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These actors have said they would return to the MCU

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become such a dominant pop culture force that at this point, it would probably be easier to name all the actors who haven't appeared in one of its films than those who have. While gainfully employing pretty much all of Hollywood, the franchise has created a living, breathing universe that feels like real people actually live in it — and every once in awhile, one of those folks will even pop back up unexpectedly after an extended absence. 

For instance, we didn't have occasion to think about General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross too much after the events of 2008's The Incredible Hulk, but we knew he was still out there somewhere. Then, sure enough, there he was eight years later, foisting the Sokovia Accords on the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War, and still saying the name "Banner" like it burned his tongue.

This is to say that there are a huge number of memorable supporting players who have come and gone from the MCU over the years — but just because they've gone doesn't mean they couldn't come back. In fact, quite a few of those players have spoken publicly about their desire to do just that. Apparently, once you've been a part of the single biggest film franchise of all time, the hankering to dip your toes in that pool again can be quite strong.

Ty Simpkins wants Harley Keener to take over for his mentor

One of the biggest surprises of 2019's Avengers: Endgame flew right over the heads of most audiences. During the long, meandering shot of all of the attendees at Tony Stark's funeral at the movie's conclusion, there was a single young man who seemed a bit out of place among all of the superheroes and secret agents. Moviegoers could be forgiven for not recognizing him, for the last time he appeared in the MCU, he wasn't a young man, but a kid: he was Harley Keener, the precocious moppet who teamed up with a broken-suited, isolated Stark in 2013's Iron Man 3.

Ty Simpkins, the actor who portrayed Keener, has made it clear that he would like that cameo to be the start of something more. Specifically, he has lobbied to be cast as Nathaniel Richards, a time-traveling teenager from the 31st century who has taken on the mantle of Iron Lad in the pages of Marvel comics. "I'd do it, I'd [play Iron Lad], without a doubt," Simpkins told IGN last year. "It was so cool coming back [for Endgame]."

Unfortunately for Simpkins, there may be a problem with that. It's recently been reported that Lovecraft Country's Jonathan Majors has joined the cast of the upcoming, as-yet untitled Ant-Man 3 — and while his role hasn't been confirmed, it's heavily rumored that Majors will portray Richards in his supervillain guise of Kang the Conqueror. Of course, the MCU has been known to take plenty of liberties with its source material — so if its creative minds wanted to find a way to get Harley into his own suit of armor, it sure seems like they could.

Ross Marquand has a great pitch involving the Red Skull

One former MCU star who has specifically expressed his desire not to return to the franchise: Hugo Weaving, who portrayed the Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger. For the Skull's surprise reappearance as the keeper of the Soul Stone on the planet Vormir in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, the role was taken over by The Walking Dead's Ross Marquand — and as it turns out, not only would Marquand happily reprise the role, he has a pretty excellent pitch as to how to bring the villain back.

You'll remember that at the conclusion of Endgame, Captain America (Chris Evans) went on a jaunt through time to return all of the Infinity Stones to the periods from which they were taken. What this implies, but we never get to see, is that Cap would have necessarily met up with his old nemesis once again in order to return the Soul Stone — a detail that didn't get by Marquand. "I think it would be really interesting to see what happens each time [Cap] returns those stones," the actor said during an appearance at the Awesome Con virtual event in May 2020. "That would be a fascinating movie in and of itself, I think. I hope [Red Skull comes back]. I don't know if [he and Cap] have any bad blood anymore. Cap probably does, but I think Red Skull is cursed with infinite knowledge, so he might not care about revenge at all. I hope he comes back, we'll see. Fingers crossed" (via MovieWeb).

Obviously, the real trick here would be talking Evans, who has expressed extreme reluctance about playing the Star-Spangled Man again, to return. But Evans has never shot the notion down entirely, and if Marquand's idea were to somehow make it to the screen, it would be beyond exciting.

Sam Rockwell wants Justin Hammer to return

Iron Man 2 is not the most fondly-remembered MCU effort, but other than the first appearance of Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, rival weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer — portrayed by Sam Rockwell — was perhaps the best part of the flick. Hammer's uber-confident, quippy, deadpan persona was never anything less than hilarious, thanks to Rockwell's scenery-gobbling performance, and Hammer seemed like the kind of character who was destined to pop up in all kinds of situations in the future. Somehow, though, he never did — a situation which Marvel could easily remedy with one phone call.

During a 2019 Reddit AMA, Rockwell was asked if he would be down to play Hammer again. "Yeah, I would be happy to do it," the actor responded. "I'm just waiting on the Avengers to give me a call" (via CBR). Of course, when last we saw him, Hammer was suffering from a slight case of incarceration on account of his involvement with the Russian terrorist Ivan Vanko, A.K.A. Whiplash (Mickey Rourke). But it stands to reason that Hammer won't be residing in the slammer forever — and with Stark now deceased, his return might have interesting implications for the MCU's military-industrial complex.

Elizabeth Debicki had a blast playing Ayesha

In 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his motley band of space adventurers had plenty of problems to contend with. The most pressing among those: Quill's father, Ego (Kurt Russell), a Celestial with designs on having Quill help him conquer the universe. The team's next most pressing concern: the wrath of the Sovereign, a race of golden-skinned humanoids whose immensely powerful batteries were pilfered by Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) early in the film. Elizabeth Debicki ably portrayed their High Priestess and leader, Ayesha, and while one of the flick's many mid-credits sequences implied heavily that Ayesha would continue to be a thorn in the Guardians' side, she hasn't been seen since.

Debicki recently scored a major role in Christopher Nolan's Tenet, but while making the press rounds for that film, she still couldn't help but wax nostalgic about her time in the MCU. "I actually really, really loved playing [Ayesha], and I loved making that movie and working with everybody and [writer-director] James [Gunn]," the actress told ComicBook. "It was a really fun job for me. So I hope [she comes back]. Sometimes I just think about her golden throne and her golden dress, just waiting somewhere in the wings. I would love, even if I just sort of [show up] for a second, I mean, I would love to come back."

It's just possible. In that mid-credits scene, Ayesha was in the process of creating Adam Warlock, an iconic Marvel character who has long been rumored to finally be making his debut appearance in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

No bad blood between Marvel and Edward Norton

Major roles aren't often re-cast in the MCU, but the part of Bruce Banner, A.K.A. the Hulk, is a glaring exception. Dr. Banner was portrayed by the great Edward Norton for his first appearance in 2008's The Incredible Hulk — only the second film in the entire franchise — but by his next, in 2012's The Avengers, the role had been taken over by Mark Ruffalo, who has acquitted himself nicely in a slew of appearances since. Norton's departure was chalked up to those pesky "creative differences" between Marvel and the famously hands-on actor — but, surprisingly enough, Norton has recently said that there's no bad blood there, and even hinted that he'd be down to return in a different role.

"I couldn't be more happy to have been part of that whole tradition," Norton told Total Film in 2019. "It's silly to manufacture negativity when it isn't there. You know, I loved being a part of it, and I think [Marvel] achieved everything they wanted to achieve." Asked about a potential comeback, Norton said, "Maybe as a baddie? Maybe I'll write my own. I don't know, I'm open to everything" (via GamesRadar).

Norton has certainly shown a knack for playing dark characters, and the thought of him playing an MCU Big Bad is intriguing, to say the least. Say, perhaps he could read for Galactus, or the Silver Surfer — you know, someone capable of going toe-to-toe with the Hulk. 

The stars of Netflix's Daredevil series want their invites to the MCU party

Netflix's late, lamented Marvel series Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher, and The Defenders were behind the eight-ball from the start. Depending upon whom you ask, they were either too connected to the MCU or not nearly connected enough, and their dark tone never meshed well with the films of the series. Regardless, they were full of (mostly) spot-on casting choices and great performances, and — especially in the case of Daredevil – fans have been clamoring for an integration into the MCU's movies.

It's a feeling shared by many of the series' stars. Charlie Cox, who absolutely crushed it in the title role, was recently forced to shoot down rumors that Matt Murdock will appear in the upcoming, as-yet untitled Spider-Man 3 — but he softened that blow by expressing his willingness to don ol' Hornhead's iconic cowl once again. "Look, I had a great time. I'm so grateful I got to play that character as long as I did," Cox told ComicBook earlier this year. "Of course, I'd love to keep going. I'd love to be involved with it."

Elodie Yung, who portrayed Elektra on the series, agreed during a separate ComicBook interview. "I would love to [come back]," the actress said. "I love this character because she's so complex and broken. She's got a lot of villain in her, and that I can relate to, and also a lot of good. It's such an amazing character. I would love for Marvel to bring her back."

Finally, the great Vincent D'Onofrio told the same website that he is keen to bring his Wilson Fisk, A.K.A. the Kingpin, to the MCU. "I mean, I think that'd be awesome," he said. "I think there's more to do with him, but you just never know ... There are so many stories. I can't imagine being in that chair trying to figure out which ones are the ones to be told next."

That is true ... but what isn't so tough to imagine is how fans would lose their minds seeing Daredevil, Elektra, and Fisk on the big screen. Mighty Marvel, make it happen.