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The most famous, infamous, and forgotten Marvel Studios casting choices that never happened, from Emily Blunt to Joaquin Phoenix

Imagine an MCU that robbed Atlantis of its king in an entirely different universe, because it could have happened

Marvel Castings That Never Were
Image credit: Marvel Studios/Photo edit: Popverse

If Marvel’s Multiverse Saga has demonstrated one thing, it’s that there are multiple different versions of the MCU out there, including ones where John Krasinski of all people is Reed Richards, and not Pedro Pascal. What kind of insanity is that? It’s almost as if Tobey Maguire was Spider-Man, or Andrew Garfield, or… Well, you get the picture.

This got us thinking, though; what about the alternate realities where the Marvel heroes we know weren’t played by the actors we’ve come to associate with them? After all, movie casting is a magic all of its own that involves scheduling, availability, and the right person to say yes at the right time… and there are more than a few stories of near-misses and almost-happeneds when it comes to Marvel Studios’ 16 years to date. With that in mind, let’s revisit some of the MCU heroes that weren’t, in three different roles: Famous, Infamous, and Forgotten.

This is the latest topic in Popverse's new weekly series Famous, Infamous, and Forgotten — a vigorous, opinionated, and intense look at one specific corner in the pop culture realm we inhabit to pick out the most famous version of it all, the most infamous version of it all, and the most forgotten version of it all.

Of course, which one is going to be the “oh, man, if only” of it all? That’s up to you. Keep reading and decide for yourself.

The famous Marvel casting that wasn’t: Emily Blunt as Black Widow

Sure, now it’s impossible to imagine anyone but Scarlett Johansson playing Natasha Romanoff, but she wasn’t the first choice for the role all the way back in 2010, when Iron Man 2 was being cast. Instead, Emily Blunt was originally meant to be playing the part, only to have to give it up when 20th Century Fox stepped in and reminded her she was contractually obligated to make a movie for them, instead. (Which movie? Jack Black comedy Gulliver’s Travels; yeah, nobody else remembers it either.)

“It was a bit of a heartbreaker for me because I take such pride in the decisions that I make, and they mean so much to me, the films that I do, so that was tough,” Blunt said in a 2023 interview, adding that Fox “kind of [had] a bit of a hold over [me]. There were other movies that I would want to do.”

The infamous Marvel casting that wasn’t: Jason Momoa as Drax the Destroyer

Picture a world where Dave Bautista didn’t provide the heart of the Guardians of the Galaxy, because he didn’t get to play Drax in the 2014 hit movie from director James Gunn. After all, it turns out that the role almost went to… DC’s Aquaman, Jason Momoa? Turns out, it’s true; Momoa even talked about

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Graeme McMillan

Graeme McMillan: Popverse Editor Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.

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