EJ Moreno looks at Marvel Studios’ efforts to cast the MCU’s Fantastic Four…
For months, we’ve seen rumors surrounding the casting of the Fantastic Four. Ignoring the film’s struggles with its writers and even more possible director shakeups, finding the members of Marvel’s First Family seems quite daunting.
Adam Driver and Margot Robbie were set to lead at one point. Hollywood it-boy Paul Mescal was also up for a role. Hell, reports even put Jake Gyllenhaal as Reed Richards, and he’s already played a character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Something hasn’t gelled with the actors, the filmmakers, and the studios.
There’s much riding on this film, outside of the MCU and for Marvel’s future. Again, the problems are more extensive than just casting, but many wonder why it’s so hard to find the right mixture of actors. It almost seems like there’s no upcoming project more critical to the legacy of Marvel.
We’ll look at some of the latest casting rumors and why Marvel Studios’ Fantastic Four needs to get it right.
Fantastic Four has struggled as a film franchise in its past iterations. Looking at the 2005 Fantastic Four film and its 2007 Rise of the Silver Surfer sequel, the movies found moderate success at the box office but didn’t connect with the general public as their X-Men and Spider-Man peers did. It wasn’t for the lack of trying; 20th Century Fox put money behind the first two films and wanted it to be the anchor. Once again, this proves the importance studios have put on these characters.
Was the 2005 and 2007 films bad due to the castings? The film set a reasonably decent standard for the Marvel superfamily. They weren’t perfect, and they screamed of the mid-00s, but it wasn’t the issue.
Genuinely, it’s hard to dial in on why these films didn’t connect with audiences, but the more light-hearted tone amid a somewhat “grimdark” time for the genre didn’t help.
Fox would try a vastly different tone with their 2015 reboot, which somehow got worse than you’d think. Nothing about the Josh Trank films worked, and that’s not even looking at the studio interface that reportedly hindered the final product. And no, we will not place any blame on things like Michael B. Jordan playing a race-swapped Johnny Storm; hell, he’s one of the better actors in the film.
Sadly, it’s a shoddy film with actors struggling to get any character from a weak script. It bombed at the box office, pissed off fans, and further hurt the once-fantastic legacy of the four. The beloved Fantastic Four needed a hit to reclaim its Marvel throne, but it wasn’t in the cards. Again, casting played an issue, but larger issues unfolded.
After that, Fantastic Four was put on ice until Marvel Studios announced a 2025 reboot. With Marvel’s fairly spotless track record (at the time), fans were confident that this was it. There began the great casting debate we are still dealing with.
Are you one of those folks who ask, “Why not John Krasinski?” At one point, I used to think you were crazy for suggesting it after the abysmal outing in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. But at this point, it would be easier than hearing a new tall, dark-haired white actor’s name thrown in the mix every few weeks.
When the Doctor Strange sequel dropped and had the now-infamous Illuminati scene, we were introduced to Marvel Studios’ first attempt at any of the Fantastic Four. We got Krasinski as Reed Richards, which felt like a direct response to years of very vocal fan-castings of this.
The moment came and went, polarizing audiences, and Krasinski was never confirmed to return. The first bump in the road…
So what was the point? Fan service is a straightforward reply, but it was also Feige and Marvel Studios testing out what could work for their Fantastic Four. It was a fairly public test, but it was done with intent. This would curb any John Krasinski and Emily Blunt fan castings and determine what the general public wanted. It didn’t seem like this was the choice, so we began the serious casting sessions.
Before the SAG-AFTRA strike stopped all things, the rumor mill for the Fantastic Four was wild. It’s still a pretty active spot with Jake Gyllenhaal as Reed Richards taking diehard MCU fans and cinema scoopers by storm. What could Marvel see in casting an actor who played a previous MCU villain? Who knows, but they would probably chalk it up to the Variant/Multiverse story and move along. But before Gyllenhaal, seemingly every actor was up for this part.
Adam Driver’s name has stuck through all the drama, but even that got shut down when Driver allegedly dismissed the film’s direction. Interestingly enough, the former Rick & Morty writers attached to the project have been removed, and there’s talk Matt Shakman won’t even helm the project anymore. Is this a sign Marvel is buckling to actor demands for this project? Another bump on the MCU path…
We also saw Margot Robbie’s name enter the mix as Sue Storm; again, why would Marvel choose one of the most notable faces of the DCEU as their Fantastic Four lead? Who knows. The same could be said about the rumored Daveed Diggs as Ben Grimm. While Diggs could work well in the role, especially given much of it could’ve been voice work, the potential backlash for the casting doesn’t seem fair to any involved.
It’s like Marvel has no real clue about what they want from the Fantastic Four movie. With the film reportedly set in the 1960s and a different Marvel universe, the story could easily be the critical issue when it comes to casting. With a story outside the central Marvel universe, there’s a lot of wiggle room, but it also sets up the MCU needing to stretch themselves.
That hasn’t always worked for the brand, and this demands that they enter some uncharted waters. If you choose to put them outside of the universe that we’ve come to know and love, there needs to be an effort to make them stand out. That’s where some of the names chosen work and some haven’t worked.
We also have the fact these actors will need to stick around for some time. Does Adam Driver have another decade of franchise filmmaking in him after his time in Star Wars? The same goes for Margot Robbie, who spent much time as Harley Quinn and could be looking at more Barbie.
Going younger for these roles or for actors who haven’t been drained by the insane machine of blockbuster filmmaking could be the key. Look at Tom Holland or Florence Pugh being cast in Marvel Studios projects; both are young actors with a lot of time and energy to give the franchise.
With all that being said, here’s who we believe could be some of the best choices: Matt Smith of Doctor Who and House of the Dragon fame has the franchise credentials but needs a big movie hit; he’s a solid choice for Reed Richards. Working alongside him would be Vanessa Kirby, an actress with the Sue Storm look and personality, some action experience, and awards prestige. Joseph Quinn (Stranger Things) is an easy choice for Johnny Storm; Marvel needs another Tom Holland, which could be him. And lastly, give fan-favorite Ebon Moss-Bachrach the role of Ben Grimm; he’s gruff, loveable, and has a voice you’d remember.
Even throwing out those names was challenging, with different names littering drafts of this piece. It’s obvious building the Fantastic Four won’t be and isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s still wild to think the once-flawless Marvel Cinematic Universe can’t even crack the code.
The filmmakers obviously can turn it around with perfect actors in an ideal role, but many of us will not forget that Marvel struggled this much to give us the perfect First Family.
Who would you like to see Marvel casting as the Fantastic Four? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…