February 14, 2025, will mark the debut of Marvel’s First Family in the ever-expanding, slightly infuriating Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film, simply titled Fantastic Four, will be helmed by Matt Shankman, who directed WandaVision, the best MCU show so far. Shankman originally worked on the screenplay with Jeff Kaplan and Ian Springer, but recent news revealed Avatar: The Way of Water co-writer Josh Friedman will re-write the script, perhaps to add more sci-fi elements.
Beyond what this change in screenwriters means, at least we know the project is moving along nicely and will likely meet its tentative release date. It also means that casting for the four lead roles will almost certainly happen this year, probably at a major event like San Diego Comic-Con. Since the project was first announced in 2019, multiple names have been thrown around as potential castings for Marvel’s First Family. However, until a formal announcement is made, we have ample room to make informed guesses, wishful thinking suggestions, and everything in between. And, like every superhero fan, we have several ideas of who could and should play the Fantastic Four.
Mr. Fantastic is, for lack of a better word, something of an ass. After all, being the smartest man in the world has its perks and consequences. Reed is usually depicted as a fatherly, exceedingly curious, overly-confident, supercilious genius unafraid to cross moral boundaries in his quest for knowledge. As far as heroes go, Reed is not the kindest, bravest, or most honest; in fact, Reed is cunning, slightly manipulative, and above all, hungry for more.
Reed is the kind of man who will create a problem just so he can build a machine to solve it. Reed is confident enough to know he can fix anything he messes up — meaning his experiments are more daring, dangerous, and sometimes outright reckless. Reed is a father figure; he is the leader in the Marvel Universe, the pillar upon which every hero rises.
Since we know Fantastic Four won’t be an origin story, we are looking for an actor in his late 30s or early 40s. He mustn’t be intimidating, but he must command respect. I enjoyed John Krasinski’s performance in the imperfect Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, and whatever flaws the character had should be blamed on the screenplay, not his performance. I wouldn’t mind seeing him in the role again. Krasinski is a versatile actor who has been waiting for a chance to prove himself as a movie star for ages; why not Fantastic Four?
If not Krasinski, someone like Glenn Howerton would be perfect for Reed, and anyone who has seen his performance in the underrated sitcom A.P. Bio can confirm it. Alas, the 46-year-old Howerton might be too old for the role. In contrast, 32-year-old Dev Patel is too young. Patel has a maturity beyond his years, having built a versatile and acclaimed resumé since his early days on Skins — he is an Oscar nominee, for crying out loud — but his age makes him more suitable for Johnny than Reed.
So how about someone like Ben Barnes? Shadow and Bone proved there’s a darker side to him, and he’s the perfect age at forty-one. Theo James also made a strong case thanks to The White Lotus, delivering a performance that mixed light and dark in a way that’s crucial for Reed’s character. Penn Badgley’s name has also been thrown around, but I feel like his take on Reed would come across as slightly more psychotic than it should be.
So who should play Reed? I say give Ben Barnes the job. He is a familiar but underrated actor who has repeatedly proven himself. Reed is a tough character to pull off, but he could do it. Now, who should play his wife?
If Reed is the father, then Sue is the mother. For years, Marvel didn’t know what to do with Sue; as the only female in a male team, she often got sidelined and reduced to the simplest form — i.e., woman. Indeed, many of Sue’s main character traits — empathy, warmth, level-headedness, dependability, and patience — are commonly associated with femininity and motherhood. Sue is far from unimpressive; she is arguably the strongest member of the Fantastic Four, a strategist and diplomat with the social and emotional intelligence that Reed sorely lacks.
First, let’s be clear: Sue can be a thankless role if written badly. Jessica Alba was just hot, and Kate Mara was just there; writers must give Sue a proper, three-dimensional, compelling characterization if they want the character to be more than her simplest form. I also believe an acclaimed actress must take the role to add more legitimacy and elevate whatever it’s written for them. Emily Blunt would be a perfect choice, but her casting should accompany Krasinski’s, and I don’t see that happening.
Jodie Comer’s name has often been thrown around, and I don’t find any flaw in her casting. She is a revered, highly respected actress with an Emmy, two BAFTAs, and an Olivier Award; in other words, she would eat and leave no crumbs. However, Comer might be too young at thirty, especially if Reed is in his early 40s.
Amanda Seyfried has also reached the next phase of her career thanks to her acclaimed roles in Mank and The Dropout, and she’s the perfect age at thirty-seven. Then you have actresses like Claire Foy, Betty Gilpin, or even Kaley Cuoco, who might seem a bit out-of-the-box but would certainly bring a lot to the table.
So who should play Sue? My choice is Amanda Seyfried. She’s at the peak of her career, and bringing her aboard would add considerable gravitas to the project.
Johnny is the Fantastic Four’s resident bad boy. Cocky but incredibly charming, Johnny is a classic lothario, stereotypically handsome and confident. Johnny is also a hothead — literally. He is reckless, arrogant, daring, and egotistical. Johnny loves the spotlight, and while he enjoys saving others, a large part of him also loves the perks of being a world-saving hero. Johnny is the team’s baby, usually depicted as a twenty-something with a heart of gold but a ton of growing up to do.
Chris Evans and Michael B. Jordan were both amazing as Johnny Storm because they found the right balance between charming and obnoxious. If we’re being cynical, Johnny is the easiest character of the four, as long as the right actor comes along. And for Johnny, the right actor exists, and his name is Mason Gooding.
Take a look at his work in Love, Victor and Scream VI and tell me that guy isn’t Johnny Storm. Are there other options? Of course! There’s Noah Centineo, who would also be a great choice, or Gregg Sulkin or any of the guys from Euphoria. However, I feel like Gooding is the perfect choice for this role.
So who should play Johnny? Mason Gooding, by a landslide.
Ben Grimm is a complicated character. Buried under a pile of rocks and destined to be called “The Thing,” Ben is the Fantastic Four’s uncle-like figure and the resident strongman. He can either be a tragic character, doomed to spend his life as a freak, or a comedic and warm-hearted ally, a modern take on the gentle giant. Benn is volatile and explosive in nearly every incarnation, prone to mood swings that can potentially turn violent, especially because of his massive size and power.
The Thing is a tough character to cast. Because he’ll be buried under CGI, the character calls for an actor who can act with his eyes and convey his emotions through words and body language. Add the role’s physicality, and The Thig is arguably the toughest of the four to cast. Ben is also Reed’s contemporary and Jewish, so we’re looking for a Jewish actor in his 40s with enough gravitas to sell The Thing’s tragedy and enough light-heartedness to embody his personality.
Many think of Seth Rogen as the perfect Ben Grimm; sure, he would be great and the easiest choice for this role. What about his younger doppelganger, Jonah Hill? He’s a thirty-nine-year-old, two-time Oscar nominee who isn’t afraid of franchises; he’d work, too. Daveed Diggs, a Tony-winning, Emmy-nominated forty-one-year-old, would also be perfect for the role, especially because he’s already shown his mastery of drama and comedy. Same with Ben Foster, another acclaimed yet still-underrated actor who has proven his versatility in numerous roles. And Jason Segel would also make for an inspired choice, with his latest dramedy Shrinking proving his talents for drama.
So who should play Ben? I … am unsure. Any of these actors would work, although I would love to see an out-of-the-box choice like Diggs take on the role. That said, Segel would be incredible in the role.
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