What if Marvel directors cast their former stars?

Adam McKay, longtime writing-directing partner of Will Farrell, was tapped to direct “Ant Man” but opted out.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

When Adam McKay was announced, and then unannounced, as a contender to direct “Ant Man,” moviedom’s hive mind began racing at the possibilities. Did that mean Will Ferrell could potentially star as the insectoid hero? Could John C. Reilly could play his inevitable sidekick? Or maybe even Zach Galifianakis could play the title character’s antagonist, a can of Raid.

Alas, we’ll never know what a McKay “Ant Man” might have yielded, because the comedy director pulled out soon after. Still,  Marvel has been reaching pretty far afield with its director choices lately. Which makes us wonder — what if some of them brought their past collaborators to their new adventures? After all, Marvel is all about reviving and redefining careers.
Here, then, are Marvel cast versions you could end up with if the studio really followed through and let the directors go wild.

Scott Derrickson, “Dr. Strange": Keanu Reeves, who played Klaatu in Derrickson’s remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” would make a fine Dr. Strange, the ex-neurosurgeon turned Sorcerer Supreme. Imagine, if you will, Reeves’ Dr. Strange first obtaining his mystical powers and then delivering the actor’s trademark “whoa.” Then take a look at Reeves’ resume: Supernatural experience? Yep, as a demon hunter in “Constantine.” Action-movie bona fides? Sure, “The Matrix” trilogy. Ever played a doctor? Don’t tell us you’ve already forgotten “Something’s Gotta Give” or his dental turn in the indie “Thumbsucker.”

Of course, every hero needs a villain, so why not also recruit Eric Bana, of Derrickson’s upcoming “Deliver Us From Evil,” to play the demonic creature Dormammu. Before you protest that Bana already played the Incredible Hulk, keep in mind that was back in 2003 — an eternity in Marvel years. Besides, Dormammu is a supernatural being with a flaming head, so he’d surely be rendered via CGI. All Bana would have to do is lay down a sinister growl and let Marvel’s digital wizards do the rest.


James Gunn, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy': Sure, the film is a long shot and ready to come out. And from the looks of things, Chris Pratt as the everyman hero Peter Quill-turned-Star Lord, Zoe Saldana as the green Gamora and  Bradley Cooper as the battle tactician — and raccoon named Rocket — will prove an interesting mix, to say the least.

But c’mon, Pratt’s already done the chosen-one thing with “The Lego Movie,” Zoe Saldana has been down this intergalactic-fighting road before and Cooper, well, one could see him as a panther, maybe, or a wolf, but a raccoon?

What if, at least in the sequel, Pratt’s pilot was someone Gunn worked with that you’d never expect? Like really never expect. Like Freddie Prinze Jr. never expect. Prinze starred in the big-screen “Scooby-Doo,” which Gunn wrote. Everyone loves a comeback. And F-stop never really did get the shake he deserved in action blockbusters. Plus it’s not like he has no experience in myth-heavy movies. Surely you’ll recall “Delgo,” in which, per Wikipedia, “After having left their own world due to a loss of natural resources, the winged humanoid Nohrin settle on Jhamora with the permission of the ground-dwelling Lokni.” Just for being associated with that sentence he should get another shot.

And why not take Elizabeth Banks from Gunn’s “Slither,” who is always relegated to second banana in “The Hunger Games” but could go green as well as Saldana. Plus in “Slither” she was named Starla. Boom.


Meanwhile, Cooper’s strategic duties could be handled by—who else--Rainn Wilson, star of Gunn’s superhero satire “Super.” Wasn’t he always planning battle tactics against Jim on “The Office” anyway? Or at least potato-farm yields. Either way, unleash a little Dwight Schrute on the aliens and humanity will never go extinct.

Anthony and Joe Russo, “Captain America: Winter Soldier.” Yes, they had the biggest opening of the year. But all that talk about surveillance and American relativism gets so dark after a while. Wouldn’t it be great if the movie had a little more levity in it? Say, the kind of levity found in the Russo brothers’ previous “You, Me & Dupree”?

Matt Dillon could star as hero Steve Rodgers, partnering with Kate Hudson’s Agent Natasha Romanoff to fight threats on behalf of America. All seems well on their new counter-terrorism mission when the team is attacked by a mysterious killer named the winter soldier. It turns out the soldier is a combatant long thought gone from the American screen: Owen Wilson. Wilson’s soldier is a deadly character, who brings victims to their untimely ends by delivering drawling lines and entering bedrooms unannounced. All is resolved, though, when Rodgers and Romanoff realize that all the winter soldier wants is a little love and friendship of his own.

It’s not too late, Hollywood; comedic remakes of superhero movies could be a thing.

Alan Taylor, “Thor: The Dark World": You might be shocked to learn there aren’t really any credible candidates to play Thor, the hammer-wielding Norse demigod, among the casts of “Palookaville,” “Kill the Poor” or “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

That being the case, we’re going to have to cheat a bit and pull from Taylor’s TV background, drafting Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from “Game of Thrones.” He’s a buff, blond Scandinavian hunk (Danish to be exact), and you could probably swap him in for Chris Hemsworth in “Thor 3" without many people even noticing.

But the real coup would be swapping out Christopher Eccleston as the malevolent Malekith. Yes, yes, the classically trained British actor has chops, but if you really want to mix it up, consider Taylor’s “Palookaville” collaborator Vincent Gallo as Thor’s antagonist. A proud provocateur, Gallo would surely relish knocking the Asgardian hero down a peg or two. He’s an outsider like Malekith (the banished Dark Elf) and a trickster like Loki (Thor’s troublesome half-brother), and he has already committed the ultimate act of cinematic villainy — he made “The Brown Bunny.” Turning in an evil performance should be easy.


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