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What Could Have Been / Marvel Cinematic Universe

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There's a pretty substantial quantity of What Could Have Been regarding Marvel Studios and Disney's incredibly successful, multi-billion dollar film franchise. The various elements related to the production of the movies set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe is absolutely astonishing.

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    Completed Projects 


    Various Trivia 
  • Way back when Marvel announced their Phase One film slate in 2006, a solo Nick Fury film written by Andrew Marlowe (Air Force One, End of Days, Hollow Man) was one of the titles included. Nothing ever came of this, and Fury instead ended up appearing across the MCU as the major connective force between the movies. Eventually, Marvel Studios announced in 2021 that Fury would get a Disney+ series alongside Talos from Captain Marvel in the form of Secret Invasion.
  • A Runaways film written by Drew Pearce was in the works for Phase 2, and got far enough along in production that a casting call was released (which drew flack for allegedly whitewashing Nico Minoru, though Marvel claims this was a misunderstanding), and Keke Palmer was approached for a role. The film was shelved indefinitely after the massive success of The Avengers caused Marvel to rethink its plans for future movies, and lead to the creation of Runaways (2017) on Hulu.
  • Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Nick Fury, and Loki were all considered as possible Marvel One-Shots, but were ultimately rejected. The former three because Marvel felt they couldn't be done justice given the short length, and the latter because the studio thought the required special effects budget would have been cost-prohibitive. The former two ultimately got their own movies, and the latter two ultimately their own Disney+ series.
  • Daredevil began as a pitch for a movie reboot in the MCU. It was determined that while the idea was too low stakes and low budget to work as a film, it was the perfect fit for Marvel's burgeoning line of Netflix shows.
  • When Fox still had the Daredevil rights, Kevin Feige offered them an extension in exchange for Fox returning Galactus and the Silver Surfer. This means there's an alternate timeline somewhere where the Netflix Daredevil show never happened, but Marvel got to use Galactus and the Surfer in Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok, Infinity War, Captain Marvel, Endgame, and Eternals.
  • Doctor Mordrid was going to be a Doctor Strange movie, but Full Moon Feature's film rights of the character expired before production began.
  • Blade:
    • In a case of "what could not have been", Marvel made it clear that after New Line Cinema's Blade license expired, that there was no intention of him joining the MCU. Most likely, it was due to his Darker and Edgier nature and ties to the supernatural being an odd fit at the time. Then, after many years of fan requests, the world of the MCU itself being better established, and the MCU becoming such a Cash-Cow Franchise, a proper Blade reboot was announced for MCU Phase 5 with Mahershala Ali in the lead role.
    • The creators of the Underworld franchise proposed a crossover with Marvel's Blade, presumably with Wesley Snipes reprising his role. Marvel Studios passed due to wanting to have a clean slate to reintroduce Blade at some point in the future.
  • An Inhumans movie was initially scheduled for Phase 3, with a tentative November 2018 release date, which was later pushed back to July 2019. After Ike Perlmutter (who had championed the project despite a lack of interest from Kevin Feige) was ousted from Marvel Studios, the film was pulled from the Phase 3 line-up altogether, with a live-action TV show being ordered by ABC instead.
  • Marvel's initial choice for Nick Fury was George Clooney, not Samuel L Jackson. Although Clooney's first superhero outing was an Old Shame for him, what caused Clooney to reject the role was the rather violent Marvel Fury (MAX) series. As such, Marvel went to Jackson, who had let them use his likeness for the Ultimate version of Nick Fury in return for being able to portray him in a film at a later point.
  • Back in 1979, Marvel planned to release what effectively would've been the first Avengers movie, long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a concept. However, the Avengers (and Spider-Man) were side-characters for Dazzler, a disco-theme mutant. Buckle up, this gets wild. As part of a cross-promotion idea between Marvel and Casablanca Records, they envisioned Dazzler as a comic book hero whose's "secret identity" of a pop singer would be an actual singer in the real world. This idea evolved into an animated special and then a full-blown movie pitch, where Dazzler would join with the Avengers and Spider-Man were flung into the future to fight super-powered versions of KISS, Cher, Donna Summer and The Village People. Other weirdness included Robin Williams playing the main love interest and Rodney Dangerfield playing three lawyers who are the personification of an Eldritch Abomination. Both the film deal and record deal fell through, leaving Dazzler as a comic book character alone, and delaying the first appearance of the Avengers in a film by 33 years.
  • Plans for a Luke Cage movie had been kicking around for years. Quentin Tarantino was once set to direct one after Reservoir Dogs starring Laurence Fishburne, but abandoned it due to studio insistence that Wesley Snipes be chosen instead. Columbia Pictures started development in 2003, with a screenplay penned by Ben Ramsey, Avi Arad serving as producer and John Singleton directing. Jamie Foxx and Tyrese Gibson were considered for the lead role, while Dwayne Johnson and Idris Elba expressed interest in playing Luke Cage.
  • There were plans for an Iron Fist movie since 2000 starring Ray Park with a script by John Turman and co-financed by Artisan Entertainment. Kirk Wong signed to direct in July 2001, with filming set for late 2001/early 2002. It nearly went into pre-production in March 2002. Wong left the project in April 2002. By August 2002, pre-production had started. Filming was pushed back to late 2002 and then to late 2003. In March 2003, Marvel announced a 2004 release date. In April 2003, Steve Carr entered negotiations to direct. In November 2003, the release date was moved to 2006. In March 2007, Carr placed the film on hold due to scheduling conflicts.
  • Plans for a Shang-Chi movie or television series date as far back as the 1980s with Stan Lee approaching Brandon Lee for the role. Given that Shang-Chi is often considered to be an homage to Brandon's father, this seemed like an ideal casting. Unfortunately the plans fell through after Brandon's untimely death in 1993 during filming of The Crow (1994). In 2001 Stephen Norrington signed on to direct a Shang-Chi movie titled The Hands of Shang-Chi for DreamWorks SKG. In 2003 Yuen Woo-Ping replaced Norrington as director and Ang Lee joined as a producer in 2004, but nothing materialized after that and the rights to the character reverted back to Marvel.
  • A planned adaptation of New Warriors for Freeform would've involved Night Thrasher, Microbe, Debrii, and Speedball, as well as Squirrel Girl and Great Lakes Avengers mainstay Mr. Immortal alongside them. But Freeform passed on it and no one else picked it up. The only thing left of this proposed series was the casting of Milana Vayntrub as Squirrel Girl, which was carried over to Marvel Rising. An older version of Mr. Immortal (played by David Pasquesi) would eventually appear in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
  • During the buildup to the first Avengers movie, Marvel considered shooting the rest of their projects on 3D cameras. However, after shooting with them proved to be a nightmare for Thor's post-credit scene (as well as Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd's discomfort with them), this was ultimately dropped.
  • Helstrom was originally planned to be part of the MCU but the changing of the guard at Marvel Television caused this series to instead be a completely standalone Marvel Comics adaptation with no official connections to the universe, as confirmed by showrunner Paul Zbyszewski. The continuity that the series is set in was unofficially dubbed Earth-TRN836, rather than the MCU's Earth-199999.
  • James Gunn pitched a Guardians of the Galaxy spinoff revolving around Drax and Mantis, but nothing came of it. The closest remnant to that idea that exists is The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which focuses on Drax and Mantis going to Earth to kidnap Kevin Bacon as a Christmas gift for Peter.
  • James Gunn was also set to oversee much of the cosmic side of the MCU, in order to keep things consistent with what he had established with Guardians of the Galaxy. This changed after Gunn's controversial firing in 2018 however, as while Gunn was eventually re-hired to complete the third movie in his trilogy, his quick jump to DC meant that his overall involvement with Marvel would promptly come to an end.
  • Per "MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios", the plan for the next Myth Arc post-Endgame was to have Spider-Man, Black Panther and Captain Marvel set up as the new "Big 3" heroes that Iron Man, Captain America and Thor previously inhibited during the Infinity Saga. This plan would end up completely collapsing during the implementation of Phase 4, as Spider-Man's status within the MCU would end up getting Screwed by the Lawyers due to contractual issues with Sony after the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, T'Challa was killed off in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever due to Chadwick Boseman passing away from cancer two years prior to the film's release, and while Carol Danvers is still an ongoing part of the MCU's journey, Brie Larson's experience with toxic fans has caused her enthusiasm in portraying the character to wane. This intended new Big 3 was foreshadowed in the climax of Endgame during the sequence where Hawkeye hands the Infinity Gauntlet to T'Challa, who passes it to Peter who passes it to Carol, being a Passing the Torch moment from one of the original six founding Avengers to the intended next generation.

Future Projects

    Agatha All Along 
  • The series has become infamous for cycling through various titles, in order: House of Harkness (the original title), Coven of Chaos, Darkhold Diaries, Agatha and The Lying Witch with Great Wardrobe before simply settling on Agatha All Along. According to Variety, the constant retitling is meant to be Agatha Breaking the Fourth Wall and changing the title just to screw with fans.
  • Miriam Margolyes was offered a role in the series but she was reluctant due to not wanting to live in Georgia for the several month-long shoot. She asked for a million pounds as her payment, and when Marvel only offered half of that, she declined the role.

    Captain America: Brave New World 
  • William Hurt passed away two years earlier, or else he could have possibly been featured in the film reprising his role as Thaddeus Ross again. He would be recast with Harrison Ford.
  • The title of the film was originally Captain America: New World Order. The subtitle was eventually changed to Brave New World in June 2023 following a negative fan response over the original title.
  • Originally meant to be released in 2024, the film was pushed back to Summer 2025 due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA Strikes of 2023. As well, it was revealed that the film was going to go through extensive reshoots due to poor test screenings with rumors suggesting that it had to do with the character Sabra.
  • Seth Rollins originally had a starring role in the film, but had to drop out due to sustaining injuries sometime in February 2024.
    Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man 
  • The series was originally announced to be set in the MCU as a prequel focusing on Peter Parker before the events of Captain America: Civil War. However, it was eventually shifted to a series set on a different Earth in the wider MCU Multiverse, albeit with some of the actors still reprising their roles (such as Charlie Cox as Daredevil).
    Daredevil: Born Again 
  • Chris Ord and Matt Corman were originally the head writers of the show, but they were let go along with the directors lined up in 2023 due to Marvel Studios wanting to overhaul their television division to follow a more traditional small screen production format, with The Punisher scribe Dario Scardapane set to pen the series instead.
  • Foggy Nelson and Karen Page were originally not planned to make a reappearance in this series, with Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll confirmed to not be reappearing. After the show's creative overhaul however, both actors were announced to be returning as their characters for Born Again.
  • Rumors suggest that the original storyline for the series would have had Matt Murdock abandon being Daredevil after failing to save Foggy and Karen (explaining why their actors were originally not brought back). As well, Wilson Fisk would have become mayor of New York City with an anti-vigilante slant, mirroring his comics status quo from 2015-2022. Fisk becoming mayor still appears to be in the cards however, as he expresses interest in an upcoming mayoral election in The Stinger of Echo.
  • Bucky Barnes was going to make a cameo appearance in the original version of the show before it underwent its creative overhaul.
  • According to Vincent D'Onofrio, Born Again was originally going to be a Soft Reboot that would've made the Netflix Marvel shows (including the first Daredevil series) Canon Discontinuity. After the initial pitch failed to impress the people at Marvel Studios however, the show was retooled to explicitly connect with the original Daredevil.
  • Jon Bernthal had initially turned down reprising his role as Frank Castle for this show, as he was very unsatisfied with the role he was set to play. After the show's creative overhaul however, he was more accepting.
  • Vanessa Fisk had initially been recast with Sandrine Holt, as Ayelet Zurer wasn't able to reprise the role due to scheduling conflicts with another show. However, the Writers' and Actors' Strike of 2023, along with the creative overhaul, delayed production enough for Zurer to free up her schedule and return to the role of Vanessa.
  • James Gunn was interested in directing a movie focusing on the team, which Kevin Feige claimed was a possibility should Guardians of the Galaxy do well enough at the box office. The surprise success of Guardians led to Marvel quickly announcing a sequel, which resulted in Thunderbolts being relegated to Development Hell. When the film resurfaced with a 2024 release date, Gunn had already stated his intentions on finishing his tenure at Marvel Studios with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and so it was ultimately Jake Schreier who was chosen to direct it.
  • The story for this film had to undergo a rewrite in 2023, as apparently there was too much focus put on characters from Black Widow rather than on the team as a whole.
  • Steven Yeun was originally set to appear as Sentry in this film, but the Writers and Actors' strikes of 2023 delayed the movie's release enough to the point where he had to drop out in early 2024 due to scheduling conflicts. That said, Yeun himself is still interested in appearing in a Marvel film in some capacity.
    The Fantastic Four 

  • Wesley Snipes, who previously played the titular character in the Blade Trilogy, was approached by Marvel Studios in 2015 to reprise his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe despite that Snipes' films aren't canon within the MCU. However, Mahershala Ali was ultimately cast in the role, with Snipes' approval.
  • The film was originally tentatively planned as a TV show, and so Mahershala Ali was informed back when he appeared as Cottonmouth in Luke Cage, but it took a couple of years for Marvel Studios to reevaluate the idea and opted to bring back Blade in a film.
  • Bassam Tariq was originally attached to direct this film, but he was let go sometime in 2022 due to scheduling issues.
    Avengers 5 
  • Avengers 5 was originally going to be titled The Kang Dynasty, and would've centered around Kang the Conqueror after the character's appearance in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. However, the poor reception and box office numbers of Quantumania, combined with Jonathan Majors' Role-Ending Misdemeanor resulted in Marvel Studios completely overhauling the film to downplay or outright excise Kang's inclusion.
  • Destin Daniel Cretton, director of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, was originally set to helm this film, but he was taken off the project in 2023 so he could focus on developing the sequel to Shang-Chi, as well as oversee production on Wonder Man.
  • Jeff Loveness was originally set to pen the script for this film, but he was jettisoned from the project after the poor performance of Quantumania. He would later be replaced with fellow writer Michael Waldron.
  • Jonathan Majors was planned to reprise the role of Kang the Conqueror and his many variants in this movie, but his arrest and subsequent conviction of domestic abuse in 2023 resulted in Marvel severing ties with him.
    Armor Wars 
  • Like the Hawkeye situation, a solo War Machine Spin-Off was originally included in Don Cheadle's contract as a potential feature film. There were discussions about the film, and Cheadle's idea was to have Rhodey go rogue and become a fugitive in order to complete a forbidden and politically volatile mission that he viewed as morally right.
  • Joe Robert Cole was hired to write the script, but the project was shelved due to potential conflicts with Shane Black's plans for Rhodey in Iron Man 3. Cole would later go on to write the Black Panther film with Ryan Coogler, while the idea of a solo War Machine vehicle would finally see the light of day years later as a Disney+ production...that is, until it was re-retooled into a movie once again in 2022.