Avengers: Endgame is finally making its way into theaters, giving fans the latest opportunity to appreciate the Marvel Cinematic Universe's wide ensemble of characters -- or, at least those who survived Thanos' snap. While the MCU has been home to plenty of iconic moments and fan-favorite portrayals, there are a surprising amount of actors who were publicly in the running for some of the franchise's roles. Some of the actors who made their way onto those shortlists are still talked about to this day, with Marvel fans wondering just how different things would have been if even one of those major superheroes was cast differently.
So, what could Endgame have looked like in another universe, if some of those "almost" castings had become a reality? Read on to find out.
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Tom Cruise as Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Iron Man essentially kickstarted the Marvel Cinematic Universe when the actor first stepped into the role in 2008. But long before that, there was talk of another Hollywood A-lister bringing the character to life: Tom Cruise.
In the late '90s, both Cruise and Nicolas Cage expressed interest in playing Tony Stark while the Iron Man movie rights transitioned from one studio to another. Eventually, Marvel Studios reacquired the rights in the early 2000s and started on their own version of the film.
Granted, Cruise might not have been directly in competition with Downey for Marvel Studios' iteration of the film, especially since director Jon Favreau initially planned to cast a newcomer for the role.
"Not close," Cruise told ComicBook.com in 2018 when asked whether he had ever been close to taking the role. "Not close, and I love Robert Downey Jr. I can't imagine anyone else in that role, and I think it's perfect for him."
But even then, it's safe to say that Marvel's presence within the film world would have shifted massively if Cruise had taken on the role.prevnext
Liam Hemsworth as Thor
Chris Hemsworth has become the quintessential portrayal of Marvel's God of Thunder over the years, but it sounds like a different Hemsworth almost nabbed the role. As Chris revealed in a 2017 interview, he nearly lost the part to his younger brother Liam, who was in the shortlist among the likes of Alexander Skarsgard, Tom Hiddleston, Joel Kinnaman, and Charlie Hunnam.
"I came into the audition with Kenneth Branagh and thought I nailed it and then never heard anything back," Hemsworth explained. "Months went by and then my brother, my little brother, Liam, was in Australia and sent a tape across and he got a call back, then another call back and then was down to the last kind of four or five people for it. I remember sitting in Vancouver, shooting Cabin in the Woods with Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon. Both of them were looking at the trades at this sort of top five guys for Thor and saying, 'Why aren't you in the mix here? What happened?' I said, 'I don't know. I blew my audition I guess.'"
"I came in kind of with a little, I guess, motivation and maybe frustration that my little brother had gotten further than me," Hemsworth added. "It's a little family, sibling rivalry sort of kicked up in me. Then it moved pretty quick from there. It was cool."prevnext
John Krasinski as Captain America
As Marvel fans surely remember, several different names were tossed around for the title role in Captain America: The First Avenger. While Chris Evans' take on the character has received almost-resounding praise, there's still one other actor who made the shortlist that fans still wonder about: The Office's John Krasinski.
Krasinski, alongside Ryan Phillippe and eventual Bucky Barnes actor Sebastian Stan, were reportedly also considered to play Steve Rogers before Evans landed the role in March 2010. In the years since, Krasinski has poked fun at the role that got away, and how him not getting the job made perfect sense at the time.
"It was a big deal for me, because first of all, I love those Marvel movies," Krasinski said in a 2016 interview. "I love superheroes. I love imagination, so when they asked me to test they actually allowed me to put on the suit. I was on a set, it was all very interesting. I feel like as I'm talking about this someone from Marvel is going to be like 'shook' and just like dart me like I'm not allowed to talk about it at all. But I remember the only bummer that was, I was putting on the suit just watching it and like this is so amazing and I got about right to my waist, I was still shirtless and feeling pretty good about myself, wasn't Thirteen Hours yet but felt pretty good, and all of a sudden Chris Hemsworth walked by as Thor and went 'hey mate', and I went 'I'm good, this is stupid, I shouldn't, It's okay, I'm not going to be Captain America, it's fine.'"
But hey, at least this leaves the window open for Krasinski to play another prominent Marvel character.prevnext
Emily Blunt as Black Widow or Captain Marvel
Oddly enough, Krasinski's real-life wife has also toyed with the possibility of joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe several times over. Emily Blunt has been tied to several different MCU roles over the years, starting with her initially being cast as Iron Man 2's Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow before stepping down due to scheduling conflicts. As Marvel fans know, Scarlett Johansson has played the role ever since.
Blunt was also reportedly up for the role of The First Avenger's Peggy Carter (who was later played by Hayley Atwell), and later became a pretty prominent fan-cast for the role of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (now played by Brie Larson).
"No one's offered me that officially, so it's … [laughs] very unofficial," Blunt said of Captain Marvel rumors back in 2014. "I think it's fan-casting, which is always very nice. But nothing official has been offered, for sure."
"Yeah, but it was never the right time, really, and it just didn't work out scheduling-wise with those two," Blunt said of turning down Black Widow and Peggy Carter. "It's always a difficult thing to talk about, because it's not fair to the actresses who ended up playing them, you know? It just wasn't the right time."prevnext
Joaquin Phoenix as Hulk
Bruce Banner/Hulk has arguably had one of the most unusual timelines within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beginning with Edward Norton portraying him in 2008's The Incredible Hulk. When time came around for The Hulk to appear in The Avengers, one notable name began to be tossed out to replace Norton: Joaquin Phoenix.
Reports of Phoenix possibly landing the role began to pop up in July 2010, after Kevin Feige issued a statement looking for an "actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members." Ultimately, Marvel went with Mark Ruffalo for the role, but Phoenix later made the shortlist to play Doctor Strange as well.
"I think they make some great, fun movies," Phoenix said in a 2018 interview. "There's nothing wrong… I'm not a f-cking, like, cinephile. I'm not a snob and I'm totally fine with… I enjoy those movies sometimes, and I think they keep the f-cking industry going in some ways, so I don't have a problem with it at all. I think that everybody was, is… I'm trying to figure out how to say this most diplomatically, okay… I think everybody was really happy with how things turned out. All parties were satisfied."
All these years later, Phoenix has eventually found his way into the comic book movie world, just on the DC side of things.prevnext
Jensen Ackles as Hawkeye
The MCU's casting of Clint Barton/Hawkeye reportedly took some interesting directions as well before landing on Jeremy Renner. A long-running rumor has been that Jensen Ackles was offered the role of Marvel's fan-favorite archer, but that he had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts with Supernatural.
Reportedly, Ackles had been offered the role of Hawkeye as a sort of consolation prize after he'd auditioned for the role of Captain America. While the actor has never completely confirmed these details, we can't help but wonder what the Hawkeye fandom would have been like if Ackles had taken the job.prevnext
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Ant-Man
It's safe to say that Paul Rudd has made the role of Scott Lang/Ant-Man his own, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt nearly beat him out for the part. In 2013, both Rudd and Gordon-Levitt were rumored to be frontrunners for the titular role in Ant-Man, something that the actor addressed soon after.
"There is always a lot of rumors around these projects and so far it is still only discussions," Gordon-Levitt said in 2013. "I am always very transparent when it comes to my role and my career. I'm usually the first to speak and communicate with my fans if something happens. If you hear nothing from me, they are just rumors."
Ultimately, the role went to Rudd, and Gordon-Levitt didn't have to deal with any jokes about going near Thanos' butt.prevnext
Gal Gadot as Nebula
Gal Gadot might be an iconic part of the nerd world thanks to her performance as DC's Wonder Woman, but it sounds like she could have initially been in the running for a Guardians of the Galaxy role. In a Hebrew TV interview from 2013, Gadot spoke about her time as an actor, and seemed to drop a hint that she had the option of playing Nebula (who was eventually played by Karen Gillan).
"It's a very complicated life, because you live from role to role, and you never know when your next role will be," Gadot explained. "So when you work, me at least, I am the most grateful, and the most, you know, enjoying it, because it's not obvious. Especially taking part in such crazy productions, really, it's like... I don't know. And that's what... There are all sorts of options and all sorts of possibilities. I have the option now for a role where I will have to shave my head and they will color me in blue paint. I swear to you."
This isn't the first sci-fi role that Gadot was almost up for, with the actress revealing in 2017 that she had almost played Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. But it's safe to say that the Guardians of the Galaxy definitely wouldn't have been the same if Gadot had taken the role.prevnext
Adam Sandler as Rocket
On that note, another surviving Endgame character was almost portrayed in a completely different way, with quite an array of actors being up for the role before it went to Bradley Cooper.
According to a 2013 report, Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey were both being sought out for voice roles in Guardians of the Galaxy. While it was never exactly said who was up for what role, it was assumed at the time that Sandler would have voiced Rocket.
What would Rocket's most emotional moments have been like if he'd been voiced by Sandler? The world will never know.prevnext
Paul Reubens as Thanos
And finally, Guardians of the Galaxy almost took some pretty big liberties with Thanos himself, long before he was expected to snap half the universe to dust in Avengers: Infinity War. In a 2014 interview, James Gunn revealed that Josh Brolin hadn't been the only one who was sought after for the role, with him also considering both Pauly Shore and Paul Reubens.
"Josh was just somebody who came up when we were trying to think of who could play Thanos," Gunn explained to MTV at the time. "Josh was somebody who came up. I'm a big fan of his work, and he was somebody who came up who really had the weight that you need for somebody like Thanos."
But Brolin wasn't the only contender. "We talked about Pauly Shore for a long time. It didn't seem to be great. He wanted too much money. We talked a lot to Paul Reubens. He didn't seem to be Thanos," Gunn said. "Then we came to Josh Brolin. 'I think he seems to fit more than those other two guys.'"
Maybe Thanos' universe-shattering antics could have been stopped if someone had just helped him find his red bicycle.0comments
Avengers: Endgame will arrive in theaters on April 26th.prev