Superhero movies are the hottest genre in Hollywood right now, but it took decades for Sony, Marvel, Warner Bros. and other movie studios to finally "get it right". Those studios scrapped dozens of planned superhero movies in early stages of development, often after casting surprising actors as their leads. When the superhero era in Hollywood finally did begin in earnest, several actors almost became the iconic heroes now played by actors like Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. Here are seven surprising actors who almost got a superhero role:
Nicolas Cage as Superman
Noted comic book fan (and former owner of a copy of Action Comics #1) Nicolas Cage almost played the Man of Steel in a scrapped movie called Superman Lives. Based on the "Death of Superman" storyline, Superman Lives would have featured Cage fighting the likes of Brainiac and Doomsday in a plot that also involved giant spiders and mutant polar bears. Of course, giant spiders and mutant polar bears should probably be expected, since the movie was to be directed by Tim Burton. Superman Lives made it pretty far into pre-production, as photos were taken of Cage in a neon Superman suit meant to represent the Man of Steel's views on humanity. Warner Bros. canceled the movie and moved forward with Superman Returns instead. In hindsight, maybe they should have stuck with the Nicolas Cage Superman in the technocolor superhero suit.
Emily Blunt as Black Widow (and Peggy Carter)
While she's frequently mentioned in wish lists for the lead in Captain Marvel, Emily Blunt almost appeared in two different Marvel films. The Edge of Tomorrow actress was in talks to play both Black Widow and Peggy Carter in Iron Man 2 and Captain America: The First Avenger, but eventually turned both roles down to scheduling conflicts. She later admitted that she thought female roles in superhero films were "thankless" because they're often relegated to a supporting role, but she was still high on eventually starring in a superhero movie of her own.
Tom Cruise as Iron Man
One of the first actors Marvel approached to star in Iron Man was Tom Cruise. Cruise was apparently very high on the film, even agreeing to produce the movie at one point, but his interest waned when an early script didn't live up to his high standards. It was probably for the best, as one of Cruise's alleged demands was that his face be visible at all time, which meant that the Iron Man suit would need a transparent visor. While Cruise left the movie to star in Lions for Lambs, Robert Downey Jr. resurrected his career with Iron Man and remains Marvel's highest paid actor.
Marlon Wayans as Robin
Marlon Wayans (of Scary Movie fame) almost starred as Robin in the 1990s Batman movies. Tim Burton asked Wayans to play the Dark Knight's sidekick in a planned sequel to Batman Returns which also involved the Riddler. However, when some fans complained that Batman Returns was "too dark", Warner Bros. asked Burton to tone the next movie down, which led to Burton's departure. Burton's replacement, Joel Schumacher, scrapped Burton's plans and ended up casting Chris O'Donnell as his Robin. Given how universally hated Batman Forever and Batman and Robin were, Wayans might have dodged a major bullet.
Bill Murray as Batman
Several years before Tim Burton's first Batman movie came out, Warner Bros. asked Ivan Reitman, the director of Ghostbusters, to direct The Batman, a loose adaptation of the Batman: Strange Apparitions graphic novel with a tone in line with then just released Dark Knight Returns miniseries. Although Reitman was the "hot" director in Hollywood at the time thanks to Ghostbusters, the comedy director was a bizarre choice for the serious film, especially when Reitman said he wanted Bill Murray to star as Batman and Eddie Murphy to play Robin. After the movie went through nine different scripts, Warner Bros. ditched the film and started over with the movie that would become Burton's Batman.
John Krasinski as Captain America
As Marvel went through a long casting process for the role of Captain America, one name frequently appeared on rumored shortlists: Office actor John Krasinski. Krasinski had the good looks and quippy timing down, and Marvel even went as far as to bring the actor for a screen test while wearing the classic Captain America costume. However, Marvel brought in Chris Evans for a last minute audition and obviously the rest is history. When asked about the audition earlier this year, Krasinski claimed he had no ill will towards Evans for getting the part, but he did admit that he wanted to fight Evans...as a Marvel supervillain.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Spider-Man
Back when he was just a teen heartthrob and hadn't started chasing Oscars, several studios approached Leonardo DiCaprio about playing big name superheroes. Along with turning down Warner Bros. and George Lucas to play the roles of Robin and Anakin Skywalker respectively, DiCaprio also passed on the chance to play Spider-Man. DiCaprio considered reuniting with James Cameron, who at one point was supposed to direct the first Spider-Man movie, but ultimately passed shortly before Cameron himself left the project. Tobey Maguire ended up donning the Spider-Man tights, while DiCaprio became Hollywood's biggest actor.