25 stars you might not know were almost in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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  • The MCU is the world's biggest film franchise, but it wasn't always a guaranteed success.

  • Much of its appeal is due to casting, but some of its cast members almost didn't get their roles.

  • These 25 actors, including Keanu Reeves and Zooey Deschanel, almost made their way into the MCU.

Emily Blunt was almost Black Widow before prior film commitments forced her out of the running.

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Emily Blunt and Scarlett Johansson, who played Black Widow for over a decade.Pascal Le Segretain/WireImage/Getty Images; Paramount

According to Den of Geek, Blunt was director Jon Favreau's first choice for Natasha Romanoff, but she was forced to drop out to shoot the film "Gulliver's Travels" due to an agreement with Fox, which is how we ended up with Johansson.

Blunt, for her part, doesn't have any regrets about passing up on joining the MCU.

"I don't think I would have been able to do a lot of projects that I've loved doing," she told Indiewire in 2018 in the wake of "A Quiet Place's" success. "You can't predict what's going to happen, what's going to catch fire and what's not, so if I make the choice for me, and not because I'm contracted, I think that's an exciting prospect."

Daniel Craig turned down the role of Thor to concentrate on playing James Bond.

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Daniel Craig and Chris Hemsworth, who is gearing up for his fourth "Thor" movie, a first in the MCU.Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images; Paramount

According to Screen Rant, Craig confirmed in 2008 that Marvel had approached him to take on the God of Thunder's mantle for the 2011 film, but he decided that playing 007 was more than enough for one man and turned them down.

"Grey's Anatomy" star Kevin McKidd was also reportedly in the running for Thor.

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Kevin McKidd and Hemsworth.Jesse Grant/Getty Images; Paramount

McKidd, who is best known for his role as Dr. Owen Hunt on "Grey's Anatomy," was reportedly close to playing Thor, too.

In 2020, early concept art of the hero was released on social media showing a Thor that looks suspiciously like McKidd — and indeed, the artist confirmed in a now-deleted post that McKidd was his model.

John Krasinski was close to becoming Captain America, aka Steve Rogers.

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John Krasinski and Chris Evans, who played Steve Rogers in nine films.Emma McIntyre/Getty Images; Paramount

"I love Chris, I've been a friend of his for a while," Krasinski told Indiewire in 2018. "Those movies are so much fun and I love watching them, I tell him I'm first in line to see his new movies. It's that zen thing of let life take you where it may and I never would have been here if I had gotten 'Captain America.'"

Fans lobbied for Krasinski and his wife, Emily Blunt, to be cast as the Fantastic Four's Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman — and they got their wish, with Krasinski briefly appearing in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" as Reed Richards himself.

Ryan Phillippe is another actor who was up for the part of Captain America.

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Ryan Phillippe and Chris Evans as Captain America.Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Paramount

At a panel in 2010, Phillippe confirmed that he was interested in playing the Star-Spangled Man.

"I'm really into it," he said. "We'll see what happens, but yeah, it'd be fun," and added, "My son would looove it. He's six years old."

Of course, the part eventually went to Evans.

An old draft of "The Avengers" revealed that Zooey Deschanel was almost cast as the Wasp. Evangeline Lilly was introduced as the Wasp in "Ant-Man" three years later.

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Zooey Deschanel and Evangeline Lilly, who made her MCU debut in 2015's "Ant-Man."Mark Davis/Getty Images; Disney

In a new book about the history of the MCU, "The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe," authors Tara Bennett and Paul Terry revealed that "Avengers" writer and director Joss Whedon had written a draft that introduced the Wasp to the MCU.

Whedon even had an actress in mind, according to producer Jeremy Latcham: "New Girl" star Zooey Deschanel. "It was all about The Wasp. He wanted to cast Zooey Deschanel. [Wasp] was the funniest character in the whole movie, and well-written," he said.

Whedon explained that he added the iconic superhero because it was unclear if Scarlett Johansson, aka Black Widow, would be available, and thus the team needed a new female character. But Johansson was able to be in the film, and audiences met Lilly's Wasp three years later.

Jessica Chastain almost had parts in "Iron Man 3" and "Doctor Strange," but she is holding out for something bigger in the MCU.

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Jessica Chastain was almost cast as Maya Hansen and Dr. Christine Palmer.Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images; Marvel/Disney

Chastain has been up for two separate parts in the MCU. First, she was almost cast as Maya Hansen, a scientist who has a relationship with Tony Stark. However, she posted on her Facebook page in 2012 that she was too busy.

"Sorry to say that 'Iron Man 3' isn't going to work out. My schedule is jammed packed and I can't fit anything else in. The press announced my possible attachment far too soon. I know many of you wanted me to be involved, and I'm so sorry to disappoint you. Hopefully there'll be another Marvel film in my future," she wrote.

The part eventually went to Rebecca Hall.

A few years later, Chastain was once again rumored to be joining "Doctor Strange" as the surgeon Christine Palmer, an ex and colleague of Stephen Strange. Again, it didn't work out — this time because Chastain rejected the role. The screenwriter shared on a podcast in 2020 that Chastain wanted to join the MCU as a superhero, not a sidekick.

"She's like, 'Hey, look, this project sounds awesome, and I would love to do it. But I'm only going to get one shot at being in a Marvel film and becoming a Marvel character; and I trained in ballet, and I really want to wear a cape,'" C. Robert Cargill said.

The role went to Rachel McAdams.

Alison Brie was one of many actresses on the shortlist for Sharon Carter in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

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Alison Brie and Emily VanCamp, who has played Sharon Carter in two films and a show.Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association; Marvel/Disney

Many actresses were rumored to be taking on the role of Sharon (aka Agent 13), including Anna Kendrick, Felicity Jones, Imogen Poots, and more. But Brie's potential casting gained traction for two reasons: a gender-swapped photo of her as Captain America went viral, and because of her friendship with directors Joe and Anthony Russo, who frequently worked with Brie on "Community."

"I wouldn't be opposed to it," Brie told MTV in 2017. "I'm excited that they're going to do it. I think they're going to bring something different to it. I love the Russo brothers. I just adore them. I think they're incredible. Everything they do is incredible. It'll be a nice change for those Marvel superhero movies, to have a fresh take on it."

"Revenge" star Emily VanCamp was cast as Carter, and she went on to appear in "Winter Soldier," "Civil War," and "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier."

Jason Momoa almost played Drax in "Guardians of the Galaxy," but he passed.

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Jason Momoa and Dave Bautista, who was cast as Drax the Destroyer.Chris Hyde/Getty Images; Marvel/Disney

Momoa, of course, would go on to be cast as Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, but before he was part of the Justice League, he was rumored to be one of the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy as Drax — but he turned it down.

"I want my children to see their father happy. It's not that it's not a good role, it just wasn't the right thing. I was on 'Stargate: Atlantis' for four years playing a similar character called Ronon, who was an alien who didn't say much and grunted. I've been there and done that, whether people have seen it or not. You want to stretch," Momoa said in 2014, according to IGN.

Dave Bautista would be cast as Drax, which Momoa supported.

"I think it's perfectly cast. Dave is perfect for that role, for Drax," he said.

Amanda Seyfried turned down the role of Gamora in "Guardians of the Galaxy" because she didn't want to be green.

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Amanda Seyfried and Zoe Saldana, who has played Gamora for the two "Guardians" films.Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images; Marvel/Disney

Actually, it came down to a few things. Seyfried has admitted to not being a Marvel fan, and she was afraid that "Guardians" would be the first real flop in the MCU.

During a 2020 podcast appearance, Seyfried said, "I didn't want to be part of the first Marvel movie that bombed. I said, 'Who wants to see a movie about a talking tree and a raccoon?' Which is clearly — I was very wrong."

The green paint was a real concern, though. "I was just like, 'Ah, I don't wanna be green. It's just so much work,'" Seyfried told ComicBook.com in 2020. "I remember Jennifer Lawrence talking about once, how long it took her to get blue. And I was like, 'That seems like hell on Earth,' because then you get to set and you're only there for a couple hours, and then you have to take everything off. And that was literally the reason."

Zoe Saldana would go on to win the part — after the production of "Avatar," getting painted green probably didn't seem like a huge feat.

James Gunn has said his second choice for "Guardians of the Galaxy's" Peter Quill was Glenn Howerton.

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Glenn Howerton and the eventual Star Lord, Chris Pratt.Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic/Getty Images; Marvel/Disney

Howerton, who is best known for his role as Dennis Reynolds on the longest-running sitcom of all time, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," was almost part of the MCU, but he was beat out by Chris Pratt.

During an Instagram Q&A, director James Gunn was asked who else auditioned for the role of Peter Quill/Star Lord.

Gunn responded, "I would never share who auditioned & didn't get the role unless they shared it first — many people know [Howerton] auditioned & was my 2nd choice for the role."


Jim Sturgess had a costume fitting for Quill.

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Jim Sturgess and Pratt.Kevin Winter/Getty Images for HFPA; Disney/Marvel

"I got way further than I'd ever imagined I possibly could," Sturgess told MTV in 2013. "As you get further and further down the line, you start caring about it more and more. The competitiveness in you starts kicking in. But I was amazed I'd gotten as far down the line as I did."

The "Across the Universe" star even added that he got far enough to do a costume fitting. "You should have told me! I would have been crunching in the dressing room," he joked.

Patrick Wilson was cast in an undisclosed role in "Ant-Man," but he left the film when the director changed from Edgar Wright to Peyton Reed.

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Patrick Wilson.Amanda Edwards/WireImage/Getty Images

When Wilson was originally cast, Marvel did not confirm who he was playing, leading to theories like a young Hank Pym, Eric O'Grady (another Ant-Man), or Yellowjacket — who was eventually the film's villain played by Corey Stoll.

However, when Wright left the project due to creative differences, Wilson, Matt Gerald (who eventually appeared in "Daredevil"), and Kevin Weisman (who would star in "Marvel's Runaways") also left the project. It was speculated that it was due to loyalty to Wright, but Wilson's official reason was scheduling conflicts, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Asa Butterfield was one of the final contenders for Peter Parker in "Captain America: Civil War."

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Asa Butterfield and Tom Holland, the third actor in 14 years to play Peter Parker.Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images; Marvel/Disney

At one point, Butterfield was the frontrunner to take over as Peter Parker, but the role eventually went to Tom Holland. In 2020, Butterfield spoke to Collider about the audition process, and how he's learned to get over the pain of losing out on amazing roles.

"Every so often there's a part [that you really want] and it's a script you love, and you kind of put your heart and soul into it, and you don't get it," he said. "And it is tough and it is shit, but I often find that something even better comes out of it at the end. And so in the case of 'Spider-Man,' I did '[Sex Education]', because I wouldn't have been able to do both of those at the same time."

Joaquin Phoenix was almost cast as Stephen Strange when it was believed Benedict Cumberbatch was too busy for "Doctor Strange."

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Joaquin Phoenix, who would go on to win an Oscar for "Joker" and Benedict Cumberbatch.Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty Images; Marvel/Disney

"I think they make some great, fun movies. There's nothing wrong ... I'm not a fucking, like, cinephile. I'm not a snob," Phoenix said in 2018 about Marvel. "I enjoy those movies sometimes, and I think they keep the fucking industry going in some ways, so I don't have a problem with it at all," he added.

Clearly not — he'd go on to play the Joker in "Joker," and even win an Oscar for his troubles.

On Cumberbatch winning out as Strange, he said, "I think that everybody was, is ... I'm trying to figure out how to say this most diplomatically, okay ... I think everybody was really happy with how things turned out. All parties were satisfied."

Another Joker, Jared Leto, was also in the running to play the Sorcerer Supreme.

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Jared Leto and Cumberbatch.Jason Merritt/Getty Images; Marvel/Disney

Leto reportedly met with Marvel to play Strange after it became clear that Cumberbatch would be unable to make his schedule work, even though he was Marvel's No. 1 choice for the film.

But instead of choosing someone else, the studio instead pushed filming back to accommodate Cumberbatch. And, as we all know, Leto was cast the Joker in "Suicide Squad," and then as Morbius, the vampire, in the upcoming Sony Marvel-adjacent universe.

Before his death in 2016, David Bowie was in talks to be one of Yondu's original crew members in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."

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David Bowie.Evan Agostini/Getty Images

After Bowie's death in January 2016, director James Gunn revealed he and Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige had discussed Bowie having a part in the "Guardians" sequel after the rock star's song "Moonage Daydream" was used in the first film.

"Just a very short while ago Kevin Feige and I were talking about a cameo role in 'Guardians Vol. 2,' and he brought up Bowie's name," Gunn wrote on Facebook in 2016. "I told him nothing in the world would make me happier, but I heard from common friends he wasn't doing well."

A few years later, Gunn revealed the part he had in mind for Ziggy Stardust was a member of Yondu's original crew.

Matthew McConaughey was almost Ego, the villain of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," but passed.

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Matthew McConaughey and Kurt Russell, the eventual Ego, the Living Planet.Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/Getty Images; Marvel/Disney

McConaughey shared in a 2017 interview with Playboy that it came down to choosing between the MCU film and "The Dark Tower," based on the Stephen King series (a flop).

"I like 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' but what I saw was 'It's successful, and now we've got room to make a colorful part for another big-name actor.' I'd feel like an amendment. 'The Dark Tower' script was well-written, I like the director and his take on it, and I can be the creator, the author of the Man in Black — aka the Devil — in my version of this Stephen King novel," he said.

Instead, the role was played by Kurt Russell — and when his son, Wyatt, joined the cast of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" as John Walker (or US Agent), they became the first father-son duo in the MCU.

Amandla Stenberg stepped away from the audition process for "Black Panther" because she thought Shuri should be played by a dark-skinned actress.

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Amandla Stenberg and Letitia Wright, who plays Shuri in the MCU.Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images; Marvel/Disney

Stenberg revealed in a 2018 interview with Variety that she auditioned for the role of T'Challa's tech prodigy little sister Shuri, but took herself out of the running. Letitia Wright won the part instead.

"That was not a space that I should have taken up," Stenberg said. "And it was so exhilarating to see it fulfilled by people who should have been a part of it and who deserved it and who were right for it. I just wasn't."

At a Toronto festival in 2018, she added, "One of the most challenging things for me to do was to walk away from 'Black Panther.' I got really, really close and they were like, 'Do you want to continue fighting for this?' And I was like, this isn't right."

She continued, "These are all dark skin actors playing Africans and I feel like it would have just been off to see me as a biracial American with a Nigerian accent just pretending that I'm the same color as everyone else in the movie."

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was almost cast as M'Baku in "Black Panther."

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Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Winston Duke, who became a breakout star from "Black Panther."Rich Fury/Getty Images; Marvel/Disney

Abdul-Mateen II is yet another star who missed out on a Marvel film, only to end up in the DC universe soon after — he plays Black Manta in the "Aquaman" films. When Duke was announced as M'Baku (also called Man-Ape in the comics), Variety added in 2016 that Abdul-Mateen II had been in the running for M'Baku, as well.

Keanu Reeves was reportedly close to getting cast as Yon-Rogg in "Captain Marvel," instead of Jude Law.

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Keanu Reeves and Jude Law as Yon-Rogg in "Captain Marvel."Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images; Marvel/Disney

Reeves is rumored to have been close to getting many MCU roles — Kevin Feige even admitted to ComicBook.com in 2019 that the studio speaks to Reeves about "almost every film we make."

He added, "I don't know when, if, or ever he'll join the MCU, but we very much want to figure out the right way to do it."

Murphy's Multiverse founder Charles Murphy tweeted in 2019 that, if not for "John Wick 3," Reeves would've been in "Captain Marvel": "He was set to take the role and then, when he had to drop out, they moved SUPER QUICK on Jude Law," he wrote.

Maria Rambeau was originally supposed to be played by DeWanda Wise in "Captain Marvel," but she was forced to drop out.

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DeWanda Wise was replaced by Lashana Lynch in "Captain Marvel."Emma McIntyre/Getty Images; Marvel/Disney

Wise exited the film in 2018 due to her commitments on the Netflix series "She's Gotta Have It," based on the Spike Lee film of the same name, the Hollywood Reporter confirmed in 2018. Just a few days later, it was announced that Lashana Lynch would be taking over as Carol's best friend and fellow pilot, Maria.

Katherine Langford filmed a scene as the older version of Morgan Stark in "Avengers: Endgame," but she was cut.

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Langford in "Avengers: Endgame."Disney

Langford, best known as the lead of the first few seasons of "13 Reasons Why," was announced as part of the cast of "Endgame" in October 2018 in a secret role. But, when the film was released in April 2019, Langford was nowhere to be found in the three-hour film. So who did she play?

Months later, it was revealed that Langford had been cast as an older version of Morgan Stark, Tony and Pepper's daughter. In the scene, Tony encounters her after he snaps his fingers, much like the scene in "Infinity War," when we see Thanos with a young version of his daughter, Gamora. Sound confusing? The Russo brothers agreed, which is why they cut the scene, and therefore Langford, out of the film.

For her part, Langford handled it with grace.

"At the end of the day, I'd rather have had the experience of being in a really good film than be in a film for the sake of being in it if it doesn't work. You don't want to be in something and then be the sore thumb that sticks out," she told Collider in 2020.


Saoirse Ronan was reportedly in the running to play another Black Widow, Yelena Belova, instead of her "Little Women" co-star Florence Pugh.

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Ronan and Pugh, who made her MCU debut in "Black Widow."Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images; Disney

Pugh was officially cast in March 2019, though reportedly Marvel had been eyeing her for the part of Yelena, a fellow assassin and "sister" of Natasha Romanoff for months.

Deadline senior reporter Justin Kroll tweeted, upon Pugh's casting, that "Marvel has been high on Florence since December for the part but did open it up at the top of the year with other actresses meeting ([Ronan] also in the mix) but in the end she wins the coveted role."

"Game of Thrones" star Lena Headey was cut from the final version of "Thor: Love and Thunder."

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Lena Headey.Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

It's unknown what role Headey was cast as in "Thor: Love and Thunder," but we do know that her scenes were cut, and that her former agency is suing her for $1.5 million over alleged unpaid comission fees, Variety reported.

There are a few theories as to who Headey would've played, from a fellow Valkyrie to one of Thor's most famous villains, Enchantress. But, until director Taika Waititi spills the beans, we won't know for sure.

Read the original article on Insider