Dream Casting: The Avengers

Some big names have already signed up for The Avengers, but with two years before shooting starts there's plenty of time for contract disputes, jumping production schedules, and good old-fashioned petty squabbling to change the lineup. So why let something silly like a press release stop us from dreaming? There have been dozens of members, and we still don't know for sure who'll end up in the movie. Let the unfounded speculation begin!

Ant-Man: Zachary Levi

One of the original Avengers, Ant-Man has the ability to get very very small, and has a helmet that lets him communicate with ants. Fine, this looks like a character bound for the cutting room floor. But if not, Levi would be perfect. The power to get small would have to lead to insecurities around Avengers Mansion, and he does that uncomfortable self-effacing thing to perfection. (Ant-Man did eventually figure out how to get big too, so maybe we'll see that version. I guess it was hard coming up with storylines that could be solved by getting tiny and talking to insects.)

Taye DiggsBlack Panther: Taye Diggs

Diggs would be great as the tribal chief who joined the Avengers in 1968 to become the first black superhero. This guy should be a much bigger star, and a caped crusader role should do the trick. (In 2006 Black Panther married the X-Men's Storm -- ready for more crossovers?)


Franka PotenteBlack Widow: Franka Potente

Scarlett Johansson's apparently been cast as the Soviet spy-turned defector superhero, and it's high time she was in a superhero movie (The Spirit doesn't count). But I'm going way out on a limb with the star of Run Lola Run and The Bourne Identity. She's German rather than Russian, but bring back the red hair from Lola, slap her in a black jumpsuit, and I bet she'd nail the coldhearted KGB assassin vibe.


Brad PittCaptain America: Brad Pitt

This is the hardest call of the bunch. Cap is one of the biggest superheroes ever, and the screen has never done him justice. But even though Pitt is a big star and a good actor, it's still not an easy pick. His pretty-boy looks, which are kind of necessary for the part, are balanced by the fact that he's a little older, some wrinkles have toughened up his face. And after Fight Club, we know he can bulk up. At 20, he'd have been too pretty; now he might just work, as long as the part is middle-era Captain America, not an origin story. (Best rumor: Will Smith.)


Jake GyllenhaalHawkeye: Jake Gyllenhaal

Gyllenhaal may have his hands full with The Prince of Persia franchise (though I kind of doubt it). But I like him for the rough-and-tumble former carny who applies for membership by breaking into Avengers Mansion and tying up the butler. He will need to hit the gym a bit more, though. Because of the bow and arrow, rule one for Hawkeye: Giant forearms.


Sam RockwellThe Incredible Hulk: Sam Rockwell

I guess there's no way to avoid the giant CG cartoon Hulk, but even with all the advances in computer graphics, they still can't make him look halfway decent. (Don't get me started on the Hulk-dog.) And I like Ed Norton a lot, but Bruce Banner needs a makeover. Why not avoid long-suffering nobility (see: Erica Bana) and play things a little different? Rockwell is a great everyman, and I can see him as a Banner who's truly afraid of his alter ego.


Robert Downey Jr.Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr.

This one's a keeper. He did so much with the role of Tony Stark that it really wouldn't work without him, assuming there's some uncostumed time along with all the flying around. That highlights my biggest fear about the whole idea: I'm still not sure how a story that includes everybody can roll in all the different secret identities and character development that make good hero movies more than just two hours of people fighting in their underwear.


Kate BeckinsaleThe Scarlet Witch: Kate Beckinsale

Magneto's daughter, a mutant who manipulates probability by casting hexes. Beckinsale has shown her action chops in movies like the Underworld series and Van Helsing, so why not give her a shot in a decent movie? Besides, she'd look awesome in the big pointy red hat.


Charlie HunnamThor: Charlie Hunnam

This is another hard pick, but Hunnam, a British actor probably best known for his role in the original Channel 4 Queer as Folk, is worth a gamble. Hunnam has the right look, and proved in Sons of Anarchy that he can play against type (and hide his accent).


Kristen BellThe Wasp: Kristen Bell

Another original Avenger, she eventually married Ant-Man, and had similar powers: She could get really small. But at least she had wings and power blasts (and she could eventually get big, too). In the '60s comics she was something of a glamour queen, and Bell is a good actress who can still glam it up when she needs to -- and she's already pretty tiny.