"Iron Man 2" casting news was all over the 'Net last night, with various reports claiming that Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke were in talks to play villains in the upcoming sequel to last year's blockbuster film -- but which characters are they in talks to play?
Conflicting reports from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter had Rourke playing either Crimson Dynamo, the Russian equivalent to Iron Man, or Whiplash, an assassin who uses tech-enhanced tendrils to dispatch his targets. The Hollywood Reporter also claimed Rockwell was in talks to play Justin Hammer, described in the report as "a multibillionaire businessman and a rival of industrialist Anthony Stark," while Variety made no mention of the character Rockwell might be attached to in the project.
So, where does the truth lie, and how do they all fit together in the Iron Man universe? Let's do the detective work and break down some of the likely arrangements and storylines, shall we? Beware, though -- there might be spoilers!
On one side, Variety reports that Rourke is in discussions to play the Crimson Dynamo, "a heavily tattooed Russian arms dealer" who "battles the superhero in a nuclear-powered suit of armor." In the comics world, the moniker of "Crimson Dynamo" has been held by at least a dozen different people (most of them Russian) since debuting in 1963, and the character is generally viewed as the bad-guy version of Iron Man -- despite several iterations having heroic moments.
While the "tattooed arms dealer" element of the character description is a new twist, there are a lot of details that make the character a logical addition to the "Iron Man" film franchise. For example, the comic-book history of the Crimson Dynamo is closely linked to that of Black Widow, a Russian super-spy named Natasha Romanoff -- and as we reported last month, the Black Widow is rumored to play a major role in "Iron Man 2." Coincidentally (or perhaps, not coincidentally at all), the Hollywood Reporter story also mentions that casting is still underway for the role of Tony Stark's assistant, "Natasha."
(And while we're on the subject, Jennifer Tilly told MTV back in November that Black Widow is the character she'd most like to play in a superhero movie -- so maybe she's on to something, eh?)
Before you get too comfortable with the idea of Rourke donning the Crimson Dynamo armor, however, there are some interesting elements to the report that he'll be Whiplash, too -- specifically when it comes to the character mentioned for Rockwell. While comics fans will be quick to note that the villain commonly referred to as "Whiplash" has usually been female, we're pretty sure that the character envisioned for Rourke is actually "Blacklash" -- a tech-savvy, whip-wielding supervillain who started his career with the "Whiplash" moniker, only to change his alias when he upgraded to a pair of cybernetic, titanium whips. (He returned to the "Whiplash" title for a brief time near the end of his career.)
In the character's comic-book history, Whiplash actually works for Tony Stark at one point, but after embarking on his criminal career, receives the aforementioned upgrade from Justin Hammer, an industrialist and business rival of Stark who later becomes a major figure in the criminal underworld. Both Hammer and Whiplash/Blacklash return to trouble Iron Man on more than one occasion, and in the comics world, Hammer ends up acquiring Stane International -- a company owned by the villain in the first "Iron Man" film, Obadiah Stane (played by Jeff Bridges).
So, where does this leave us? At best, it seems that both characters might fit equally well into the universe established by Jon Favreau's first "Iron Man" film -- though it seems a little easier to imagine Rourke as a hardened, villainous version of Iron Man than a crazed assassin wielding a titanium whip. There are certainly enough connections between the characters and pre-existing rumors that we've weaved a nice little web of possibilities for "Iron Man 2," and we'll have to wait and see which rumors pan out.
Keep your eye on Splash Page for more as these stories develop!
What do you think, readers? Whch villain would you like to see Rourke play? What about Rockwell? think he'd make a good Justin Hammer? Are these characters worthy adversaries for Iron Man in the sequel?