Before Ryan Gosling Was Cast In Netflix’s The Gray Man, The Russo Brothers Considered A Female Lead, And She Would’ve Been Perfect

Ryan Gosling in The Gray Man.
(Image credit: Netflix)

It’s always nice to see a female lead take charge in an action movie that doesn’t involve being the love interest or the damsel in distress. It’s been done before where the director changes the gender of a lead role that was originally written for a man when they spot great talent like Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in the Aliens franchise, who is considered to be one of the best female characters in a sci-fi movie. Believe it or not, the Russo Brothers were going to tread away a bit from the source novel of The Gray Man by having a female lead instead, and she would have been perfect for the role. 

While the Russo Brothers were signed on as directors of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in June 2012, they wanted to do an adaptation of Mark Greaney’s The Gray Man. But with the success of these Marvel films leading to Captain America: Civil War and the final two Avengers films, this project had to take a backseat. According to Insider, Joe Russo said the early stage of The Gray Man had none other than Charlize Theron attached to be the lead compared to having the lead be male like in the book.

There was a point I had encouraged that. Originally, when I left the project, I was still trying to help them out with it and we thought it would be a really compelling idea, but I think it was a scheduling issue that may have conflicted with the George Miller film that she had done.

The movie Russo was talking about was when Theron played the one-armed fighter Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. The shooting for the post-apocalyptic action film began in the summer of 2012 which makes sense why there would be a scheduling conflict around the time The Gray Man was in the developmental stages. This film did a great job showing that women can be totally badass with a shaved head and a spidery mechanical arm. The Monster actress felt like the role really resonated with her about the story’s message of searching for community and belonging. Considering this movie won her a Critic’s Choice for Best Actress in an Action Movie, I would say she made the right choice in picking Furiosa. 

Joe Russo continued to speak about how he considered rewriting the role to change the gender, but her availability made it impossible for her to sign on.

Yes. In fact, I believe I had a conversation with her about a potential rewrite to the script. But then, she ended up going onto that film and was no longer available to do it.

Without the South African-American actress around to play the lead, Ryan Gosling was cast instead. He’ll be playing CIA black ops mercenary Count Gentry who is forced to go on the run after uncovering dark secrets about the agency. As The Gray Man has already been screened, critics have been very impressed with Gosling’s “badass” performance and the dynamic he had with Chris Evans who plays the film’s villain. 

You don’t have to think too hard about what Charlize Theron would have been like as a female lead in an action movie as she was part of a comic book adaptation of The Old Guard on Netflix. Just like what she was originally going to play in The Gray Man, Theron played a mercenary in this movie with the key difference being she was immortal on a quest to save the mortal world from threats. Filming has just begun for the sequel as we see Theron reprise her role as our favorite immortal mercenary as her character's story arc continues.

Be sure to see Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans in the long-awaited action thriller The Gray Man on your Netflix subscription.

Carly Levy
Entertainment Writer

Just your average South Floridian cinephile who believes the pen is mightier than the sword.