“I’m the Juggernaut! Ain’t nothin’ — ain’t nobody — can beat me!” — Juggernaut
Who in the world could play Marvel’s Juggernaut (aka Cain Marko) character on-screen? That was the question I posed myself. Of course, to do the musclebound, hulking supervillain justice (pun intended), he really needs to be done with CGI — like they have done with other huge characters (e.g., Colossus, Hulk). But, if… if a live-action movie or TV series was being made, and it was decided to go with a Juggernaut of more human dimensions, yet bigger than we saw in X-Men: The Last Stand, who might fit the bill?
First, though, some semi-obligatory background on ol’ Juggsy…
At least a couple other people briefly held the title and powers of the Juggernaut in recent years, but the primary “avatar” has always been Cain Marko. Marko was a troubled child, abused by his alcoholic father, who also favored his stepson, Charles Xavier, over Cain. Naturally, Marko was jealous and bullied the younger Charles. Xavier’s emerging telepathic powers allowed him to accidentally experience Marko’s pain and anguish, giving him a measure of sympathy for the boy. Sharon Xavier-Marko died “of a broken heart”, and Dr. Kurt Marko died after saving the boys from a lab fire. Xavier eventually went on to athletic and scholastic success, as well as secretly mastering his telepathic talent, while Marko stayed in the Xavier mansion and nursed his bitter soul. Marko later went into the military, became a mercenary, and befriended the mutant known as Black Tom Cassidy — truly a bad influence.
Marko and Xavier served together briefly in Korea, where they encountered a cave with the lost secret Temple of Cyttorak, a powerful mystical entity. Marko grabbed a glowing “ruby” from the lap of an idol and read the inscription (which he “saw” in English): “Whosoever touches this gem shall possess the power of the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak. Henceforth, you who read these words shall become forevermore a human juggernaut.” Marko was physically transformed into a huge, superhuman being. Just then, explosions outside caused a cave-in; Xavier escaped, while Marko was buried alive. Xavier thought his step-brother died, but Marko’s mystically-granted enhancements allowed him to survive and eventually dig his way out.
Thanks to bonding with the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak, Marko gained a number of superhuman abilities. He has “limitless” strength, stamina, and (with his personal force field active) nigh-invulnerability to any forms of physical injury. He is immune to all toxins, poisons, and disease. Should he somehow be injured, his superfast, regenerative healing factor will kick in. His mystically-powered helmet protects him from even the most powerful telepaths, e.g., Xavier. There are a couple more perks, but even the Class 100+ strength alone makes him one of the most physically powerful beings on Earth (or most places, I’d imagine). Plus, as the Avatar of Cyttorak, he is the embodiment of irresistible force, such that “[o]nce he begins to advance in a certain direction, it is virtually impossible to halt his movement.”
Years after the Korea incident, Marko went to the U.S., intent on killing his step-brother, who by then had founded his School for Gifted Youngsters. Now calling himself the ‘Juggernaut’, Marko would have defeated Xavier and his X-Men if not for the assistance of the Human Torch. Marko was kept comatose for awhile but later escaped with the help of criminals known as the Factor Three. Thus began his long and complicated history with the superhero and supervillain communities.
Either alone or partnered with Black Tom (and sometimes the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants), Marko has battled many heroes and caused a lot of death and destruction. (He would later be exonerated for much of it.) He has often contended with Xavier and the X-Men, of course, but also fought the New Warriors, X-Force, Spider-Man, a couple versions of the Hulk, Thor, and additional Avengers. On the other hand, there have been times when he fought on the side of good, too. He aided Dr. Strange on more than one occasion and has spent some time working with the X-Men. He briefly wielded the power of Captain Universe and also joined the Thunderbolts for a spell. Much of his “hero” time was while he was partially depowered, but an enchanted Asgardian hammer transformed Marko into Kuurth, Breaker of Stone. Colossus (who became Juggernaut for a minute) later tricked Cyttorak into returning the power to Marko — but even bigger and stronger.
Marko isn’t stupid, exactly, but neither is he the brightest bulb. He has been deceived or manipulated by heroes and villains alike. Clearly, he is a complex individual dealing with conflicting values and loyalties and a lot of emotional baggage. Certainly, he is often furious, greedy, cruel, jealous, selfish, stubborn, etc., and he often lets his fists do the talking. Alternately, he has occasionally demonstrated repentance, sorrow, kindness, and joy.
That’s the basics of who the man is, what he can do, and (without too much detail) what he has done.
Now, since we are casting for a live-action, (mostly) non-CGI Cain Marko / Juggernaut, we need someone of truly unusual size. None of this barely-over-6-feet-Vinnie-Jones-in-a-fake-torso-muscle-suit stuff, like we got in X-Men: The Last Stand. (Sorry, Vinnie.) Marvel’s wiki puts him at roughly Hulk-size (9’5″ and 1900 lbs), but I believe this is the result of the aforementioned “return to power” later in his career. Prior to that, the hugely muscled Marko was originally listed at 6’10” and 900 lbs. (Not exactly a lightweight.) While we aren’t going to get quite the mass, we can indeed find a few very tall — say, over 6’6″ — and very muscular fellas to consider. Age-wise, it depends on when in X-Men history the story takes place, but he should probably be somewhere in his 30s or 40s.
There are a few wrestlers and strongman competitors that come to mind, of course. One that I considered was Kevin Nash (6’10”,b.1959) (The Punisher, John Wick), who might’ve had potential a couple decades ago, but he’s too old for the part now. Another was Rob Archer (6’6″,b.1975) (“Lost Girl”, Ant-Man and the Wasp), who first came to my attention as the various BioMan clones in “Defiance”. He definitely has the build for it, but even at six-and-a-half feet tall and ~285 lbs., he’s a tad small for Marko/Juggernaut. So, I had to move on and kick it up a notch. Here are my final 3…
The first time I started contemplating casting Juggernaut years ago, I’m pretty sure Nathan Jones (6’11”,b.1969) was the first guy that sprang to mind. The Australian strongman-turned-wrestler’s huge, muscular physique was perfect for the role. I remember him initially from Troy, but he has also appeared in Fearless, The Condemned, the 2011 Conan the Barbarian remake, and 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, among others. The main drawback with Jones is his age (i.e., turning 50 this year). But, he is still in good shape and playing more movie roles. Also, Juggernaut would probably not be written as a very complicated character. It’s the monstrous, unstoppable supervillain we’re looking for, and Jones has got that part down pat.
Another professional strongman whose name I just have to throw into the ring is Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (6’9″,b.1988) of Iceland. Beyond strongman competitions and documentaries, Björnsson is mostly known for his turn as Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane in “Game of Thrones”. I don’t remember him speaking any dialogue, do you? I’m not even sure he knows English, but that can be remedied. Anyway, he has also squeezed in a couple movie roles this past year: Kickboxer: Retaliation and Operation Ragnarok. As a powerlifter, he doesn’t have quite the bodybuilder physique of either of our other contenders, but he is quite the imposing figure. Björnsson would make a fearsome Juggernaut.
Martyn Ford (6’8″,b.1982) is one of my more recent finds and reminds me quite a bit of Jones. This 320 pound bodybuilder/fitness star/trainer added acting to his resume in 2016, beginning with appearances in “Of Kings and Prophets” (as Goliath) and Boyka: Undisputed (as a fighter named ‘Koshmar’, aka ‘the Nightmare’ (see pic)), which I recently watched. Subsequent roles included Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Accident Man, Redcon-1, Robin Hood: The Rebellion, et al. Like Jones, he has already played a number of brutal warriors/fighters and should have no problem playing a brute like Cain Marko, aka ‘Juggernaut’.
As indicated earlier, I doubt the Marko/Juggernaut character would be written with too much depth, and dialogue might actually be kept to a minimum. So, I don’t see why any of the above three gentlemen, limited though their acting skills may be, couldn’t thrill viewing audiences with an on-screen, live-action Juggernaut portrayal.
* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2019.