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As a major acting recruitment center, the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to attract 95% of those they want. Only a select group have turned them down and continue to show no interest in becoming a superhero or comic book villain.

Some well-known MCU defectors include Joaquin Phoenix and Emily Blunt (so far). Now one can add Josh Hartnett to the list, someone who seems to perpetually value character acting above all.

Not only did Hartnett refuse the MCU, he eliminated DC from the equation as well. What are the details behind this, and will more actors live up to the Hartnett creed of sticking with more human characters?

Recapping Josh Hartnett’s career

Josh Hartnett
Josh Hartnett | David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

At one time, Hartnett was tapped to become a movie superstar, particularly after his breakthrough performances in The Faculty, Pearl Harbor, and Black Hawk Down as starters. Rather than go on a mainstream blockbuster tear, he decided to focus on independent movies for a good long while.

On top of it, he took a break for a couple of years to spend more time with his family and find a sense of self. Only recently has he come back to doing more films again, including having a successful stint on Showtime’s Penny Dreadful from 2014-2016.

Before the jump into indie fare and his break, though, Hartnett was inundated with big movie franchise offers. Reportedly, he was offered every major superhero part, ranging from Batman to Spider-Man, according to Cinema Blend.

He turned them all down, for one specific career reason. More explanation on this came from recent, extensive interviews.

Josh Hartnett never wanted to be defined playing a superhero

Perhaps his break to help find more meaning in life was a smart move. It seemed to help Hartnett understand the truly important things in life, including the types of roles to take on as an actor.

According to him from a Daily Mail interview back in 2014, the superhero roles even extended to being offered Superman in addition to Spider-Man and Batman. Said Hartnett about turning them all down: “Spider-Man was something we talked about. Batman was another one. But I somehow knew those roles had potential to define me, and I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to be labeled as Superman for the rest of my career. I was maybe 22, but I saw the danger.”

Critics might point to this as one of the smartest moves an actor could ever make. Others might think it sounds like a wasted opportunity when including the likes of Robert Downey, Jr. making a fortune heading the MCU.

Then again, everyone might be seeing the dark side of Downey being pigeonholed as Tony Stark. His last solo movie effort away from the MCU (Doctor Dolittle) gave a harbinger Downey may have a hard time playing another character.

Can other actors stay away from playing superheroes?


MCU Phase 5 Could Introduce a Brand-New, Top-Secret Superhero Team

Superhero fans might find it surprising the list of those who refuse to join the MCU or DC is longer than usually reported. This never means some of them may not eventually be recruited, particularly with MCU having the deepest pockets in the entire movie industry.

Names like Emily Blunt could eventually be drawn into the MCU event horizon. For Josh Hartnett, the likelihood is he will always stick by his guns and never relent to joining franchises.

Based on his acting track record, he wants to carve out a sense of individuality in each part he takes on. He even says so himself by noting independent film is a “labor of love” per Screen Rant.

When finances come into the picture, however, things can change on a dime. Money might still rule most actor decisions on being successfully recruited into superhero films. If they do, they may need a complete, long-term career strategy outline to not become stereotyped.