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The Real Reason These MCU Actors Were Recast

Across the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seems like no actor is forgotten. If you show up for even just one scene in an MCU title, chances are good you'll get brought back down the road. Just look at Peter Billingsley, who managed to reprise his one-scene appearance in Iron Man for a larger supporting role in Spider-Man: Far From Home 11 years after he last played the character. The fact that nobody stays restricted to just a one-off appearance in this universe was also reaffirmed it was announced Tim Roth would reprise his role as the Abomination in the Disney+ TV show She-Hulk, nearly 15 years after he last portrayed that villain in the 2008 movie The Incredible Hulk.

However, with a cast as expansive as the MCU's, there's just no feasible way for every single actor to come back. Over the years, many MCU characters have been recast for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's as simple as a certain MCU story necessitating a younger or older version of a particular character. Other times, great behind-the-scenes conflicts have led to new actors taking on certain roles. Whatever the reasons, there are some notable exceptions to the MCU's penchant for constantly bringing back familiar faces, and we're here to provide the real reasons why these MCU actors were recast.

Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie Lang

Across the Marvel Cinematic Universe, characters range from talking raccoons to revived super soldiers to gigantic green monsters. But in the original Ant-Man, the MCU had to deal with a type of character it had never handled before — a very young child. The MCU had adolescent characters before, but at just six years old when Ant-Man started filming, Abby Ryder Fortson was the youngest performer to secure a major role in an MCU production to that point. Though it was uncharted territory for the franchise, Fortson's age made her perfect to portray Scott Lang's daughter, Cassie Lang. Precocious Cassie motivates Scott's every action, including his decision to suit up as the tiny superhero Ant-Man.

Having managed to pull off incorporating such a young character into a superhero blockbuster, it was a no-brainer for Fortson to reprise the role for Ant-Man's sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, but a problem arose when it came time for Ant-Man's fourth on-screen appearance in Avengers: Endgame. The movie kicks off with a five-year time jump, with a pivotal reflection of this emerging through Scott Lang discovering a teenage Cassie. Fortson, who was only nine when Endgame started filming, wouldn't do for the role. Thus, a new performer was required. Emma Fuhrmann, who was 16 as Endgame's principal photography got underway, was perfect for the part. Fortson helped the MCU break new ground in the original Ant-Man, but with Endgame's time jump, her role in the MCU came to an abrupt end.

Emma Fuhrmann as Cassie Lang

During Disney's 2020 Investor Day event, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was officially announced. As part of this announcement it was also revealed that the role of Cassie Lang would once again be recast. Kathryn Newton, of Freaky and Pokemon: Detective Pikachu fame, was now taking over the part.

Previously, it was presumed Fuhrmann would reprise the role in the wake of her memorable appearance in Avengers: Endgame. As with any recasting of an established character, Newton taking on the part of Cassie Lang sparked outrage on social media. Even with all this controversy, neither Disney nor Marvel Studios has provided a reason for recasting Fuhrmann with Newton. The fact that Newton is four years older than Fuhrmann could indicate another time jump is in the cards, thus necessitating another recasting. Then again, it could be as simple as director Peyton Reed wanting to have control over who plays Cassie in the individual Ant-Man movies.

Whatever the reason behind the recasting, this development was apparently a shock to Fuhrmann, whose social media response to this news indicated that she was out of the loop on this decision. Nonetheless, Fuhrmann wrote on Twitter, "I will always be grateful to have been a part of the MCU & the biggest movie of all time. Being an actress is still my #1 passion & I look forward to what the future holds."

Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/Hulk

When The Avengers was still brewing, a massive question mark lingered over what to do with the Hulk. The character's presence in an Avengers movie was a foregone conclusion, but uncertainty surrounded who would be portraying the character.

Edward Norton had portrayed Hulk's alter-ego, Bruce Banner, in The Incredible Hulk, and the appearance of Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark in the film teed up the idea of Norton joining the movie version of the Avengers. However, Norton and Marvel Studios came to blows in post-production of The Incredible Hulk — possibly over creative control, money, or both, depending who you ask – complicating the concept of Norton reprising the role. Despite those difficulties, Norton stated that he was open to returning to the role in The Avengers in the fall of 2009. 

He would never get the chance, though, as Marvel Studios announced in July 2010 that a new actor would be going green in The Avengers. "Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors," Kevin Feige said at the time, "but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members."

While this indicated that Marvel made the call regarding Hulk's recasting, Norton would claim years later that he had consciously chosen not to reprise the role out of fears of limiting his options as a performer.

Joshua Dallas as Fandral

Joshua Dallas wasn't the first choice for the role of Fandral, an Asgardian warrior who's a close friend to Thor and a member of the Warriors Three. Initially, Stuart Townsend was set for the role. However, in a parallel to how Townsend was set to play Aragorn in Lord of the Rings until just one day prior to filming, Townsend left the part of Fandral just before shooting commenced on Thor. The reason for his departure was over creative differences with Marvel Studios. This led to Joshua Dallas to take over the role. 

The casting drama over Fandral didn't end there, though. When it came time for Thor's first sequel, Thor: The Dark World, the character of Fandral would once again need to be recast. Less drama surrounded this decision since Dallas wouldn't be able to reprise the role simply due to his commitments to the TV show Once Upon a Time. "The timing wasn't right," Dallas explained to Entertainment Weekly. "I'm bummed about it because I had such a great experience and great time making the first film and was really excited about coming back. ... So I'll have to hand the reins over to someone else. I love Marvel. I wish them all the best. I will certainly be first in line to see it." 

That "someone else" turned out to be future Shazam! star Zachary Levi, who took over the part in both Thor: The Dark World and for a brief cameo in Thor: Ragnarok.

Akira Akbar as Monica Rambeau

Carol Danvers wasn't the only superhero introduced to audiences in Captain Marvel. Viewers were also introduced to Monica Rambeau, the daughter of Danvers' best friend, Maria. Portrayed by Akira Akbar, Monica is shown to be a child in 1995, though it appears future MCU entries will involve Monica as an actively heroic figure.

Rambeau returns in the upcoming TV show WandaVision, and it's a series that takes place in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame and decades after Captain Marvel. With this time jump, child actor Akira Akbar couldn't reprise her role of Rambeau. Filling in for Akbar is Teyonah Parris, who isn't taking this part lightly. "I feel so special and honored to be able to walk in her shoes and bring her story to life," Parris reflected (via Entertainment Weekly). "I hope that me playing this character (a) gives a group of people who are underrepresented a chance to see themselves, and (b) seeing my face and my Black body helps them engage with Black women and our humanity."

While all glimpses of the Teyonah Parris version of Monica Rambeau in the WandaVision trailers have shown her as a normal human, the fact that she'll be co-starring in Captain Marvel 2 leaves open the possibility that Parris will be able to inhabit one of Rambeau's many superhero aliases, which includes Photon.

Gerard Sanders as Howard Stark

At the start of the original Iron Man, an award ceremony for Tony Stark begins with a montage fleshing out the history of the man's company, Stark Industries. Of course, to talk about Stark Industries, one must talk about the company's founder — Tony's father, Howard Stark. This means that, across this montage, the audience is given various glimpses of Tony's dad. However, viewers accustomed to seeing either Dominic Cooper or John Slattery as Howard Stark will notice a stranger inhabiting the role of the Stark patriarch in this early scene in Iron Man

For the inaugural Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, Gerard Sanders portrayed the father of Tony Stark. Though he was the first to take on the role, he would only portray Howard once. By the end of 2008, reports emerged that Iron Man's sequel would see a new actor inhabit the part of the business titan. Why? While we can't say for sure, we have an educated guess. For Iron Man 2, director Jon Favreau moved the character from still photos to old-timey home movies. And more importantly, he gave the character a Walt Disney-esque persona with hints of something darker lying under the surface. Thanks to his work as a lead on Mad Men, John Slattery had plenty of experience playing a believable but tormented mid-20th century man of authority. Due to those qualities, Slattery was employed by Favreau and subsequent MCU movies for the older version of Howard Stark rather than Gerard Sanders.

Hugo Weaving as Red Skull

Hugo Weaving's turn as the nefarious Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger was just one of many villainous blockbuster characters the actor has played over the years. This ominous performer has played everyone from Agent Smith in The Matrix to Megatron in the first three Transformers movies to Thaddeus Valentine in Mortal Engines. Given how prominently he's appeared in these kind of productions, it wasn't surprising to hear him say that he was done with blockbuster fare in an October 2012 interview with Collider. This discussion also saw Weaving express doubt that he'd be called to reprise the role of Red Skull in Captain America sequels. "I think the tendency, with those films, would be to probably not bring a villain back," Weaving remarked, adding, "And it's not something I would want to do again."

When the character of Red Skull was brought back, it was for a pair of brief appearances in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Here, Weaving's reluctance to play the character was apparently reflected in how Red Skull was now portrayed by Ross Marquand. Interestingly, though, Weaving revealed a change of heart from his earlier interview in January 2020 by saying that he would've been up for reprising the role. However, Weaving said he was promised a larger salary for any future portrayals of the character, and allegedly, Marvel was unwilling to give him that money. Finding negotiations impossible, Weaving passed on the part altogether, leading to Marquand to take over the role.

Linda Louise Duan as Tina Minoru

Prior to Marvel Television being absorbed into Marvel Studios, there was a disconnect between movies and TV shows set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These programs referenced the movies, and shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. even featured occasional appearances from the likes of Nick Fury. More often than not, though, earlier MCU TV shows like Luke Cage or Cloak & Dagger seemed to exist separately from the movie side of the universe — to the point that Alfre Woodard appeared in two different roles across Luke Cage and Captain America: Civil War

An even more apparent piece of evidence regarding this divide was in the handling of superpowered character of Tina Minoru. This magical individual made her MCU debut in a silent cameo during a scene in Doctor Strange, where she was portrayed by Linda Louise Duan. Shortly afterwards, a brand new version of the character, now played by Brittany Ishibashi, became a regular fixture on the Marvel/Hulu TV program Runaways

The disparate casting is peculiar, but if a comment from Runaways creator Josh Schwartz is any indication, it was never a major issue for Marvel brass. "[Minoru] was only named in the credits [of Doctor Strange]," remarked Schwartz in an IGN interview, "so it's nothing that really affects us." Even if it didn't weigh heavily on the minds of the creators of Runaways, the casting of Tina Minoru was another indicator of the gulf that divided early Marvel movies and TV shows.

Yevgeni Lazarev as Anton Vanko

Iron Man 2 kicks off on a gruesome note with Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) tending to his sickly father, Anton Vanko (Yevgeni Lazarev). As he lies dying, Anton expresses his final words in the form of remorse that he couldn't give his son more. The sight of watching his father finally pass away, never being recognized for his contributions to the creations of Howard Stark, leave a mighty impact on Ivan. In fact, they're his primary motivation for undertaking a mission of revenge against Tony Stark. Through inspiring a massive quest for vengeance, Anton Vanko certainly has a psychological presence on the subsequent events of Iron Man 2. However, the characters definitive demise made it seem like his presence in the MCU would finish once the credits began to roll on Iron Man 2.

However, an opportunity for a re-appearance came around with the TV show Agent Carter, which featured a young version of Anton Vanko. In a foreshadowing of the character's grudge against Howard Stark, this 1946 iteration of Vanko is working in a laboratory in Stark Industries. Given that this is a significantly younger version of Anton Vanko, it's no surprise that Yevgeni Lazarev wasn't called back for the role. Instead, Costa Ronin took over the part for his one-episode appearance in Agent Carter. Despite his memorably somber demise at the start of Iron Man 2, this recasting and reappearance showed that Anton Vanko had a surprisingly enduring presence in the MCU.

Terrence Howard as James 'Rhodey' Rhodes

Easily the most famous instance of MCU recasting, Terrence Howard initially signed a multi-film contract to take on the role of Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes in the original Iron Man. However, once the fall of 2008 rolled around, Howard was abruptly dropped from the project and replaced with Don Cheadle. It was a shocking turn that initially sparked speculation over what exactly could've led to Howard getting dropped from the role.

By the fall of 2013, Howard opened up about the circumstances that led to him leaving the part. It turns out a significantly reduced salary caused to him walking away from the role. "They came to me [for] the second and said, 'We will pay you one-eighth of what we contractually had for you because we think the second one will be successful with or without you,'" Howard said (via The Hollywood Reporter). Additionally, Howard claimed that Robert Downey Jr. failed to support him despite Howard's claims of helping Downey Jr. secure the role of Tony Stark in the first place.

While Howard left the MCU, the character of Rhodes has gone on to have a long life. Cheadle played Rhodey across six subsequent MCU movies, including the box office juggernaut Avengers: Endgame, and will get the chance to take on the role of leading man with the recently announced Disney+ TV show Armor Wars.