Karen Gillan may have been around for a considerably long time but even a television veteran like her with a stacked reputation faced a serious challenge from the Yale-educated, Academy Award-winning, Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o back in 2014.
But while MCU’s Nebula did make Gillan a widely popular name and an immediate fan-favorite with the larger audience, it is difficult to imagine anyone owning the role of the weaponized daughter of Thanos with the same cool, methodical, and sociopathic approach as the Scottish actress.
James Gunn, fortunately, knew that too, sending the two actresses down a very different path than the ones they had imagined for themselves a decade down the line.
Also read: “She’s harbored a secret crush on him for years”: Karen Gillan’s Nebula Secretly in Love With Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord?
Lupita Nyong’o Came Close To Securing the Role of Nebula
During MCU’s Phase II era, while the then-relatively unpopular filmmaker James Gunn was preparing for a three-part saga revolving around a genetically-enhanced, foul-mouthed, gun-toting raccoon and his found family, the role of yet another major chess piece in the culmination of Marvel’s Infinity Saga was up for casting: Thanos’ other daughter, Nebula.
While Zoe Saldaña was already destined to play the tragic and fated Gamora, the crown for Nebula that would later be bestowed upon Doctor Who alum, Karen Gillan, was being seriously contested by Lupita Nyong’o. Known for her debut role in 12 Years a Slave for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Nyong’o had auditioned for the part the same year her debut movie rolled out in theatres.
Also read: “When he died, my world shattered for a while”: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s Star Lupita Nyong’o Details Her Heartbreaking Experience After Chadwick Boseman Died of Cancer
Despite her Oscar-winning performance, Marvel’s resident casting director, Sarah Halley Finn, who has been behind every casting choice in the MCU, had other plans for her. After snubbing her for the role of Nebula, 4 years later, Lupita Nyong’o was given the role of Nakia without even having to audition.
Finn later recalled to The Hollywood Reporter, “She was a straight offer. She had been on our radar for a long, long time, and is an incredible, exceptional talent.” Apparently, Finn had her eye on the actress even before the latter’s big-screen debut in 12 Years a Slave.
Karen Gillan Makes an Indelible Impression on James Gunn
While Karen Gillan was earning the big bucks at BBC and traveling the universe alongside Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, Lupita Nyong’o was graduating with a degree in film and theatre studies. Two years later, equipped with yet another degree from the Yale School of Drama and the prestigious Herschel Williams Prize to show for her talents, Nyong’o stepped into the realm of Hollywood and won her first Oscar with her debut role.
Also read: “Working with him has been one of the great joys”: Marvel Star Karen Gillan Wants to Play Major Batman Villain Under James Gunn’s DCU After Guardians of the Galaxy
But Karen Gillan had been making some progress herself. 2013 marked the year of her audition for the role of Nebula, a morally grey character who would suffer insurmountable pain at the hands of her own father and yet stay by his side until following in the footsteps of her sister Gamora to join the family of the Guardians. Gunn, after seeing her potential in the role, passed her a note during the audition [“Do Marilyn Monroe/Clint Eastwood”] that not only informed the character of Nebula but made her an iconic character in the franchise.
9 years later and with 6 appearances to her name, Gillan dons the blue armored skin of Nebula for the final time with her co-stars in the third installment of Guardians of the Galaxy as James Gunn and his family bids adieu to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a 149-minute long session of a therapeutic, tear-jerking, nostalgic, and unforgettably loveable journey into the forever and beautiful sky.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is now playing in theatres.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter