The Internet has been blowing up since the announcement that comedian Kristen Wiig has been cast as Cheetah in Wonder Woman 2. Whether you think that Wiig will succeed in the role or not, it came as a surprise to almost everyone. As such, it seemed pertinent to take a walk down memory lane and look at ten controversial superhero castings.
#10: Christopher Reeve as Superman
If every superhero movie actor occupied part of a family tree, Christopher Reeve would be the patriarch at the top. He pioneered the modern superhero blockbuster with his dual role as the sensitive Clark Kent and the Invincible Superman. With only one acting credit to his name prior to donning the most iconic tights in comic book history, it was a great surprise when the skinny Reeve was cast as the Man of Steel. Not only is he first on this list, but he’s also the first of our controversial superhero castings chronologically. His casting helped lead Superman into a four-film series and to pave the way for decades of superhero cinema beyond.
#9: Henry Cavill as Superman
Speaking of the Man of Steel…
Henry Cavill was also an unknown before becoming one of the most controversial superhero castings. With only one major box office movie under his belt, many people were baffled that an unknown such as Cavill would take the reins. Not to mention the fact that Cavill is British, and Superman is very uniquely American. This casting caused uproar across both sides of the pond. Thankfully, Cavill has proven to be one of the few bright spots amidst the bleak DCEU.
#8: Ben Affleck as Batman
And speaking of the DCEU, DC Comics seems to have a track record with controversial superhero castings. Ben Affleck first entered the superhero scene as the titular character in 2004’s Daredevil. This movie is notoriously bad, and in conjunction with Gigli, helped to tank Affleck’s career for several years. His eventual casting in Batman V Superman caused the internet to explode in a fury of insults as they suffered from the post traumatic stress of Affleck’s role as the Man without Fear. However, Affleck is one of the few redeeming qualities of the also notoriously bad, Batman V Superman.
#7: Shaq as Steel
Famous basketball players have a history of trying their hands at acting as their career on the court enters its final minutes. Following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan’s success in Space Jam, and preceding Kobe Bryant’s Oscar win, was Shaquille O’ Neal. The film was a box office bomb, and coupling with the failure of Batman and Robin, spelled the apparent doom for superhero films. Shaq was also panned for his cheesy acting, ending his days as a blockbuster lead.
The film is so forgettable that I accidentally left Shaq off of the first draft of this list because I forgot that this role ever existed.
#6: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
Wolverine was actually the second actor cast to play Canada’s angriest mutant, and he wasn’t cast until the film had already been shooting for several weeks. Jackman had already had a reputable career on the stage, but he was relatively unknown to the screen prior to donning the claws. Jackman also happens to stand at an intimidating 6′ 2″, where as Wolverine is comically known for his short stature of 5′ 3″. This controversial superhero casting caused more fan backlash than most on this list. However, Jackman’s 17 year tenure as the character seems to have changed most of the fans’ minds.
#5: Mickey Rourke as Whiplash
Mickey Rourke is perhaps the oddest of casting choices on this list. He’s had a solid career as a B-list actor in the 80’s and 90’s, followed by a peak resurgence in 2010. Why was Mickey Rourke so popular in 2010? 2008’s The Wrestler might have something to do with it, no one knows for sure. But, he did manage to land lead roles in both Iron Man 2 and The Expendables. Rourke acts as one of the most significant flaws in an already flawed film. If only the focus of the film was Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer instead…
#4: Michael Keaton as Batman
Batman (1989) revamped the superhero genre with Tim Burton’s gothic take on the Dark Knight. Burton’s signature style and Batman’s comic book nature were what led fans to question the casting of Mr. Mom. Keaton was primarily known for his comedic roles up until that point, and many people questioned his ability to play such an icon figure as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Today, however, Keaton is often regarded as one of (if not the) best actors to have played Batman.
#3: Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man
A skinny 27-year-old vegetarian does not sound like the description you’d expect to hear about the casting of Spider-Man. The famous wall crawler is well-known for being a high school student, not a fully grown adult. Maguire’s casting was controversial and came at a time when the fate of superhero movies was bleak and laden with failed franchises. Never the less, 2002’s Spider-Man revamped the genre and paved the way for the eventual dominance of Marvel movies. Many, like myself, still hold Maguire as the pinnacle of cinematic Spider-Men.
#2: Heath Ledger as the Joker
Heath Ledger is a modern-day icon due to his reinvention of the Joker. However, he was really only known for romance before being cast as the Clown Prince of Crime. That guy from Brokeback Mountain didn’t exactly reassure fans of the Dark Knight Trilogy‘s potential. Ledger’s performance helped cement The Dark Knight and the character as one of the greatest adaptations of all-time.
#1: Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr. peaked in the mid-90’s, or so everyone thought until 2008’s Iron Man. Studios and audiences didn’t want much to do with the rehabilitated nineties heartthrob, but Jon Favreau did. After fighting with studio execs with months, Favreau managed to cast Downey in the lead role. This casting helped launch the box office monster known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. RDJ tops this list of controversial superhero castings because nobody expected his role as a B-List hero to be the box office giant it is today.
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