First Harrison Ford, now Sacha Baron Cohen. The latest rumor in the Marvel mill is that SBC will join Ironheart, the Disney+ series centered on Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne, due to make her debut in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever). 


Like the Ford rumor, this comes from the Mariana Trench that is Marvel’s online space, but Deadline threw their hat in the ring, citing “a source close to the production” who “confirmed” that there has “been talk on set” of Cohen joining Ironheart (filming started earlier this summer in Atlanta, but they got some b-roll of Chicago, Riri’s hometown). So, this is VERY much still a rumor that Sacha Baron Cohen MIGHT join Marvel, but like, would you be surprised, at this point, by ANYONE joining the MCU? Literally Leonardo DiCaprio is the only person who would genuinely surprise me, and only because he’s been so adamant about no franchises, no superheroes throughout his entire career.

As for who SBC will play, no one knows. Marvel fans are once again hyping themselves up for Mephisto, who is basically the Devil in the Marvel universe, but just like when Mephisto did not materialize in WandaVision, this is 100% fan speculation. People do not get to be mad if SBC turns out to play someone else entirely, no promises have been made. Fan wishes are not the same thing as actual production decisions. 


Mephisto is a popular character, a fun bad guy a la Loki, but one challenge to bringing him to the screen is whether or not Marvel intends to release any show or movie containing Mephisto in China. State censorship technically applies to films that contain supernatural elements, like ghosts and the Devil. It’s not across-the-board consistent, Pixar’s afterlife-themed film, Coco, opened in China after earning an exception from the government (reportedly, the censors who viewed it were so moved they allowed it to pass through). But Marvel’s been on a rough run with China recently, with six films, including Shang-Chi, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Spider-Man: No Way Home being shut out. So maybe Marvel isn’t feeling as beholden as they once did—remember the time they shot scenes in Iron Man 3 specifically for the Chinese cut of the film?—to the Chinese market. Indeed, the success of No Way Home, earning over $1.9 billion without China, shows movies don’t need a Chinese release as once was assumed of billion-dollar hits.


Marvel has gotten around the supernatural rule in the past by emphasizing characters are aliens, not gods (Thor, at least until Thor: Love and Thunder, another Marvel movie banned in China), and that mystical realms are just alternate dimensions, not magic. But do they even care anymore? I’m sure they would like to make even more money, if possible, but they’re doing fine without the Chinese market. And if it means bringing a fan-favorite character like Mephisto to life, and not having to pass off his devilry as alien nonsense, but just let him be a magic demon that comes from a dimension flat-out called Hell, well, I don’t know what that’s really worth to them. But the relationship between Hollywood and China was cooling before the pandemic, and over the last two years, it’s gone cold entirely. What was once assumed to be the main roadblock to bringing Mephisto to the MCU might be nothing more than a pebble on the road, now. Which is still not a promise that Mephisto is coming to the MCU, but we’re probably closer now than we were two years ago.


Attached:  Sacha in London on September 29, 2022.