Comic Book Casting: The DAREDEVIL Live-Action Movie

Daredevil - The Man without Fear 04 - 15Every Monday here at iFanboy, we look at comics’ greatest characters and stories and try to imagine what they’d be like in film or television. From the story concept to the people in charge and all the way down to who’d play who, we do it and we call it Comic Book Casting.

Matt Murdock is the man without fear, but he’s also one of the only men without a successful movie franchise in Marvel’s line-up for top character. But that looks to be a’changing with news last week that Marvel has regained Daredevil’s film rights from 20th Century Fox. Daredevil has a long history at Marvel, becoming it’s most popular street level hero and to be an almost grueling catholic portrayal of a superhero fighting to keep his hometown — the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City — under protection. And with the news of Marvel regaining these movie rights, fans are frantically postulating on who, how and where a new Daredevil will pop up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; don’t they know that’s our job every Monday?

The Concept:

Twenty years ago, Frank Miller had an idea for a Daredevil film; scratch that — he had a complete movie script. Unable to get traction with it in Hollywood in the early 1990s, Miller returned to Marvel Comics and the character who made him famous in a standalone miniseries that brought an incisive new take on the decades-old character and his “hard knocks” upbringing. Paired with then-rising-star John Romita Jr., Miller proved you can come home again and created a frank (no pun intended) “Year One”-esque origin for Matt Murdock, from his single-parent upbringing to the formative years in his relationships with Foggy Nelson, the Kingpin and even Elektra. The 2003 Daredevil tipped its hat a little bit to Miller, but what I’d say is that they need to give themselves over and adapt the Man Without Fear miniseries as the launching pad for a new movie.

I know, I know, there have to be some changes. One thing I would fight hard for is to remove Elektra entirely from the story in favor of saving her as a post-credits scene or launch in a second movie. I would imagine the Man Without Fear miniseries as the basis for the first in a three-part movie trilogy profiling Murdock’s descent into darkness and his eventual return to happier times in the final installment. But focusing on the first film, I’d use Miller and Romita Jr.’s story as the backbone for the first movie, removing Elektra and instead focusing on Daredevil’s fight with his blindness, his relationship with his father and then his mentor Stick, and onto his first attempts at being a super-hero against Kingpin as he begins taking over New York. I see Foggy Nelson and Karen Page as Murdock’s support system as a young adult, with Page’s role especially expanded upon like comics were never able to.

The Director:

Some may call my decision for director as too esoteric, but I am thoroughly wishing that Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn be put in charge of this movie. After watching Drive, the Pusher trilogy and recentlyBronson, I see Refn with the amazing ability to craft character portrayals that can be exceedingly violent and full of style without hurting the larger story. Other Marvel stories might allow a more pedestrian approach to its focus, but Daredevil seems like something that needs its own style (not unlike Batman) and Refn can deliver that. He may have little experience being a “company man'” and working under the auspices of someone like Disney and Marvel, but Refn just did a short film for Gucci so he knows how to be a commercial director while still retaining his heart.

The Cast:

Daredevil / Matt Murdock – Ryan Gosling: Gosling might be type-cast by some as a pretty boy considering his success in romantic movies, but Gosling’s much more than that (see Drive and The Ides of March if you think I’m kidding). You might think Gosling would be adverse to doing as commercial a movie as Daredevil, but with the caliber of actors Marvel’s recruited (Downey Jr., Jackson, Redford) he might reconsider, especially given the dramatic possibilities in playing a blind crimefighter.

Battlin’ Jack Murdock – Kurt Russell: Some people might put a more popular actor like Bruce Willis into this role, but for me it seems like Kurt Russell has more to offer onset than Willis in this particular role. Russell’s comes from an older school of action star, and can carry that while still being a believable father figure — as much as Jack Murdock was.

Ben Urich – Viggo Mortensen:Some people might argue that Viggo would be better left to do a leading role in a super-hero movie, but I think Viggo’s talents lie in playing more exotic and layered characters than those in tights normally provide. Seeing him cast as the more “man on the street” Ben Urich and not the leading man would be startling but also something very, very interesting. Imagine Urich learning about Daredevil and slowly unraveling his identity, but also popping up in other Marvel movies down the road.

Stick – Jonathan Banks: The hardest casting I had, but once I remembered Breaking Bad‘s Jonathan Banks I couldn’t shake it at all. Some people might want a man of European backgrounds and accents, but seeing Banks in this would cut past the flowery language and show a man well worn into the kind of life Matt Murdock is built up to lead someday and a great hard-ass mentor — like the Anti- Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Sister Maggie – Virginia Madsden: Another role hardly fleshed out in comics, but I think there’d be some room to play with that here. The fact that Murdock’s mother is a nun is a great story aspect that a movie could really delve into, not just in the first movie but down the road in future sequels.

Foggy Nelson – Jonah Hill: Foggy Nelson is arguably one of Marvel’s greatest sidekick, in that he’s far more than a sidekick when the need arises but can be just a sidekick when the time comes. Although Jonah Hill may not be as portly as he once was (or Foggy is often drawn as), I’d love to see him play opposite Ryan Gosling and humanize the Matt Murdock character and his grasp on the real world.

Kingpin – James Gandolfini: Type casting? Maybe so, but I dare you to come up with a better person to portray Wilson Fisk in a Daredevil movie. Gandolfini’s kept a relatively low profile post-Sopranos, but I’d love to see him act as Fisk and play a long-term antagonistic role to Daredevil and be a counter-weight to the man without fear in the New York underground.

Mickey – Shelby Canterbury: Mickey was a big part in Daredevil’s early impetus to begin crime-fighting, and I’m always surprised comics never revisited her down the road. Regardless, this pivotal role would be well-cast if child actor Shelby Canterbury were to be tapped to play her. Canterbury’s role’s to date are very limited, but she comes from a family of actors and seems to have what it takes.

Karen Page – Natalie Dormer:  No Elektra just yet — instead I’d focus in on developing the engrossing character of Karen Page, played most excellently by The Tudors Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer. Dormer-as-Page brings up all sorts of possibilities from smarts to sex appeal, and taking this character down that harrowing arc comics wrote for her.


  1. Great choices!

    I love Jonah Hill as Foggy, but I recently came up with a possibly more “outside the box” interpretation: Clark Duke.

    • Somebody suggested Dan Fogler on the last DD movie thread and that’s who I’d prefer, but Duke is a good choice too. He might have to lose his glasses tho.

    • I like pretty much all these casting choices except for Jonah Hill as Foggy. Personally I think Patton Oswalt was tailor made for this role. Cmon, think about it, you know it makes sense.

  2. Kurt Russell! Perfect. Done.

    There something about Natalie Dormer that I absolutely love. I think it’s the crooked, flirty little smile. She could play Girl in Corner of Every Scene Reading Phone Book and I’d be okay with it.

    I met JR Jr a couple years ago and he called Man Without Fear the work he was most proud of.

  3. Impressive. Most impressive!

    Now if they ever make a Daredevil movie (I hope so!! We deserve it!) and they chose different actors for the roles you pointed out, I will be sorely disappointed! 😉

  4. Garret Hedlund would be my choice for DD. Nothing against Gosling he’s great but I think Hedlund would be better.

  5. Oh, one other thought. Anyone else think DD might make a successful TV series? We need a Marvel property on the airwaves to compliment SHIELD, and I think DAREDEVIL is just the sort of “street level” hero that would do well.

    • It’s be nice if they brought back “Blade:the Series” but DD could definitely make a good tv show. Budget wise it should cost any more than a high profile scifi show like maybe “Fringe”.

    • I think a legal drama based in the Marvel Universe with some noir vigilante crime-fighting thrown in would be amazing.

  6. I never would have thought of Banks for Stick but he’s perfect. This is the most solid fan cast I’ve seen in a long time.

  7. I’ve actually thought about it, and I’d like to see stick played by Miller himself. Stick is a pretty one-D character and they shouldn’t dwell that much on him, making the role just a large cameo.

  8. If Gandolfini wouldn’t play Kingpin, I’d go for Brian Dennehy. He may be old but I think he would fit well for the character.

  9. OMG this is the best comic book casting article yet. I never thought of it but Gosling as Daredevil is perfect. I’m picturing this:
    combined with this:
    to pretty much create the movie I’ve been waiting my whole life for. If anybody from Marvel happens to be reading this I never see a movie twice or go opening night or any of that but I would for this. I would go at least three times and I would certainly be there opening night. Make it happen please.

  10. This might be the best casting I’ve seen in this feature. BUT, I think we need someone just a tad older to play Sister Maggie. I mean, I love (and often think about 😉 ) hot nuns and I realize she’s 51, but I’m thinking someone more like Sally Field.
    Regardless, stellar choices.

  11. Ok, why do we have to have another origin movie with the Kingpin as the villain? And why for a character that’s existed since the mid-60s has to have all his stories taken from one single decade? I know Miller “re-defined” Daredevil but come on! That said, all these are great casting choices, the only ones that kinda worry me are Gosling as Matt and Hill as Foggy. More screentime for Jack Murdock and Stick is probably a good story decision. Instead of Kingpin as the villain, why not the guy who came before him? I forget his name, but you could both Matt and Fisk coming into their own and foreshadow their inevitable clash. As I recall Kingpin didn’t play a big role in “Man without Fear” anyway.

    • That’s a good idea, then the trilogy could trace the paired rise and fall and rise(?) of Murdock and Fisk, a study of similarities and contrasts . . .

  12. Not so sure about Gosling and Hill, but holy crap, is Kurt Russell ever perfect for Jack Murdock.

    Whoever gets the role of Kingpin has a lot of living up to Michael Clarke Duncan to do. He was easily the best part of the original Daredevil movie. He was so perfect for that role. I remember so many people pitching a fit about “turning Kingpin black” but I thought it was great casting.

  13. Nice picks. And I agree that Elektra should be left out of the first movie. Maybe give her ONE scene set during Matt’s college days?

    Gosling and Gandolfini are particularly great choices.

  14. I saw a list that had Michael Chiklis as the Kingpin & I’ve decided that that was the absolute PERFECT choice for him. Even with the idea of Tony Soprano appearing in the Marvel universe, Chiklis as the Kingpin is just too tantalizing an idea to let go of. However Ryan Gosling as Matt may just be as Perfect as well. He could really turn Murdock into the status of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, but arguably with more appeal.

  15. i would watch this cast

  16. A lot of the Foggy suggestions have been pretty good (Patton Oswalt would probably be brilliant) but I’ve always thought Tyler Labine would make a great Foggy. Mostly cause I remember the episodes of Boston Legal where he actually played a lawyer.

    And for the record Jonathan Banks and Kurt Russell are also brilliant choices.