Actors That Would Most Likely Play The Avengers In The 90s
Avengers: Infinity War has already hit theaters, and fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are naturally asking the most important question of them all: what if The Avengers was made in the 1990s? It's a question as old as time, or at least as old as the '90s.
It's always fun to hypothetically cast the most popular actors of a decade, and attempt to fit their personality and on-screen presence to a specific character. Who might have played Iron Man (considering Robert Downey Jr. was still an avid socialite)? What would happen if the MCU started 20 years ago? There are dozens of actors and actresses who almost made it into Marvel movies, and several of them could have led their own franchises at the height of their '90s popularity.
20. Denzel Washington - Black Panther
Denzel Washington is arguably one of the best actors of his generation. He has continuously demonstrated his talent and was formally recognized with two Academy Awards. In the '90s, he dominated the industry with roles in Malcolm X, Philadelphia, Crimson Tide, Courage Under Fire, and The Preacher's Wife.
If Marvel had any intention of casting T'Challa/Black Panther during that decade, they wouldn't have had to do more than make a phone call. No other actors in that time period could have played T'Challa as well as Washington, who would have played the role as perfectly as Chadwick Boseman did when he starred in Black Panther in 2018.
19. Sandra Bullock - Wasp
Sandra Bullock's career kicked off in the early '90s with Demolition Man and Speed, which made her a household name. As the principal female lead in that movie, she established herself as a bankable actress, and she worked in blockbuster films for decades thereafter. Throughout her stellar career, Bullock has played well in drama, comedy, and action movies, which could have easily prepared her for a role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Bullock would have perfectly embodied Hope van Dyne/Wasp. Evangeline Lilly played the character in 2015's Ant-Man, but were the film released a couple decades before, the part would have gone to Bullock. Her comedic style and notable action-movie chops make her the obvious choice for the role.
18. Brendan Fraser - Star-Lord
These days, it seems Brendan Fraser has been all but forgotten by Hollywood, but back in the '90s, he was a mega-star. He starred in 22 films in that decade alone, with breakout performances in School Ties, George of the Jungle, and Blast from the Past. His biggest role came in 1999 with Universal Studios's The Mummy, a movie that spawned two sequels.
Fraser's boyish good looks and carefree attitude would have been the perfect fit for a '90s version of Peter Quill/Star-Lord. While Chris Pratt has cemented himself in superhero history as the character in the 21st century, Fraser would have absolutely owned the role in the '90s.
17. Joe Pesci - Rocket Raccoon
Rather than picturing Joe Pesci running around in a raccoon suit, we're operating under the assumption that Pesci would have performed voice work for the character, Rocket Raccoon. If you consider Pesci's unique manner of speaking and the way he can express attitude, his vocal talents would have made for a hilarious interpretation of the character, even if it would have been markedly different from Bradley Cooper's.
Pesci's credentials speak for themselves. The only question would be whether or not the veteran actor would actually be game to portray the character. While he isn't known for his voice acting, he definitely has the vocal range and talent necessary to accomplish the job. During the decade, he starred in My Cousin Vinny, Goodfellas, Home Alone, JFK, and Casino to name a few.
The only concern here would be the relatively primitive effects capabilities from the '90s, which don't truly compare to the work being done today. Even with that limitation, whatever they came up with would be hilarious so long as Pesci was behind the microphone.
16. Keanu Reeves - Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange played a large role in what went down at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, making him one of the most important characters on screen. Marvel/Disney made the right choice in casting Benedict Cumberbatch for the role. He not only naturally looks like the Doctor, but he is also one of the best actors working in film and television today.
That being said, he wouldn't have been the choice to play the character in the '90s because that role would have gone straight to Keanu Reeves. Forget what you know about Reeves today; he didn't step into the role of John Wick until fairly recently.
Back in the '90s, this guy was all over Hollywood with hits including Point Break, Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Devil's Advocate, Speed, and The Matrix. Reeves proved he could not only pull off serious action-focused roles, but he also had a natural wit and a wonderful sense of humor, remember the Bill & Ted franchise. With his range of talents, Reeves would have nailed the character.
15. Cuba Gooding, Jr. - War Machine
These days, Cuba Gooding Jr.'s career isn't as illustrious as it was a few decades ago. He lost some of his star power after a string of direct-to-DVD movies but has since seen some critical acclaim with his stint on FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. With that being said, in the '90s, it seemed his trajectory was only moving in a positive direction.
In the '90s, Gooding Jr. won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Jerry Maguire and had breakout performances in A Few Good Men, Outbreak, and What Dreams May Come. Looking back at the decade for someone who could convincingly play the role of James "Rhodey" Rhodes/War Machine, only one name sticks out, and it's Cuba Gooding Jr.
To play War Machine, an actor has to blend a serious/militaristic attitude with natural comedic timing, characteristics usually found in the buddy-cop genre. As he has demonstrated over the years, Gooding Jr. can bring much-needed drama or hilarity to any situation. He would have been perfect for the part, which could work as a mash-up of his performances in Men of Honor and Jerry Maguire.
14. Brad Pitt - Thor
Brad Pitt is one of those actors who can take on just about any role and make it his own. Back in the '90s, this theory was tested when he played Louis de Pointe du Lac in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles followed by starring roles in Legends of the Fall, 12 Monkeys, and Seven. It seemed like Pitt could embody any conceivable character.
Early '90s audiences would be forgiven for thinking Pitt could never achieve the physique necessary to play the God of Thunder, but the actor put on a ton of muscle for his role in 1999's Fight Club. His good looks, charm, and amazing talent in front of the camera pretty much guarantee he would have been the first person casting agents would have considered for the role of Thor.
13. Winona Ryder - Mantis
Mantis has definitely come in handy during some chaotic situations in the MCU. She was able to thwart Ego for some time during the final battle in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and she almost stopped Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. She is played remarkably well by Pom Klementieff in the MCU, but looking back at the 1990s, there is only one actress who comes to mind for the role: Winona Ryder.
Ryder's career has regained momentum with her portrayal of Joyce Byers on Stranger Things, and she has done some great work in the intervening years, but she was at the height of her popularity in the '90s. During the decade, she starred in some huge films including Edward Scissorhands, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Reality Bites, Little Women, Alien: Resurrection, and Girl, Interrupted. Ryder can play a small role or a large one, but no matter who she is playing, she will gain critical acclaim for her work.
12. Gary Oldman - Loki
Loki is a difficult character to cast. After being exposed to Tom Hiddleston's performance across five Marvel films, it's difficult to picture anyone else portraying him. Of course, if the role had to be cast back in the '90s, there isn't another person who could play the charming villain quite like Gary Oldman.
Back in the '90s, Oldman hopped from one role to another playing so many different characters, it's difficult to summarize his acting abilities other than to simply say they're astonishing. He played a pimp in True Romance, Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK, and Ludwig van Beethoven in Immortal Beloved. He also played the imitable Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg in The Fifth Element, but the role that points directly to how devious and dastardly he could be was his performance as Norman Stansfield in Léon: The Professional.
11. Eddie Murphy - Falcon
Back in the '90s, Eddie Murphy was an A-list star. He started the decade with a few duds, but came back in a big way with The Nutty Professor and continued to cement his fame with performances in Doctor Doolittle and Mulan.
Murphy's career never put him in something skin-tight where he could play an action superhero, but he did work in the action genre with the Beverly Hills Cop trilogy and you can't argue that Donkey from Shrek wasn't a hero in his own right. He isn't the first guy you would think of today to strap on some mechanical wings and soar through the air as an action star, but back in the '90s, he would likely have been Hollywood's first choice in casting Sam Wilson, AKA the Falcon.
10. Alicia Silverstone - Wanda Maximoff
Wanda Maximoff is one of the most important characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe right now. She has a close relationship with Vision and her powers are similar to the ones of an Infinity Stone. Because of this, she plays a major part in the last act of Avengers: Infinity War and she was well cast when the role went to Elizabeth Olsen.
Olsen's take on the character bridges the gap left by Marvel's film-rights issues, leaving her a Mutant who isn't a Mutant. Back in the '90s, this wouldn't have been a problem for Marvel, seeing as they didn't sell those rights until 1993, leaving a few years for Alicia Silverstone to try her hand at the role. Granted, if they shot the film after '93, she would have still made it her own.
Back in 1995, Alicia Silverstone became a huge star thanks to her role as Cher Horowitz in Clueless. She continued to land major roles before putting on the tights/rubber costume of Batgirl for the critically panned Batman & Robin. That film failed, but not due to her performance. Casting her as Wanda Maximoff would give her the chance to show the world she could handle playing a superhero in a great film, which is only one of the reasons she would be perfect for the role. The others involve her charm and acting talents, but frankly, it would be nice to see her take on another superhero after Batman & Robin failed so hard at the box office.
9. Mel Gibson - Thanos
Mel Gibson has taken a lot of flack over his personal life and some of the comments he has made over the years. That flack is undeniably deserved, but back in the 1990s, there was nothing Gibson could do wrong. He was a hit actor, People's Sexiest Man Alive (1985), and was beginning a remarkable career as a director.
Among his many hits that decade, he released Braveheart, Maverick, Lethal Weapon 3, Hamlet, Ransom, Conspiracy Theory, Payback, and Lethal Weapon 4. The man couldn't be stopped, which is why he is just the right guy to play Thanos.
Thanos is a force who cannot be stopped in the Marvel Universe, and nobody had the star power to play him besides Gibson in the '90s. He might have balked at the idea of playing someone considered to be about as evil as evil can be, but given his talent in front of and behind the camera, seeing Gibson play Thanos back in the '90s would have certainly made for an amazing film.
8. Ben Stiller - Ant-Man
As Paul Rudd proved in 2015's Ant-Man, playing Scott Lang requires a certain level of humor and charm only a few actors can pull off. Looking back at Ben Stiller's career in the 1990s, he would have made for an amazing Scott Lang. To be fair, Paul Rudd could have played the character back then as well, but he was a bit too young, perhaps a little too green to portray him as well as he did in his mid-40s.
For Stiller, he was dominating the box office with hits including Reality Bites, Happy Gilmore, The Cable Guy, and There's Something About Mary. He even got a chance to play a superhero with the 1999 release of Mystery Men where he played Mr. Furious: a guy whose superpower was that he got really, really mad. While he's rarely forayed into action films and has relied almost entirely on comedy, you can't fault him for that wise decision, and he's clearly an incredible actor nonetheless.
7. Jared Leto - Spider-Man
Jared Leto was a bona fide, up-and-coming Hollywood darling in the '90s. He proved he had some serious acting chops in My So Called Life, The Thin Red Line, and Fight Club. Not to mention his incredible musical talent (songwriting, singing, playing multiple instruments) he presented to the world when he formed 30 Seconds to Mars in '98.
The actor had all the makings of an incredible Peter Parker: he was wiry, could convincingly play a smart and jaded teen (a real staple of '90s heroes), and he most certainly had the hair for the part.
The actor even portrayed the Joker in 2016's Suicide Squad, so it's safe to assume he would have been open to playing a comic book hero a few decades prior.
6. Sharon Stone - Pepper Potts
Sharon Stone is a veteran actress with roles going back to 1980, but she really made her mark in the 1990s with roles in Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Casino. Stone is the type of performer who can command a room. She has the skills to play any role that comes her way, which is why she would have been perfect to play Pepper Potts in a '90s version of The Avengers.
The role in the MCU has been played by Gwyneth Paltrow, and while the two actresses are very different in terms of the roles they have played over the years, Stone's take on the part would have been something wonderful to behold. She showed off her action skills in Total Recall and her comedic charm in The Muse, leaving her as a clear choice in casting her for Pepper Potts, during what was arguably the height of her career.
5. Tom Cruise - Iron Man
It's basically inarguable that Iron Man is the center of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU only exists due to the success of 2008's Iron Man, helmed by director Jon Favreau and led by Robert Downey Jr. If the film needed to be cast sometime during the previous decade, RDJ wouldn't have made the cut due to some personal issues he was going through. Hollywood would have turned to the one man capable of launching the franchise: Tom Cruise.
Cruise is essentially Hollywood royalty and fans know if his name is attached to a project, odds are, it's going to be successful. Cruise's work in the '90s includes blockbuster hits like A Few Good Men, The Firm, Days of Thunder, and the first Mission: Impossible film (which was followed by five sequels). Looking back, it's almost impossible to picture anybody else playing Tony Stark/Iron Man in the '90s.
4. Johnny Depp - Hawkeye
Johnny Depp saw controversy over his 2017 divorce from Amber Heard and the allegations she made against him, but back in the '90s, he was one of the most recognizable stars Hollywood had to offer. Even before landing the role of Captain Jack Sparrow in 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Depp had an impressive filmography.
His work includes memorable characters in films including Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Donnie Brasco, and Sleepy Hollow, to name a few. Depp's ability to mix action and comedy has been apparent his entire career, which makes him the obvious choice to play Hawkeye.
3. David Duchovny - Hulk
Nobody would look at David Duchovny and think of him as the Hulk, but you could say the exact same thing about Mark Ruffalo. Playing the Hulk isn't about running around in torn purple shorts with green paint on your skin, it's about playing Bruce Banner. Duchovny's charm, sense of humor, and ability to take over a scene would have made him the ideal choice to play Bruce Banner back in the '90s.
Of course, it wouldn't have been easy to knock out the fantastic CGI used today to render Ruffalo's Hulk on screen, so someone would have had to pretend to be a giant green goliath back in the '90s. Who better to play the part than the original Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno? Seeing Ferrigno and Duchovny team up to play the Incredible Hulk on screen is definitely something that would have cemented the MCU as a classic set of films far before 2008.
2. Leonardo DiCaprio - Captain America
Captain America is the moral heart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He's the "all-American boy" who can take down a tank and tell you exactly what it means to be a patriot. Kevin Feige and co. made a sublime choice when they allowed Chris Evans to take the mantle in 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger, but had they made the movie decades earlier, they most certainly would have knocked on Leonardo DiCaprio's door.
DiCaprio's work in the '90s began with breakout roles in This Boy's Life, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and The Basketball Diaries, but he solidified himself as a major player in Hollywood later in the decade. DiCaprio's presence in Romeo + Juliet and Titanic proved to the world this guy had star power. He would have been a key name on the marquee and would be a priority when it came to casting Steve Rogers. He had the look, the attitude, and the gravitas to make the role work.
1. Jean-Claude Van Damme - Vision
Jean-Claude Van Damme was one of the biggest action stars to hit the silver screen back in the 1980s and 1990s, but his star power faltered as he chose a career nestled in straight-to-DVD films. Even with a floundering career, Van Damme was a household name in the '90s and he would have made for an interesting Vision.
Granted, the action star has issues with tight, mobility-limiting costumes (which is why he backed out of being the Predator in the '80s), but he could have made for a great Vision. He would likely have been something of a controversial casting choice at the time but, odds are, he would have made the character his own and blown away audiences with his performance, even if he couldn't do his split/punch move he does so well.