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Who is the most underrated hero of the MCU? No, I'm not talking, say, Moon Knight or Mantis. The correct answer to that question should be Sarah Halley Finn, Marvel Studios' expert casting director who's been with the franchise all along. Finn really should be recognized as the MCU's secret weapon as it's thanks to her never-ending procession of spot-on casting choices that Marvel has been able to continually and consistently put out hit after hit and supply many of the most beloved movie characters in modern film history.
However, although those perfectly cast actors might seem clearly the best choices for their characters in hindsight, finding the right person to play Earth's Mightiest Heroes has been a Herculean achievement every single time, with the MCU almost taking some very different turns on numerous occasions. As Finn revealed to Vanity Fair, there are many near-miss Marvel hero castings that came close to coming to pass. These days, it's fascinating to look back on them and, like the Watcher, ponder the question, "What if…?"
From Matthew McConaughey almost being Ego to Zooey Deschanel as Wasp, there are countless almost-Avengers, but if the following 10 were cast the MCU as we know it would not exist.
Tom Cruise as Iron Man
Let's begin with the most famous near-miss Marvel casting of them all. As you may have heard from the Marvel nerds in your life (and if you haven't, that means you are the Marvel nerd in your life), Tom Cruise was in the running to play Tony Stark before Robert Downey Jr. came aboard. The ramifications of this potential casting are obvious, so needless to say the MCU could've been completely different if it began with just another notch on Cruise's franchise-collecting belt. For one, it's hard to imagine Cruise sticking around for the entire Infinity Saga given all his other commitments.
John Krasinski as Captain America
Chris Evans was famously always Marvel's first choice for Captain America, even if he did turn them down three times. As they searched for a stand-in Steve Rogers, then, John Krasinski came very close to being our Star-Spangled Man with a Plan. In fact, he even did test screenings in costume, which is where he encountered a shirtless Chris Hemsworth at Marvel HQ — and realized there and then that maybe he wasn't quite the right guy to play a Marvel super-hunk. We'd be happy to have Krasinski as Reed Richards full-time, but he was right to pull himself out of the Cap race.
lexander Skarsgård as Thor
The final member of Marvel's Big Three also nearly had a different face. Daniel Craig was bizarrely the original choice to play Thor, but that was never going to happen given Craig's business with James Bond so that's hardly worth considering. Alexander Skarsgård, though, probably had a decent shot of landing the gig thanks to his fame level at the time and close resemblance to the character. But while he might've looked the part, it's hard to imagine Skarsgård being so adept at evolving Thor's character over the years as Hemsworth has been. Try and imagine the "Is he though?" meme but with Skarsgård. See, it's impossible.
Chadwick Boseman as Drax
Chadwick Boseman is and always will be our King T'Challa, so the recent revelation that he was in the running to play Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy is frankly mind-blowing. No doubt Boseman would've brought an unexpected gravity to the part of the Destroyer, but if that casting had gone ahead then we would never have had his immortal performance as Black Panther, which has already helped cement his status as one of the most beloved and much-missed superhero icons, up there with Christopher Reeve. Lupita Nyong'o as Gamora, though? Not actually a bad choice, although Zoe Saldaña was the way to go.
courtesy of wegotthiscovered.com
Karen Gillan as Sharon Carter
In a similar vein, it turns out Karen Gillan was close to landing the part of Sharon Carter in Captain America: The Winter Soldier before Nebula came her way. Gillan is such a huge asset to the MCU — she has to carry a lot of the emotional weight of Avengers: Endgame, for instance — that losing her as Nebula could've had severe consequences for the franchise at large. Given how we now know Sharon's character went nowhere much beyond kissing her uncle, casting Gillan as Agent 13 would've been a waste of her contribution to the MCU. Emily VanCamp deserves better herself as well.
Gal Gadot as Nebula
Wonder Woman as Nebula? Apparently, it almost happened. It's funny that, before she became DC's Diana Prince, Gadot kept going for villain henchwoman characters, like Faora-Ul in Man of Steel. Now we know her as the Princess of Themyscira, it's wild to think of Gadot being the one under that bald, blue makeup instead of Gillan, and again difficult to imagine her carrying the character through her transformative arc in the same way. Honestly, though, this near-miss casting would have impacted the DC universe even more than the Marvel one.
Eddie Redmayne as Star-Lord
Much like Gadot, we're not entirely sure how far along the road this potential casting went, but the notion of Eddie Redmayne as Star-Lord is even more eye-popping than Gadot as Nebula. Many of the other would-be Peter Quills are easy to imagine in the role — e.g. Zachary Levi, Glenn Howerton, Adam Brody, etc. — but Redmayne has such an entirely different energy from the character that Chris Pratt ultimately embodied that it boggles the mind how he found his way into the conversation. I mean, I guess if this had happened we might've been spared the Fantastic Beasts movies, but still.
Jared Leto as Doctor Strange
In a similar vein to the Chris Evans/Captain America story, Benedict Cumberbatch was Marvel's top choice as Doctor Strange but his busy schedule meant he initially had to turn down the role — until things changed and he was thankfully able to accept it. For a while there, though, Marvel came close to hiring a different Master of the Mystic Arts. Joaquin Phoenix almost got it, which would've been weird if interesting, but let's all be thankful that other contender Jared Leto was not cast. No offense, Leto, but you don't have the best track record with comic book films — see: Suicide Squad and Morbius. It's Strangin' Time, anyone?
sa Butterfield as Spider-Man
Tom Holland is Spider-Man. Whether you're a Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield loyalist, it has to be conceded that Holland just has something about him that feels like he's swung straight off the comic book page as Peter Parker. Therefore it really is inconceivable that Marvel just didn't hire him for the job as soon as they saw him. However, it's known that Sex Education star Asa Butterfield was neck-and-neck with Holland for the part at one point. Butterfield could be a great fit for, say, Harry Osborn, but as Peter? I don't see the vision. Even the actor himself has admitted Holland was the best man for the job.
Keanu Reeves as Yon-Rogg
This is actually one that could affect the future of the MCU more than its past. We know Kevin Feige has been keen to cast Keanu Reeves somewhere for years, and rumors indicate he was once due to play Captain Marvel villain Yon-Rogg before he stepped away and Jude Law took the part. Hiring Keanu as Carol Danvers' misogynist mentor would've been a massive waste of Reeves in the MCU, so it's a good thing this never happened. We should all be grateful we live in the timeline where Keanu can still play a new version of Ghost Rider.