By Jim Scroggs
January 5, 2017
Twitter and Instagram: JHScroggs
What if? That's a phrase we say at least once a day. It's optimistic, challenging and even a little terrifying as well. Movie studios have the same thoughts about multi-million dollar investments in films that they hope will change the landscape of cinema but as we all know, there are many more misses than hits. Just look deep into Amazon Prime or Netflix to see the amount of movies that you didn't know existed. Today, we're going to focus on some of the roles that are embedded in our head but would be different if this was an alternate universe.
Tom Cruise-Tony Stark/Iron Man
You know him as Maverick, Ethan Hunt and my personal favorite, Les Grossman from Tropic Thunder. Tom Cruise is the definition of a movie star and while some of his personal side has altered the public's view of him, it's no doubt that he's got a lot of clout when it comes to box office numbers. In 1998, long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe started, a Tom Cruise lead Iron Man movie, possibly directed by Quinten Tarantino could have happened. As someone who grew up in the late 80's into the 90's, these were two of the biggest names in film so to see them team up, who knows what would have happened for better or worse. Cruise wasn't pleased with the script and Tarantino passed on directing so that lead the way for Marvel to start from scratch on what would be come a behemoth in the MCU. If there is anyone on this planet who believes that Robert Downey Jr wasn't born to play Tony Stark, then there's a bridge in Brooklyn that I'd like to sell you.
John Krasinski-Steve Rogers/Captain America
Chris Evans has done a spectacular job as Steve Rogers/Captain America but there is one actor who I think could have done just as good of a job as the star spangled man with a plan. John Krasinski, who's better known for his role The Office as Jim Halpert, came close to landing the part of Steve Rogers and even put on the suit for a screen test. However, he later told the story on an episode of "Conan" that maybe it might not have been the best thing for him.
Why John Krasinski isn't Captain America
I'm a huge John Krasinski fan, and not just because he played a guy named Jim. He's funny, charming, obviously doesn't take himself seriously, and seems like an overall good person. Take those attributes to the character of Steve Rogers, along with his 6 Foot 3 Inch frame (Steve Rogers is listed at 6'2) and in an alternate universe, he could have done a fine job as Cap and I really hope we can see him in the MCU in some capacity.
Jack Black-Green Lantern
Close your eyes and imagine the Green Lantern played by Nacho Libre with the comedic stylings of Triumph The Insult Comic Dog. Are you still with me? Good because that was a very good possibility of happening. Robert Smigel, who is better known for his writing on SNL as well as the voice of the aforementioned puppet comic, was hired by Warner Brothers to write a comedic version of the character. Black wasn't keen on the idea at first but changed his mind after reading Smigel's screenplay. Smigel had this to say about writing such a different tone for a rather serious character: "What appealed to me about it on a comedic level was that, in order to be a superhero, this requires no physical skill or talent. All it requires is owning this ring. Automatically, that's a comedic premise"
Black wouldn't have played Hal Jordan but a reality TV star that the ring chose by mistake. The story arc was based on a few from the 1980's and it went as far as having him conjure up Superman to save the planet after Black screwed up. WB had a change of heart after word of the film leaked online and canned the project. That ultimately lead to the Ryan Reynolds film we all know and not so much, loved. I've been a huge fan of Smigel since his days as a writer for SNL and Conan but I don't know if I would like to see what a comedic version of Green Lantern would looked like.
"In West Los Angeles not born or raised, on a sound stage is where I spent most of my days. Acting, Rapping, and turning down parts that could have put me in the upper echelon of stars" OK, Yes, that was bad but I love Will Smith and you can't tell me you don't get choked up when his dad leaves and he has that powerful scene with Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He's one of the true superstars in the industry and he's had plenty of great roles from Stephen Hiller in Independence Day to Mike Lowery in Bad Boys and I can't forget about Agent Jay in Men in Black but he also could have been Neo in The Matrix. That's right. Everyone's favorite film about red and blue pills could have started one of the biggest TV stars of the 1990's. In a 2004 interview with Wired, Smith said that "In the pitch, I just didn't see it. I watched Keanu's performance and very rarely do I say this but I would have messed it up". This could have been a game changer in his career because if he took it and succeeded, then he was also up for the role of Clark Kent in 2006's Superman Returns. However, Keanu Reeves is Neo as far as I'm concerned and we wouldn't have gotten those amazing "Whoa" moments that he delivered.
The reason this is my number one is because of how much money was left on the table. In an age where film contracts span trilogies and even universes, this could have been the biggest role in terms of money in film history. For instance, Robert Downey Jr is slated to make, according to MoneyNation.com, close to 430 million in his role as Tony Stark. That includes 3 Iron Man movies, 4 Avengers films and appearances in Captain America:Civil War as well as July's Spider-Man: Homecoming. A similar deal was in place for Sean Connery if he accepted the role of Gandalf in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. That deal included 10 million per film, a 15% stake of the franchises gross and that all adds up to 450 million dollars for only three films. I also should mention that doesn't include the appearances from Gandalf in "The Hobbit" movies so if he accepted the role, that figure could be even bigger. Why didn't Connery take the role you ask? Simple. He didn't understand the script. A part of me can't blame him because I don't know if I could have understood it either but you have to wonder if he kicks himself for it, because he did League of Extraordinary Gentlemen after that trilogy made history and maybe he thought it would have the same success.
Stay tuned for Part Two of my "What If" series.