In this day and age where superhero movies rule the box office roost, it seems that every actor is getting sucked in. What these films seem to do is hedge their bets with young thespians on the upswing, and older actors that lend the film some credibility. Some examples of this might be Marlon Brando in Superman, Robert Redford in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Anthony Hopkins in Thor. One might also make the case for Natalie Portman in the Thor films but that is another story...
However, there are some actors who cannot play ball. Actors who, by the very definition of the craft of acting, don't see a role like Iron Man as anything to get excited about. In fact, some years ago Movieweb interviewed Thomas Jane regarding the role of The Punisher. When asked if a role like that was something he coveted Jane replied, "It isn't Shakespeare." Yet, Jane was saying this after having already inhabited the role of Frank Castle.
Who is this rare breed that scoffs at playing a man dressed in tights or other corny costumes? In a business that predicates itself on the bottom line, why would an actor turn away from roles that almost guarantee box office success? (Or, at the very least, years of ancillary money from fans who want pictures, autographs, etc.) In such a dog eat dog game, you'd have to really establish yourself as a viable commodity before you'd be so choosey, right?
The answer lies somewhere in the middle. Some of the actors on this list are established with billions at the box office to their name. Others are less bankable yet have steered clear (and forged careers) as serious actors in Oscar bait-like projects. Quite simply, these actors can be choosey because their services are wanted elsewhere. Their very involvement with a film gets it green-lit.
All this said, it is pretty darn amazing that some of the biggest and best actors in the world have yet to be gobbled up by Marvel, DC and the comic book machines. In fact, it sort of seems inevitable that after you win an Oscar, or at least come within striking distance, you would allow yourself to sell out a little bit, right? Some have...Just not in the superhero universe. It is with this conundrum in mind that we present to you '9 Actors That Are Too Legit to be Superheroes.'
Okay, lets be clear, Tom Hanks wasn't always too legit to do a superhero movie. In 2016, he's not necessarily trying to play The Dark Knight, but in the Bachelor Party days, up until he did Philadelphia, there didn't seem to be a role that this actor wouldn't take. Like a lot of the actors on this list, he may not go the superhero route, but he's no stranger to films with a lot of zeros in their budgets. Forrest Gump, Toy Story and Saving Private Ryan are just a few that come to mind. At nearly 60 years of age this actor, if he were to eventually do a superhero film, would most certainly have to play an elder statesman of some sort. Something akin to what Russell Crowe did in Man of Steel. Perhaps that is what keeps Hanks from biting into the apple? By taking a role like that, he would be acknowledging father time. And for an actor, that just isn't good business.
Sean Penn might be the actor on this list that is the closest to taking the leap. That might seem far fetched, but when you look at his movie choices as of late, it seems like he might be willing to play some superhero ball. With movies like Tree of Life, Mystic River, 21 Grams, and The Falcon and the Snowman on his resume, Penn has had a career that is all his own. However, with The Gunman (from the director of Taken) and The Angry Birds Movie in 2015 and 2016, respectively, Penn appears to be opening up a bit. This is an actor that is tightly wound. At the same time, he has done shows like Friends and he does have a tie to skating/underground culture. Would it be so far fetched to have him play a titular role in a DC or Marvel film? If he was given room to spread his wings a bit and bring some of the Pennian (a made up word but just go with it) magic? If he could infuse some of his political bravado playing a bad, good (or both) guy? If this situation occurred, something tells us Penn would take it.
Apparently Joaquin Phoenix was very close to playing Doctor Strange at one point. Ultimately, through his meetings with Marvel, he fell away from it. He's said more than a few sentences about it, but they all boil down to the same thing: He didn't find the script interesting, nor did he think the process of being in one of these movies would be fulfilling. He also didn't want to sign for multiple movies. Phoenix hasn't completely shunned the studio process. He did Gladiator, almost won an Oscar for Walk The Line and he (literally) swung for the fences with Signs. So Phoenix does have it in him to play big budget ball, the question is, is there a superhero role that can take everything that makes him special as actor and put that on the big screen? So far the answer seems to be no.
Okay, you gotta give it to Daniel Day-Lewis, his presence in a superhero film would be even more odd than Edward Norton playing Hulk, or some of the other actors on this list. I guess, when pretty much everything you do brings some sort of best actor ovation, when you act in movies at your leisure (between making shoes in some cases), and when the very mention of your name screams Oscar Bait, you are simply too legit to do the superhero thing. There are probably a bevy of elder-statesmen-like roles he could play, Superman's Dad, Peter Parker's nemesis, etc., but after the career he's had (having?), it might be better just to leave things as they are.
Everybody loves Ryan Gosling, so it stands to reason that he should be a superhero, right? Hey, if Edward Norton can be the Hulk, why can't Gosling be Morbius? The simple reality is that it just doesn't seem like those roles interest Gosling. Sure, he hasn't just done indie fare, Gangster Squad, Crazy, Stupid, Love and the upcoming The Nice Guys are not cheap films. So why not find a superhero (in the way that Ryan Reynolds found Deadpool) that he could play? The thinking here is that the process by which superhero movies get made is nothing short of derivative. Each film seems to cost north of $100 million dollars or more. Quite simply, with that much shareholder coin at stake (lets not forget that the studios are publicly traded entities) there's just so much actor input they are going to want. For an actor like Gosling, it's probably easier and more fulfilling just staying away altogether.
Now this one might make the least amount of sense on this list. Matthew McConaughey, while a very strong and credible actor (I, for one, fully back the McConaissance), has seemingly never wanted to be anything less than a bonafide movie star. He is one. McConaughey has been one for as long as many teenagers can remember. So why not jump into this world? If he can do films like Failure to Launch and How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days, if he can make the U571's and the We Are Marshall's of the filmmaking world, why in the heck has he not been Batman? Why did he turn down a role in Guardians of the Galaxy 2? Perhaps after making films like Interstellar, Mud and his TV turn on True Detective, he really is bent on pushing this acting as art thing as far he can go. Make no mistake, acting is art, but art and commerce are never more closely linked than they are in the movies. Something tells us, he will do something superhero related in the next 5-10 years.
James Cameron, when he was going to make Spider-Man, wanted DiCaprio to play Peter Parker. He told Howard Stern that DiCaprio "had the moves." As we all know, that never happened. And that plum role went to Tobey Maguire. Then there's the role of Robin which, incidentally, DiCaprio looks like a genius for turning down. On the face of things, it stands to reason that if DiCaprio can handle roles in films like The Revenant, Inception, The Aviator, etc, he could surely pull off the role of Batman, The Joker, The Flash, or even Iron Man. The reality is that DiCaprio sees acting as a way to explore issues. Superhero movies, while layered with subtext, and, at their best, exploring plot lines from today's socio-political headlines, just don't go as deep as he probably would like them too. Filmmaking is tough work. He probably figures that if he's gonna go to the well of emotional depth every time, he'd really like to say something with his art. This is why we get The Blood Diamond and not Batman: Bad Blood.
He's been a superhero before, right? Well, only if you consider Tyler Durden from Fight Club, Frank Harris from Cool World, OR the Kick Ass films which Pitt helped produce. One of the most interesting things about Pitt is that for a movie star, he really hasn't been involved in too many big budget, spectacle movies. Sure, there's Troy, the Oceans Trilogy, and World War Z, but Pitt seems like a natural for a studio to tap for a superhero? Another aspect of this could be that Pitt is much better co-starring in movies than he is leading the show. I say this because if you look at his best movies, even when he was the star, he was always aided by a great supporting cast. Might it be that companies like Marvel and DC films know this? Sure, superhero movies feature ensembles, but most of them are already locked up with talent. Why would he want to subject himself to the dithering that comes with these multi-million, super heroic ventures?
Okay, lets get down to brass tacks. There's really no reason why Jonathan Depp hasn't done a superhero movie. Sure, you can say that he's this dedicated actor and this other sanctimonious mumbo jumbo, but when he's played the character of Jack Sparrow four times (and he's going in for a fifth!) that serious actor thing looks a little thin. Add to this that now he's sequelizing the Mad Hatter again and one wonders why he isn't playing The Joker in Suicide Squad? He could have easily been Doctor Strange, The Green Arrow...Heck, he might even make a great Batman. This is just conjecture, but Depp probably feels that he might get lost in the superhero machinery. In trying to reboot properties like The Lone Ranger, he is the show. It's a project that he is involved in from the beginning. With many movies of the superhero ilk already around or gestating, he might find it easy just to stay out of the game.
Alright, with multiple turns as Ethan Hunt in the Mission Impossible series, his stint in Edge of Tomorrow, and the Jack Reacher character based on the novels, this guy has basically done a superhero movie. At the same time, he's also been in such critically acclaimed films as A Few Good Men, Rain Man, Vanilla Sky, Tropic Thunder, et al. So...Is Tom Cruise too legit of an actor for a superhero movie? Heck no! Why hasn't he done one? Are they beneath him? Does what he believes religiously prevent such a role? At one point he came dangerously close to playing Iron Man. Apparently, the script at the time didn't pass muster and Cruise simply begged off. Whatever the reason, we'll just call this the Cruise conundrum, because he has shown the chops in all of his films to handle what a super role would require. At the same time, is Cruise too much of a thespian to make it work for him?
Opportunity more than anything else is probably what has kept this bonafide gem of an actor from entering the world of superheroes. Lets not forget Bryan Cranston wasn't always Walter White from Breaking Bad. Long before he played everybody's favorite school teacher turned meth dealer, he cut his teeth on such shows as Malcolm in the Middle, indies like Little Miss Sunshine and films like Amazon Women on the Moon. It is debatable that he is too legit to do a superhero flick. At 60 years of age he probably isn't going to be playing Spider-Man when it gets rebooted again. However, like other actors on this list, he can certainly play older roles. In fact, it might be really cool to see him play one of the iconic villains? Imagine him as a retooled Magneto? Lex Luthor? Or, Ra's al Ghul? Or, might he have no interest?
Are these actors truly too legit to play the superhero game? Or have they never been offered that perfect superhero role? Perhaps they have no business acting in the genre? They may all be better off staying with the films that have made them who they are. However you want to slice it, it doesn't appear that any of them are ready to pull on those spandex tights just yet. But who knows, history could tell a different story in less than a decade.