Today Marvel officially announced the pending release of a few films: Iron Man 2 and Thor in 2010, Captain America (also titled The First Avenger...presumably for foreign markets) and The Avengers for 2011 and Ant Man for an undisclosed date somewhere in that range. So I found myself wondering who I'd like to see in each of these roles.
Iron Man 2 will, I imagine, add in Jim Rhodes's role as War Machine (as was hinted in the first movie). I would imagine the villain will be Mandarin, Iron Man's arch-nemesis. Obviously for the film version Mandarin can't be at his most ridiculous so I think we need to modernize the character a bit, perhaps as an evil Asian business man funding terrorism. Iron Man has also, hopefully, taught us that having a 'name' actor isn't what's important; a strong story and performance is.
My choice for Mandarin: Daniel Dae Kim of Lost and 24.
Thor is a tougher role to fill. Our hero needs to be gruff, well built and capable of delivering some fairly ridiculous lines without embarassing himself. Kevin McKidd from HBO's Rome seems perfectly suited for the role. I don't think he can act enough for the role but the WWF's Triple H (also from Blade Trinity) really looks the part.
Captain America is also a difficult role to fill. Our character needs to be both believable dorky (for the artist origin) and heroically principled. I think actor Brad Beyer from Jericho would be a great fit. I think he has a nice Americana look to him, necessary for Captain America, with the build to play a superhero. I wonder, of course, if Marvel would be willing to go with such an unknown for a character who will, more or less, have to carry two movies. Plotwise I'd LOVE to see Captain America set in the 40s with Cap facing off against Nazis and Red Skull. Ideally this movie would end with Cap somehow being frozen in an ice drift and the Avengers movie would begin with Nick Fury et al finding and thawing him out, thus allowing him to keep the innocent idealism that makes the character appealing. I also think it'll be easier for an international audience to accept Captain America the WWII hero over Captain America the current hero. Alternately, perhaps, the modern day discovery could be set part way through the movie allowing Marvel to use Samuel L. Jackson's name (as Nick Fury) to help promote alongside unknown Beyer. I would also cast a relatively well known actor as archnemesis Red Skull, similar to the tactic taken by the original Superman movies: unknown Christopher Reeves paired with Academy Award winner Gene Hackman. Perhaps Bruce Willis would make a good Red Skull (if he can pull off a German accent I'd be happy with that casting). They also need to cut his sidekick Bucky out of it (would Batman Begins have worked so well with Robin thrown in? I think not) and come up with some sort of satisfactory explanation for the Super Soldier Serum (what makes Steve Rogers into Cap) as something that's basically a steroid might not be the best idea for the root of Captain America in today's society. Other ideas of note: Paul Walker (I know he isn't much of an actor but Captain America isn't exactly Cicero, probably my preferred casting of a 'star' for the role), Jensen Ackles from Supernatural (maybe a bit too 'pretty' looking), the guy who is Titan on American Gladiators (probably can't act), Scott Porter from Friday Night Lights (I think he'd make a better Superman), Scott Speedman (not quite right facially) and Tahmoh Penikett from Battlestar Galactice (same issue as Speedman).
The last role to fill for now is Ant Man. Based on the selection of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz director Edgar Wright and the fact that we're dealing with a character who can shrink to the size of a bug and communicate with insects, Ant Man is almost certain to be an action-comedy (and a comic relief character in the Avengers movie). An obvious selection is, of course, Wright's usual collaborator Simon Pegg. While I think it's an ok selection Pegg will already have the Star Trek reboot franchise on his resume and I think the character needs to be somewhat more serious than what I imagine Pegg brings to the role. I also think it would help the box office if the actor is at least somewhat well known, to that end I suggest Arrested Development's Jason Bateman (also in films of box office note in The Kingdom, Juno and Hancock). Bateman has shown both the ability for serious acting and the comedic chops that will be necessary for the role. I imagine, though it has no date yet set, this coming out sometime around President's or Valentine's Day 2010 or 2011, giving the actor plenty of time to reprise his role in The Avengers. I don't know a whole lot about the character but I imagine it would have to the Hank Pym version (who also becomes a number of other heroes including Giant Man and Yellowjacket based on the science experiments that allowed him to become Ant Man). I'd also be ok with Alan Tudyk of Serenity and Death at a Funeral in the lead role.
This gives us a preliminary Avengers roster of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Brad Beyer), War Machine (Terrence Howard), Ant Man (Jason Bateman), Thor (Kevin McKidd) and Hulk (Edward Norton). Hulk, set out of control, might also make for an ideal villain for an Avengers movie. We'd also likely need at least one female team member so that gives us either She-Hulk (Jennifer Morrison from House?), Black Widow (Isla Fisher?), Ms. Marvel (Kristin Chenoweth from Pushing Daisies?, Malin Ackerman? Diane Kruger?) or, the best choice, Scarlet Witch (Michelle Ryan from Bionic Woman would work nicely) who could be set up in the Captain America movie as options. Other possible Avengers include Dr. Strange (Sean Penn would be perfect), Namor the Submariner (Jamie Bamber? The Rock?), Hawkeye (Casey Affleck? Nathan Fillion?), Black Panther (Chiwetel Ejiofor?), Luke Cage (Tyrese Gibson?) and, unlikely due to commitments to other series and studios, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire or Jim Sturgess).