DC vs. Marvel: 9 actors who live in both comic book universes
A breakdown of notable names in one of Hollywood's most exclusive clubs.
With the San Diego Comic-Con in full swing and superhero movies more popular than ever, we thought it would be fun to explore one of the most exclusive clubs in all of Hollywood: The DC/Marvel Comics Crossover Actors Association.
OK, so it needs a better name, but this list of stars who have managed to straddle both sides of the comics universe is truly impressive. While not all of the roles were bonafide home runs, they've nonetheless all contributed to the incredible superhero and comic book culture we have today.
Let's light up the bat signal, throw on a skin-tight suit and dive right in!
Before he became the wise-cracking Deadpool from Marvel Comics that everyone knows and loves, Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds slipped on the tights for a turn as Hal Jordan in DC Comics' "Green Lantern." In a 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Reynolds explained why he found more success with "the merc with a mouth" than as a ring-wielding superhero.
“Well it’s simple: 'Deadpool' always knew what it was,” he said. “With 'Green Lantern,' I don’t think anyone ever figured out exactly what it was. That isn’t to say the hundreds of men and women didn’t work their fingers to the bone to make it as good as possible. It also fell victim to the process in Hollywood which is like poster first, release date second, script last."
Comic book fans unfamiliar with Israeli star Ayelet Zurer were quickly introduced to the Hollywood veteran not once, but twice through both a major blockbuster and groundbreaking Netflix series. In 2013, Zurer starred in DC Comics' "Man of Steel" as Lara Lor-Van, the mother of Superman, and then quickly followed that performance with a leading role as Vanessa Marianna in Marvel's "Daredevil" series on Netflix.
In an interview with From the Grapevine, Zurer shared her surprise at the level of genuine excitement from fans of the superhero genre.
"The warmth of the fans is something I haven't seen," said the Tel Aviv-born star. "This was particularly enthusiastic. Also I just love the fun idea of people getting dressed as their superheroes. It's kind of like Halloween, but a more psychological fit to the dream icon you want to be in this world."
Before he went toe-to-toe with the man of steel as Batman in DC Comics' "Superman v Batman," American actor Ben Affleck was better known in superhero circles for his role as Matt Murdock in the 2003 Marvel film "Daredevil." While Affleck was praised for setting the stage for a character that would eventually find success as a series on Netflix, he admitted later that the film just wasn't very good.
"'Daredevil' didn't work, at all," Affleck told Entertainment Weekly in 2016. "If I wanted to go viral, I would be less polite. That was before people realized you could make these movies and make them well. There was a cynical sense of 'Put a red leather outfit on a guy, have him run around, hunt some bad guys, and cash the check.'"
Affleck will reprise his new role in the DC Comics universe in the upcoming "Justice League."
Before she brought history to life in "Jackie" and danced her way to an Oscar in "Black Swan," Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman starred as a young anarchist in the film adaptation of the DC Comics-based "V for Vendetta." In 2011, she switched to Marvel, starring as Jane Foster in "Thor" and again in 2013 in "Thor: The Dark World."
“As far as I know, I’m done," she told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year. "I don’t know if, maybe, one day they’ll ask for an 'Avengers 7' or whatever. I have no idea! But as far as I know I’m done.”
While hopes for a female Thor may be sidelined for now, we can at least look forward to Portman in the upcoming "Annihilation." Directed by Alex Garland, the film revolves around an all-woman team of researchers sent to investigate an environmental disaster zone on Earth known as Area X.
In addition to lighting up the screen in Marvel's "X-Men" franchise as Storm, American actress Halle Berry also took on the iconic role of DC Comics' Catwoman in the eponymous 2004 film. Based on her acceptance speech for Worst Actress in "Catwoman" at the 25th Golden Raspberry Awards in 2004, it's clear which superhero she would prefer to keep playing.
"I want to thank Warner Bros. for casting me in this piece-of-sh**, god-awful movie," she famously quipped. "I’d like to thank the rest of the cast. To give a really bad performance like mine, you need to have really bad actors."
Before he starred in the artificial intelligence thriller "Westworld" on HBO, American actor James Marsden was best known in Hollywood as Cyclops from Marvel's "X-Men" film franchise. In 2006, he also starred as the fiancé of Lois Lane in the DC Comics' reboot, "Superman Returns." In a 2016 interview, Marsden hinted that he's extremely open to exploring additional roles with either comics franchise.
"We are infatuated with Marvel and DC," he said. "The material is so rich, and I’d love to find something else to do – if I’m allowed to play another character."
As for who that character could be, Marsden does have one suggestion. "When I was a kid, I always thought I’d be a good Spiderman, because I always thought I was really skinny and I liked to climb things," he shared. "But that role’s been taken. I could play Spiderman when he’s, like, 50. [Laughs] I’ll teach the young Spiderman and not have to jump around so much."
While Japanese actress Tao Okamoto most recently appeared as Mercy Graves, the personal assistant and bodyguard to Lex Luthor, in DC Comics' "Batman v Superman," the former model had a much larger role in Marvel's 2013 film "The Wolverine." Starring opposite Australian actor Hugh Jackman, Okamoto played Mariko Yashida, a skilled martial artist threatened by a egomaniacal villain.
“My character in ‘Batman v Superman’ isn’t supposed to be Japanese, but director Zack Snyder said he’d seen me in ‘Wolverine’ and had to get me in the film somehow,” she said in an interview. “Hearing that was like music to my ears."
While he's set to don the iconic fedora of Commissioner Jim Gordon in DC Comics' "Justice League" later this year, American actor J.K. Simmons is first and foremost known to Spider-Man fans as the loud-mouthed editor-in-chief J. Jonah Jameson. The actor appeared in all three of the first "Spider-Man" films directed by American Sam Raimi and produced by legendary Israeli filmmaker Avi Arad.
While Simmons says his new role as Gordon is small in "Justice League," it's just the tip of the iceberg for what he hopes will be yet another career-defining performance.
"I’m going into a thing that hopefully will be two, three, four, maybe more movies for me, and my part in the first one is really very small," he said last year. "But obviously, we know who the guy is. We know his whole backstory, based on the comic book. So, I’m just gonna finish doing my research on that. And probably not watch the other actors who have played the part, because that is kind of intimidating, honestly, and I don’t think I would find that to be productive. So, I’ll do my take."
British-American Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who rose to fame playing the character Dr. Eko on ABC's survival drama "Lost," is likely the only Marvel/DC Comics crossover who is almost completely unrecognizable. For both Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World" and DC Comics' "Suicide Squad," the actor's handsome face has been masked by prosthetics, makeup and other accessories. Rather than a hindrance, however, Akinnuoye-Agbaje sees such characters as a unique challenge to breathe life into.
"The head and shoulders are prosthetic that were glued onto my face and then the body down was painted,” he told Superhero Hype. “It took about five hours to do, but it was something that was a challenge that I was up for because I wanted to set a new standard for what can be done with prosthetics. We could have easily CGI’d this, but David [Ayer] was insistent on there being an actor to bring out the soul of the character. It gave me an opportunity to show what I could do with prosthetics."
Fans may be surprised to hear that Akinnuoye-Agbaje also has something in common with "Wonder Woman" star Gal Gadot. Much like the Israeli actress, he attended law school before shifting to modeling and then Hollywood.
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