At this point, everyone in Hollywood knows that when Marvel comes calling, you always say yes. Taking a role in one of the studio’s superhero blockbusters can catapult an actor to the A-List and make them a household name overnight—and for already established stars, taking a Marvel gig offers an opportunity to branch out in front of the widest possible audience at a time when the major studios are becoming increasingly reliant on franchise-driven fare. There are exceptions to every rule, however, and Emily Blunt is one star who could have taken a major Marvel role—and ended up turning it down. As it turns out, the decision to reject a spot in the MCU actually wasn’t all up to Blunt, however. Here’s the story behind the story, and a look back at what actually kept Emily Blunt from suiting up alongside the Avengers and becoming one of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
A star on the rise
She’s a certified A-Lister today, but back in 2008 and 2009 when Iron Man 2 was in preproduction, Emily Blunt was still a star on the rise. She’d begun building a reputation for herself by starring in small indie films like Dan in Real Life and Sunshine Cleaning and hit a high note when she earned award nominations for her performances in The Young Victoria and The Devil Wears Prada. It made sense that Marvel would want to snatch up a budding young starlet before her asking price rose too high—which is what they set out to do.
She was cast as Black Widow
By January 2009, Marvel had started talks with Blunt to iron out the finer details of her contract. Given the effect that the first Iron Man had on Robert Downey, Jr.’s career, it was easy to assume that Blunt must have been eager to lock down the role. However, by March of that year, those talks had ceased, and Scarlett Johansson—who had originally lost the role to Blunt—wound up being cast instead.
Blaming scheduling issues
According to Emily Blunt, what kept her from donning Black Widow’s skin-tight leather was a scheduling conflict with another film: the Jack Black vehicle Gulliver’s Travels. (A similar complication kept her from playing Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger.) Looking back on it now, it seems like one of the biggest career blunders in cinematic history, but Blunt didn’t let it get her down—or at least she didn’t show it. In fact, she’s gone on to say some surprising things about the snafu.
She’s glad she didn’t become an Avenger
In 2012, Blunt told Vulture that she’s kind of glad she didn’t get those parts. According to her, superhero movies tend to cast women as second fiddle to the guys who are out bromancing and beating up the baddies, which isn’t far from the truth. Thus far, Black Widow‘s been the most important female in the MCU, but she hasn’t gotten much in the way of front-burner storylines. Still, Blunt’s comments about the gender politics of the MCU aside, one doesn’t have to listen too hard to hear the tinge of regret in her voice. And there’s good reason for that.
Contractual obligation woes
The part about scheduling conflicts between Iron Man 2 and Gulliver’s Travels is true. However, it’s not the whole truth. The rest is that after signing on for The Devil Wears Prada, Blunt was contractually obligated to appear in a movie of Twentieth Century Fox’s choosing. Fox chose Gulliver’s Travels because it was a Jack Black vehicle, and at the time, Black’s films were hit (Tropic Thunder) or miss (Year One). Fox needed some more names on the marquee as insurance, and Blunt’s name got picked.
Agents enter scheduling negotiations
Now, to be fair, Blunt’s reps tried working out a scheduling deal with Fox’s people so that she could appear in both Gulliver’s Travels and Iron Man 2. Fox’s flick was set to film late March 2009 in the U.K., while Marvel’s blockbuster would begin production that April in California. Obviously, the talks didn’t pan out, but it seems as though they fell apart before they got off the ground. Marvel almost immediately went ahead and recast the part, leaving Blunt hanging high and dry.
In Blunt’s defense, she couldn’t have known Gulliver’s Travels was going to flop so hard—and it isn’t like making it was a totally miserable experience for her. She’s gone on record as saying she not only enjoyed the experience, but it made her want to make more family films in the future. Of course, she said this before the movie premiered to horrendous reviews, and she hasn’t made too many family films since then. But don’t feel too bad for Blunt—her career has carried on just fine.
Edge of Tomorrow
While Gulliver’s Travels became a cinematic footnote at best, Blunt has continued to have a prosperous and prolific career. Of all the movies she’s made, Edge of Tomorrow is worth noting because it gives fans an idea of just how good a fit she would have been as the Black Widow. Heck, she even won an award for her butt-kicking performance. Unfortunately, it didn’t help her when she was rumored to be up for her third potential Marvel role.
Though Emily Blunt was the fan favorite choice to play Carol Danvers in the standalone Captain Marvel flick, once again she missed the chance to be an Avenger: in June 2016, rumors started percolating that Marvel was courting Room star Brie Larson to don the red, blue, and gold, and the following month, they were confirmed. Blunt’s fans saw their Marvel hopes dashed again, but that doesn’t mean that she’ll never star in a project for the studio. The House of Ideas has years and years of projects lined up, and no shortage of female heroes and villains just waiting to be brought to the big screen.