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Jake Gyllenhaal as Spider-Man? 5 comic book castings that nearly happened


With Avengers: Endgame currently setting the box office alight, what's next for the record-breaking Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)? Well, that'd be Spider-Man: Far From Home, which marks the return of Tom Holland's web-slinger following his solo movie debut in 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming.

This time, everyone's favourite teenage superhero embarks on a school trip to Europe, all the while battling a mysterious force of creatures known as the Elementals. Recruited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Peter is forced to team with a new MCU character named Mysterio, who it turns out hails from the Spidey 'multi-verse'. Donning the bubble helmet and purple cape as the latter is Jake Gyllenhaal in his first ever foray into comic book movies. But it may interest you to know that back in the early 2000s, Gyllenhaal was touted to play Spider-Man himself.

After suffering injuries filming the race horse biopic Seabiscuit, then-Spider-Man Tobey Maguire was very nearly replaced by Gyllenhaal in the title role. Maguire eventually recovered to once again take on the Spider-mantle - however, this presents a classic what-if scenario. So here are a few more comic book castings that nearly happened...

5. Wilson Bethel was almost Captain America

You may not be familiar with the name Wilson Bethel, but you almost were. The young actor has now achieved his career-changing comic book role as Agent Benjamin Poindexter, aka Bullseye, in Netflix's third season of the popular Daredevil, but it could have come much sooner.

During the marketing for the series, Bethel opened up about how close he came to being cast as MCU pillar Captain America, even going so far as trying on the red, white and blue suit. He had discussions with director Joe Johnston regarding the direction of the character, screen-tested twice and sat anxiously by the phone, eager to be told he was the First Avenger.

Of course, it was not to be, and instead Chris Evans instead won the prized role of the star-spangled man.


4. Joaquin Phoenix was almost Doctor Strange

Joaquin Phoenix is considered by many to be the finest actor of his generation. It's therefore little wonder that he was sought-after to portray the Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange, in the MCU movie of the same time. Rumoured for some time to be the first choice for the role, Phoenix sadly turned it down after both parties reached an impasse. The role eventually went to Sherlock himself, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Despite this minor setback, Phoenix is set to make his comic book movie debut in Todd Phillips' Joker, the origin story of the clown prince of crime. An actor of Phoenix's calibre is sure to intrigue and terrify when he paints on the red smile this October.


3. Bill Murray was almost Batman

Back in the 1980s, the small-statured Michael Keaton seemed a peculiar choice for the Dark Knight, but it could have been even more bizarre. Following the success of Superman: The Movie, Warner Bros. wanted to get a Batman origin story going as quickly as possible, and tasked director Ivan Reitman with putting it together. Alongside the intriguing idea of David Bowie as The Joker, Reitman wanted Bill Murray under the cowl, which we can't really see working.

Murray is more readily equipped with a dry, sarcastic comment than a martial arts move, more likely to throw an apathetic look than a Batarang. Besides, Michael Keaton nailed in both of Tim Burton's stylish Batman movies.


2. Dougray Scott was almost Wolverine

Some actors seem born for certain roles, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is one of them. Though he may stand a full foot taller than his X-Men comic book counterpart, Jackman so effortlessly transforms into the adamantium-appointed superhero that it's impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. He has owned the character to such an extent that now that he is done with it, recasting seems an impossible task.

But, unbelievably, it nearly didn't happen. Fox had initially struck a deal with Scottish actor Dougray Scott to wield the claws for their first X-Men movie, but he was filming Mission: Impossible II at the time, a shoot that drastically overran and overlapped with the X-Men schedule. In need of a plan B, director Bryan Singer met with then-unknown Aussie actor Jackman, signed a deal, and he began filming a week later. And that is how history is made, bub.


1. Nicolas Cage was almost Superman

The story of aborted blockbuster movie Superman Lives is genuinely intriguing. Due to be directed by gothic mastermind Tim Burton, Superman Lives would have starred none other than simultaneously-worst-and-greatest actor of all time, Nicolas Cage, as Clark Kent/Superman.

Based on a script including elements from comic book run The Death of Superman, and involving villains Lex Luthor and Brainiac, Superman Lives has been described by its almost-star Cage as the most 'powerful' Superman movie of them all… despite never being made.

The sight of Cage in the red and blue suit would certainly be an odd one and imagining his drawl and particular art of overacting whilst waxing philosophical about truth and justice is almost too intriguing to bear. Somewhere out there, an alternate universe was gifted with Superman Lives and we can only but envy them.


Click here to book your tickets for Spider-Man: Far From Home, opening on 2nd July. What close-but-no-cigar comic book castings have we missed off our list? Let us know @Cineworld.

Jon Fuge is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.