An uproar of enthusiasm commenced following the announcement that Kristen Wiig would be playing Cheetah, Wonder Woman’s longtime nemesis. The sequel, directed once again by pioneer filmmaker Patty Jenkins, is due sometime in 2019. However, the real story is how out-of-left-field this casting choice is. Such an inspired selection only expands the possibilities of future villain casting for the genre. There are a slew of superhero adversaries — Marvel and DC alike — who have never been greenlit for the big screen. Ruminating on who could step into such enormous, often uncomfortable shoes is a diversion in itself. Here are the ten villains most in need of a live-action cinematic introduction.
David Anders as The Mad Hatter:
Mad Hatter is one of Batman’s most maniacal foes. Among the plethora of baddies who belong to the rogues’ gallery, that is saying something. The alter-ego of mad scientist Jervis Tetch, Hatter is a master of manipulation who incites monstrous behavior from peaceful Gothamites.
On FOX’s “Gotham,” Benedict Samuel plays Hatter as a tortured hypnotist with callow outbursts and untamed frenzy. If brought to the big screen, Hatter would require a bit more sinister focus and depraved resolve. An actor with a reputation for playing criminals with devious charm would do the trick. David Anders of “Alias” fame would be my pick, a handsome yet untrustworthy megalomaniac-type itching to bend minds to his deranged will. Anders is a master at toying with protagonists who never seem to keep him down for long.
Toby Kebbell as Annihilus:
Although diehard fans of the “Fantastic Four” comic books know of supervillain Annihilus, chances are most people despise the aforementioned film iterations too much to care about researching their foes. It’s a good thing then that a new wave of comics has Annihilus in full opposition to the Guardians of the Galaxy crew. Perhaps this is Marvel’s way of getting fans excited for the alien galactic conqueror in light of future “GoTG” sequels.
Annihilus has a mechanical mantis helmet/face that could derive terror with the simplest of death glares. On par with Thanos as subjugator of worlds, he’s not a cosmic being to be trifled with. Someone with a commanding presence and the ability to transcend a menacing performance from motion capture artistry is a must. Therefore, I can think of no one more worth than Toby Kebbell, who gave a performance in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” equal to maestro in the field, Andy Serkis. Kebbell was Doctor Doom in the reviled “Fantastic Four” reboot, so if anyone is in need of redemption for a cinematic catastrophe not of his causing, it’s Kebbell. This would also mark the third occasion – following Chris Evans and Michael B. Jordan — that a “Fantastic Four” actor walks away from the rubble and rises anew in the Marvel universe.
Ryo Kase as Victor Zsasz
After decades of whitewashing and cultural appropriation, Hollywood has a long way to go to repair the representational damage they’ve done to Asian moviegoers. They can start by casting Asian actors in non-race specific comic book roles. Much like FOX’s “Gotham” has done with BD Wong playing “Doctor Strange,” the same courtesy should extend to the equally malevolent Victor Zsasz.
Playing the savage serial killer should be Ryo Kase, a Japanese character actor in many prestigious stateside films. With integral parts in Clint Eastwood’s “Letters From Iwo Jima” and Martin Scorsese’s “Silence,” Kase is a devoted thespian whose talents have earned the trust of elite directors. However, Abbas Kiarostami’s “Like Someone in Love” proves Kase’s brilliance is indisputable. Able to showcase the nuance and tragedy of a malevolent spirit, Kase would bring substantive layers to a previous one-note murderer.
Tom Sturridge as Mister Sinister:
Mister Sinister is often seen as “Mister Overlooked” in the X-Men universe. Although hinted at future appearances in some of the movies, including the overcooked “Apocalypse,” audiences have yet to experience the man’s reputed wrath. As one of Apocalypse’s genetically-enhanced mutants, Sinister was formerly biologist Nathaniel Essex. His wife gave him his new title with her dying breath, twisting a promising man into an agent of evil. Able to prolong his life with cell regrowth and mutation, Sinister will be an indefinite adversary to the X-Men.
A pressing need for someone exuding Machiavellian intelligence with tragedy in their eyes, I propose the underrated Tom Sturridge. This Tony-nominated young actor hasn’t quite broken out the way he deserves. Effectively vile in “Far From the Madding Crowd” as a perpetually heartbroken albeit abusive British soldier, Sturridge certifies he’s as terrifying as he is seductive. He’s as “sinister” as great actors come.
Matthias Schoenaerts as Kraven the Hunter:
One of the “OG” Spider-Man supervillains, Kraven the Hunter has shockingly yet to make his mark on the big screen. Before being acquired as part of the MCU, the character had been rumored to play a key role in the “Sinister Six” film. The movie is currently still in development, so now the question begs: who will fill his animal-hide boots?
An actor who always impresses with cunning, muscle mass and now a convincing Russian accent in “Red Sparrow” is Matthias Schoenaerts. On the prowl to put Spider-Man down for good, Schoenaerts would play the perfect Russian immigrant hunter. His imposing nature and intimidating “manly” handsomeness would be enough to keep any crimefighter on their toes, or in this case, web.
Nicole Beharie as Madam Slay:
Judging by her name, Madam Slay is not someone to underestimate. Now that *SPOILER ALERT* her lover (in the comics) Killmonger is out of the picture, Slay is about to show Wakanda the meaning of vengeance. With leopards as both pets and personal bodyguards, Slay is queen of the savanna whose path no one dare cross. To authentically portray her, wild independence and fierce passion will be instrumental.
Who better to play Madam Slay than someone who walked away from the fire that was “Sleepy Hollow” before it came burning down? Former leading co-star of the aforementioned program, Nicole Beharie, deserves her phoenix moment. Endearing because she’s so committed to her character’s cause, Beharie would exude sympathy like Michael B. Jordan did with Killmonger. The MCU now exists in a post-Killmonger world, and therefore its villains should only evolve such breakthrough characterizations moving forward.
Priyanka Chopra as Killer Frost:
If the DC television-viewing audience had their say, Danielle Panabaker would continue playing Killer Frost on the big screen. However, since the battle was already lost with Grant Gustin as Flash, there’s zero chance of a ladder extending down. Moreover, Caitlin Snow is just one of many Killer Frost incarnations. The frosty alter-ego could derive from any character having a crisis of conscience.
For a more unconventional and progressive choice, Priyanka Chopra would finally be given an opportunity to flex her villainous muscles beyond what audiences witnessed in “Baywatch.” During the press tour, it was inspiring to hear Chopra discuss how that role reversed expectations. The problem is how limiting “Baywatch” ended up being for her talents, though the sentiment can now carry over to a future superhero film. Chopra could be the actor ingredient that reshapes the entire Suicide Squad team for its betterment.
Julianne Nicholson as Destiny:
The closest friend Mystique has ever had, Destiny could be the first openly gay Marvel character if the studio lives up to the spirit of the comics. Never explicitly stated in the multiverse, the creator of the character originally wanted Destiny to transform herself into a man, fall in love with Mystique, and subsequently conceive fan-favorite Nightcrawler into existence.
Because of the conservative times during publication, that never came to fruition. However, now that superhero culture exists in a more accepting world, Destiny could finally get the love story previously denied. Destiny’s ability is to see into the future and use her clairvoyance to solve detective cases as Irene Adler. An actor of believable wisdom who channels meticulousness to captivating degree is “I, Tonya’s” Julianne Nicholson. It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine Nicholson utilizing her precognitive abilities to combat the X-Men while simultaneously forming a layered emotional bond with Mystique.
Lorraine Toussaint as Calypso:
Calypso is often Kraven the Hunter’s partner-in-crime against Spider-Man. Using her voodoo magic and potions to warp minds to dastardly effect, Calypso is the ultimate harbinger of mania. To play her, an actor would need to root out the humanity deep within the fog of psychosis. Furthermore, the rage Calypso emits is a weapon in itself, harbored pointedly at her enemies.
Forget about age expectation. If Marvel wants to casting someone with authentic Haitian roots (where Calypso originates from), why not hire the robustly talented Lorraine Toussaint? She has an intensity that could split the dinner table in two, as seen in Ava DuVernay’s “Middle of Nowhere.” Moreover, as Vee in “Orange is the New Black,” every encounter is met with a challenge or deadly threat. Her gruff tone of intimidating clarity instills fear and instantaneous respect. For Calypso, there is no fiercer option.
Janelle Monae as Vertigo:
Finally, there is Vertigo, an artificially upgraded mutant with the power to exacerbate or create a person’s acrophobia. Working with both Magneto and Mister Sinister, Vertigo is no stranger to employing her psychic abilities against the X-Men. Pried from the Savage Land and branded as a weapon against superheroes, Vertigo is a villain of circumstance.
Embracing her rough childhood is key to understanding why she matured into a woman whose hatred corrupts her. Janelle Monae hasn’t been in a movie since slaying audiences with back-to-back tenacious performances in “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight.” Marvel should continue to raise her acting stock by casting her as this complex supervillainess. With Monae taking charge, all floors will be descended and all bells will be rung. Like her previous films, Monae would ensure Vertigo isn’t some disposable henchwoman. Her future has as much stake as anyone in the great mutant-human war.