For most actors and actresses, nabbing a big superhero role in a comic book movie is a once in a lifetime opportunity. For a select few talented individuals, though… not so much. Some actors are just perfect fits for the superhero subgenre, and end up being cast in these projects again and again.
For some, there might even be an opportunity to return to their original role after having a one-off foray in a different set of spandex. At times, it feels like the casting pool for superhero projects is very small indeed.
Without further ado, then, here are 16 actors who have played more than one superhero…
Ryan Reynolds – Hannibal King, Green Lantern, Deadpool
The inspiration for this article, Ryan Reynolds is in cinemas nowwith his latest comic book movie – Deadpool. This is his second stab at portraying this motor-mouthed mercenary antihero, having already played him as a supporting character in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
In the interim years, Mr Reynolds portrayed Green Lantern in the 2011 movie of the same name, making him one of the few actors to play a tile role superhero in big screen movies based on both Marvel and DC comics.
Before all this, he also played an ancillary role as supernatural detective Hannibal King in the 2004 Marvel movie Blade: Trinity. In 2013, Reynolds also appeared as Nick Walker in the Dark Horse comics adaptation RIPD. Whether you could call RIPD a superhero movie is debatable, but either way Reynolds has more heroic comic book characters under his belt than almost anyone else.
Chris Evans – The Human Torch, Captain America
Chris Evans has played two cinematic superheroes, both of whom were based on characters from Marvel Comics. In 2005 and 2007 he portrayed the cocksure Johnny Storm, AKA The Human Torch, in both of Tim Story’s brightly-coloured Fantastic Four films.
Years later, Evans made starred as Steve Rogers/Captain America in the 2011 Marvel Studios movie Captain America: The First Avenger. Since then he’s gone on to reprise that role in The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age Of Ultron (not to mention an uncredited cameo in Thor: The Dark World). He’ll play Cap again in Captain America: Civil War.
Like Reynolds, Evans has also found time for other comic book movies where you couldn’t really call his character a superhero. You’ll certainly remember his turn as skateboarder-turned-actor Lucas Lee in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. On top of that, he also popped up in Snowpiercer, The Losers and Push, all of which have comic book links. He also voiced the vigilante Casey Jones in the 2007’s animated TMNT film.
Ben Affleck – Daredevil, Batman, Superman (sort of)
After the bashing that Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil movie received in 2003, you could understand if Ben Affleck chose to avoid comic book-inspired movies like the plague in the years that followed. Superheroes clearly interest Affleck, though, as he accepted the chance to portray classic Superman actor George Reeves in the 2006 Hollywoodland movie. This included suiting up in the iconic red and blue.
And now, as you don’t need me to tell you, Affleck has chosen to play Bruce Wayne/Batman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming superhero slugfest Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice and its two subsequent sequels The Justice League Part One and The Justice League Part Two. On top of that, there are rumours of solo Batman movies for Affleck as well.
This isn’t strictly relevant, but, before all this, Affleck played a comic book artist in Kevin Smith’s 1997 flick Chasing Amy. In 1999 he also wrote a foreword for Kevin Smith’s Guardian Devil book detailing his love of the Daredevil character.
Halle Berry – Storm, Catwoman
Halle Berry is one of the rare few that got to return to their original role after another jumping ships to another cinematic superhero. Of course, she first played Ororo Monroe/Storm in Bryan Singer’s X-Men. Since then, she’s cropped up in its sequels X2, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Days Of Future Past.
In between the second and third instalments of Fox’s Marvel Comics-based mutant-focused franchise, Berry reportedly received a fee of over $12 million to move to the DC camp and star in the title role of Pitof’s 2004 Catwoman film. The critics weren’t kind to that one, though, so Berry didn’t need to worry about juggling Catwoman sequels with her X-Men duties.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Kick-Ass, Quicksilver
Aaron Taylor-Johnson rose to stardom thanks to Matthew Vaughn’s filmic adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr’s Kick-Ass comic books in 2010. He played the title role, starring as teenager Dave Lizewski who decided to make himself into a superhero. In 2013, he returned for its sequel Kick-Ass 2.
In 2015, Mr Taylor-Johnson appeared in the huge Marvel Studios crossover movie Avengers: Age Of Ultron, swapping that homemade superhero suit for snazzy Adidas gear and taking up the role of sarcastic speedster Quicksilver. He could yet return to Kick-Ass if a third film in that franchise gets made.
Fun fact: Taylor-Johnson’s Kick-Ass co-star Evan Peters also went on to play Quicksilver, in Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Peters could’ve become the copycat superhero Ass-Kicker if he’d stuck around for Kick-Ass 2, but instead he was replaced with Augustus Prew.
Brandon Routh – Superman, The Atom
If all had gone to plan, Superman Returns would have made a massive Hollywood star out of its lead actor Brandon Routh. Sadly, Bryan Singer’s 2006 movie failed to ignite huge box office success or overwhelming positive responses, and plans to continue the franchise were ditched. A shame, that, as Routh made a fine successor to Christopher Reeve.
Thankfully, Routh’s superhero days weren’t over. During the third season of The CW’s DC Comics-based Arrow TV series, Routh was cast as the scientist Ray Palmer, who later went on to become the shrinking/flying superhero The Atom. Mr Routh was as charming as ever, and The CW even poked fun at his previous superhero gig by having characters from The Flash ponder if The Atom in flight was a bird or a plane.
Routh has now spun-out from Arrow into the time travel superhero ensemble show Legends Of Tomorrow. He’ll be playing The Atom for quite some time, we’d wager.
Samuel L Jackson – Nick Fury, Frozone
In 2004, Samuel L. Jackson graced the big screen as the voice of ice-conjuring vigilante superhero Frozone in Brad Bird’s exquisite superhero comedy animation The Incredibles. It seems likely that Jackson will return for the in-development sequel.
In the years in between, Jackson has portrayed the Marvel Comics eye patch-sporting Avengers assembler Nick Fury across Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age Of Ultron and numerous Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes. Again, he could well return this character in future.
Some may argue that Nick Fury isn’t a superhero, but, given the amount that he mucks in with the Avengers, I’d say that he qualifies for this list. In the comics, he’s certainly had enough solo adventures to justify hero status. Mr Jackson also appeared in the superhero films Unbreakable and The Spirit. At a push, you could even add RoboCop to that list.
Joel Kinnaman – RoboCop, Rick Flagg
Speaking of RoboCop, if you’re willing to count the iconic cyborg police officer as a superhero (which I would, at a push, seeing as he’s had his own Marvel Comics series), then Joel Kinnaman qualifies for inclusion on this list too. He starred in the 2014 reboot of the character, taking the title role and not doing too badly in it.
Now, he’s nabbed a role as Rick Flagg in Warner Bros/DC Entertainment’s upcoming Suicide Squad movie. Unlike most Squad members, Flagg isn’t a villain. He’s all hero: a respected army general tasked with keeping the team in check and leading them into battle against even bigger nasties.
Going forward, it seems far more likely that we’ll see Kinnaman reprising Flagg than RoboCop. The RoboCop sequel plans aren’t dead, but Warner Bros are surely already plotting ways to weave Kinnaman into their wider universe of DC movies post-Sucide Squad.
Adrianne Palicki – Wonder Woman, Mockingbird
In 2011, Adrianne Palicki filmed a pilot episode for a Wonder Woman TV show. She starred in the title role, and could have gone on to play the character for years if NBC had decided to run with the idea and order a full series. But they didn’t (you can find the episode online, though, if you’re curious).
Like Brandon Routh, Palicki eventually find another superhero character that she could play for a longer period. She debuted as Bobbi ‘Mockingbird’ Morse in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2, jumping ships from DC to Marvel but staying on the small screen.
Since joining the show, the similarities between Palicki’s Agent Morse and her superhero equivalent from the comics have continued to build. Nowadays, she frequently whips out the batons that Mockingbird is famous for and uses them to wallop bad guys on a regular basis.
Ellen Page – Kitty Pryde, Boltie
Ellen Page played her first superhero role in 2006 Brett Ratner film X-Men: The Last Stand. Therein, she portrayed a girl who can walk through walls – Kitty Pryde. In 2014, Page reprised this role in X-Men: Days Of Future Past, under the stewardship of the franchise’s creator Bryan Singer.
Between those two studio-led blockbusters, in 2010, Page appeared in James Gunn’s Super, a low-budget superhero film focused on Rainn Wilson’s Frank (who adopts the heroic mantle of The Crimson Bolt, over the course of the movie, to save his estranged wife).
Page plays Libby, a shop clerk with a passion for comic books who eventually suits up as Frank’s ‘kid sidekick’, Boltie. Mentally unhinged and lacking in any actual superpowers, Boltie couldn’t be much more different than the righteous X-Man Kitty Pryde.
Michael B. Jordan – Steve Montgomery (Chronicle), The Human Torch
On the subject of indie film superheroes, Michael B. Jordan’s big break came as one of these sorts of characters. In Josh Trank’s Chronicle, he played Steve Montgomery – a young chap who finds a weird glowing crystal in the woods. Along with his mates, he gains amazing abilities (telekinesis, flight, and super-nosebleeds), resulting in a big fight with Dane DeHaan’s character Andrew Detmer.
When Josh Trank landed the gig of directing Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot, he brought Mr Jordan with him and cast the actor as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch. Jordan flew on the big screen as a young superhero once more, but the critical and commercial shortcomings of the film mean that we may have seen the last of Michael B. Jordan in a super suit.
Doug Jones – Abe Sapien, Silver Surfer
Doug Jones – arguably best known for his role(s) in Pan’s Labyrinth – is much acclaimed for playing transformative roles that look nothing like him. He first brought this skillset to the superhero cinematic subgenre in 2004, when Guillermo del Torro cast him as supporting hero Abe Sapien (the blue chap who works with Hellboy as an agent of the BPRD). Jones returned to this role for Hellboy II: The Golden Army in 2008.
Between these two films, Mr Jones starred in Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer, in which he played the physical form of the eponymous Surfer (with Laurence Fishburne providing the voice). Although he spends most of the movie as a villainous lackey to the cloud version of Galactus, he turns hero in the end, in keeping with the comics.
Michael Jai White – Spawn, Bronze Tiger
Comic book properties are peppered throughout Michael Jai White’s career. Most notably, he starred in Spawn – the 1997 film based on the Image Comics character of the same name. He played the title role, a special forces agent who dies and accepted a deal with the devil (of sorts) to return to Earth as the demonic vigilante Spawn.
Years later, White would play another antihero in The CW’s Arrow series. He played the DC Comics villain-turned-hero Bronze Tiger, and transitioned from outright mercenary to somewhat-redeemed Suicide Squad member across three guest appearances on the show. Last we saw of Arrow’s Bronze Tiger, he was saving an important character in a heroic but brutal way.
Mr White also had a tiny non-heroic role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret Of The Ooze, played an important supporting part in The Dark Knight, and has voiced the villains Doomsday and Tattooed Man in DC Comics animations.
Stephen Amell – Green Arrow, Casey Jones
Speaking of both Arrow and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequels, the star of Arrow Stephen Amell will play the role of hockey-themed vigilante Casey Jones in the upcoming big screen adventure Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows.
He’s played Oliver Queen in Arrow since 2012, developing the character through three superhero names –The Hood, The Arrow, and finally Green Arrow – over four seasons of archery-themed superheroics and manifold personal dilemmas. Both of those pass-times result in lots of brooding.
Like the Ninja Turtles themselves, Casey Jones was originally conceived as a parody of comic book vigilantes. This hasn’t put hardened crime-fighter Amell off, though, as he’s already accepted the part and filmed his scenes. The movie is out later this year.
Ray Stevenson – The Punisher, Volstagg
In 2008, Ray Stevenson starred as Frank Castle, AKA The Punisher, in Lexi Alexander’s Punisher: War Zone movie that rebooted the skull-shirt-wearing violent vigilante on the big screen. Mr Stevenson would later reprise this role as a voice performance in Marvel’s animated TV series The Super Hero Squad Show.
The Thor movie presented Stevenson with a way back to big screen superheroics. He nabbed the role of Volstagg, a member of The Warriors Three – the triumvirate of supporting heroes that help out Thor and Lady Sif in their battles and post-battle drinking sessions.
Stevenson reprised this role for 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, and is likely to reappear in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok movie. It may not be as big a role as Frank Castle (now recast in the shape of Jon Bernthal for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Netflix branch), but it’s nice to see Marvel keeping it in the family and finding space for Mr Stevenson.
Nicolas Cage – Ghost Rider, Big Daddy, Superman (nearly)
Nicolas Cage’s love of comic books is no secret. He even chose his showbiz surname as a nod to Marvel hero Luke Cage. Nic Cage got his first shot at a big screen superheroism in 2007 Marvel movie Ghost Rider, in which he played the antihero of the title. He returned in the 2012 follow-up Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance.
He also stole the show in Matthew Vaughn’s aforementioned Kick-Ass movie, where he played the Batman-esque parental superhero Big Daddy. But before all of this, around 1996, Mr Cage nearly got to play the biggest superhero of them all – Superman.
Tim Burton had recruited Cage to play the dual roles of Clark Kent and Superman in a film dubbed Superman Lives, but the project ultimately got trapped in development hell and never got made. The full of story of that film can be found in the excellent documentary The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened?
So, if you’re a Hollywood star who’s just been sacked/walked away from a superhero role, don’t worry. There might be another one around the corner…
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