Some of these guys did end up playing superheroes in other films, but on the whole these thesps missed their big shot at dancing around in latex undies on the big screen.
Here’s 15 actors who was this close to playing a superhero in a big-time comic-book movie at one time or another.
1. Michael J.Fox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil
Not widely-known, but before he cashed in his chips and returned to the safe and secure confines of sitcom television with “Spin City”, Fox was approached by, er, Fox to appear in a feature film version about the horny blind guy. Considering this was around the time the studio produced Roger Corman’s ill-fated “Fantastic Four” movie, a movie that was essentially made just so Twentieth Century Fox wouldn’t lose the rights to the title, no surprise it didn’t come to fruition. This wasn’t the first time the “Back to the Future” fave had been linked to a comic book project – in 1989 Warners suggested to director Tim Burton they splice Fox into “Batman” as, well, can you guess? It’s not too difficult to imagine who he would’ve played.
2. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Clark Kent/Superman
Thankfully Richard Donner knew better than to cast the Austrian Strongman as the All-American boy scout. The director of 1978’s seminal classic “Superman : The Movie” wanted an unknown and disregarded studio suggestions Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds and Robert Redford in favour of casting wonderful new-face Christopher Reeve. Arnold would later be considered for the role of Brainiac in a “Superman 5” that never came to fruition.
3. William Baldwin as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Hot on the heels of “Backdraft”, rising newcomer Billy – Alec’s brother – was offered a shot at Gotham glory. Warners flirted with the idea of the young actor taking over for Michael Keaton as Batman in “Batman Forever”, the first of two Caped Crusader films with Joel Schumacher (who directed Baldwin in “Flatliners”) at the helm, Barbra Streisand’s hairdresser producing, and a pool of six-year-old pants-wetters in the scripting department. Baldwin told Batman-on-film.com, ”I was one of Joel Schumacher’s top choices when Val Kilmer wound up playing Batman. ‘Tim Burton and Michael Keaton had left, so Joel had the luxury of replacing Michael Keaton and he told me that his four choices – which was an eclectic, diverse array – were Daniel Day Lewis, Ralph Fiennes, Val Kilmer and me. I didn’t even know it at the time – he told me when I had a meeting with him later.” Baldwin missed out a second time too, when George Clooney got the same gig over him when “Batman & Robin” came around. “‘Schumacher said, “You were on my original short list with those other three actors, but the studio went with Val and this time I’d like to go with you.” And that Friday afternoon, I thought I was playing Batman – and then Monday morning, the headlines in the trades said that George Clooney had gotten the part. So apparently, I did actually come very close.”
4. Adam Brody as The Flash
The former “OC” star, most recently seen carrying a badge in both “Scream 4” and “Cop Out”, was all set to play The Flash in a George Miller-directed film version of “Justice League of America”. Brody, Scott Porter, Armie Hammer, Teresa Palmer and other castmembers were told, after several weeks in Australia rehearsing and trying on their ‘super’ suits, that the film would no longer be going ahead. “How close did we come?” Brody said in an interview with MTV, “We were in Australia for some table reads and fittings and whatnot for a few weeks with George Miller and his camp, and that was a great experience. I don’t regret a second of it; I had a really good time and a lot of positive things came from that.”
5. Christopher Showerman as Flash Gordon
He had the muscle and the acting ability to play the Daily Planet’s clumsiest reporter but what the “George of the Jungle 2” star didn’t have was totally anonymity; unfortunately for the then-thirty something actor, that’s one thing “Superman Returns” director Bryan Singer wanted in his Superman – no baggage. SyFy didn’t care so much when they were casting for their new “Flash Gordon” series, so long as the actor embodied the part and impressed in a video test. Showerman did but sadly, the slightly younger and much blonder Eric Johnson then entered through the door.
6. Tom Cruise as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Several years before Robert Downey Jr was sworn in as Stark Industries CEO, Tom Cruise chased the gig. The actor was set to produce a feature film version of the Marvel comics property through his production company but lost interest along the way. He told SciFi Wire, “they … came to me at a certain point, and you know, when I do something, I want to do it right. And, you know, if I commit to something, it has to be done in a way that I know it´s going to be something special. And that … as it was lining up, it just didn´t feel to me like it was going to work.”
7. Bill Murray as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Warner Bros were originally considering, instead of a dark Tim Burton version of the comic, a feature film in the vein of the original ’60s TV series. To help nail the camp tone of the film, the studio had asked Bill Murray – who had fronted “Caddyshack” for the shingle – to play their hammy hero. “I would have been a fine Batman,” Murray told MTV. “You know, there have been a number of Batmen. I like them… I thought Mike Keaton did a great job as Batman.”
8. Nicolas Cage as Clark Kent/Superman
We all know what happened here, right? Cage was set to play the Kryptonian flyboy in a feature called “Superman Lives” for Tim Burton. The screenplay, written by Kevin Smith (yes, that Kevin Smith) with revisions by “Cape Fear” scribe Wesley Strick, would see the Man of Steel meeting his demise before being resurrected Christ-like to save the day. Cage is thankful the movie was canned at the 11th hour, saying Ghost Rider – the comic book character he’s currently playing on screens – is much more appropriate.
9. Channing Tatum as Steve Rogers/Captain America
The “Step Up” star was asked by Marvel to play their blue-suited Avenger in director Joe Johnston’s “Captain America : The First Avenger”. Tatum had bigger fish to fry it seemed, so the studio went to fellow junior muscle Chris Evans. Dunno who would’ve been better.
10. Bradley Cooper as Hal Jordan/The Green Lantern
He’s probably thanking his lucky stars he didn’t end up in the movie, but at one stage there the “A-Team” star wanted the emerald tights badly. The much-more appropriate Ryan Reynolds bet Cooper to the “Green Lantern” lead, but Cooper accepts that it was his lame ‘Christian Bale impersonation’ that cost him the gig. “The director was like, “OK Bradley this time just be regular””, the actor – now an oft-rumoured candidate for a “Flash” movie – told The Tonight Show.
11. Dougray Scott as Logan/Wolverine
The “Mission : Impossible II” star was all set to play the sharp-nailed X-Man but the Tom Cruise sequel went into overtime – lengthy delays on that Sydney shoot – and the actor could no longer meet his commitment to be a part of the Bryan Singer film. Scott was apparently a big-time “X-Men” comics fan so I dare say missing out on the gig is a sore subject with him. But c’mon, can you imagine Wolverine not played by Hugh Jackman!?
12. Renee Zellweger as Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman
Back when Peyton Reed was attached to direct 2005’s “Fantastic Four”, Zellweger – who had headlined Reed’s “Down with Love” – was the pick to play the hottest member of the foursome. When Reed departed the project – leaving Tim Story to make his name as a director on a high-profile project – so did Zellweger. Jessica Alba ultimately won the role.
13. Vin Diesel as Matt Murdock/Daredevil
Hot off “Saving Private Ryan”, in-demand newcomer Diesel had been asked whether or not he’d be keen to bring the blind crime-fighting lawyer to life on screen. Diesel, rather fortuitously, decided he liked the script for a cheap science-fictioner called “Pitch Black” more so and opted to do it instead of “Daredevil”. Ben Affleck, who had appeared with Diesel in “Boiler Room”, ultimately got the gig. And now, of course, David Slade is rebooting the franchise with everyone from Xavier Samuel (“A Few Best Men”) to Taylor Kitsch (“John Carter”) said to be in contention.
14. Brooke Shields as Kara/Supergirl
When the producers of 1984’s “Supergirl” went out with their offers for the lead, “Blue Lagoon” babe Shields was atop of it. So why did the actress not end up in tights? Anything to do with the fact that the film’s budget was stripped, meaning Christopher Reeve’s Superman would no longer be a big part of the story, and the screenplay had been unfavourably changed? Nup. Producer Ilya Salkind told MaidofMight.net, “My father Alexander and I were partners and we had a big fight over the casting of SUPERGIRL. He wanted Brooke Shields. I was against Brooke Shields. I thought she was too famous and that we should use an unknown as we had previous.” Helen Slater, a fresh face, was cast.
15. Eddie Murphy as Britt Reid /The Green Hornet
Long before Seth Rogen got his version of the classic TV series up, Eddie Murphy wanted to make a “Green Hornet” movie. Murphy had tried to steal the Black Betty once in the ’80s, and then again in the ’90s, when he got wind that Universal had snagged the rights. Someone obviously didn’t think someone renowned for comedies would work so well as Britt Reid. Hmmm..