So with the recent casting announcement of the Suicide Squad film, I got to thinking about how important it is to cast big name actors in comic book movies. Does WB need to cast actors like Will Smith and Tom Hardy to get people to see Suicide Squad? Does Marvel need to get someone like Joaquin Phoenix or Benedict Cumberbatch to play Doctor Strange so that people are actually interested? Let’s discuss the importance of famous actors in comic book movies.
So let’s start this discussion with the Suicide Squad cast. So the names include Will Smith, Tom Hardy, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney and Cara Delevingne. So pretty much everyone knows who Will Smith is. Tom Hardy is increasingly becoming a bigger name. Jared Leto is a famous actor and rock star. Margot Robbie has been catching a lot of attention since Wolf of Wall Street. Jai Courtney seems to be in every second large movie franchise there is. And Cara Delevinge may not be known for her acting, but as a model, she has a hugeeeee following. So it’s safe to say these are all pretty recognizable names and faces. So the question is, is this what WB had to do to get people interested in seeing Suicide Squad?
DC isn’t Marvel. DC doesn’t have the brand equity that Marvel has in their film universe yet. Your average moviegoer will see a movie about characters they have never heard about, and see that’s it’s a Marvel film, and they get excited. The same can’t be said with DC yet. And I’m sure WB knows this. But looking at the state of film now, are the majority of people going to say “Oh Will Smith is in that? Now I have to see it!”. Doubtful. Will Smith may still be a big name, but he doesn’t sell the way he used to. Not many actors do anymore. However I’m sure that pulling all these big names in the one film will help the Suicide Squad movie.
When it was announced there was going to be a Tetris movie (urghh yep) a person at the studio said that brands are the new celebrities now when it comes to film. And that is true. Going back to the Marvel example, Marvel is a brand that sells. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a talking raccoon and tree, if that Marvel brand is slapped on it, people are going to be at least interested. So at this point you have to question how important it is for Marvel to cast big names in their movies.
Let’s talk about Robert Downey Jr. He’s a pretty big name right? So that whole thing I was saying about brands being bigger than celebrities doesn’t really work in his case right? Well not necessarily. Yeah Marvel will pay him $75 million to be in their movie, because they need him. But that’s because of the Iron Man brand, not because of Robert Downey Jr. Robert Downey Junior is Iron Man, people love that, people love him as Iron Man. But what about Robert Downey Jr as not Iron Man? That love isn’t there as much. Just look at his recent film ‘The Judge’. That movie only made $75 million worldwide (funnily enough the same amount as his salary on The Avengers) on a $50 million budget. So the film most likely made a loss after including other expenses such as marketing. His name alone couldn’t sell that movie. His name along with the words Iron Man can sell a movie. Robert Downey Jr has become one with the Iron Man brand in the film universe, his name alone doesn’t have the power it does with the Iron Man brand as well.
But obviously these studios understand that these brands are bigger than the actors. Henry Cavill was a relatively unknown name before he became Superman. The brand of Superman should be able to sell itself regardless of the name of the actor playing him. Gal Gadot is also a relatively unknown name. The brand of Wonder Woman is so recognizable that they must not believe they need a big name to carry it. But then in saying that they also got Ben Affleck to play Batman. But I believe that has less to do with the name recognition he brings, and more to do with the other stuff he brings (e.g. his Oscar winning writer, and his amazing directing skills).
Right now Marvel is in more of a position to let their brand sell for them. I don’t think they need to chase a big name like Joaquin Phoenix or Benedict Cumberbatch for Doctor Strange. Sure the character is pretty unknown, but the Marvel brand is so big now, I think many people will go see the film just because it’s a Marvel movie anyways. WB/DC is hoping the same thing happens with them. Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, these aren’t A-list names, yet they will be carrying their own films for DC/WB. If Batman v Superman is good and Suicide Squad is good, DC will have a much better brand equity in the market. So that when people see a trailer for a movie about a character they don’t know, played by an actor they don’t know, but see that DC logo, they’ll be a lot more interested in going to see it.
Overall I don’t think it’s necessary for Marvel to cast big name actors, but if they’re the best for the role then go for it! I understand WB getting big names for Suicide Squad. The brands of Marvel and DC may have selling power, but superheroes in general do as well. Suicide Squad aren’t superheroes, so people may not be as enthusiastic for it. So they must thought they needed names like Will Smith.
Anyways what do you think? Do you think that the brands are bigger than the actor names? Do comic book films need A-list names to carry them? Let me know!
Categories: comic book movies