Charlie Sheen yesterday announced, via Jay Mohr’s podcast, that he was nearly cinema’s first Spider-Man. According to the TV funny man, he tried to convince his employers at Orion Pictures – for whom he did films like “Platoon” and “Eight Men Out” for – to let him don the red tights in a big-time feature film version of Marvel’s Spidey comics. At the time – remember, this was before Tim Burton’s “Batman” was produced and released, so nobody knew just how viable this sub-genre would be – studios didn’t have much faith in comic book movies, so Sheen’s dream to play Peter Parker was pushed aside… and he ended up playing a Navy SEAL instead.
Here are 5 other actors who nearly got to play comic book superheroes in the ’80s – but missed out on their big shot, for similar reasons. Or, for unfortunately being an unknown commodity at the time… like this first guy.
Emilio Estevez – Bruce Wayne/Batman, Batman (1989)
Estevez, then hot from the success of the tweeny-western “Young Guns”, was one of a dozen-or-so actors Director Tim Burton considered for Batman. Also in contention pre-Michael Keaton were Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges and Dennis Quaid, to name but a couple of the could’ve-been crime-fighters. Burton had wanted his “Beetlejuice” star Keaton from pretty early on, but he had to appease the studio by bringing in a bunch of other A-listers to screen-test anyway – just in case one of them was more convincing in the cowl than his pick.
Michael J.Fox – Robin, Batman (1989)
Fox, being one of the biggest movie and TV stars around at the time, was essentially offered anything and everything (but largely stuck to safe romantic comedies). There was a time when the character of Robin was to appear in Tim Burton’s “Batman”, and the name at the top of the list was, of course, pint-sized “Back to the Future” star Fox. Sounds unimaginable, having Fox play a superhero, and while it is hard to imagine, obviously studio’s didn’t much care – he was also in the mix to play ‘Daredevil’ for a while too.
Brooke Shields – Supergirl, Supergirl (1984)
Producer Alexander Salkind (“Supergirl”) only had one woman in mind to don the red skirt – young “Blue Lagoon” beauty Brooke Shields. Feeling Shields was too well-known, and believing the movie would work better with an unknown in the role, Ilya Salkind opposed the casting and suggested they keep looking. Ultimately, the duo agreed on Helen Slater.
Clint Eastwood – Dick Tracy, Dick Tracy (1989)
Dirty Harry as Dick Tracy? Nearly happened. When the feature film version of the comic book strip was in the works at Paramount and Universal (it would’ve been a co-production)- many years before Warren Beatty got it going at Disney – Clint Eastwood was being courted to star. John Landis, who was originally set to direct the film, was the one that passed the property onto Beatty, whom he had spoken to at one stage about playing the trench-coat wearing detective (in case Eastwood ultimately said no.) Landis exited the project, and Beatty decided to try and get it done himself – which he did.
Arnold Schwarzenegger – Steve Rogers, Captain America (1990)
Amusingly, the Austrian bodybuilder cum actor was one of the first names on Canon’s wish-list to play Steve Rogers in a late ’80s incarnation of “Captain America”. It’s said that Schwarzenegger, who at that time had just recently completed work on Walter Hill’s “Red Heat”, lost the role because of his accent – it was a little bit too ‘Austrianish’ than ‘English’. As it would turn out, the budget for the Albert Pyun-directed movie would be significantly low, so Canon would’ve been flat-out affording the “Terminator” star anyway. Matt Salinger (who!?) was hired to play the Marvel hero.