Possibly the biggest surprise that came from Marvel Studios' time at this year's D23 celebration was the unveiling of the MCU's Thunderbolts cast, featuring the likes of Yelena Belove, Bucky Barnes, Red Guardian, US Agent, Ghost, Taskmaster, and Valentina de Allegra Fontaine. While many fans were excited about the development, it felt like it was missing something.
Part of this is because the lineup didn't include the character that shares a name with the team - General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (or, Secretary of State Ross, since 2016's Captain America: Civil War).
As many fans recall, actor William Hurt passed away earlier this year, leaving many fans questioning how Marvel plans to move forward without the actor. Now, it seems Marvel Studios does want Secretary Ross for its Thunderbolts movie, so they're reportedly looking for someone new to play him.
Marvel May Recast Thunderbolt Ross
A new report from The Ankler's Jeff Sneider claims that Marvel Studios is interested in recasting the role of Secretary Thaddeus E. "Thunderbolt" Ross ahead of the MCU's new Thunderbolts movie, scheduled to release July 26, 2024.
Although Sneider admitted that Marvel will deny it, he explained that "Harrison Ford either is or was the studio's top choice to star in the Thunderbolts movie as General Ross himself:"
Marvel has denied what I'm about to tell you. That's a matter of timing, is it that I am too early or am I too late? Multiple sources have indicated that Harrison Ford either is or was the studio's top choice to star in the Thunderbolts movie as General Ross himself.
This news comes six months after the tragic passing of actor William Hurt, who debuted as General Ross in the MCU's second-ever film, 2008's The Incredible Hulk. He popped up again in the Marvel One-Shot The Consultant, and later appeared as Thunderbolt Ross in four other MCU movies through Phases 3 and 4 including Captain America: Civil War and Black Widow.
Sneider went on to speculate that Harrison Ford may be hesitant to accept the offer "out of respect (for) his friend William Hurt."
Ford is currently hard at work on Disney's lot already, putting together the fifth Indiana Jones movie.
Marvel Not Done With Thunderbolt Ross
It's not often that Marvel has to recast an actor for one of its MCU projects, only switching out its players when compensation or creative differences get in the way. But when an established MCU namesake passes away, the studio is faced with a tough decision of either continuing the story they intend to tell with the character or finding a way to say goodbye and moving on.
Unfortunately, this isn't the first time in recent years that Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has been faced with this decision, having just made the choice not to recast Black Panther 2's T'Challa when Chadwick Boseman passed away in 2020.
Arguably the most prominent news coming from this development is that Marvel Studios still intends to use the General Ross character as a piece that brings together its Thunderbolts movie slated for 2024.
Other than the squad of anti-heroes sharing the Secretary's namesake, it'll be interesting to see just how important Ross is to the Thunderbolts story, given he's largely been lurking in the MCU shadows since his heavy enforcement of the Sokovia Accords in 2016.
At this point, Marvel could take a couple of different directions with Thunderbolt Ross if a new actor is going to play him. The first option is to further develop Ross' devotion to the Sokovia Accords and form the Thunderbolts team as the task force that operates outside of his own legislation. Captain America: Civil War showed how the Accords can get in the way of getting the job done, so Ross may be motivated to have a backup crew on reserve that can come in and clean up the mess if the chaos is too great to play by the rules.
If the company is looking to continue with William Hurt's character, even after he passed away, it could be because Marvel is looking to start a whole new chapter for Ross in the MCU. Alternatively, Thunderbolts may involve General Ross in the fight more directly and finally feature Thaddeus Ross as Red Hulk. Seeing Ross Hulk-out is something that fans have wanted to see since he lit his first MCU cigar, so finding a new actor could open that door for fans wanting a more aggressive Thunderbolt Ross.
Thunderbolts is currently slated for release on July 26, 2024.