With casting news for Spider-Man:Homecoming breaking at a regular rate, it seems inevitable that Uncle Ben is going to be among the next names to leak or be announced.
There has been much consternation about Zendaya playing Mary Jane Watson, but the recently-leaked pics of Shocker seem to be getting good reception.
This film, like Thor: Ragnarok, already has a loaded cast, with Oscar heavyweights like Michael Keaton and Marisa Tomei in the lineup. But whoever eventually plays alongside Tomei in the inevitable flashbacks as Uncle Ben is perhaps the most important role to cast.
Traditionally, Ben Parker has been an older actor. Oscar-winner Cliff Robertson from Sam Raimi's films is, to many, the definitive portrayal. Martin Sheen was much older in appearance than Sally Field and brought some gravitas to the role, but wasn't really the Uncle Ben we knew. He was more like "Martin Sheen in a Spider-man film" than Uncle Ben.
Captain America: Civil War revealed Tomei's May as a younger, more vibrant character, aided by Tomei's seeming "fountain of youth" appearance. Rather than "Aunt May," Peter refers to her simply as "May." She seems one part cheerleader, one part best buddy to Peter, rather than Sally Field's worried mother figure or Rosemary Harris's sage and wise granny who seemed fragile.
This time they have to get Uncle Ben right. No one wants to see the origin again, but that's where Tomei's acting chops are going to be used best. The filmmakers have to at least show some of it in flashback, so to match Tomei's youthful exuberance means there might be a shock ahead for Ben.
Ben might have to be younger, or certainly the actor to portray him may be several years younger than Tomei. As she is passing for early 40's it opens up the casting to a wide net of actors, both hunky and nerdy.
Of course the geeky option could be Tobey Maguire, he's the right age and has a personality that might work well in contrast to Tomei. Unfortunately it may be that such a decision would "take people out of the film" and be seen as a stunt casting. Brad Pitt is another choice that could easily happen, but again might have the same outcome.
However there are some guys out there in the MCU already who could easily pull some kind of double duty and not take people out of the movie.
John C. Reilly
John is already Rhoman Dey in Guardians. I hear you scream and, no, this is not an "Uncle Ben is Nova Corp and his death was to fake his return to Xandar" theory. Just as there are doppelgangers in real life, it's plausible that a human could look similar to someone on another world.
Why Reilly? He is close in age to Tomei but still looks younger. His Ben could pass for mid 40's when he died with ease.
He has the mix of fun and seriousness Ben Parker needs to have and is an actor who would evoke genuine sadness for the inevitable death scene. Most importantly, however, is that he and Marisa Tomei have played a couple before, in 2010's dark comedy Cyrus. Their chemistry was one of the best things about that movie and it'd be interesting to see Tom Holland added to that mix rather than Jonah Hill's disturbed mama's boy.
We saw that Tony Stark didn't "impress May much" as the song says, so it's entirely conceivable that she goes for cuddly guys...and John C. Reilly fits that bill.
This choice has some baggage and issues that need clearing but as Sony has a big say in the movie, this could be a way to clear those issues. Ed Norton's persona fits Ben Parker like a glove, wise but fun and a "good man", again, someone you could totally see Marisa Tomei being married to.
As his role is likely to be small, Marvel might overlook the previous unpleasantness over the recasting in The Avengers and he might see it as a way to right the public perception that he's a bit of a dick about the movies he does. One other thing could also help, Michael Keaton worked with Norton on Birdman, so he could potentially put in a word.
It's a long shot, but not impossible we could see this one. That Norton's Hulk movie is seemingly deleted from canon in all but Ross's casting and the "gun in mouth" moment, then there is someone else in that film that could also work.
He was already Doc Samson, but as mentioned, if that movie doesn't count then neither does his role there. Burrell is known for Modern Family and he'd be a "safe bet" for Marvel for such a small but pivotal role. He's not my pick, but I wouldn't be shocked if they went there.
OK, we know he's Howard Stark in the early years, but again, it's entirely possible that someone years later might look like someone famous from years ago. Cooper is younger than Tomei, but could pass close enough that their relationship wouldn't be odd. He's likable as an actor but as Preacher is successful it's not as likely it can happen. I'd be fine to see Cooper as Uncle Ben.
We come to someone who is in the MCU, but in voice only and would make an excellent Ben Parker. He's the kind of guy who is believable as a fun but loving and responsible guy and who would die in the way he does. As his Rocket voice is quite far removed from his real one, this would be easy to make happen and wouldn't take anyone out of the movie. Marisa and Bradley would have the right look together too and there is a slight resemblance in Tom Holland, enough to make a family connection seem plausible. Now whether the female audience would ruin the movie when he dies is another matter.
Of course if Cooper is an option then Diesel definitely is... he's another guy you could pair with Tomei for an instant chemistry. It would fit the modern MCU with mixed race families not being an issue and could be a way to "make up" to Vin for the seemingly aborted chance to play Black Bolt in Inhumans.
They could of course make this a voice role only... do we ever need to see Ben die or hear those words? Vin's signature drawl saying "With Great Power..." that would work whether you see his face or not. If they do go more live action, then Vin's "Dad Bod" period showed that he could easily look the part of an older, overweight everyman, apart from his ripped Fast and Furious/Riddick persona.
Yes, I know he is Thanos... but he will be heavily made up in that role. Brolin is older than some of the other picks, more in line with Tomei's real age, but as an actor he has the presence to make Ben Parker work. Fans will remember his turn as Brand Walsh from The Goonies, being the "dad" giving advice to Peter. The "With great power..." line would be a good fit from Brolin. Would it take people out of the movie, knowing Thanos is coming? Possibly, but no more so than any of the above. Probably the longest shot on the list but nowhere near impossible.
Here's the final and perhaps the most left-field pick of the MCU bunch. He IS in the MCU, again only in voice, as Howard The Duck.
He's also a good ten years younger than Tomei but that in itself doesn't disqualify. It would be a risk to cast him, but if they are going to show Ben as a tender, fun loving guy who can get serious then Green is a good choice. He's got the kind of dorky, earnest charm that a girl like May would fall for, and who would encourage Peter's technical pursuits. Green could could get away with only a small amount of bulking up to make the part work. Would you hear Chris Griffin though? Or be worrying about Ben being secretly eeeevil? Or the Evil Closet Monkeys?
Personally, I think my pick wouldn't be on this list or in the MCU... if I could cast the perfect Ben Parker, to me it is...
In my head, Danny Williams from Hawaii Five-O IS the guy Ben Parker would have been had he joined the police force. Caan has the look of a blue collar guy who works hard to provide for his family, with a wisecracking attitude that would influence a young Peter into being the mouth behind the mask. And he's a good fit with Marisa Tomei.
I could buy them as a couple, see some banter there between them, especially if Ben was a year or two younger than her. Most importantly, he would be convincing as a guy who would try to help in a robbery and be killed for it.
Caan is a sympathetic actor, even when he's a wise ass it's hard not to like him. If Marvel carries on the trope of his death coming right after Peter first "smart asses" backfires, it could fuel Peter's "only behind the mask" style of humor. Caan being Ben could also inform the relationship with Stark, May feels comfortable with him, as does Peter. RDJ and Caan are similar type personalities onscreen, so it makes sense.
As an actor Scott Caan now has great recognition through the Ocean's series, and with Five-O being still one of the more popular shows on TV it's an easy win-win for the studio and the actor. The role is small but with the return of Ocean's and the inevitable cameo there, could see him become more of a movie star. You could also make a pretty good case for his co-star Alex McLoughlin, more of a serious guy but again a match for Tomei and the kind of guy you could see as Ben Parker for a few minutes.
Well of course it could be ANYONE at this stage, but there are already several great candidates already who have been in the Marvel fold, and one outstanding one outside of it.