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Stop waiting for Barry Allen and Doctor Strange to open up the door to other realms of being — the multiverse has been here the entire time! Both Marvel and DC have created sprawling cinematic universes, each with its own characters and canons. But contrary to what you might think, they're not actually that distinct. There are some overlaps between them — namely, a slew of actors who've hopped from one universe to the other. Case in point: Russell Crowe (who played Superman's father Jor-El in DC's most recent Man of Steel revamp) has just been cast in next year's Thor: Love and Thunder as a mystery character.
He's the third member of the cast of that MCU film to make the transition from DC to Marvel. His fellow DC veterans are Natalie Portman (who went from playing Evey in V for Vendetta to Jane Foster) and Christian Bale (who went from Batman in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy to Gorr the God Butcher).
An actor need not be confined to one single dimension, and it proves that Schrödinger was right: An object can indeed occupy two separate states at once. So you see, dear reader, the multiverse is, has, and always shall be ... so long as comic book properties remain a lucrative prospect for the entertainment industry.
To celebrate Crowe's Love and Thunder casting, SYFY WIRE took a look at some of the biggest actors to portray characters across the pair of iconic universes. (This, of course, is by no means an exhaustive rundown, although we also do list at the bottom of this article some other double-dipping actors.).
Check it out:
01. Tom Hardy (Bane & Venom)
Continuing his professional relationship with Christopher Nolan after 2010's Inception, Hardy bulked up big-time for the role of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. The villain's cuttlefish-like mask and muffled voice completed the actor's transformation into a hulking menace of total anarchy. Six years later, Hardy traded the antagonist mantle for one of antihero when he became Eddie Brock and bonded with an alien symbiote in 2018's Venom.
Marvel or DC? Sure, Venom might have slipped us the tongue, but it’s Hardy’s terrifying, anarchy-raising Bane who still leaves us with the chills every time we hear his (muffled) voice.
02. Halle Berry (Storm & Catwoman)
"Do you know what happens to a toad when it's struck by lightning? ... The same thing that happens to everything else." Along with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry was an indispensable part of the early X-Men films (which, fun fact, helped sharpen the producing teeth of a pre-MCU Kevin Feige). Sadly, the same cannot be said for her stab at Catwoman in 2004. The less we say about that the better.
Marvel or DC? Do we even need to say it? Storm all the way! Berry's performance was and continues to be electric (pun very much intended). Her take on the weather-controlling character is so respected that Alexandra Shipp reached out to Berry for advice before playing a younger version of Storm in X-Men: Apocalypse.
03. Ben Affleck (Daredevil & Batman)
Ben Affleck took on Matt Murdock a full 12 years before Charlie Cox stepped into the role for Netflix's take on the Man Without Fear. The 2003 film (directed by Mark Steven Johnson, who would go on to direct Ghost Rider) co-starred future MCU director Jon Favreau as Foggy Nelson. A year after Daredevil's Netflix debut, Affleck made his way to the DC Extended Universe as Zack Snyder's gritty Caped Crusader in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The character immediately sparked controversy for his brutal nature and willingness to kill people. Batffleck is slated to return one last time in next year's Flash movie.
Marvel or DC? Given the fact that he had more movies to flesh out Bruce Wayne's character (including a small cameo in 2016's Suicide Squad), we'll have to give props to the murderous Dark Knight over Daredevil.
04. Ryan Reynolds (Hal Jordan & Wade Wilson)
In brightest day, in blackest night, Ryan Reynolds' Hal Jordan did not escape the sight of critics who lambasted 2011's Green Lantern (directed by James Bond veteran, Martin Campbell). The potential franchise fizzled out — much like a lantern running low on kerosene — before it even began. But there was a silver lining because Reynolds would go on to portray Marvel's fourth-wall-breaking Merc With a Mouth five years after DC's Green Lantern Corps failed to achieve cinematic liftoff.
Marvel or DC? No contest here. Reynolds was born to play Deadpool. The fact that Reynolds used a mid-credits scene in Deadpool 2 to kill off his 2011 self before he could star in Green Lantern tells you all you need to know.
05. Chris Evans (Jake Jensen & Human Torch/Captain America)
One of the rare actors to portray two characters from the same comic book universe, Evans began his Marvel tenure as the snarky Johnny Storm/Human Torch in Tim Story's two Fantastic Four films for 20th Century Fox. A year before he donned the Vibranium shield as Captain America in the MCU, he appeared as Jake Jensen in The Losers, a big screen adaptation of the Vertigo comic of the same name.
Marvel or DC? Is it even a question? Cap. It's Cap. Evans brought so much gravitas and poise to Marvel's star-spangled man, that even though he's out the picture, his accomplishments still carry a ton of weight in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. But yes, Evans brings the charisma and charm to every role he tackles.
06. Djimon Hounsou (Para Midnite/Shazam & Korath
Hounsou brushed shoulders with Keanu Reeves' paranormal investigator as neutral nightclub owner Papa Midnight in 2005's Constantine. A decade later, he tackled Korath, an underling of Ronan the Accuser, in James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy. Several decades earlier, Korath was a member of Starforce, an elite Kree team that once had Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, among its ranks.
Marvel or DC? Gunn's vibrant and poppy twist on the MCU really allowed Hounsou to chew the scenery and create a larger-than-life villain. The character's confused "Who?" after Peter Quill tries to introduce himself as Star-Lord remains a classic moment from the film.
07. Taika Waititi (Thomas Kalmaku & Korg)
Before What We Do in the Shadows and Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi was a little-known actor/writer/filmmaker from New Zealand. He first entered the world of superheroes as Hal Jordan's buddy, Thomas Kalmaku, in the much-maligned Green Lantern movie released in 2011. He got a shot at redemption six years later with Ragnarok, which made him a household name. In addition to directing the third Thor film, Waititi also provided the motion capture and voice for Korg, an easygoing rock alien whom Thor meets on Sakaar.
Marvel or DC? While Waititi is great in every role he plays, Korg is the obvious standout here — a gentle giant from beyond the stars who enjoys prison revolts and online gaming.
08. Michelle Pfeiffer (Catwoman & Janet van Dyne)
Pfeiffer entered the world of DC as the scene-stealing Selina Kyle by way of Batman Returns, the 1992 sequel to Tim Burton's 1989 interpretation of the Caped Crusader. The character was so popular that a spinoff entered development, although the project was ultimately scrapped. Almost three decades after the fact, Pfeiffer became a part of the MCU as Hope van Dyne's long lost mother, Janet (aka the original Wasp).
Marvel or DC? Being stuck in the Quantum Realm doesn't compare to the discomfort of wearing a tight-fitting costume of black leather. The golden catnip goes to Pfeiffer's iteration of Selina Kyle.
09. Laurence Fishburne (Perry White & Silver Surfer/Bill Foster)
Like Chris Evans, Fishburne is also an alum of Fox's pair of Fantastic Four films. He voiced Norrin Radd, aka the Silver Surfer, whose physical body performance was done by Doug Jones. No sequel was made, freeing up Fishburne to start editing The Daily Planet as Perry White in the DCEU. Five years after Man of Steel, he returned to his Marvel roots in Ant-Man and the Wasp as Bill Foster, Hank Pym's old scientific colleague.
Marvel or DC? While Fox's two Fantastic Four movies get a lot of flak, Fishburne deserves a ton of credit for his inscrutable and otherworldly voiceover for the reluctant Herald of Galactus.
10. Zachary Levi (Fandral & Shazam)
Levi actually tried out for the role of Star-Lord in the first Guardians of the Galaxy but lost out on the part to Chris Pratt. He still made it to the MCU as Thor's buddy Fandral in The Dark World and Ragnarok. Levi got to take the superhero center stage in 2019 with Shazam!, in which he portrayed the adult alter ego of Asher Angel's Billy Batson. A sequel, Fury of the Gods, is set to premiere in 2023.
Marvel or DC? Even with all the Shakespearean trappings on Asgard that allow an actor to ham it up more than usual, there's no changing that fact that Fandral was a minor player. His limited screentime didn't allow Levi to show off his full acting chops, which are on fully display in Shazam!, where it feels as though the part of Billy Batson's heroic ego was tailor-made for the Chuck star.
11. Natalie Portman (Evey & Jane Foster)
Portman's first-ever comic book performance was as Evey, one of the main characters in the 2005 film adaptation of Alan Moore's V for Vendetta. The movie's dystopian setting was considerably much darker than the colorful MCU, in which Portman would one day play scientist Jane Foster. While she's been out of the loop for quite some time, Foster will return in Love and Thunder. What's more: She'll be the next person to wield Mjolnir.
Marvel or DC? Given that Portman actually shaved her head for V for Vendetta, we'll have to give this round to Evey. That said, we can't wait to see her badass turn as scientist-turned-God-of-Thunder.
12. Michael Keaton (Batman & Vulture)
There was a ton of backlash when Keaton was cast as Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton's 1989 feature, but critics soon ate their words. Today, Keaton's take on the character is considered one of the most definitive depictions of Batman. He's so popular, in fact, that he's supposed to return in the standalone Flash movie. And just when we thought he'd never enter a comic book universe again, Keaton earned his wings as Adrien Toomes/Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Menacing yet layered, Toomes is one of the MCU's better antagonists. Sent to jail by Tom Holland's Spider-Man, Toomes will return in Sony's Morbius.
Marvel or DC? Don't make us choose which performance Keaton handled better. He's pretty much phenomenal in everything — whether he's playing a brooding vigilante or a psychopathic villain.
13. J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson & Jim Gordon)
Sam Raimi struck gold when he cast Simmons as Jameson, Peter Parker's jerk-faced boss at The Daily Bugle. Simmons' performance is so definitive that he was the only Raimi actor to carry over into the Holland continuity. (Jameson made a small cameo in Far From Home.) In 2017, he put on a bushy mustache and trench coat to play Commissioner Jim Gordon in Justice League. (He's also a part of Zack Snyder's four-hour cut of the same movie.)
Marvel or DC? Simmons' turn as the head of the Gotham Police Department was just a little too small to really make that big of an impression on viewers. His blustering and irascible take on Jameson, however, remains one of the most memorable performances in a comic book film.
14. Tilda Swinton (Gabriel & The Ancient One)
Both of Swinton's comic book characters are beings with metaphysical knowledge and powers. As half-angel Gabriel in Constantine, she wants to bring about the apocalypse and as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, she opens Stephen Strange's eyes to realms of possibility beyond the physical one.
Marvel or DC? We can't ignore the help the Ancient One gives the Avengers, but she's a bit more of a passive character. Despite being out of their mind, Gabriel is a bit more interesting, given the fact that they want to bring about the end of the world in order to weed out the world's righteous humans.
15. Josh Brolin (Jonah Hex & Thanos/Cable)
Prior to his mission of wiping out half of all life in the universe, Josh Brolin was traversing the American West in 2009's Jonah Hex. The film was a critical and financial failure, although the scarred cowboy would later resurface in The CW's Legends of Tomorrow (in which the character was played by Johnathon Schaech).
Marvel or DC? Like Ryan Reynolds and Green Lantern, Brolin probably wants us to forget that Jonah Hex ever happened. Thankfully, he had a chance to rewrite his comic book legacy with a snap of the Infinity Gauntlet. He's another actor pull Marvel double duty after playing the time-traveling Cable in Deadpool 2.
16. Honorable mentions
- Hugo Weaving: V (V for Vendetta) & Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger)
- Tommy Lee Jones: Two-Face (Batman Forever) & Chester Phillips (Captain America: The First Avenger)
- Michael Fassbender: Burke (Jonah Hex) & Magneto (X-Men)
- Joe Manganiello: Flash Thompson (Spider-Man) & Deathstroke (Justice League)
- Ciarán Hinds: Roarke (Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) & Steppenwolf (Justice League)
- Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: Algrim (Thor: The Dark World) & Killer Croc (Suicide Squad)
- James Marsden: Cyclops (X-Men) & Richard White (Superman Returns)
- Tim Robbins: Phil Blumburtt (Howard the Duck) & Robert Hammond (Green Lantern)
- Tao Okamoto: Mariko Yashida (The Wolverine) & Mercy Graves (Batman v Superman)
- Zoe Saldana: Aisha al-Fadhil (The Losers) & Gamora (Guardians of the Galaxy)
- Danny Huston: William Stryker (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and General Ludendorff (Wonder Woman)
- Angela Bassett: Amanda Waller (Green Lantern) & Queen Ramonda (Black Panther)
- Jon Favreau: Assistant (Batman Forever) & Happy Hogan (Iron Man)
- Terrence Stamp: Zod (Superman II) & Stick (Elektra)
- Willem Dafoe: Norman Osborn (Spider-Man) & Vulko (Aquaman)
- Ben Mendelsohn: John Daggett (The Dark Knight Rises) & Talos (Captain Marvel)
- Chris Pine: Steve Trevor (Wonder Woman) & Peter Parker (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)
- David Dastmalchian: Thomas Schiff (The Dark Knight); Polka-Dot Man (The Suicide Squad); Kurt (Ant-Man)