This article contains some MCU spoilers
With the Marvel Comics we know today being founded in 1939 (originally known as Timely Comics), there are decades of stories and characters ready to be adapted for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Navigating a Galactus-sized franchise like the MCU means we expected some characters would be lost to the Multiverse.
Whether it’s old favourites stopping by for a cameo or a brand-new addition being saved for another day, it’s more than the odd scene being left on the cutting room floor. Sometimes, whole characters are given the boot and banished to Gorr the God Butcher’s Shadow Realm. Saddle up because here are 12 characters who were once cut from the MCU.
Balder the Brave – Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
As soon as we heard Charles Xavier in the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness trailer, us fans went into overdrive, imagining our very own Illuminati lineup. Although we were off the mark with Tom Cruise as Iron Man, there was a very different team at one point.
The biggest that nearly came to be was the MCU debut of Thor’s brother, Balder the Brave. Elizabeth Olsen stunt actor CC Ice shared a behind-the-scenes shot of a wounded Balder (via Reddit), who was reportedly going to stab himself under the influence of Wanda.
The real kicker is that 007 was linked to the role, with artist Darell Warner sharing a series of watercolours showing a likeness of Daniel Craig to Instagram. Craig played up to the rumors on the Happy Sad Confused Podcast, saying he’d “love” to star in a Marvel movie – watch out for Thor 5.
Morgan Stark – Avengers: Endgame
Thanks to the adorable Lexi Rabe playing Morgan Stark, it’s true that Tony Stark and Pepper Potts’ daughter impacted Avengers: Endgame. Rabe wasn’t going to be the only one, with 13 Reason Why’s Katherine Langford supposed to play an older Morgan.
Originally, Langford was going to appear to Robert Downey Jr.‘s heroic Avengers head, saying hello to daddy dearest when he found himself in the same “metaphysical way station” Thanos saw a young Gamora in when he’d snapped his fingers.
As the MCU continues to tease the Young Avengers, Langford’s cut role as an older Morgan seemingly puts her out of the running for the mythical project. Instead, we’ll have to make do with that heart-wrenching, “I love you 3,000” goodbye.
Wonder Man – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
James Gunn favourite Nathan Fillion was cut from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and safe to say, the story of Wonder Man is an odd one. Gunn has worked with Fillion on everything from Slither to The Suicide Squad, but a minor part as Simon Williams wasn’t meant to be.
Those up on Marvel Comics will know Williams is the alter ego of Wonder Man, who is a Hollywood film star and part-time member of the Avengers. Gunn told IGN how scenes filmed on Earth included background posters of Williams in various fictionalized movies – even a Tony Stark biopic.
The scene was cut for pacing, and although Gunn considers them canon – with hopes Fillion could actually appear – it looks unlikely. These days, there’s confirmation Disney+’s Wonder Man series that will star Aquaman’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Simon Williams.
Captain America – Ant-Man and the Wasp
Chris Evans has become synonymous with “America’s ass,” and even if we don’t know whether he’ll return as Steve Rogers, he nearly added one more turn as the First Avenger to his CV.
Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and the Wasp has a divisive place in the MCU, and aside from the importance of introducing the Quantum Realm, it remains largely marooned on its own. The original plan was to have one of those jaw-dropping Avengers cameos, with Evans stopping for a comedic turn like in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Reed told RadioTimes how an early draft featured Luis (Michael Peña) recapping the events of Captain America: Civil War. The comedic trope of heroes acting out their adventures with the voice and mannerisms of Luis did end up in Ant-Man and the Wasp, but instead, it was a rehash of what happened in Ant-Man.
Grandmaster – Thor: Love and Thunder
How can you cut Jeff Goldblum from anything? Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok had the honor of putting Goldblum on the books of the MCU, but when it came to its 2022 sequel, the Jurassic Park alumni was nowhere to be found.
After there were rumors that Goldblum’s return as the Grandmaster was cut from Thor: Love and Thunder, concept artist Laurent Ben-Mimoun shared a look at the character on Instagram. We last saw Grandmaster surrounded by the angry citizens of Sakaar, and with him now sporting bionic appendages, it seems he was ripped limb from limb but survived.
Waititi confirmed to Insider the scene was cut, but it was for the best. Alongside Peter Dinklage’s Eitri, the Grandmaster was apparently going to be killed by Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher. At least he now has the potential to return further down the line.
Wasp – The Avengers
One of the MCU’s big swings away from the source material is a rejigged Avengers lineup. In the comics, heroes Ant-Man and Wasp are founding members, whereas 2012’s The Avengers included the core six of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye.
Speaking to Thrillist, Joss Whedon said The Avengers‘ script “went through a lot of insane iterations,” with one even including the son of Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). When Whedon wasn’t sure if they’d be able to have Scarlett Johansson, he wrote a bunch of pages with Wasp that he said were “not useful.”
Remembering that Hope van Dyne is a wholly new creation for the MCU, It’s unclear whether this would’ve been Hank Pym’s wife or daughter. It’s also important to note the director was circling Zooey Deschanel for Hope before Evangeline Lilly was cast in Edgar Wright’s first iteration of Ant-Man.
Howard the Duck – Avengers: Infinity War
A certain maligned mallard is flapping his wings in the MCU, and having been voiced by Seth Green in multiple projects, viewers are asking why Howard the Duck is still resigned to the background.
Giving us our own Multiverse, Anthony Russo admitted to Fandom that Howard the Duck appeared in early drafts of Avengers: Infinity War. Instead of Green, long-time Russo Brothers collaborator Ken Jeong would’ve played Howard during a poker scene with Star-Lord (Chris Pratt).
Don’t feel too bad for anyone, though. Jeong went on to play a security guard in Endgame, while our feathered friend popped up for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in the background of the iconic “Avengers, assemble” scene.
Doctor Strange – WandaVision
Jac Schaeffer’s WandaVision is praised as one of the MCU’s best, and part of this is because it was largely its own story without being too bothered with what was going on outside the Hex.
It would be a very different story if fans got their wish for an A-list cameo from Benedict Cumberbatch. Stephen Strange would have A LOT to do with Scarlet Witch in Multiverse of Madness, but speaking to Rolling Stone, MCU overlord Kevin Feige said Doc’s WandaVision cameo would’ve “taken away from Wanda.”
Schaeffer said the plan for the in-episode adverts was that they would be messages from Strange to Wanda. Nixing the character meant Multiverse of Madness underwent a rewrite, and what did we get in WandaVision? Oh yeah, Ralph Bohner.
America Chavez – Spider-Man: No Way Home
You might struggle to see how we’d fit anyone else in Spider-Man: No Way Home – especially with Garfield, Maguire, and (nearly) the Sinister Six. But, before Xochitl Gomez arrived in Multiverse of Madness, she was almost introduced to Jon Watts’ threequel.
Posting on Twitter, concept artist Maciej Kuciara showed a particularly Multiversal scene with the likeness of Chavez holding a mysterious book. A second piece from artist Marek Okon has her with what looks like the cure from Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, proving that Chavez was pivotal at one point.
The Hollywood Reporter says that the sorcerer’s apprentice role went to Ned Leeds (Jacob Batlon) – suggesting that America might’ve been the one to bring together the trifecta of Spider-Man for the finale.
Red Skull – The Avengers
In terms of iconic MCU villains, Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull sticks out more than most. We know Johann Schmidt survived his brush with the Tesseract to end up as the keeper of the Soul Stone on Vormir, but his return was sketched long before Avengers: Infinity War.
Discussing an early draft of The Avengers at Comic-Con 2012, screenwriter Zak Penn said (via CBR) there was “some discussion of it being Red Skull.” Penn also gushed that he’d have used Thanos if he could’ve gotten away with it, but concluded Loki was almost always the top choice.
The Walking Dead’s Ross Marquand took over from Weaving, and with the Russos playing coy on the character’s potential escape from Vormir, the fact the New World Order is a comic cabal founded by Red Skull could be a nod to his return in Captain America 4.
Captain Marvel – Avengers: Age of Ultron
Again branching out on its own, 2019’s Captain Marvel’s place as a ‘90s prequel meant it didn’t have to worry too much about tying into current MCU affairs. Despite Brie Larson being left to flex her muscles on her own, a standalone movie wasn’t always due to be her introduction.
It’s been well documented that Captain Marvel was going to be in the “New Avengers” lineup of Avengers: Age of Ultron, with a blonde stand-in appearing in a deleted scene. Whedon reportedly pushed for Carol Danvers, while Kevin Feige said the Maximoff Twins were enough for new introductions.
Larson was confirmed as Captain Marvel at Comic-Con 2016 – beating out frontrunners including Emily Blunt and Katee Sackhoff – and is ready to lead The Marvels in 2023.
The Eternals – Moon Knight
The last one is a doozy – mainly because we only know half the story. Similar to WandaVision, Moon Knight kept itself to itself without making good on the theories it would establish the MCU’s Midnight Sons.
Director Mohamed Diab told Variety how the first and last scenes were supposed to be crossovers. This leaves us speculating whether Benedict “Wongers” Wong would’ve been a cosmic Nick Fury, or whether Mahershala Ali would follow his voice cameo in Eternals.
Speaking of Chloé Zhao’s movie, Moon Knight Executive Producer Jeremy Slater confirmed to The Direct that a connection to Eternals was nixed. Slater tried “very hard to get the Eternals” because he’s “buddies” with Kumail Nanjiani. Three or four of those rocking robots were going to meet with one of Khonshu’s avatars in Ancient Egypt.