekiest films of all time (we're not counting rumors, especally the stupid ones like Cher as Catwoman). Would life have been better with them in the role? You'll have to decide for yourself.

9) Marlon Wayans as Robin
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For all the stars in this list who were offered parts and turned them down, Marlon Wayans is the only one who continually makes money from his non-appearance. Tim Burton contracted Wayans as a young character named "Robin" in Batman Returns and the untitled third film (eventually Batman Forever). He even did camera tests in a Robin suit. But in the end, the abundance of characters in the second film squeezed him out. "I was cast, I was paid and everything," he told io9 before the G.I. Joe movie came out. "I still get residual checks. Tim Burton didn't wind up doing three, Joel Schumacher did it and he had a different vision for who Robin was."

8) John Malkovich as The Green Goblin
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While Willem Dafoe delivered a spirited and powerful performance as megalomaniacal Norman Osborn in 2002's Spider-Man, one can't help but wonder what would have happened if über-creepy Malkovich hadn't passed on the role. Meetings were had and he was offered the part, but passed due to schedule and lack of interest. In 2000 he was quoted as saying, "It was everything; way too much time, not enough money, not enough of anything. I mean, if I'd have loved it obviously I would have done it, but those sort of films aren't art films, they're business propositions." Nicolas Cage and Robert DeNiro were also reportedly offered the role.

7) Adam Brody as The Flash
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Adam Brody did a great job in Kevin Smith's Cop Out and in David Wayne's The Ten, but there was a time when he was contracted to play the Flash in the big-budget, ill-advised Justice League feature film. Mad Max director George Miller planned to direct and the cast, which included Z-listers like Armie Hammer Jr, as Batman and Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, was signed and ready to go. Then Marvel's Iron Man came out to rave reviews along with the announcement that all the big names from the Marvel movies were uniting for a full-length Avengers film later. Warner Brothers scrambled to follow suit, scrapping this cast of unknowns (and Brody as the Flash) and plotting more individual hero films which will eventually unite in a future Justice League film, theoretically.

6) Robin Williams as The Riddler
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Hard to believe after flops like Old Dogs, License to Wed, and Man of the Year, but Robin Williams was once heavily pursued by the Batman franchise. For the first Tim Burton film, in 1989, Williams's name was batted around for the Joker, but the part went to Jack Nicholson (whose name is first-billed over Michael Keaton's). When Burton began concepting on a third Batman film, Williams's name was brought up to play the Riddler. Comped-up photos of Williams in the question mark suit even appeared in tabloids. When Burton dropped out of the third film and Joel Schumacher took over, he reportedly pursued Williams for a year to get some commitment on the role in Batman Forever.

5) John Malkovich as The Vulture
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The Spider-Man knocks twice! Just this January, the press was alive with the news that Malkovich had accepted the role of Adrian Toomes, the Vulture, in Sam Raimi's fourth Spider-Man film. According to an interview given to the Italian show Quelli Che il Calcio, all that needed to happen was a final version of the script before filming. Then all hell broke loose, Sony scrapped the film, and planned a re-lauch for 2010. Somewhere in the mansions of Hollywood, John Malkovich is wishing he'd taken the Green Goblin when he had the chance.

4) Wesley Snipes as Black Panther
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When comic fans heard back in the '90s that Wesley Snipes was the front-runner for an adaptation of the Marvel comic, we were justifiably excited. Not only was he perfect for the brooding Wakandan king, but he was a huge fan of the books as well. But things stalled, time passed, and Snipes took hold of the Blade franchise instead (and didn't do a bad job at all). Even after the third Blade film released, he was talking to reporters and fans about how he still wanted to put on the Panther's cowl -- less of a sure thing, more of a "wouldn't it be cool if..." Fast forward to 2009 - a Black Panther cartoon is out and Snipes isn't doing the voice (actor Djimon Hounsou is the star). And Marvel is even eyeing a live-action film in the near future, but with Lost's Mr. Eko, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, starring.

3) Tom Cruise as Iron Man
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If you had looked up "Iron Man Move" before 2005 or so, you'd see Tom Cruise's name attached to it. His production company was ready to produce (with him as billionaire Tony Stark, of course) through most of the '90s and early 2000's. But keeping Cruise on the line for over a decade wore thin, and when they finally pushed forward with the film, Cruise bailed at what he thought was a weak script. According to Sci-Fi Wire, Cruise was quoted in early 2006 as saying, "they ... came to me at a certain point, and you know, when I do something, I want to do it right. And, you know, if I commit to something, it has to be done in a way that I know it´s going to be something special. And that ... as it was lining up, it just didn´t feel to me like it was going to work." Still, Cruise worked with Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, released the same summer as Iron Man.

2) Bill Murray as Batman
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No, we're not full of shit. Before Tim Burton helmed the franchise, Warner Brothers was looking into producing a film based around the '60s "Bam! Pow!" TV show. The choice for Bruce Wayne? Caddyshack's Bill Murray. "I would have been a fine Batman," he later told MTV. "You know, there have been a number of Batmen. I like them... I thought Mike Keaton did a great job as Batman." Just think -- if it wasn't for Tim Burton choosing to go dark with the Dark Knight, the history of superhero movies could have been radically different.

1) Nicolas Cage as Superman
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Believe it or not, there was a time when Tim Burton wasn't well known for ruining existing properties. This was the '90s, when Warner Brothers saw his work on Batman and figured he should try his hand at the other DC tentpole character, Superman. The plot was supposed to mirror the famous "Death of Superman" storyline and involved an update to the Christopher Reeve character, most notably with a redesigned suit. Thankfully, the project fell through, but comic fan Cage later got his comic movie fix with Ghost Rider (sequel in the works) and this year's Kick-Ass.

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