Performers hone their craft for years in the hopes of playing an iconic role on the big screen, but it’s a very special type of actor who can play someone for Marvel AND DC…
Acting is a talent not many share. And even if you’re the best at playing pretend on Earth, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be famous or receive prestigious awards. Even then, you have to be a certain level of famous AND bankable to be cast as a character from Marvel or DC Comics. The smallest group of all may be those who have been famous and/or talented for so long that they’ve starred in films by bitter comic book rivals Marvel and DC – but the list has grown ever so slowly.
Academy Award winner and character acting badass J.K. Simmons is the most recent actor to have both DC and Marvel on his resume. After perfecting the role of J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (there’s a reason nobody took the role in TASM), he’s now going to be Commissioner Gordon in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, something he’ll be more than prepared for. But who are the proud few who preceded him as crossing fictional universes, thus collecting a paycheck from both sides of the Marvel/DC movie war? Here are the 7 most interesting…
7. Laurence Fishburne Was Perry White And Silver Surfer
No, The Matrix and Cowboy Curtis isn’t part of either universe (yet), so we’re focusing on a couple of Larry’s slightly less iconic roles. In Fox’s second failure of a Fantastic Four film, Fishburne lent his voice to everyone’s favorite space martyr, Silver Surfer, and his portayal of Norin Radd was one of the better moments in a lame film that also qualifies as a Neutered Sequel. Six years later, Laurence would spark some minor controversy as a black actor taking the traditionally white role of Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White in the film Man Of Steel. And just like before, Larry was one of the few good parts of a lesser superhero film, though Perry had much less screentime than Surfer.
Which universe was better? DC wins this one, if only because it’s Fishburne’s more complete performance. You see, when filming Rise of the Silver Surfer, the inept production wasn’t sure if Surfer would speak or not, and cast Doug Jones as the body for Radd. Larry Fish joined the production relatively late, and mainly spoke over Jones’ performance. Oppositely, Perry White is all Fishburne, making his DC’s character winningly complete.
6. Michael Chiklis Was Ben Grimm And Capt. Nathaniel Barnes
After some wrote him off as a doughy nice guy, Michael Chiklis reinvigorated his career as the ultimate bad cop, The Shield’s Vic Mackey. Not long after, he was tapped to play Fantastic Four bruiser Ben Grimm as the cinematic Thing (under dozens of pounds of prosthetics). Close to a decade after he last played The Thing or Mackey, Chiklis headed to DC as the newly created character Capt. Nathaniel Barnes, another tough (though rule-abiding) policeman out to clean-up Gotham City a decade before Batman arrives. Who knows if he’ll live through the season, but he’s done well so far in the role of Barnes.
Which universe was better? Despite the poor reputation of the Fantastic Four films, Chiklis’ recreation of Ben Grimm is spot-on, and his ability to play the grumpy Brooklynite under all that makeup is even more impressive, especially when you consider that Chiklis is a Boston native. Meanwhile, Barnes is much more in Chiklis’ policeman role wheelhouse, and because Barnes has no in-comic history, that’s another strike against the DC denizen.
5. Tommy Lee Jones Was Two-Face And Col. Chester Phillips
Tommy Lee Jones had a long career as an actor before his breakout role in The Fugitive, and that catapulted him to the level of stardom worthy of being a villain in Batman Forever. His make-up and demeanor fit well for his cartoonish portrayal of Harvey Dent, even if he was overshadowed by the ascendant Jim Carrey (whom Jones reportedly hated). Many years later, Jones would lend his acting gravitas and weathered demeanor to a much more buttoned down role (Col. Chester Phillips) in the first Captain America film. Just as in Cap’s 1963 origin retelling, Phillips is one of the folks in charge of making Steve Rogers a Super Soldier, though Jones’ Colonel is initially more doubtful of Steve’s pedigree than he was in the comics.
Which universe was better? Phillips may be more respectable, but he’s also a fairly stock role, and one who vanishes about halfway into the film. Meanwhile, Jones’ Two-Face is monumentally camp and ridiculous, and I’d prefer to reward him for being memorably over-the-top than forgettably stoic.
Read on to see Catwomen, Green Lanterns, and Ben Affleck’s jaw!