The “Hoffverse”: The Marvel Cinematic Universe We Never Got | Part 2

Dive back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe that never was.

Last week, I laid out for you an alternate Marvel Cinematic Universe. David Hasselhoff’s 1998 TV pilot Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a success and becomes the match that sparks the Marvel fire a decade before it’s ready to burn. This week we’ll meet the principal cast members from 1998 Hollywood who’ll make up this universe’s Avengers.   


No one is more surprised by the success of Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. than Hasselhoff himself. He’s spotted going into Golden Apple Comics on Melrose Avenue to do more “research” on the character. Now the belle of the ball, Hasselhoff is more than happy to pose with fanboys and fangirls for photographs. While signing autographs, a few eagle-eyed bystanders notice mostly Avengers titles in his shopping bag and a buzz begins that we may be getting a live adaptation of the Avengers. Many fear it’ll be another Roger Corman Fantastic Four debacle.

Hasselhoff and Director James Mangold meet and seem to hit it off. Hasselhoff has a new lease on life and genuinely wants to make a good picture.

RELATED – The “Hoffverse”: The Marvel Cinematic Universe We Never Got | Part 1

That being said, he’s the key piece of casting in the Hoffverse (like Robert Downey Jr. in our Marvel universe) and the former Baywatch star and might be overreaching a bit…Like saying he would love to lend a hand to Composer Alan Silvestri with the film’s music.

He also has some “strong ideas” about actors and actresses for the project. Mangold leers. We’ll come back to this shortly…


Numbers come back for casting and Hollywood royalty like Nic Cage, Tom Cruise or John Travolta are out of the question. Even someone like Leonardo DiCaprio is out of reach because of the recent success of Titanic. This’ll take some work…

They start with billionaire playboy inventor Tony Stark, who creates a suit of metal and calls himself Iron Man. While a favorite of the comic book community, Iron Man is mostly unknown to the general public. Most think it’s just the title to a kickass Black Sabbath song.

The studio’s first choice to play Tony Stark is heartthrob and hot actor Freddie Prinze Jr. , whose film I Know What You Did Last Summer just destroyed the 1997 summer box office. When it’s revealed the actor will spend 80% of his time behind a helmet, his people pass on the part. Besides, the sequel to I Still Know What You Did Last Summer has already been greenlit, so he’ll be a household name shortly.

Undeterred, the casting moves on. Popular actors of the time Harry Connick Jr., Ethan Hawke, and Lorenzo Lamas (yes really) come in to read. Mangold goes as far as to screen test actor Ed Burns, who just wrote and directed his own ensemble film She’s the One, as well as acted in a little war film with Steven Spielberg called Saving Private Ryan. Burns gets close, but is beaten out by Billy Crudup. The actor just wrapped a biopic called “Without Limits” where he sported one heck of a mustache (much like our fictional character). 


For the studio, Captain America is on a shortlist for what they think will be the next Batman type superhero in cinema if handled right (Ya, they’ve seen the 1990 film). The highest on the list is of course Brad Pitt. He’s handsome, young, and bankable. In a few years, he will absolutely be an A-lister, so the time to sign him is now. A problem emerges though. Pitt has signed on in January for some David Fincher film called Fight Club, so he’ll be unavailable for months, and the production can’t wait.

The next two names in mind are unfortunately inseparable at the time: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

They’re fresh off their Oscar win for Good Will Hunting and separately, they’re also busy. Affleck is an oil driller who saves the world in that Michael Bay flick out in a few months and Damon is also in that Spielberg war movie (Geezus who’s NOT in that movie!) and is the lead in a film coming out called Rounders. Although gracious, they both pass.

Focus is moved onto former Saved by the Bell star Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who’s trying to get a movie career started. Also, a young rapper turned actor named Mark Wahlberg is talked about, having just made a big splash in the film Boogie Nights. Execs aren’t convinced Gosselaar’s a big enough name and Wahlburg is thought to be too young.

It is Mangold who suggests a relatively unknown actor he saw in a small Canadian film called In the Company of Men named Aaron Eckhart. While not a household name, Eckhart has the rugged good looks, build and “it” factor for the part. The actors’ screen test goes well enough for the studio to sign off on him being the patriotic super-soldier.

RELATED – S.J. Clarkson Will Develop A Female-Led Marvel Movie For Sony – Could It Be Madame Web?


In 1998, the Hulk has been successful on television, but has yet to make his leap to the big screen. Yet, this might be the character in the film with the biggest name recognition from Joe public. Maybe a Hulk standalone film should be greenlit as well? “What could go wrong” one exec comments.

Gary Sinise, Lieutenant Dan himself, is an actor they think can play the scientist turned raging green monster. He is a solid actor, having just been in the hits Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, and Ransom, all back to back to back. Unfortunately, he’s already booked his next project. He’ll star opposite Tom Hanks again in Frank Darabont’s follow up to The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile. Sinise is a no go.

Ok, who else? The likes of Matthew Perry are entertained (yes Friends Matthew Perry), as well as two actors also from Saving Private Ryan (Ok this is getting tedious) Adam Goldberg and Vin Diesel.

Instead, they turn to another good looking young actor, James Marsden. A future X-man in our marvel universe,  they think he can bring the rage and range to be the conflicted Dr. Bruce Banner.

How does the Hulk monster itself look you ask? Eh, the CGI will be what it’s gonna be, although we can do dinosaurs now. There is a small special effects studio out of New Zealand called WETA is doing some interesting things…


This is a tough one. The studio and Mangold comb the pages of casting agencies looking for an actor to portray the god of thunder. The studio’s first choice, Casper Van Dien, just had a breakout role in 1997’s Starship Troopers. He’s got the charm and charisma for the part, but Casper’s people notify the studio he’s already committed to a Disney film Tarzan and the Lost City and is unavailable.

Their second choice is Viggo Mortensen who just gave a great performance in last year’s G.I. Jane. Unfortunately, he’s committed to begin filming some medieval film trilogy in New Zealand called Lord of the Rings (who’s gonna watch that, right?).

They invite Matthew McConaughey in to read for the role, but he doesn’t have a chance, being a “rom-com guy”. Ex-football star Howie Long has just filmed Firestorm and certainly has the physique. Dolph Lundgren has the look, but is too old for this cast. Their answer: Michael Vartan. Although they are catching the actor years before he’s cast in a show called Alias, he has shown great promise in such films The Curve and The Pallbearer. Vartan begins growing out his hair, practicing something of an Icelandic accent and bulking up…A LOT.

Next week, we’ll wrap up casting for this Marvel cinematic universe and see who was chosen for the roles of Hawkeye, Black Widow, Thanos!

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