Forget your Jeremy Renners and your RDJs running around a CGI screen, give us an older gent any day of the week. It looks like the upcoming Wolverine 3 movie will follow the "Old Man Logan" storyline, proving once again that comic book movies isn't just a young man's game. When 43-year-old Ben Affleck was cast as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, some said he was too old, but as the Frank Miller/Dark Knight Returns era shows us, it is age which comes before beauty. You are only as old as you feel and let's be honest, Affleck has nothing on these guys, so let's look at the silver foxes of the comic book silver screen.
Adam West - Batman
There have been fifteen men who have voiced/played the Dark Knight, but for many, the campy tones of Adam West make the definitive Batman. Alongside Burt Ward as Robin, Adam West played Bruce Wayne on the 1960's ABC show from 1996- 1968, as well as a feature film in 1966. After Batman, West tried to shed his Batman typecasting with The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1969), but ultimately the film was a box office flop! In 1970 West was offered the role as another cinematic legend - to play James Bond in Cubby Broccoli's Diamonds Are Forever. West's autobiography revealed that he turned down the role, always believing that 007 should be played by a British actor. These days he is STILL typecast as the Caped Crusader, but doesn't seem to mind too much - his voice work includes episodes of The Simpsons and Family Guy, as well a most recently cameoing in the 200th episode of comedy The Big Bang Theory.
Christopher Reeve - Superman
Christopher Reeve took to the skies as Clark Kent/Superman in 1978 and went on to star in three sequels to become THE Superman (sorry Cavill, not sorry Dean Cain). Reeve's performance was based on Cary Grant's role in Bringing Up Baby, representing a softer side to the modern male for his portrayal of Clark Kent. Taking his role seriously, Reeve refused to wear a muscle suit, instead doing what most modern superhero actors do nowadays - undertaking an intense two month training regime with his mentor, who was non other than British weightlifting champion David Prowse. Prowse was actually the man who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars films. Sadly, in 1995 tragedy struck when Reeve was involved in a horse-riding accident which left him permanently paralyzed. Whilst he couldn't reprise his iconic role as Superman again, he did appear in two episodes of Superman origin Smallville, as Doctor Virgil Swann. A keen activist, Reeve was heavily involved charities until his death in 2004, even founding his own charity for research into spinal injuries - the Christopher Reeve Foundation.
Sir Ian McKellen - Magneto
Clearly as much a dapper dresser in his youth as he is now, Ian McKellen is the winner of six Olivier Awards and a Shakespearean actor by trade. Not adversed to turning his hand to sci-fi, McKellen put on the burgundy helmet to play super-mutant Magneto in the X-Men franchise and go head to head with fellow actor/friend Patrick Stewart. McKellen and Stewart share something of a bromance, with Sir Ian even officiating Patrick Stewart's wedding to Sunny Odell in 2013. McKellen's other roles include the long-bearded wizard Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings/ Hobbit series and even a small part in Granada Television's long-running soap Coronation Street. Despite making his sexual orientation known to fellow actors early in his stage career, McKellen didn't officially come out until 1988. A figurehead of gay rights, he is a co-founder of LGBT group Stonewall as well as a patron of LGBT History Month. In 1991 he was officially knighted for his services to performing arts giving him his rather royal title.
Sir Patrick Stewart - Charles Xavier
Captain's Log, Stardate...
For fan's of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Patrick Stewart is a main part of the Kirk vs. Picard debate that haunts the franchise, who is a better captain of the Enterprise? Another Shakespearean by trade and McKellen's partner in crime, in 1993 TV guide named Stewart "Best Dramatic Actor of the 1980s"...high praise indeed! When he isn't treading the boards or flying across the galaxy, Stewart is known as Charles Xavier, founding member of the X-Men and staple of the FOX franchise. Worried that he was typecast as a grand, deep-voiced, bald English guy after Star Trek, he then took on a similar role as Xavier, telling The Times:
I don’t have a film career...I have a franchise career
You may also recognise that grand, deep-voice from his voice work as CIA Director Avery Bullock from Seth MacFarlane's comedy American Dad! A little lighter on the comedy, his latest role sees Stewart take a decidedly darker turn as a sadistic nightclub owner in horror-thriller Green Room.
Samuel L. Jackson - Nick Fury
A man that needs no introduction and who could give some of the younger Avengers a run for their money age-wise. Samuel L. Jackson is that bad-ass motherf****r who has done everything from Star Wars to Snakes on a Plane. Suffering with a stutter at high-school, Jackson told Vulture the secret of how he got over his speech impediment:
Pretend to be other people who didn't stutter.
Ironically his prolific use of motherf****r is an affirmation word on those days he still struggles with a stutter, almost becoming his catchphrase. Jackson rose to prominence in Pulp Fiction as Jules Winnfield, a part that director Quentin Tarantino had written just for him. After the likes of Jurassic Park and Unbreakable, Jackson turned his hand to superheroes before the MCU, voicing Frozone in The incredibles. Since a post-credits cameo in Iron Man, he is most noticeable as S.H.I.E.L.D Director Nick Fury, who has become a mainstay of the Avengers franchise. Despite being absent in Captain America: Civil War, Jackson has recently signed on for one more appearance as Nick Fury in the MCU. Rumours are abuzz whilst he remains tight-lipped on quite which film the talking eyepatch will return for.
William Hurt - Thaddeus Ross
Heeeee's back! After an eight year absence (following The Incredible Hulk), William Hurt is once again returning to the role of General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross for Captain America: Civil War. Starting on stage, Hurt's breakout role was when he succumbed to the advances of Kathleen Turner in 1981's Body Heat. He later gained much critical acclaim (and an Academy Award) for portraying a gay man in Kiss of the Spider Woman. Often cast as an intellectual, Hurt's other roles include Professor John Robinson in the panned remake of Lost in Space, as well a becoming a series regular on FX series Damages alongside Glenn Close. Now firmly back in the MCU, Hurt's portrayal of Ross is based on Captain Ahab from the novel Moby Dick, who he coincidently went on to play in the 2011 Moby Dick miniseries.
Jeremy Irons - Alfred Pennyworth
A surprising golden performance of Batman v Superman, Irons' role as the long-standing butler Alfred, took Bruce Wayne's ally back to his grittier, comic-book, roots. A classically trained actor, Irons won a Tony award for Best Actor for his Broadway debut in 1984, but his breakout role was in British TV series Brideshead Revisited. Since then he has had a large number of roles to add to his CV, such as the one-time Bruce Willis nemesis in Die Hard: With a Vengeance, as well as voicing Scar in Disney's The Lion King. Despite being one of those recognizable faces, Irons' roles have remained pretty low-key until BvS. Back in 2014 Irons promised us a different Alfred and that was certainly what we got:
He is quite a different Alfred than we have seen so far. Zack Snyder had very clear views about what he wanted… I would just say he’s more hands-on perhaps than just a butler.
His role as the butler/father figure couldn't have been further from Michael Gough's 1989 incarnation of the character and is sure to play a large part in the upcoming Batman solo film.
J.K. Simmons - Commissioner Gordon
The shouting moustache-aficionado/Daily Bugle Editor, J.K. Simmons played J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films, but this time Simmons is ditching New York and heading to Gotham to pick up the glasses as Commissioner James Gordon. Known for his imposing screen presence, Simmons has had roles in Law & Order and Oz, before moving onto the likes of the Cohen Brothers film, Burn After Reading and to play Terence Fletcher in 2014's Whiplash. It was his performance as Fletcher that earned Simmons more than thirty awards, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA. He will make his debut as Gordon in next year's Justice League outing, although we are only promised a small part for the veteran actor. As for following on from Gary Oldman as Batman's police ally, Simmons told The Independent about his approach to the role:
I’m sure there will be differences and similarities with what Gary Oldman or Pat Hingle have done before, but I’m just going to try to do my take on it and be as informed as I can about the rich history of the Batman universe, going into it.
Wise words indeed J.K.
Stan Lee - The Father of Marvel
The 93-year-old sure can show the whippersnappers how its done. The proclaimed 'Father of Marvel' has had his hand in comic book history through the golden age, all the way to today's current cinematic boom. Stanley Martin Lieber was born in New York on December 28, 1922, starting his first comic book job in 1939 as an assistant at new Timely Comics. His comic book debut didn't come until later as the text filler, "Captain America Foils the Traitor's Revenge" in Captain America Comics #3 (May 1941) under his pseudonym 'Stan Lee'. In collaboration with several artists, Lee helped to create the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and the X-Men. Often cameoing in the films based on his comics, Stan never lets us forget that he is the daddy of the heroes. He has appeared in 27 (so far) films, starting with the Trial of the Incredible Hulk in 1989 and ending with Captain America: Civil War (out now!). Directors of the film, Joe an Anthony Russo, told Australian radio station Nova 96.9 about the importance of a Stan Lee cameo:
You’re always looking to keep it different with him and you want to surprise the audience because they get a kick out of it, but you also want to make it relevant in some way, so he delivers a key piece of information in the movie.
It looks like ol' Stan's appearance in Civil War is more than just your two second couch gag then. A stand Lee cameo is part of the MCU and despite being the ripe old age of 93, Lee promises us many more cameos to come, including one in Ryan Reynolds sequel Deadpool 2!
Who knows, in another 30 years we could be tracking Robert Downey Jr.'s 30+ Iron Man films, Hugh Jackman's 1000th X-Men cameo, or the reanimated Stan Lee crossing over for a Batman appearance? The current comic book boys have some pretty big boots to fill given the Rat Pack that went before them!