One of the most wonderful things about Hollywood's most talented actors and actresses is their ability to play wildly different roles. Liam Neeson is a perfect example of an extremely flexible actor. For a good portion of his career, he was known for playing calm and gentle characters, like Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars and Daniel in Love, Actually. But, now more than ever, he is also known for playing rough, gritty characters like Bryan Mills in Taken and Matt Scudder in A Walk Among the Tombstones.
This flexibility on many actors' parts has been a great asset to comic book and superhero movies, which grow more popular with each passing year. The most interesting part of comic book movies is seeing actors we love and respect take on roles we'd never expect them to play. It is even more interesting when those actors - especially ones that typically play the protagonist - play the villain.
Here are six actors you may not have realized played the villain in a comic book/superhero movie.
1. Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee is no stranger to the role of the antagonist, but what you may not have known is that at one point Lee played a Captain America villain. In the 1979 TV movie Captain America II: Death Too Soon, Lee played the mysterious villain Miguel.
This was actually a decent movie, by '70s superhero standards. Instead of being the typical superhero flick, this Captain America was more of a detective piece as Cap desperately tried to find out why people were rapidly aging and dying in just minutes. Lee, the mastermind behind it all, does all he can to stop Captain America from finding out his wicked plan. The movie closes in a fight between Christopher Lee and Captain America himself.
2. John Travolta
That's right - John Travolta has had roles outside of Grease and Pulp Fiction. In the 2004 adaptation of The Punisher, John Travolta was actually the leading villain. He played Howard Saint, a corrupt business man bent on eliminating the Punisher.
When Saint's son was killed on Frank Castle's last mission, Saint ordered his private militia to slaughter everyone in Castle's family. When Castle became the Punisher, he did everything in his power to track down and eventually kill John Travolta's character to avenge his slaughtered family. Travolta's character appears powerful throughout the film, but at the same time, he does a great job of showing the character's weaknesses.
3. Daniel Craig
That's right - James Bond himself has played a villain before. The 2002 film Road to Perdition, which starred Tom Hanks, is actually based on a comic-book. One of the main antagonists in this film is Connor Rooney, played by Daniel Craig.
In the film, Rooney is obsessively jealous of the relationship between Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) and Rooney's father. Trying to put a stop to this, and fueled by his own insanity, Rooney starts a murder spree that he hopes will end in Sullivan's death. You wouldn't see Craig doing any of that in Skyfall or any other James Bond film!
4. Don Cheadle
Though Don Cheadle's most famous comic-book movie role is War Machine in the Iron Man franchise, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Captain America: Civil War, he has also played an antagonist in a completely different comic-book movie. In the 1993 superhero film The Meteor Man, Cheadle played the antagonist Goldilocks.
In the film, the main antagonists are "The Golden Lords," a powerful gang that terrorizes pretty much everyone in the city. Goldilocks (Don Cheadle) is a member of this gang that tries to put a stop to Meteor Man and his beneficent ways.
5. Kevin Bacon
One of the least well known X-Men films is, without a doubt, the 2011 film X-Men: First Class. This unrecognized attempt at rebooting the X-Men franchise introduced brand new actors in familiar roles, taking us back to 1962. The main antagonist in this movie, surprisingly, was not Magneto, but was actually Sebastian Shaw, played by the lovable Kevin Bacon. (Don't tell Star-Lord!)
In the film, Shaw is a Nazi leader who helped form Magneto into the human-hating mutant he is today. Magneto vows revenge against his former mentor, who has not seemed to age at all, and does all he can to defeat his foe. This hateful plot of Magneto's is what ultimately turns him away from fully joining the X-Men.
6. Chris Evans
No, I am not talking about the recent "Hail Hydra" twist from the comics. Chris Evans, the actor best known for playing Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has played a comic-book villain. Even in the 2010 comic-book movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Chris Evans showed up as Lucas Lee, one of the seven villains in the film.
Scott Pilgrim's goal throughout the film was to defeat all of his girlfriend's "evil exes" in a video game fashion. This included Lucas Lee, a famous skateboarder / movie star. Though Evans only showed up for around 5 minutes, the few minutes he was in it were spectacular and action-packed. Check him out in all of his badass glory in the clip below:
If Captain America can play a comic-book villain, than so can anyone. While some of these actors were shocking, like Chris Evans and Don Cheadle, others were more believable, like Christopher Lee and John Travolta.
More and more often, superhero franchises are looking for the best actors in the industry to ensure that the part is played perfectly. Because these are the best actors, it truly explains how they can play such different roles - it is due to their fantastic flexibility and diversity in their roles.
Which actor surprised you the most? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!