Friday, December 29, 2017

[Dream-] Casting the MCU X-Men and Fantastic Four (and Some Villains)

I am aware of and fully comprehend the apprehensions about Disney's acquisition of Fox, but I won't even pretend to be worried. All that matters to me right now is that the film rights to the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and their whole galaxy of villains (really, that's a HUGE part of why everyone should be excited about this) are back in the Marvel stable and in very capable hands (namely Kevin Feige's). We likely won't see them being integrated into the MCU Phases until late 2018 or 2019 because of the necessary deliberations on antitrust matters, but given the strong likelihood of a complete revamp of these properties with all roles being recast*, it's fun to think of who should be cast as our favorite Marvel characters when they finally join the Avengers, Guardians, and Spider-Man in the MCU films. It's very likely that none of these will actually pan out, and their actual casting has given me nothing to complain about so far (I won't lose sleep over Tony Revolori being cast as Flash Thompson, and that character that Ben Kingsley played in Iron Man 3 is NOT The Mandarin), but what the heck. Still, if the powers that be get to read this somehow...I'm glad to be of service.

*Note: I didn't include Deadpool here because 1) Ryan Reynolds IS Deadpool and 2) I have a strong feeling that Disney won't be recasting him (unless Reynolds himself backs out).


**It's perfectly possible that Disney will choose to cast young, with the X-Men starting off as students in Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, but I don't think they will and so I have dreamed up my cast accordingly.

Professor X

Patrick Stewart has been an EXCELLENT Charles Xavier regardless of the quality of the films that he's been in. He and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine are probably the only two actors that I wouldn't mind staying on in their roles. But I see Disney going for an actor who's just a bit younger but still has the gravitas and authority to capably pull off the role of world's strongest telepath and leader to all benevolent mutants. And of course, one who can rock the bald-headed look. Charles Xavier is actually not British (he was born in New York City), but he is Oxford-trained and in keeping with the logic of the Stewart casting, there's just something about the Brits in roles of intelligent authority. Of the British thespians in their 40s and 50s, Ralph Fiennes has the acting chops and the aura to play this powerful character not only in his moments of wise benevolence but also when his dark side (he certainly has one, and it sometimes even goes by the name Onslaught) takes a peek into the world that he holds dear.

Fun but very unlikely alternative: Imagine if Daniel Day-Lewis decided not to retire and signed a multi-picture deal to play ol' Chuck? One can dream.


I love Ian McKellen and think the world of him as an actor, but Magneto has always been portrayed as being physically intimidating and not as advanced in age. Magneto is one of the best (many say THE best) villains (or anti-heroes) in all of comics, and that's because of the strength of his convictions and the character's refusal to be simplistically labelled as evil. MCU's actor should be someone who's convincing as an embittered, hardlining activist who would not hesitate to use violence to further his cause for mutantkind but, given the right circumstances, may fight for good in the name of honor and justice. With his physical stature, acting skills, and charisma, it is not at all difficult to see Liam Neeson taking over the role of the master of magnetism. You can totally imagine him as leader of either the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants or the X-Men. And wouldn't it be nice to see him squaring off with Ralph Fiennes some 25 years after Schindler's List?


They've got to give Scott Summers the portrayal that he deserves. Sure, he's stubborn, myopic, and often too serious, but those are some of the characteristics that make him the strong and uncompromising X-Men leader that he has been for so long. Whoever they cast as Logan, their Scott has to be someone who can convincingly put him in his place while being a leader for mutantkind and keeping the X-Men together and the powerful Jean Grey by his side. It's about time that the MCU brought into their fold the only "Chris" who isn't yet. Effortlessly charming in the Star Trek and Wonder Woman movies but also showing his strength as an actor in films like Hell and High Water, Chris Pine would make an excellent Scott Summers. It wouldn't be hard to imagine him being followed by mutants in battle.

Jean Grey

In my opinion, Famke Janssen rocked it as Jean Grey because she has a strong onscreen presence, but a recast is certainly necessary at this point because of her resurrection in the comics, her being a historical fan favorite, and the Fox movies just not getting her right. Sure, they got her apprehensions about her power, but neither Janssen nor Sophie Turner could quite show us that, just like Scott, Jean is also a leader. And one of the most powerful mutants in the world, with or without the Phoenix force. Considering how Disney has been [reputedly] wanting to cast her in an MCU role for a long time, as have the fans, it would be easy to dismiss an Emily Blunt casting as pure pandering or lazy, uninspired casting. But if you stop to consider how awesome she is as an actress (her performance in 2016's The Girl on the Train was a tour de force and almost got her Oscar-nominated) and how fierce she is as an action heroine (Edge of Tomorrow, Sicario), she would be a spectacular get for Disney as the other half of this power couple.


Wealthy ladies' man Warren Worthington III has never been portrayed as such in the X-Men movies, but Disney will likely get that right. Whoever is cast as Angel has to be able to pull off the brashness of the privileged, the bright optimism of a winged hero who at one point called himself "The Avenging Angel," and, should the MCU go there (which they likely will, given how irresistible it would be to do Apocalypse the right way), the darkness of the transfigured Archangel. Suave and debonair at one moment and then raging and despairing at another, Sam Claflin showed in Me Before You that he has just the right balance--not to mention the refined good looks--to convincingly and tragically play the avenging Angel.


Another one of the original X-Men and still a fan favorite because of his cool, suave demeanor and his Omega-level powers, Iceman has been a fixture of Fox's X-Men movies but has been cast too young and without much strength of character. Bobby Drake will likely be played as being the most easy-going of the original five when the reboot happens, but he will still have to be played by a mature enough actor to show conviction and not seem like mere comic relief. With his natural charm, coolness, and comedic timing, best showcased in 500 Days of Summer and 50/50, Joseph Gordon-Levitt could be just the man to bring Bobby Drake to the vanguard of the team where he rightly belongs. He was reportedly considered by Disney for the role of Ant-Man, so him being cast in the MCU is not at all unlikely.


Even before he was cast as Hank McCoy/Beast in X-Men: The Last Stand, many fans (including myself) already imagined Kelsey Grammer because of his dignified voice and sardonic wit. If only he were younger; we should have had Grammer's Beast in more films! Still, what his Beast lacked was the athleticism that is a key trait of the comic book character, so it's likely that Disney will be casting someone with a stronger physical presence but still with dignified intellect and wit. I must admit to having had the most difficulty with this casting, but surely Don Draper himself, Jon Hamm, isn't a bad choice? His ardent admirers probably wouldn't want to see him covered in all that blue fur (well, most of them, at least), but Hamm has proven with past performances that he's perfectly capable of shining even through layers of prosthetic.


In the comics, hailing as she does from a long line of African witch-priestesses and being the Queen of Wakanda, Ororo Munroe has been portrayed as being of powerful physical (and spiritual) presence and regal bearing. While a fine actress, Halle Berry was never able to show any of that. The actress cast as Storm must be convincing as a warrior, mutant leader, and Earth mother. Though her acting chops were recognized (with an Oscar nomination, among others) through a thoroughly different type of character in Moonlight, Naomie Harris has the physique, fierce intelligence (she has a degree in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge), and warmth of a true mutant goddess. A plus: she and Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) are just about the same age (he's 40, she's 41), so if Disney decides to take it there, it's a very easy fit.


As with many of the X-Men characters, a lot of fans would agree that the definitive onscreen portrayal of the team's southern belle Rogue has been the one in the excellent 90s animated series. Due to no fault of her own, Anna Paquin's portrayal lost everything that made Rogue a true fan favorite. Playing a fiercely loyal and extremely powerful mutant with an awesome but largely uncontrollable power and a tragic past deserves a character actress with true grit, maturity, and skill. Certainly, Disney might go for a true southern belle (Amber Heard might have been an interesting choice had the DCEU not gotten her first), but when it comes to playing accents and characters with spunk, few have proven themselves as gifted as Tatiana Maslany. With her multiple roles in "Orphan Black" alone, she has proven herself to be versatile, endearing, and phenomenally talented. She won't have any trouble at all bringing Rogue to life.


How do you even recast this after Hugh Jackman? I'm totally fine with him staying on in the role, though he's getting a bit too old for it. While Disney has found gems with casting relatively little known actors like Chrises Hemsworth and Evans in key roles, I don't think they'll go down that route with a character played so well by Jackman and who will likely play a central role in bringing the X-Men to the MCU. Of the bankable actors of his age group, few others have shown such skill playing angry and feral, but also vulnerable, as Tom Hardy, who was all of these in The Fighter and The Revenant. He's on many people's dream cast list, and I'm sure that Disney is aware of that. A potentially big obstacle (depending on how the Disney-Fox merger plays out movie-wise): he's been cast as Eddie Brock/Venom in his stand-alone movie. Barring that, they'd be lucky to be able to cast such a popular and talented actor in this critical role.

Emma Frost

In my opinion, January Jones's casting as Emma Frost is one of Fox's most atrocious mistakes. Though a fine actress in the right roles, Jones had none of Frost's lethal coldness, intelligent ferocity, and aristocratic bearing to be expected of a key member (the White Queen) of the exclusive Hellfire Club. For years, I have maintained that Rosamund Pike is the ideal Emma Frost, and if she gets cast as such, I'd still call it perfect. But I've cast her as someone else (more on her down this list), so I had to switch to another gorgeous Brit who has been wowing critics and audiences in recent years with her strong portrayals of fierce, independent women: Rebecca Ferguson. I can easily imagine her only with the blonde hair and trademark white costume but with that haughty stare that has served her both as a villain and as a hero.


Rebecca Romijn played Mystique quite competently before Fox decided to mess up her character's story line and miscast with the normally skilled Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence never got the sexy appeal and, yes, the "mystique" of the character, and even Romijn probably came up short in the second aspect. If the rumors that she has been cast as Death in the MCU films prove false, then the ethereal Eva Green might be a good choice. She can easily build a stronger physique and train for combat sequences that Raven Darkholme would likely be put in, but there's no denying that Green already has the enigmatic appeal that would make her a strong casting coup for this villainous chameleon.


Mr. Fantastic

One of the most brilliant minds on the planet, Reed Richards can go toe-to-toe in an intellectual conversation with Tony Stark and Hank Pym and in a world-altering conference with the rest of the Illuminati. Fatherly and heroic but prone to bouts of arrogance because of his astonishing intellect, Reed has to be played by an actor who can lead comics' "first family" in their MCU incarnation and also make a strong impression when he finally, inevitably meets Tony, Doctor Strange, Captain America, etc. Certainly, Clive Owen has the commanding presence and gravitas--and a sense of humor--to pull it off. He'd look good with those white streaks, too.

Invisible Woman

As a matriarch of the Richards family and bearer of powerful cosmic abilities, Sue Richards should be played by someone who can be equal parts warm and steely, one who can command the respect of a room of men who are used to listening only to other men of her husband's stature. While her Oscar-nominated performance in Gone Girl may in fact be used as justification for casting her as Emma Frost as I had initially advocated for, Rosamund Pike's considerable talents and striking beauty would be put to better use as the Invisible Woman (though let's hope she won't be invisible too often!). She'd be a very strong addition to the MCU's growing stable of female powerhouses.

The Thing

Whoever plays Ben Grimm must be physically intimidating yet be able to exude a warm vulnerability. Sure, Negan "The Walking Dead" certainly wasn't warm, but the other past roles of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who is a natural athlete, have shown that he can be warm and fuzzy, too. Disney better snatch him up before Warner Bros. casts him as Batman if rumors are to be believed.

Human Torch

Chris Evans played Johnny Storm so well because he got the character's cocky, devil-may-care attitude and all-American hero bravado. Disney might want to play him younger, especially if they'd like to see him hanging out and having fun with Spider-Man. With a Golden Globe nomination to prove it, Ansel Elgort's star-making turn in Baby Driver convinced audiences that he can be effortlessly charismatic while being serious about doing the right thing. Sure, Baby isn't as cocky as Johnny, but someone of Elgort's talents can easily turn that up and still give us a true hero worth rooting for.

Doctor Doom

Ah, one of the best villains ever in comics, and yet never gotten right on film! Victor von Doom is a despot, a brilliant mind, and a master sorcerer, with an ego as large as his skill set. Done right, he could easily end up being the MCU's best villain who could be used against not only the Fantastic Four but everyone else. Mads Mikkelsen would have been an awesome choice had he not gotten the Doctor Strange gig already. But if we want someone who can smolder onscreen, play scary and vicious, do Eastern European accents, and know how to play a king, one can hardly do better than think of Viggo Mortensen as the guy. He'd be someone the best of our MCU heroes would be scared of crossing.

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