Since their very first film, the folks at Marvel Studios have seemed eager to make the unexpected choice when it comes to casting. Before Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. was a beloved actor with a spotty past and zero record as a major box-office draw. Although Chris Hemsworth had a great role that opened J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, the virtual unknown nonetheless gave zero indication he could credibly take up Thor’s hammer and not seem utterly ridiculous. Mark Ruffalo was a “name” when he signed up to play Hulk’s human alter ego Bruce Banner, certainly, but until then he’d made such a point to avoid enormous Hollywood blockbusters that one wondered how he could survive inside one of the biggest in history.
All those choices weren’t obvious on paper — well, OK, Hemsworth is a 6-foot-3-inch blond Adonis — but they all paid off big-time. Now, Marvel has once again challenged conventional thinking by closing in on a deal to hand the lead role of Star Lord in its newest comic book film, Guardians of the Galaxy, to Parks and Recreation doofus Chris Pratt.
In fairness, Pratt did just star in Zero Dark Thirty as a member of Seal Team Six, a role for which he got all kinds of ripped. But he’s just as likely been cast for his comedy chops, since Guardians is pretty darn weird. Telling the story of a cadre of extraterrestrials, hybrid humans, and walking, talking furry animals tasked with defending the intergalactic peace, the source comics (which first appeared in 1969) are so little known outside of the geek elite that for the vast majority of general audiences, the project may as well be a really eccentric original film.
That seems to fit the sensibility of Guardians’ director James Gunn, who’s likely best known for his 2006 horror comedy Slither. Even Marvel’s official description of Star Lord (aka Peter Quill) is tongue-in-cheek: “Some people would call him a space cowboy. (Sorry, Steve Miller Band.) He’s a half-human, half-alien intergalactic sheriff whose special combat suit protects him in deep space as he draws his twin guns on evildoers.” Yes, they really did make a Steve Miller Band joke.
But why stop the oddball gravy train with Star Lord? There are four other Guardians’ roles to fill, and if Pratt’s casting is any indication, Marvel won’t be pulling from obvious sources. Then again, at this point, it would almost go against conventional wisdom for Marvel to pick a conventional, A-list-y actor. So which will it be? We’ve outlined some possible candidates below:
3. Drax the Destroyer
Marvel’s official description: “An Earthling who was killed and resurrected as a knife-wielding green warrior devoted to battling Thanos — the alien death-dealer seen grinning at the end of the Avengers film.”
Hulking, green, and bald, whoever plays this role will likely be the one who’ll most need to hit the gym.
A-list-y choice: Dwayne Johnson, because every movie franchise at some point stars The Rock.
Unconventional choice: Michael Rooker of The Walking Dead, who also happens to be tight with Guardians director James Gunn.
Marvel’s official description: “A giant, anthropomorphic tree-being (imagine a warrior version of the Ents from The Lord of the Rings).”
A highly intelligent, almost regal creature in the comics (whose earliest incarnation was as a villain), Gunn may be hunting for someone who projects smarts while speaking Groot’s signature (and, usually, only) saying: “I am Groot!”
A-list-y choice: Christoph Waltz, Bryan Cranston, Gary Oldman.
Unconventional choices: Eric Idle (Monty Python), Jim Carter (Downton Abbey), James Urbaniak (American Splendor, The Venture Bros., Homeland).
5. Rocket Raccoon
Marvel’s official description: “A genetically engineered critter from a planet used as a dumping ground for the insane. He may be small, but he carries a very big gun.”
Basically, we need someone who can handle the inherent comedy of playing an anthropomorphized raccoon without spoiling the inherent badass-ness of playing an anthropomorphized raccoon with a very big gun.
A-list-y choices: Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey.
Unconventional choices: The Office’s Rainn Wilson (who also starred in Gunn’s Super), Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman, Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader.
Marvel’s official description: “Nicknamed ‘the most dangerous woman in the universe,’ she last of her alien species, adopted by Thanos (him again) and trained to be a weapon who does his dirty work.”
The actress playing Gamora will need both the physical heft required to play the universe’s most dangerous woman, and the emotional heft required to capture the conflict the character feels given her backstory with the Guardians’ nominal villain, Thanos.
A-list-y choice: Paula Patton (so badass in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol); Emily Blunt (so badass in Looper).
Unconventional choice: Summer Glau (so badass on Firefly and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles); Danai Gurira (so badass as Michonne on The Walking Dead).