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For years, it seemed like a dream that would never come true, that Marvel would be able to include its biggest properties in the MCU. The idea of Mutants facing off with Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man, or Doctor Doom battling The Avengers AND The Fantastic Four is now, with the acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney, a VERY real possibility.
It also creates a massive dilemma for Marvel Studios as to HOW they incorporate these characters. Do they use existing actors, who have popularity but may come with potentially prohibitive high salaries such as Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and even Hugh Jackman? Do they go for ANOTHER reboot of the Fantastic Four? or retool an earlier incarnation? or maybe they start with the villains and take their time to bring in the other marquee names?
Here are 10 people that I feel Marvel should SERIOUSLY be looking at and the roles they could play in the MCU. Some may be new, some a cheeky steal from DC, and maybe a few familiar faces returning to the MCU as a new character — if Alfre Woodard can play two roles, then anyone can!
1: Patrick Wilson as Reed Richards
Mr. Fantastic is a pivotal role to get right in any crossover. The MCU is currently awash with genius types, from Tony Stark and Bruce Banner to Hank Pym and of course Peter Parker, so there may need to be a "thinning" of the herd, and with rumors of The Hulk's demise and Michael Douglas' age, two could be going relatively soon.
Reed Richards is someone who needs to be the opposite of Tony Stark, yet not as reticent to help the public as Hank Pym or Bruce Banner. He needs to have charisma to handle being a celebrity but also a serious side and Patrick Wilson is just the actor to pull that off.
His role in The Conjuring movies as Ed Warren show this off splendidly and he can be charming, funny and dead serious as the situation demands.
Wilson can do the fun stuff when it's needed, yet when the story demands Richards to be a harder man, such as the Illuminati story-line; he can access that darker side.
Physically, Wilson is the right age to play Reed Richards and a close match facially to the comic depiction. It is easy to buy Wilson being married to a younger Sue Storm and it not be weird.
He also plays the (albeit dysfunctional) family man very well, with Insidious, The Conjuring and Little Children all showing that side.
The sticking point, is he is currently part of the DCEU, cast as Ocean Master in Aquaman. However, with the future of DC's movies being somewhat up in the air, it would be difficult for him to turn down the offer if Marvel should come calling, and even harder for DC to justify holding him to a deal when they themselves cannot commit to a long term future for his character there.
2: Gerard Butler as Ben Grimm/The Thing
If Patrick Wilson is going to be Reed Richards, then Ben Grimm needs to be someone convincing as his best friend/bodyguard. The Thing has the potential to be the breakout character for the new acquisitions and Marvel has a penchant for casting big names in voice roles and avoiding origin stories where they can.
Whether we ever see Butler as Grimm himself is dependent on how they introduce the Fantastic Four. One popular theory has them already part of the MCU in an earlier time, perhaps the 60s or 70s, and they simply disappeared, erased from history or debunked as a hoax by HYDRA as part of their S.H.I.E.L.D. takeover. This would mean we meet Ben Grimm as The Thing already and may prevent Butler from playing the human version... should they decide to do an origin, however, he is more than capable of playing Ben. Age wise, he and Wilson are a good match, with Grimm being the "big brother" type to Richards.
Like Vin Diesel as Groot or Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Butler's voice lends itself to the role. While it's not strictly a Brooklyn drawl, it's very easy to imagine Butler's yell of "It's CLOBBERING TIME..." getting fans excited and from a mo-cap perspective, he could certainly handle the physical requirements.
Also important from the Disney perspective is that Butler is not going to be as expensive as many other talents, yet can interest casual fans alongside die hard Fantastic Four aficionados, something important after two failed attempts.
I did seriously consider bringing back Ioan Gruffud, who has aged well into what Reed Richards SHOULD be. His recent work in Liar for ITV in the U.K. shows he could also be a darker version of the character but it also means bringing Jessica Alba back and I can't see that working, however harsh that is on Ioan and Michael Chiklis. The Chris Evans thing is easy to explain, though, if they did come back. Just say how recast Johnny always thought he looked like Cap, only for Rogers to "not see it"... job done.
3: Mads Mikkelsen as Victor Von Doom/Doctor Doom
Yes, I know... he was Kycellius already in Doctor Strange, but that alone should not prevent this near perfect casting. There is even a "story out" they can use if they need to, but more on that later.
Why is Mikkelsen perfect for Doom? His role in Hannibal showed that he can play the sophisticated but crazed villain with ease. While previous incarnations have had Americanized versions of the character, Marvel's most effective villains have been played by actors close to the character in terms of origin. Daniel Bruhl as Zemo, for example, or Toby Jones as Arnim Zola, worked extremely well. Mikkelsen's heritage and accent allows for a convincing take on the ruler of Latveria who could be both a charmer AND an tyrant; throw in Lucia Von Bardas as a consort and you have a villain that could run for a whole phase or more.
That storyline? What if the man we (and Dr. Strange) know as Kycellius was originally called Victor Von Doom? After the inevitable rewriting of history post-Infinity War, his life is different, he left the Ancient Once he had learned what he wanted and used it to take take over his country of Sokovia, giving it back it's feudal name of Latveria!
4: Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool
This is the biggest no-brainer other than bringing back Hugh Jackman, which sadly just isn't going to happen. Deadpool is the one character who can crossover as is and it work due to his self-aware nature. Cue endless jokes about how he now gets more X-Men AND Avengers and a talking mouse to play with as this studio spends the money, etc.
Deadpool is a character that can be used, but needs to be used sparingly at least in the beginning. As funny as Reynolds is, it could be seen that Disney is "mocking" the older movies if they use too much of his self referential humor out of the gate in the MCU.
Give him the first post credits after the deal and go from there, Reynolds face alone will make that work, even if they don't want to have him costumed. With movies like Thor: Ragnarok being so well received, there is scope for Deadpool's comedy... not as sure his bodycount will be permitted, but if it's going to be there, Reynolds has to be there... at any cost.
5: Mark Strong as Charles Xavier
Replacing the X-Men's leader is a touchy subject, as you would be, in fact, replacing 2 beloved actors in the role rather than one. Patrick Stewart's age prevents him from taking the role on further and as good as James McAvoy has been at times, he was always playing Young Stewart... if you are changing even one X-Man, you need to change them all.
Mark Strong is the closest actor out there to being Charles Xavier, both physically and in demeanor. Not only can I see Strong as Professor X, but I can see him doing the role for 20 years in the MCU.
Perhaps most important reason to cast Strong is that he has already worked with and shown strong chemistry with several top stars of the MCU including Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes, Chris Evans in Sunshine, William Hurt in Robin Hood, and Benedict Cumberbatch in the Intimidation Game. How Xavier works with the existing MCU characters will be a crucial factor in the success so casting someone those actors know and respect will be a good step in the right direction.
6: Taron Egerton as Cyclops
While to some the idea of reuniting Mark Strong and Egerton in another "teacher-student" role may be a bit much, it is hard to look past Taron when casting Scott Summers. He has unmistakable chemistry with Mark Strong, yet would work as Cyclops if another actor was cast. He can handle the physicality the role requires and has a charisma that will work with his eyes hidden nearly all the time.
It will also be interesting to see him play a "straitlaced" character like Scott, after his comedic antics as Eggsy. If they decided to keep Channing Tatum as Gambit, too, then his briefly-shown chemistry with Taron in Kingsman: The Golden Circle will be useful too.
7: Emma Stone as Jean Grey
If you're recasting X-Men, eventually you need to throw in a "big name," and with Jean Grey being the strongest female among the new characters (sorry Sue Storm and, erm, Storm), it makes sense to go for the strongest actress possible. Emma Stone is no stranger to the genre, having played Gwen Stacey, but has the right mix of vulnerability, intelligence, and, yes, beauty to make Jean Grey the alpha female of the MCU, rivaling only Brie Larson's Captain Marvel.
It's also easy to see her working with almost any actor chosen to play Cyclops, her romantic interest. Taron Egerton is just a year younger, which fits the comic somewhat and the two would make a cute onscreen couple for sure.
With Stone, the important thing is her acting ability, which will be crucial as she heads more towards the inevitable MCU retelling of Dark Phoenix... we can wait for that, though; right now we just need a GREAT actress in that role—sorry Sophie, you're just not Jean Grey!
8: Joel Edgerton as Wolverine
Wolverine is going be the single most important casting of the MCU. It's the character that not only defined the Fox iteration but a whole generation's perception of the character. Anyone born after 2000 knows Jackman as Logan first and foremost, even ahead of his comic origins, so replacing this is going to be tricky. Kids whose introduction to Marvel was via Jackman will now be starting to bring their own kids; it simply has to be gotten right.
Joel Edgerton is an A-grade supporting actor, in the mold of Jackman when he took the role in 2000. Joel hasn't got the demands of a major star, yet the potential to really break out in the right role, as Jackman and Chris Evans did.
Perhaps most importantly has experience in both physical roles (Warrior) and working under a mask/prosthetics (Bright) effectively. This version of Wolverine MUST have the mask, the costume, everything to differentiate and that means you need a quality actor rather than a big star under that mask.
While he is not quite the short stature of the comic, Edgerton is stocky enough to pull off the illusion of Wolverine's appearance, he can do the gruff demeanor, and most importantly, FIGHT. As shown in Warrior, he is an effective stunt fighter, something that will also be very important when creating a new version of Wolverine. Fans will spot a stuntman in the mask a mile away, whoever gets the role, is going to have to knuckle down and do some work.
Perhaps the biggest reason to cast Edgerton is that he has played some oddball/sinister characters over the years, notably in his own directed movie, The Gift. Jackman was able to bring sympathy to the amnesiac Weapon X, but Edgerton could bring a more psychotic/darker take on the character befitting the MCU and could potentially even direct a movie down the line. He's like Ed Norton but without the scriptwriting demands.
9: Jason Isaacs as Magneto/Eric Lensherr
Magneto is perhaps, with the exception of Doom, the character many fans are looking forward to seeing most in the MCU. Finally some "proper" villains for our beloved heroes to face, and Magneto has perhaps the best opportunity to cross over into the MCU "as is" without any timey-wimey stuff.
We already have Wanda and the deceased Pietro in the MCU; it's not a stretch to imagine a movie where Magneto arrives, tells Wanda of her true heritage and tries to convince her to use her power for the good of her kind, creating a sort of House of MCU, where Pietro is alive, Magneto is a more established villain and the X-Men are front and center.
Even without any manipulation, Magneto as a threat is someone that cuts right across the current MCU characters, after all, he could render most Stark tech useless and even Cap's Shield, forcing them to seek alternative ways to fight him.
Why then Jason Isaacs rather than the obvious choices like Gary Oldman or Jeremy Irons (who would also make a great Doom) for the role of Erik?
Jason has the right mix of charisma and edge to him that means people would not only buy into him as a leader, but as a friend and an enemy. While he is best known for his turn as Lucius Malfoy, arguably it is in his current role on Star Trek: Discovery where we see the flashes of a great Magneto. Captain Lorca commands total respect yet is dismissive of the societal norms of Starfleet, he will do anything to win. All traits that Magneto has to an amplified degree.
It is also easy to imagine Jason teaming up with someone like Mark Strong as Xavier and their struggle/friendship being believable but also having an effect on current MCU characters. Imagine Jason telling Elizabeth Olsen he is her true father or RDJ's face as Magneto is crushing his suit around him...
The sticking point will of course be his contract to Star Trek, but let's face it, if Disney can buy the whole studio to get the character, then buying an actor out of a TV deal isn't going to be a problem for them if they really have to.
10: Hugh Jackman As...
OK, this one is a little bit of a cheat, as it's not strictly a newly acquired character; yet it is from what I can see the perfect way to acknowledge Hugh and his contribution to Marvel as a whole, yet allow the X-franchise to go its own way.
Hugh should play the late Ben Parker!
It's easy to see Jackman married to Marisa Tomei's Aunt May and a brief flashback, either showing Ben's death or some earlier incident in Peter's life would fill in that "blank" we have yet to see and give the fans a "holy s***" moment.
Hugh is no stranger to the short cameo, and doing similar as a different character for the MCU makes sense. It takes the pressure away and lets him get his moment in the MCU as a crucial character.
I can't see Sony complaining about it, and from Marvel's perspective it's a no-brainer to associate Jackman with a new MCU character.