12 Major Actors Who Rejected Marvel Roles In the MCU

By Savannah Sanders Posted:
Matthew McConaughey, Amanda Seyfried, Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Marvel Studios logo

The MCU could have been drastically different if certain actors had not turned down certain Marvel Studios roles.

Since 2008, Marvel has not only introduced audiences to dozens of comic book heroes and villains but also made both new and existing Hollywood stars household names. 

Still, not every actor has been willing to join Marvel's ever-expanding roster of heroes. Here are 12 major actors who passed on MCU roles. 

[ Deadpool and Wolverine Movie Announces 8 Main Cast Members ]

12 Stars Who Rejected Marvel Studios

Rachel McAdams - Pepper Potts

Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts in Iron Man
Rachel McAdams & Gwyneth Paltrow

Following her success with Mean Girls and The Notebook, Rachel McAdams opted for a break and ultimately turned down several major movies, including The Devil Wears Prada, Casino Royale, and 2008's Iron Man as Pepper Potts.  

In retrospect, McAdams told Bustle, "There's certainly things like 'I wish I'd done that.'" 

And, while the success of those films made her "step back and go, 'That was the right person for that,'" at times, she still felt "guilty:"

“I felt guilty for not capitalizing on the opportunity that I was being given, because I knew I was in such a lucky spot. But I also knew it wasn't quite jiving with my personality and what I needed to stay sane. There were definitely some anxious moments of wondering if I was just throwing it all away, and why was I doing that? It’s taken years to understand what I intuitively was doing.”

Of course, Pepper Potts was not Marvel's only offer for Rachel McAdams. She eventually went on to play Christine Palmer in 2016's Doctor Strange and 2022's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Emily Blunt - Black Widow & Peggy Carter

Scarlett Johansson, Emily Blunt & Hayley Atwell
Scarlett Johansson, Emily Blunt, & Hayley Atwell

In a different timeline, the Oscar-nominated Emily Blunt (and once top fan cast for Fantastic Four's Sue Storm) could have been Black Widow in Iron Man 2 and Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger

In an interview with Howard Stern via Entertainment Weekly, Blunt revealed contractual obligations are why she passed on the roles, saying, "I was contracted to do Gulliver's Travels" and that "It was a bit of a heartbreaker for me:"

"It was a bit of a heartbreaker for me. I take such pride in the decisions that I make, and they mean so much to me, the films that I do." 

Even so, that does not mean she is looking to join the MCU anytime soon, admitting "I just haven't found something that really speaks to me:"

"For me, it's all about the part. It's not that I'm loathed to put on a catsuit. It's not that at all. I just haven't found something that really speaks to me."

Looking back, the Oppenheimer star feels missing out on Black Widow was for the best, telling the Happy Sad Confused podcast via Deadline, "Come on, the best girl got it" as Scarlett Johansson was "amazing."

Mel Gibson - Odin

Mel Gibson in The Continental, Anthony Hopkins as Odin in Thor
Mel Gibson & Anthony Hopkins

While Marvel fans know Anthony Hopkins played Odin, the All-Father, Thor and Loki's father (and arguably one of the worst MCU fathers), Marvel Studios reportedly approached Braveheart and Lethal Weapon star Mel Gibson. 

When asked if he ever had an opportunity to play in a superhero film, Mel Gibson told The Guardian, "Yeah, long time ago, to play Thor's dad. But I didn't do it."

Daniel Craig - Thor

Daniel Craig as James Bond in No Time to Die, Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Thor
Daniel Craig & Chris Hemsworth

Not only was Odin almost played by a different actor, but the same applies to Thor, the Son of Odin, himself. 

According to Screen Rant, Marvel Studios approached Knives Out star Daniel Craig to play the God of Thunder before the first Thor film was even announced.

While Craig rejected the opportunity to focus on James Bond and the job went to Chris Hemsworth, Marvel's Elizabeth Olsen claimed the 007 star almost played another son of Odin, Balder the Brave, in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Jessica Chastain - Maya Hansen & Hope van Dyne

Rebecca Hall, Jessica Chastain, & Evangeline Lilly
Rebecca Hall, Jessica Chastain, & Evangeline Lilly

The same year as Jessica Chastain's Zero Dark Thirty and before her role in Interstellar, Marvel Studios offered the actress the role of Maya Hansen in Iron Man 3

For reference, Maya Hansen was a botanist who helped Aldrich Killian in the Iron Man threequel and was ultimately played by Rebecca Hall. 

Chastain took to Facebook (shared via ScreenRant) to explain why she passed on the Iron Man threequel, admitting that her schedule "is jammed packed" but expressed her hopes for "another Marvel film in my future:"

"Sorry to say that 'Iron Man 3' isn't going to work out. My schedule is jammed packed and I can't fit anything else in. The press announced my possible attachment far too soon. I know many of you wanted me to be involved, and I'm so sorry to disappoint you. Hopefully there'll be another Marvel film in my future. Shane Black and everyone on the IM3 team are really wonderful. I'm very excited to see the film when it comes out. xx"

Two years later, and according to Variety, another Marvel film did come the actress' way in the form of Hope van Dyne for the then-Edgar Wright-directed Ant-Man. But in the end, she decided to pass.

Jason Momoa - Drax

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho in Dune, Dave Bautista as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy
Jason Momoa & Dave Bautista

Before Jason Momoa joined the SnyderVerse as DC's Aquaman, the actor passed on a chance to play Guardians of the Galaxy's Drax. 

He later explained why he opted not to pursue the role to Zap2it (via IGN), noting that while "Dave [Bautista] is perfect," Drax the Destroyer was too similar to other roles where "I don't say much and I'm colored up:"

"I think it's perfectly cast. Dave [Bautista] is perfect for that role, for Drax. It didn't really fit in my time because I've done so many things where I don't say much and I'm colored up and I have my shirt off again. I made a conscious choice to turn down some movies that were action-based to direct 'Road to Paloma' so people could see that side." 

Amanda Seyfried - Gamora

Amanda Seyfried in The Crowded Room & Zoe Saldaña as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy
Amanda Seyfried & Zoe Saldaña

Another actor who passed on a Guardians of the Galaxy role is Mamma Mia!'s Amanda Seyfried. 

In 2019, the actress confessed to Movieweb that she "turned down one [superhero role] once," giving away the fact it was for Gamora when saying, "I didn't want to be green for six months out of every year:"

"I turned down one [superhero role] once and they haven't called back since. And it was a big'un. I don't regret it because I didn't want to be green for six months out of every year."

Seyfried went on to admit that "part of [her] wishes [she had] done it," but she also does not think "[she] would've been happy:"

"They tell beautiful stories through superheroes, and my daughter's now really obsessed with superheroes now, and part of me wishes I'd done it, but the other part of me is like 'I had a life to live' and I don't think I would've been happy."

Joaquin Phoenix - Doctor Strange

Joaquin Phoenix in Napoleon, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange in Doctor Strange
Joaquin Phoenix & Benedict Cumberbatch

Can you imagine a universe where Joaquin Phoenix was the Sorcerer Supreme with roles in films like Thor: Ragnarok and Spider-Man: No Way Home

It almost happened. 

While the Joker star did not explain why he rejected Marvel Studios' offer to play Doctor Strange to CBR, he revealed he was not against comic book movies or superhero roles, saying, "I enjoy those movies" as they keep the "industry going in some ways:"

"I think they make some great, fun movies. There’s nothing wrong… I’m not a f******, like, cinephile. I’m not a snob and I’m totally fine with… I enjoy those movies sometimes, and I think they keep the f****** industry going in some ways, so I don’t have a problem with it at all. I think that everybody was, is… I’m trying to figure out how to say this most diplomatically, okay… I think everybody was really happy with how things turned out. All parties were satisfied."

Marvel Studios' former production lead attorney Paul Sarker spoke with The Direct about why Phoenix rejected Benedict Cumberbatch's role, revealing that there "was a deal" and "it was pretty far along:"

 "But to be perfectly honest, the Joaquin Phoenix thing was unique to me, because there was a deal and because it was pretty far along. And we were hopeful that it would close, but it didn't. And that happens. And that to bring it back full circle, things like that may be why Kevin is saying we don't want to do these super long-term deals because we want to see what works and if it works, and people want to do more than we'd love to have [them]. We don't want someone to feel like they're forced.”

Matthew McConaughey - Ego

Matthew McConaughey in The Gentlemen, Kurt Russell as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Matthew McConaughey & Kurt Russell

Ahead of 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, James Gunn and Marvel Studios approached Matthew McConaughey for the Living Planet and Star-Lord's homicidal dad. 

So why did the Interstellar actor pass on the villainous role? 

In an interview with Playboy, shared by the Independent, McConaughey admitted he would've felt "like an amendment:"

“I like 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' but what I saw was ‘It’s successful, and now we’ve got room to make a colourful part for another big-name actor.’ I’d feel like an amendment."

He also referenced The Dark Tower and how his role in that film allowed him to "be the creator:"

"'The Dark Tower' script was well written, I like the director [Nikolaj Arcel] and his take on it, and I can be the creator, the author of the Man in Black—a.k.a. the Devil—in my version of this Stephen King novel. We’ve done the first one. It’s a fantastic thriller that takes place in another realm, an alternate universe, but it’s very much grounded."

Saoirse Ronan - Yelena Belova in Black Widow

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women, Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova in Black Widow
Saoirse Ronan & Florence Pugh

Florence Pugh's Little Women co-star almost played her MCU character, Yelena Belova

As shared on Reddit, Marvel Studios approached Lady Bird's Saoirse Ronan to play Natasha Romanoff's kid sister and fellow assassin in 2021's Black Widow

Ronan has since gone on to star in See How They Run and Lady Macbeth in 2023's The Tragedy of Macbeth.

Miriam Margolyes - Unknown in Agatha

Miriam Margolyes as Professor Sprout in Harry Potter
Miriam Margolyes

Harry Potter star Miriam Margolyes, who's also known for The Age of Innocence, told an Australian TV show (shared via Bleeding Cool) that she turned down a Marvel gig about "story witches," and which is believed to be Agatha coming to Disney+:

"This was only about two months ago, they rang up my agent and I didn't know, I hadn't really heard of Marvel because, when I was little Marvel was a comic. They just contacted me and said we're doing a story witches."

Margolyes went on to explain why she didn't get the still-mysterious role, specifically because she "didn't want to be in Georgia for four months" for "half a million" pounds:

"I thought, oh God, not witches again, because I've done that with Harry Potter and they said we're filming in Atlanta, Georgia in America and that of course was a bit disappointing because I don't like America. And I didn't want to be in Georgia for four months, so I just said, well I want a million pounds and they said well you can have half a million and I said no I don't want to do it so I just stopped it. I mean really it's a story about my own greed…"

Tom Cruise - Iron Man

Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in Iron Man
Tom Cruise & Robert Downey Jr.

Before Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark, Marvel Studios originally wanted Mission: Impossible and Top Gun star, Tom Cruise

In discussing why he rejected the role, Cruise shared with Movieweb that, while he feels RDJ is "perfect" as Stark, at that time, Iron Man "just didn't feel to me like it was gonna work:"

"[Marvel Studios] came to me at a certain time and, when I do something, I wanna do it right. If I commit to something, it has to be done in a way that I know it’s gonna be something special. And as it was lining up, it just didn’t feel to me like it was gonna work. I need to be able to make decisions and make the film as great as it can be, it just didn’t go down that road that way.”

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- In This Article: Black Widow
Release Date
July 09, 2021
- About The Author: Savannah Sanders
Savannah Sanders joined The Direct as a writer in 2020. In addition to writing for The Direct's Star Wars, Marvel, and DC teams, Savannah specializes in the relationship between Disney's blockbuster franchises and the Disney Parks.