Avengers stans know the end is near, which means it's time to go back to the beginning. The very beginning.
In honor of the highly anticipated film, Avengers: Endgame, Marvel fans are reminiscing over just how much our heroes have grown since their first appearances on-screen. But we want to take you back even further that that — to the casting decisions.
We've come to know and love characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so deeply that they feel almost irreplaceable. Chris Evans is Captain America, Chris Hemsworth perfectly embodies Thor, and Scarlett Johansson brings Black Widow to life. But the MCU group could have looked totally different today if casting directors had decided to go with some of the other talented actors who were up for the roles.
Here's a wild glimpse at what our Marvel Cinematic Universe could have looked like, had 12 crucial casting choices been different.
John Krasinski as Captain America / Steve Rogers
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Since the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger, the adorably charming Chris Evans and his beard have truly mastered the role of Cap. But the patriotic, shield-wielding hero could have been played by my ultimate crush, John Krasinski.
In 2016, The Office star told Conan O'Brien he auditioned to play Steve Rogers back in the day. He even tried on the freaking suit, but ultimately took himself out of the running after seeing a jacked Chris Hemsworth walk by and losing confidence. Since 2011, Krasinski's bulked up for roles in 13 Hours and Jack Ryan. He also grew a great beard, so we have no doubt he could have played a buff, bearded, and perhaps funnier, MCU hero.
Other rumored names considered for Cap include Friday Night Lights star Scott Porter, Gossip Girl's Chace Crawford, Magic Mike's Channing Tatum, Garrett Hedlund, Michael Cassidy, and Wilson Bethel. Even Sebastian Stan, who was eventually cast as Bucky Barnes, tried out for the part.
Tom Hiddleston as Thor
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Karwai Tang/WireImage
Chris Hemsworth has a build, a voice, and a gorgeous head of hair that all scream "Thor." And yet, some other people still had the audacity to try out for the role.
One of the most surprising was Tom Hiddleston, who I simply can't picture as our king of Asgard and God of Thunder. Hiddleston was instead cast as Thor's brother, Loki, which suits him marvelously. But let us take a moment to imagine what he would have looked like as the mighty hero.
Other actors almost worthy of holding Thor's hammer were Alexander Skarsgård, Charlie Hunnam, and Joel Kinnaman. Not to mention, Hemsworth's very own brother, Liam, auditioned to play Thor, which, I will admit would have been pretty interesting.
Emily Blunt as Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Steve Granitz/WireImage
Scarlett Johansson plays the character Natasha Romanoff remarkably, but it turns out Emily Blunt was the original choice for the role of Black Widow in Iron Man 2.
Sadly, Blunt was under a contractual obligation with 20th Century Fox to star in the movie Gulliver’s Travels, so she couldn't sign on to the Marvel film at the time. And though Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Eliza Dushku also showed a serious interest in the part, Johansson ultimately stepped in.
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Noam Galai/WireImage
Rather than starring alongside each other in Marvel films, Blunt and Krasinski went on to co-star in Krasinski's hit horror film, A Quiet Place, so everything worked out. Even so, our trusty Senior Illustrator, Bob, created this couple composite to emotionally torture me and also give you all a look at what could have been.
David Duchovny as Hulk / Bruce Banner
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic
Fans may recall Edward Norton played Bruce Banner in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk, but he wasn't Marvel's final pick for the Avengers films. A lot of drama surrounding Norton's relationship with Incredible Hulk director Louis Leterrier and his negotiations with Marvel were reported, but Mark Ruffalo was ultimately signed.
Since we already know what Norton looks like as The Hulk, we decided to Photoshop David Duchovny, who was also rumored for the role at one point in time.
Timothée Chalamet as Spider-Man / Peter Parker
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images for Turner
Forget Tobey Maguire, Tom Holland is our Spider-Man now and we adore him. But Spider-Man also could have been played by Call Me By Your Name cutie Timothée Chalamet, who auditioned for the part along with others like Josh Hutcherson, Nat Wolff, Liam James, and Asa Butterfield.
My initial thought was that Chalamet wouldn't be dorky enough to play Spider-Man, but now WHO KNOWS, because he really pulls off the suit.
Zachary Levi as Star-Lord / Peter Quill
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Victor Chavez/Getty Images
We know Chris Pratt completes the MCU Chris Trinity as Star-Lord, but Chuck and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star Zachary Levi was interested in the role back in the day, and honestly? He might've been great.
Actors like Jim Sturgess, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lee Pace, Joel Edgerton, Jack Huston, and even Eddie Redmayne were also associated with the role early on, but Pratt joined the Guardians of the Galaxy family, while Levi went on to star in Shazam! and play Fandral in Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok.
Olivia Wilde as Gamora
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
We all know Gamora as the brilliant Zoe Saldana, who memorably stood up to her adopted father, Thanos, in Avengers: Infinity War. However, the green Guardians of the Galaxy character was reportedly offered to House star Olivia Wilde.
Nicolas Cage as Iron Man / Tony Stark
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
Since Robert Downey Jr. played Tony Stark in the 2008 film Iron Man, we couldn't envision anyone else in the maroon and gold suit. Perhaps least of all, Nicolas Cage. And yet, he was one of the names rumored to be in the running.
Sam Rockwell and Tom Cruise were also on the list, but, I mean, we really had no choice but to Photoshop Cage.
Saoirse Ronan as Scarlet Witch / Wanda Maximoff
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty
If Elizabeth Olsen hadn't been cast as Scarlet Witch we might have seen Lady Bird star Saoirse Ronan join the MCU family... maybe.
Rumor has it that Joss Whedon had Ronan in mind when scripting Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the young star appeared to show interest in a role, saying, "I love Joss and I love those films, and I love his handle on them and how he portrayed these kinds of superheroes. So yeah, I’d love to be in it."
Later, Ronan reportedly passed on the film, which is when Marvel decided to cast Olsen.
Morris Chestnut as Black Panther / T'Challa
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Paras Griffin/Getty Images
Chadwick Boseman absolutely slayed as T'Challa in Marvel's hit film Black Panther, and we can imagine no one better suited to rule as king of Wakanda. But in the name of Photoshop, here is Black Panther reimagined as Morris Chestnut, since he was among the names associated with the role.
Josh Hartnett as Loki
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Charley Gallay/Getty Images
Tom Hiddleston, who thankfully was not cast as Thor, was cast as Loki. But if Hiddleston didn't snag the role, it seems Josh Hartnett could have stepped up and took the villain's greasy black wig for a spin. Hmm...
Joaquin Phoenix as Doctor Strange
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Isiah Trickey/FilmMagic
Benedict Cumberbatch has nailed the art of portraying strange on-screen, so it's no surprise he shines as Marvel's Doctor Strange. But the casting list for Stephen Strange was ridiculously stacked.
Joaquin Phoenix was one of the top contenders for the part, but explained in an interview with Little White Lies that he felt he made the right move in turning it down, explaining, "I think everybody was really happy with how things turned out. All parties were satisfied."
In addition to Phoenix, Jared Leto, Ewan McGregor, Oscar Isaac, Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, and Jake Gyllenhaal were also reportedly considered.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Ant Man / Scott Lang
Image: Mashable composite; Marvel Studios, Steve Granitz/WIreImage via Getty
Finally, there's Ant Man. We know the shrinking superhero as the ageless Paul Rudd, but word has it that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a front-runner for the part, too. If we're judging by our Photoshop, then JGL looks hilarious in the Ant Man suit. But who knows, maybe he could've been great.
It's fun to look back at this hilariously random group of superheroes who we could've been watching on the screen for the past decade, but really makes us appreciate the team of Avengers we ended up with.