“I fought your kind every day of that war, Zemo! You mocked democracy and said that free men were weak! Well feel this grip, Zemo. It’s the grip of a man who loves liberty! Look into the eyes of your foe, and know that he will die for his freedom! The world must never again mistake compassion for weakness! And while I live, it had better not!” — Captain America, Avengers, vol. 1, #6
When the fourth Avengers movie comes out next year (2019), Chris Evans will be almost 38, and it will be his 10th film overall (including brief cameos) portraying the Sentinel of Liberty, Captain America. If you ask me, he could play the character for a few more years, but he might be getting a little tired of it, wanting more time to branch out into other roles. At the moment, Evans doesn’t have any other movies scheduled in which he plays Cap, and he confirmed this past March that Avengers 4 will be his last time as the Shield-Slinger. Rumor has it that Steve Rogers will die, and another hero will put on the flag costume and grab the shield — probably either Bucky Barnes (aka Winter Soldier) or Sam Wilson (aka Falcon), both of whom have taken on the mantle in the comics.
But, what if Marvel/Disney decided to go another way? What if they re-cast the Steve Rogers role, perhaps by bringing in a version from an alternate timeline? Or, they fake his death, only to bring him back after a little plastic surgery? (Hey! It could happen…) Don’t like those options? OK, let’s pretend we are in an alternate universe in which they are only now getting around to planning the MCU, and they’ve decided to start with Captain America, the First Avenger, instead of Iron Man or Hulk. Who should we cast? Hmmm…
First, allow me to give a brief “origin story” / history / profile of the character from the comics….
Steve Rogers was a rather skinny, even frail, young man with a strong sense of honor and duty. He wanted desperately to help fight America’s enemies in World War II, but his slight physique kept him from meeting the physical requirements to join the Army. He was recruited by General Chester Phillips to participate in Dr. Abraham Erskine’s “Operation Rebirth”, a top-secret performance-enhancing experiment. With a combination of Super Soldier Serum and vita-rays, Rogers was transformed into a robust figure at the peak of human strength, speed, and agility. After combat training, Rogers was given a red-white-and-blue costume and similarly painted steel shield, then sent overseas. Later, his “uniform” was updated, and he was given his famously indestructible, disc-shaped shield of vibranium-steel alloy, designed by Dr. Myron MacLain.
Rogers went on several missions over the next few years, some solo, some with his partner (teenage Bucky Barnes) and/or a squad of soldiers. He also occasionally fought alongside other costumed heroes of the era (e.g., the Invaders). He became quite a hero and symbol for America and her Allies, fighting Nazis and other fascists, imperialists, and even a time-traveling Dr. Doom. Then, when he and Bucky were battling Baron Zemo in April 1945, an exploding plane apparently killed Bucky and cast Cap’s unconscious body into icy waters. His body was never recovered and he was presumed dead. That is, until decades later, when his frozen body was discovered in suspended animation in a block of ice. He was recovered by the Avengers, whose ranks he soon joined.
Over the following couple decades (longer in real-time, of course), Rogers fought innumerable fascists, communists, anti-nationalists, eco-terrorists, alien invaders, ninjas, evil secret societies, street gangs, fanatical militias, criminal organizations, supervillains of various types, demons, gods and demi-gods, etc. On occasion, he even mixed it up with a few superheroes and vigilantes. His personal rogues’ gallery would likely be topped by the Red Skull, Baron Zemo (both of them), and Hydra.
While Captain America has befriended many superheroes, including working with a few official junior partners (i.e., Bucky Barnes, Sam Wilson / Falcon, Rick Jones), he is best known for his membership in the Avengers. His inspiring presence and leadership abilities made him a natural leader of the team, whether on or off the battlefield, and he served in that role — off and on — for many years. There were times when he temporarily left the team, by choice or otherwise, but he eventually ended up back with them in some capacity. Rogers even spent brief periods using different noms de guerre — e.g., Nomad, the Captain — and a few civilian aliases. But, as Captain America, not only did Rogers become a prominent modern-day hero and the heart & soul of the Avengers, he also grew his Living Legend status as an icon and defender of liberty, justice, American ideals and patriotism.
Except for those storylines where he temporarily mutated or significantly aged, Steve Rogers has always been a handsome, square-jawed, white guy with blonde hair. Thanks to the experiment that gave him his enhanced abilities and an intensive exercise regimen, Rogers is quite muscular and athletic. More recent events would, I think, put him at roughly early- to mid-40s (ignoring the 60-70 years in suspended animation, of course), but he was born in 1920 and would have been in his early-20s when he was subjected to Dr. Erskine’s procedure. The Cap that emerged from the ice would’ve been roughly 25. Marvel’s wiki lists him at 6’2″, 220 lbs, and “a ‘perfect’ specimen of human development and conditioning.” (I would like to see someone cast who is between 6′ and 6’5″, with a physique that is believable for a near-superhuman with the martial and acrobatic training Cap has had.) As for personality, Rogers is kind, selfless, even-tempered, loyal, brave, very confident, but without the arrogance someone of his abilities and accomplishments might be expected to have. He is mostly serious, especially during a mission, but can relax and joke around a bit during down-time. Sometimes… maybe.
If the powers-that-be wanted (for whatever reason) to cast a 40-ish Steve Rogers, then I suggest one of the following: Ryan McPartlin (6’4.5″,b.1975), Johann Urb (6’4″,b.1977), Justin Hartley (6’2.5″,b.1977), or Trevor Donovan (6’2″,b.1978). They all meet the physical requirements. McPartlin played ‘Captain Awesome’ (just a nickname) on “Chuck”, Urb played ‘Vigilante’ on “Arrow”, Hartley has played both ‘Aquaman’ (sort of) and ‘Green Arrow’. Donovan hasn’t played a superhero, yet, but he’s quite young-looking and could play a 30-something character. On the other hand, if they wanted someone closer to Chris Evans’ age (b.1981), here are four more great choices: Dylan Bruce (5’11.5″,b.1980), Luke Macfarlane (6’2″,b.1980), Philip Winchester (6’1″,b.1981), or Travis Van Winkle (6′,b.1982). You may remember Bruce from shows like “Arrow” and “Orphan Black”; Macfarlane plays the older Jaqobis brother on “Killjoys”, though he has appeared in “Supergirl”, too; Winchester has been in “Strike Back” and “Fringe”, among others; Van Winkle currently co-stars in “The Last Ship”. Again, they’re all very physical actors, but Van Winkle would probably need to bulk up more than the others.
My preference is to go a bit younger. I considered both Chris Zylka (6′,b.1985) and Luke Bracey (6′,b.1989) but ultimately rejected them in favor of the following three gentlemen:
My favorite candidate is Alan Ritchson (6’2″,b.1984), who I have had in mind for the role for several years — probably since I first saw him as Arthur Curry / ‘Aquaman’ on “Smallville”. Genre fans might remember him as ‘Gloss’ on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and he also played ‘Raphael’ in the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films. Ritchson was in Lazer Team and made appearances on “CSI: Miami”, “Hawaii Five-O”, and “Black Mirror”. He was a regular as a cop on “Blood Drive”, and he will be portraying ‘Hawk’ in the “Titans” series premiering later this year. He has the perfect look and build for Steve Rogers, and he even has prior (and upcoming) experience playing costumed adventurers. This guy would make an awesome Captain America!
Greg Finley (6′,b.1984) is a lesser-known actor, but he has been in a few genre productions. For example, he appeared in Hypothermia, “Star-Crossed”, “The Flash” (as ‘Gridiron’), and “iZombie”, as well as episodes of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “CSI”. In that last one, he played an amateur — and non-powered, of course — costumed vigilante. (One of a small group, actually.) Thus, he was credited as ‘Male Superhero’. Finley is obviously a beefy, good-looking guy, and he might actually be a surprisingly good Captain America.
Probably the biggest name — not to mention, tallest actor — among my candidates is Armie Hammer (6’5″,b.1986), who teamed up with Henry Cavill (aka Superman) in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. not long ago. He has also appeared in J. Edgar, Mirror Mirror, The Lone Ranger (as the title character), Free Fire, Mine, and Sorry to Bother You. He also provided the voice of ‘Strong Arm’ in Stan Lee’s Mighty 7. Assuming he bulks up sufficiently for the role (as the other two would, I’m sure), I think Hammer could really make a great Steve Rogers and his alter-ego, too!
In addition to acting talent and an appropriate physique, the best choice would have a good measure of charisma and likability, as well. So, who do you think would be the best pick?
Happy Independence Day, y’all!
* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.