When the right actor or actress is cast in a role, it can become an iconic performance, with the character and actor becoming intertwined in the minds of fans. And that's never been more true than today, when the age of the movie star is dead and the age of the character is what we're all about, particularly where comic book movies are concerned.
So it's hard to imagine superhero castings that almost happened, weird to think of someone else playing a role that we can't possibly imagine anyone else playing. Like our Avengers castings that almost happened article from a few weeks ago. Josh Hartnett as Loki? Weird.
But the Avengers weren't the only near-misses in the comic book movie world. Here are a few other castings that almost happened...
Bill Murray was almost Batman
No, you didn't read that wrong. Bill Murray, the man of myth and legend, was a hairsbreadth away from playing the Caped Crusader back in the day. Look, the 80s were a weird time for everyone. There was all the coke, and the neon workout gear, and the Bon Jovi... The first of that list was probably the thing that made studio execs at Warner Bros. think it was a great idea to develop a super-campy, 60s Adam West style Batman movie and eyeball Murray for the lead. Luckily, they stopped listening to Whitesnake and The Bangles long enough to realize the error of their ways and hire Tim Burton, who took the Batman movie in a completely different direction...and cast Michael Keaton in the lead.
...And so was Jake Gyllenhaal
Apparently, if you put all the actors who have ever been up for the role of Batman together in a steel cage match...there wouldn't be a steel cage big enough to hold them all. When Christopher Nolan was looking to reboot the Batman mythos, Jake Gyllenhaal was in the final round of auditions, and writer David S. Goyer's first and only choice prior to screen testing. However, Nolan wanted Christian Bale in the role, despite the actor still being near-skeletal at the time after having filmed The Machinist. Just like rock beats scissors, director beat writer and Bale ended up winning out over Gyllenhaal in the end. Come to think of it, both Bale and Gyllenhaal do like to play creepy characters and have a certain intensity about them...maybe it wouldn't have been the worst casting in the world.
Dougray Scott was almost Wolverine
Rather than an almost-casting, this one actually was an official casting. Really, it's only by sheer luck that Hugh Jackman ended up playing Wolverine (as he has for the last 15 years), rather than Scottish actor Dougray Scott. Scott was actually officially cast in the role, signed and sealed by director Bryan Singer. Unfortunately, Scott had to back out on the movie at the last minute due to scheduling conflicts with Mission: Impossible II (in which he was the villain). With no time left to search longer, Singer decided to take a chance on the then-relatively unknown Australian actor a chance...and he's had the role by his adamantium claws ever since.
Edward Furlong was almost Spider-Man
We've known two very capable movie Spider-Men in our lifetime: First Tobey Maguire, now Andrew Garfield. And despite the "Who's better?" argument, I think we can all agree that a world in which former child star Edward Furlong is our wallcrawler would just be wrong. But that's almost what happened back in the mid-90s. Before Sony owned Spidey's rights, they belonged to the since-doomed Carolco Pictures, which had produced James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Cameron had a Spider-Man movie in the works with the plans to team up once again with Carolco. Previous Cameron collaborators Arnold Schwarzenegger and Edward Furlong were Cameron's first choices for the roles of Doc Ock and Peter Parker, respectively. And it would have happened, had Carolco Pictures not gone bankrupt and fallen apart, leaving the movie in development hell. Instead, we got a Sony-owned, Sam Raimi-directed movie a half decade later with Tobey Maguire in the lead role, and Edward Furlong got...well. You know.
Nicholas Cage was almost Sup--wait...Scarecrow?!
Everyone already knows about the Tim Burton-directed Superman Lives movie that never happened, the one that would have boasted the inexplicable choice of Nicholas Cage in the role of Superman. What's not as well known is that Cage almost nabbed the role of Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow in a nixed Batman Triumphant movie that was to be helmed by Joel Schumacher. Schumacher's script had Scarecrow as the main villain, and Cage was the director's first choice for the role. In fact, he went so far as to track Cage down on set while the actor was filming Face/Off to ask him to be in the film. And then...Batman & Robin happened. Audiences across the world went, "Bat-nipples?! The fuck?" and suddenly, the studio wasn't quite as keen to let Schumacher have his hands on another Batman movie.
Just imagine. Somewhere, in some sort of weird parallel universe, these crazy versions of the movies actually exist. Somewhere, Bill Murray is dressed in spandex and yelling "BAM! POW!" Edward Furlong is possibly drug-free, lean and trim. And Nicholas Cage is laughing psychotically while--oh, wait. That's this universe. That definitely happens in this universe.
And you guys worried about the Batfleck casting.