With the level of secrecy Marvel Studios maintains leading up to releases of their Marvel Cinematic Universe projects, you would think they would be half decent at running some background checks on performers leading multi-million dollar franchises. Nope. Even accounting for space for growth and wiggle room for bad parts people took to not go hungry, Marvel has made some questionable casting choices.
In the early days of the MCU, a few actors were replaced, and while we asked questions, we collectively just accepted the new faces. Examples are Don Cheadle replacing Terrance Howard as War Machine after compensation disputes, and Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton as The Hulk after Norton lost interest in the project. Between that and rapidly developing technology, we could still do this! (And just do better from here on out!)
So, in the spirit of Marvel’s delightful Disney + series What If…?, I decided to recast some of my least favorite leads in the MCU. Unlike The Watcher, I would take an active role to try to do better.
While I chose most of these people to recast for their awful behavior and/or personalities, I do believe that, in many circumstances, people can change and grow. The people that made this list either have proven they can’t/won’t or just haven’t yet, and I’m tired of waiting. There may be some things equally bad, if not worse that I overlooked when choosing new people (a discussion I welcome in the comments). However, I don’t have Disney’s workforce power or money to do the proper vetting. While I’ll make a case for who could replace them, please note that for many of these, I would also love to have newcomers in general.
Hawkeye as played by Jeremy Renner
Where do I begin with this guy? Renner has a documented history of misogyny (Black Widow comments and implying it’s not men’s job to help fight gender pay disparities) with no sign of legitimate change or introspection. Court documents show testimony of his ex-wife accusing him of pulling a gun on her and threatening to kill her in an alcohol and coke-fueled rage. Least important (but still!?!) is his failed app that was like Instagram, but only he could post, and you could pay REAL MONEY to show you were the biggest fan. We’ve been done with Jeremy Renner.
I’ll talk to the Moon and back about my issues with his costar Scarlett Johansson, but I will say this: The wrong Avenger died on Vormir in Endgame. Also, despite my desire to watch the movie that made film history when Kathyrn Bigelow won the Oscar for best directing (The Hurt Locker), since learning of Renner’s involvement, I’ve been dragging my feet. While I didn’t know much about Hawkeye before his introduction to the MCU, his character is a prime candidate for an Alyssa-fave. Many of my favorite characters growing up (and my mini-fig for D&D) wield bows: Merida (Brave), Legolas (Lord of the Rings), Nightwolf (Mortal Kombat), and more.
While I cross my fingers for a recast or immediate phase-out of the character (via onscreen death), Disney continues to bring him back to the story. In the Black Widow post-credits scene, they set up a few things, including the fact that Hawkeye will remain relevant. The release of the Hawkeye Disney+ series trailer confirmed that he will be a major part of the story. While it looks kinda pass-the-torch-esque, he is still the lead. The only time I’ve been able to tolerate this man has been in What If…?, because he was animated and I forgot that Renner voiced the character.
Possible replacements could be Joel Kinnaman, Pedro Pascal, or Boyd Holbrook. There were rumors Kinnaman (who is Rick Flag in The Suicide Squad) did audition for some of the roles of the original Avengers years ago, but because Hawkeye in the comics is often deaf, it would be amazing to see a deaf actor play the part—especially if the Disney+ series really is bringing that aspect of the character to the screen. The fact that it’s hard to name someone who would be a good fit just means Hollywood has some work to do in terms of giving deaf actors a chance to shine.
Shuri as played by Letitia Wright
My want for a Wright recast comes from two different things, the most important of which is her spreading vaccine misinformation—not only for her actions last year that our Briana Lawerence explained, but also the fact that reports are coming out that she did this on the set of Wakanda Forever. Also, she and her entire U.S. team of representatives parted ways afterward, so something tells me she isn’t going to stop. Like Briana and many other Black women, I was rooting for her, and Wright just won’t stop.
The second reason I want a recast (and something I was happy to overlook until Wright’s misinformation habit showed itself) is the age of Shuri. In the comics, her age ranges depending on the time, but I want a young Shuri like we got recently in an episode of What If…?. I want a Shuri that will fit in nicely with Miles Morales (Spider-man) and Kamala Khan (Miss Marvel) like she does in some of the recent comics. While Kate Bishop (Hawkeye) and Peter Parker (Spider-man) look young, we need more teenagers in the MCU, or at least young actors who can play teenagers and pull off the look.
Figuring out who to replace her with was kinda hard to imagine because only a handful of already cast actresses have performed the made-up Wakandan accent, so I choose people based on their general talent and age. Possible replacements could be Disney child-star Skai Jackson or Lovie Simone (Selah and the Spades). I’m leaning toward Jackson, though, as we have already seen her portrayed in a futuristic setting in Lil Nas X’s sci-fi music video for “Panini.”
Star-Lord as played by Chris Pratt
As the worst Chris with questionable ties to a homophobic church, and the white supremacist group The 3%, he’s gotta go. Then, there’s his past comments on blue-collar rep in media (this one he apologized for), mocking the language used in “get out the vote” efforts while also showing us at all times how patriotic he is (like, the scary end of that.) Unfortunately, out of everyone on this list, he is the least likely to be recast. When there was a whiff of critique for Pratt, many coworkers came to his defense rather than examine why he was being critiqued to begin with.
Because Hollywood did Brendan Fraser wrong for over a decade, we didn’t get a chance to see him play at Star-Lord. Before you bring up his age, know that Fraser is the same age as many of the Avengers and only a decade older than Pratt. It could have worked. If Pratt were recast today and we didn’t choose another Chris (Pine), I would love to see Utrkarsh Ambudkar (Free Guy and Special S2) or Jason Mantzoukas play Peter Quill. Both have proven themselves through their various roles to be capable of the charm, humor, and heart the character requires.
Katy as played by Nora Lum a.k.a. Awkwafina
Recently, I did a whole breakdown of why, despite rooting for good representation of people of color, I can no longer support Nora Lum’s work. The TLDR is that Lum has made a career of playing a Black minstrel and refuses to engage with the criticism beyond the babbling non-answer she gave some weeks back. I can’t support her anti-blackness.
I would love to see singer/actress Hayley Kiyoko, Jessica Henwick (Ironfist), or Scottish actress Katie Leung (Harry Potter). Between the two, I think Kiyoko or Henwick might feel more comfortable taking on a big role like this over Leung. Leung has spoken up about the racist harassment she received when cast in Harry Potter, and to join another big franchise might be a bit overwhelming. It’s not like a whole lot has changed. Look at the vitriol thrown at Kelly Marie Tran for daring to be in Star Wars.
Actor Simu Liu (Shang-Chi) has a breadth of issues that would warrant a recast. From some pretty concerning reports of his conduct to the surfacing of his involvement in a subreddit popular with Asian “men’s rights activists,” in which an account that appeared to be his likened pedophilia with queerness, among other things. Despite all of this, the sum total of Liu’s response to all of this coming to light was to remind everyone that he is guided by positivity and “we don’t put each other down,” rather than any substantive explanation or apology. While this is more than enough to warrant a recast, I didn’t include him in the list for a number of reasons.
Since Iron Fist was a TV show on Netflix and only MCU-adjacent (though I would love to see the other three Defenders included in full!), I also held out on recasting Danny Rand. Still, the character shouldn’t have been cast as a white guy, first of all, with the public push to make the role Asian-American. Also, Finn Jones did terribly in the role, and as far as the fighting goes … well, let’s just say the stunt coordinator remarked on how his co-stars worked harder than Jones. The whole storyline is a mess held over from the more problematic of Marvel eras. So, either Jessica Henwick is now the star with a new story, or we just scrap it altogether.
I also didn’t include Black Widow because her story seems basically done, at least with Scarlett Johansson. If the right Avenger had died (talking about Hawkeye again) and she still had a future in the MCU, she would’ve made the list for sure for her defenses of Woody Allen and her continued bad takes on representation in Hollywood and storytelling.
I know there are more I left out. Who do you think should be recast, and who would you like to play them?
(image: Marvel Studios and Alyssa Shotwell)
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What If… We Recast Our Least Favorite Marvel Actors?