The original cast for The Avengers was very, very different
To celebrate The Avengers hitting cinema screens 10 years ago this week, we're taking a look at what COULD have been...
It has been a full decade since The Avengers - or Marvel's Avengers Assemble, as it had to be called over here, to avoid confusion with (checks notes) a British TV show from 1961 - arrived in Irish cinemas, on 26 April, 2012.
Anyways, the movie arrived and made A LOT of money and pretty much every other movie production house in Hollywood sat up and took notice, while also taking stock of their own superhero back catalogues to see if they could do something similar.
But, of course, it was more than just the fact that Disney and Marvel had the rights to these characters. It was also the groundwork laid by the previous movies within the MCU, the script and direction by Joss Whedon, and maybe most of all, the individual actors who played these specific roles.
The central six heroes and this movie's designated villain were all perfectly cast, but absolutely none of them were the original choices for their roles.
So to celebrate the movie's anniversary, we're taking a look at the cast for The Avengers that exists somewhere else in the multiverse, starting with...
TONY STARK/IRON MAN
Way back in 1997, Nicolas Cage expressed an interest in playing the character, which also would've been right around the same time that he was in active production with Tim Burton to play Clark Kent in Superman Lives, which also didn't come to fruition. Since then, Cage has popped up in multiple comic book adaptations, including Ghost Rider, Kick-Ass, Teen Titans GO! To The Movies and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.
In 1998, Tom Cruise was lining up to both star in and produce an Iron Man film, before backing out, because "It just didn’t feel to me like it was gonna work". To this day, Cruise hasn't starred in a comic book movie, but there are rumours that he might appear in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness as... yep, Tony Stark.
Timothy Olyphant told Conan that, "A wonderful actor, Robert Downey Jr. and I, we screen-tested on the same day. And I'm still waiting to hear back!" Olyphant would later work with director Jon Favreau on The Mandalorian.
Around 2006, when the director Jon Favreau was in the development stages for his first Iron Man movie, he reached out to Sam Rockwell to audition. Things didn't pan out, but Rockwell was eventually folded into the MCU when he appeared as Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2.
STEVE ROGERS/CAPTAIN AMERICA
In 2010, Ryan Phillippe spoke about his audition for the role of Captain America, telling Screen Rant that, "I would have loved it, they didn't want me. I met with them and stuff, I was way into it - especially since I have a six-year-old son - I just thought it would've been awesome thing to do... but no, it didn't happen. I would love to find something like that - I want to find something physical before I get too old."
John Krasinski also tried out for the role, even getting to audition in the Captain America suit itself. He told Ellen that "I acted my heart out that day. And it didn't work out, so." There are still persisting rumours that Krasinski will soon be joining the MCU family as Reed Richards in the upcoming Fantastic Four movie, which is likely to arrive in cinemas in 2024.
In 2008, during the press tour for Quantum Of Solace, Daniel Craig said that he was offered the role of Thor by Marvel, but he turned it down, joking that it would be too much of a power trip for him to play both 007 and the God Of Thunder.
Alexander Skarsgard auditioned in Thor's costume and met with both the movie's director Kenneth Branagh and MCU head honcho Kevin Feige about the role, before ultimately losing out to a (then) relative unknown. He has since gone on to play a different buff Norse warrior with a thirst for battle.
In 2009, Charlie Hunnam was on the shortlist for the role, and during the press tour for King Arthur, told a press conference that, "I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to do it and they weren’t 100% sure they wanted me to do it. But there was something that kept bringing me back into the mix and was something that kept having them gravitate towards me. Then they found Chris Hemsworth and that ended abruptly."
As it turns out, Hemsworth's first audition didn't go great, and his brother Liam Hemsworth was asked to audition and almost got the role, but producers decided against when the then 18-year-old actor was considered too young for the part. So, they re-opened casting and Chris re-auditioned, landing the role. Liam would go on to sort of play Thor in Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder.
Tom Hiddleston also auditioned, and producers said "He did a tremendous job, but he wasn't Thor." Nope, but they didn't have to look far to find the right part for him.
NATASHA ROMANOFF/BLACK WIDOW
The first choice for the role in Black Widow when she first appeared in Iron Man 2 was Emily Blunt, who was forced to turn the role down when it clashed with the production schedules of 2010 critical disaster Gulliver's Travels.
She told Howard Stern that "I was contracted to do Gulliver's Travels. I didn't want to do Gulliver's Travels. It was a bit of a heartbreaker for me. I take such pride in the decisions that I make, and they mean so much to me, the films that I do."
Despite some heavy denial from Blunt, there are still swirling rumours that she has been offered the part of Sue Storm for that Fantastic Four movie, which would pair her up with real-life partner Krasinski.
After producers found Edward Norton... how do we put this delicately... difficult to work with on The Incredible Hulk, producers were once again on the hunt for a new gamma-radiated genius with anger problems. But Norton was one of the final two actors in the running for the role in that movie, with the other being David Duchovny.
The X-Files star ultimately lost out that time, but was apparently in the running again before Marvel producers picked Mark Ruffalo to take up the mantle in 2012.
Another of the many, many stars in Hollywood who auditioned for the role of Captain America (though was never really one of the final few), Jensen Ackles apparently still very much left an impression with the folks at Marvel, and they offered him the role of Hawkeye ahead of his first appearance in the MCU, in a very small scene in Thor. Unfortunately, Ackles had to turn the role down as it conflicted with the shooting schedule for Supernatural.
Ackles will finally get to realise his dreams of being a part of a comic book story this year, as he has joined the cast of The Boys Season 3.
In 2009, four years after he said no to Christopher Nolan about taking the title role in Batman Begins, and three years after he turned down the title role in Superman Returns, Josh Hartnett was once again flirting with the idea of working on a comic book movie. He too met with Thor director Kenneth Branagh, and again, he decided the role was not for him.
Before any of the audition process had even begun, Marvel's reportedly top pick for the trickster god was Jim Carrey, and it is very difficult to not imagine him just channeling The Riddler again. However, before they even reached out to him, Hiddleston had come in and auditioned and blown everyone away...
Clip via Marvel UK