Is there a character out there with as intense casting rumors as Cable? Ever since it was confirmed that the cyborg mutant with a penchant for telekinesis and cool scars would be prominently featured in the next Deadpool movie, fans have been speculating over which grizzled, middle-age actor might land the role. Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds — and really, the whole marketing department for this movie — have only added fuel to the fire with a host of rumors and reports regarding actors who may or may not be in the running.
While a few names have emerged as possible front-runners (and we’ll discuss them below), there is no shortage of actors who could play a pretty convincing Cable, a.k.a. Nathan Summers. With this particular casting announcement likely to drawn out as long as possible, we can only speculate over who might ultimately get picked to don the Marvel mutant’s techno-organic and bionic arm.
Here are the actors we think either have the best chance of playing Cable or simply would be great in the role.
15. Pierce Brosnan
Former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan’s name probably would have never entered most peoples’ minds as a Cable candidate if it wasn’t for a photograph Ryan Reynolds posted to his Instagram back in January. The image shows Brosnan sitting in-between Reynolds and Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman, with the trio striking poses that suggested they were hiding something. The photo quickly went viral and Deadpool fans jumped to the conclusion that Brosnan had been chosen to play Cable.
Then, in early April. Brosnan finally broke his silence on the rumor, telling Jimmy Kimmel that the photo had been a spur-of-the-moment thing while he and the other actors were waiting for a flight and that he had not been approached about starring in Deadpool 2. However, Brosnan did mention that he’s open to the idea of playing Cable if the studio wants him, so it’s still too soon to rule him out completely. Even though he’s been out of the 007 game for fifteen years, Brosnan’s more recent work in films like The November Man prove that he can still pull off a veteran action role, so it’s not much of a stretch to imagine him as a telekinetic cyborg.
14. Karl Urban
We’re putting Karl Urban on this list for his no-nonsense performance as the title enforcer in 2012’s excellent Dredd, and since it looks like he may not get the chance to play Judge Dredd again, Urban would do well to go with another comic book character who would align well with his particular talents. Urban excels at playing gruff, world-weary characters, but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of injecting some levity into his performances. As the ultra sarcastic Dr. Hank McCoy in the modern Star Trek movies, Urban has proven to have excellent comedic timing and is arguably the MVP of that franchise. With a resume stuffed full of action roles and grizzled characters, Urban deserves to at least be considered for the role of Cable.
13. Michael Cudlitz
Michael Cudlitz has made a career out of playing tough military types, as he’s perhaps best known for playing Bull Randleman in HBO’s Band of Brothers and Sgt. Abraham Ford on The Walking Dead. Cudlitz certainly has the physical presence to play a convincing Cable and while he could easily play the character as an overly serious badass, he often infuses his characters with a degree of vulnerability, which is something he could bring to the table here. Plus, with Abraham’s death on the most recent season of The Walking Dead, there should now be room in Cudlitz’s schedule to play a certain cyborg mutant.
12. Gerard Butler
Butler’s most iconic role is still his ferocious performance as King Leonidas in Zack Snyder’s 300 and it’s safe to say that he would likely channel that character if he were to be cast as Cable. Imagining Cable as a futuristic version of the Spartan king is certainly an intriguing thought, but the true reason we’re including Butler on this list is because the guy could really use a career boost. Ever since 300, Butler has been drowning in lousy rom-coms and middle-of-the-road action features and we think he could do better.
Sure, Butler’s not the greatest actor around (and would probably play Cable with his native Scottish accent because he’s not exactly proficient at hiding it) but considering he’s more than qualified to portray Cable from a physical standpoint, it would be interesting to see if he has what it takes to handle the dramatic aspects of the character as well.
11. Jon Hamm
Known primarily for his comedic and dramatic roles, Jon Hamm may seem like an odd choice to play a comic book character. Still, if there’s one thing Hamm has proven to be, it’s versatile. For nearly 8 years, Hamm delivered one of the finest dramatic performances on television in Mad Men’s tortured advertising exec Don Draper, and he’s flipped the script completely with his comedic roles in Bridesmaids, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and 30 Rock.
As such, Hamm has the range to play the straight man to Deadpool’s lunacy or match him with his own brand of off-kilter hijinks, depending on what the script calls for. It also helps that Cable creator Rob Liefeld has name-dropped Hamm as one of his top picks to play the character and even provided an artistic rendering of what he might look like in the role!
10. Kurt Russell
As one of the coolest older actors alive, it’s pretty much impossible to not include Kurt Russell on a Cable casting wishlist. The guy’s an action movie legend, having already played one of the greatest antiheroes in cinematic history, Snake Plisken, in both Escape From New York and its sequel Escape From L.A. He’s also kind of been everywhere in the last few years, joining the Fast and Furious franchise in 2015 and starring in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. Unfortunately, Russell has a few things playing against him when it comes to being cast as Cable.
For one thing, he’s 66 years old and although he’s still quite spry, he is getting a bit long in the tooth for more physical action roles. There’s also the matter of him already being attached to a Marvel property, as he plays Ego the Living Planet in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Of course, with the Deadpool franchise taking place in a separate universe, this isn’t technically an issue, but Fox may be reluctant to cast an actor who already has a prominent role in another Marvel property … although, since it’s Kurt Russell we’re talking about, we’re certainly not against the idea of him being in more movies, especially if one of those allows him to play a character like Cable.
9. Keira Knightley
Jokingly name-dropped at the end of the original Deadpool as a possible candidate to play Cable, we think that casting Keira Knightley as the telekinetic mutant would actually be a bold, potentially great move. While it’s unlikely that Fox would want to gender-swap the character in his first live action appearance, doing so is exactly the kind of unexpected move the Deadpool franchise is recognized for. Although Knightley is best known for her period piece dramatic roles, she’s dabbled in action before and shown that she knows how to go into total badass mode thanks to her turn as the title bounty hunter in Tony Scott’s Domino.
Admittedly, she’s probably a bit too young to play a traditional Cable but if she were cast, her performance would be anything but traditional anyway. Plus, we’ve already seen an artist’s rendering of what she might look like in the role and it’s safe to say that Knightley could pull off a gender-swapped Cable just fine.
8. Charlize Theron
Staying on the gender-swap train for a minute, we submit another actress that we think could do an even better job than Knightley as a female Cable: Charlize Theron. Theron is a versatile actress with a well-rounded resume and a big chunk of her roles have been as femme fatales. From her turn as a hardened post-apocalyptic survivor in Mad Max: Fury Road to her villainous turn in The Fate of the Furious, Theron has shown again and again that she excels at playing characters you wouldn’t want to mess with, which would make her a great fit for Cable, as she’d have no trouble keeping Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool in line. Of course, gender-swapping Cable would be a hugely controversial move, which is why it probably isn’t going to happen but if it did, it’s hard to imagine any actress would do a better job than Theron.
7. Jason Clarke
Clarke is one of those actors that may not be a household name, but is consistently really good in anything he’s in. Clarke first got on our radar with his morally-grey performance as an interrogator in Zero Dark Thirty, but it was arguably his leading performance in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that really sold us on his chops. Plus, we already know that he can pull of a cool facial scar thanks to his turn as resistance leader John Connor in the otherwise terrible Terminator: Genisys. With his close connection to the studio and reliable character work, there’s really no reason Jason Clarke shouldn’t be on Fox’s radar to play Cable.
6. Thomas Jane
Although 2004’s The Punisher had many problems, Thomas Jane’s lead performance was not one of them. Jane’s Frank Castle was hard-edged, yet vulnerable ,and his performance captured the spirit of the popular Marvel vigilante well. Jon Bernthal has since taken over the role, so there’s really no hope of seeing Jane take another stab at playing the Punisher, but he could always have a turn as Nathan Summers.
His performance in the excellent series The Expanse and his voiceover work as Jonah Hex in DC’s animated universe, among other roles, has endeared Jane to sci-fi and comic book fans alike, so it’s hard to imagine that his casting wouldn’t be seen in a positive light. Plus, we’re sure Deadpool would have a few jokes to make about another guy taking over the Punisher role that would promptly lead to him being sent flying through a wall.
5. Kyle Chandler
Kyle Chandler was one of the first names brought up when Cable casting rumors began in earnest last year but with the departure of original Deadpool director Tim Miller last fall, Chandler’s chances of landing the part seemed to go with him. Still, until an official casting announcement is made, Chandler shouldn’t be ruled out completely, as there must be something about him that helped make him a candidate originally. Chandler is best known for his TV work in shows like Friday Night Lights and Bloodline, where he’s showcased his natural charisma and leading man charms.
At 51, Chandler certainly falls into the age bracket one would associate with a character like Cable, but his youthful looks don’t exactly align well with Cable’s more rugged appearance, which could very well be part of the reason Reynolds and his team have reportedly moved away from casting him. Still, it’s pretty easy to make an actor look rough on screen and if Chandler has the chops to do the character justice, his looks shouldn’t be held against him.
4. Ron Perlman
A name that comes up again and again in Cable fan-casting debates is Ron Perlman, who really needs no introduction. Although it looks like a third Hellboy film is never getting off the ground, fans of the character had their dreams come true twice with Perlman’s casting in both Hellboy and its sequel, as it’s hard to imagine any other actor in the role. When it comes to Cable, Perlman certainly looks the part thanks to his gruff exterior and deep voice but at age 66, time isn’t exactly on his side, especially if the role calls for lots of physicality. However, when you factor in how badly fans want him to be cast and the fact that he’s actively campaigned for the role, it’s surprising that Perlman’s name hasn’t been brought up more in any Cable casting rumors, as his name should undoubtedly be on the shortlist.
3. Stephen Lang
Like Ron Perlman, Stephen Lang is another actor who has not only been personally campaigning to play Cable, but has the support of the fan community behind him. In terms of pure physical resemblance, it’s hard to think of another actor more perfect to play Cable than Lang. Weathered and rugged looking with an impressive physique, the 64-year-old Lang’s old man strength status is undisputed and thanks to his memorable role as the scenery-chewing, militaristic villain in James Cameron’s Avatar, we know that he excels at playing a real hardass, which would be fun to see played off of Ryan Reynold’s overly immature Deadpool.
The only thing working against Lang in our books is that he might be too obvious a pick for Cable, which could be a problem if the studio is looking to do something a bit different with the character. That being said, if Deadpool 2’s script is calling for a Cable who closely resembles his comic book counterpart, it’s hard to think of anyone better suited than Lang.
2. David Harbour
In the same report that mentioned that Michael Shannon is the frontrunner to play Cable (more on him below), David Harbour was also name-dropped as someone who was being considered. Best recognized now for playing Sheriff Jim Hopper in Stranger Things, Harbour is a respected character actor who may not be an obvious choice for Cable (at 42, he’s a bit on the younger side) but one who would likely do justice to the role if given the chance. Again, Harbour is an odd choice and likely doesn’t have have a realistic shot at the part unless Fox truly is seeking him out, but given his talent and overall likability, it would be hard to be upset if he did manage to land it.
1. Michael Shannon
Michael Shannon is reportedly the front-runner to play Cable right now, so naturally he belongs at the top of this list. What’s interesting about Shannon is that he’s a bit of a bizarre pick, as no one really had him on their radar for the part until THR’s report came out in March. Comic fans likely know Shannon best for his portrayal of General Zod in 2013’s Man of Steel and he was easily one of the best parts of that movie. Even though he’s not the first or even tenth name that comes to mind when one thinks of Cable, Shannon is such a unique talent and is so interesting to watch that it would be fascinating just to see what his approach to playing Deadpool’s more serious-minded ally.