The Avengers 2 may be far from fleshed out, but a recent rumor seems to imply that it could be heading to theaters without its ace archer, Hawkeye...at least the one played by Jeremy Renner.
According to a report by ComicBookMovie's "The Daily Superhero," one of their "Hollywood sources" claims that the chances of Renner returning to reprise his role as the purple-clad Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye are "the tiniest." It seems that critical comments made by Renner last year expressing disappointment over the way his Hawkeye character was handled could very well have soured his relationship with Marvel Studios or current maestro of The Avengers franchise, Joss Whedon. As Renner told Total Film back in August of 2012:
"For 90% of the movie, I'm not the character I signed on to play," says Renner, before homing in on the decision to have Hawkeye brainwashed by Loki from the get-go. "It's kind of a vacancy. [He's] not even a bad guy, because there's not really a consciousness to him."
Adding: "To take away who that character is and just have him be this robot, essentially, and have him be this minion for evil that Loki uses... I was limited, you know what I mean? I was a terminator in a way. Fun stunts. But is there any sort of emotional content or thought process? No."
Now, nearly a year after those comments were made, we do have a timeline for Marvel Studio's "Phase Two" of films, which just kicked off with Iron Man 3, continuing with Thor: The Dark World on November 8, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, and culminating with The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015. However, by the time we get to that grand stage where Hawkeye could once again shine, the field of potential team members will likely be rotated with the introduction of new S.H.I.E.L.D. members in the lead-up films. In fact, next year's Captain America sequel will introduce new primary characters like Emily VanCamp's "Sharon Carter/Agent 13" and Anthony Mackie's "Sam Wilson/The Falcon." Plus, with the addition of signature Avengers members, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver looking solid for The Avengers 2, there may not be enough elbow room for Hawkeye to maneuver his bow.
All of these things, coupled with an apparently unhappy cast member with plenty of other cinematic options do not add up to good chances of a return. In fact, the report speculates that there's a greater chance that Hawkeye could be recast and possibly integrated into the television offshoot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which premieres this fall on ABC. The recasting of a major character like this would hardly be unprecedented, just ask Terrence Howard, who lost his role as James Rhodes/War Machine to Don Cheadle after some behind-the-scenes drama. Of course, the even bigger, greener example would be the exit of Edward Norton as the MCU's version of Bruce Banner/The Hulk, making way for Mark Ruffalo's reinvention of the character in The Avengers last year. (And in a post-credits cameo in Iron Man 3...for what that scene was worth, anyway.)
At this point, we're dealing with nothing but rumors, but it is true that Renner's Hawkeye, who had a promising debut in 2011's Thor, was kind of disappointing in The Avengers. However, it's difficult to imagine that the creative minds would let some comments by the actor be the sole reason to 86 a major character from the biggest North American box-office opening weekend performer of all-time. It may be the case that it all depends on the feasibility of keeping Hawkeye in the lineup of the mega-team super-sequel without the detrimental crowding. At the moment, that fate rests in the hands of Joss Whedon, who is currently hammering out the script.