The Role: Superman / Clark Kent in Superman: The Movie (1978).
When They Got The Call: Just the one film credit for this young, Juilliard-trained actor, playing a submarine officer in Gray Lady Down .
Impact On The Character: Reeve looked the part, but his all-American smoothness hid unfakeable charisma and great comic timing. Superman defined his career until a tragic fall led to disability and early death.
The Role: Lex Luthor in Superman: The Movie (1978).
When They Got The Call: The 70's icon's last two films, coincidentally, had involved playing soldiers in war movies A Bridge Too Far and March Or Die .
Impact On The Character: Precisely none. Hackman's Luthor is humanity gone rogue, doing wicked things and having a whale of a time doing them.
The Role: General Zod in Superman: The Movie (1978).
When They Got The Call: Slumming it in Euro thriller Black-Out .
Impact On The Character: Stamp's mid-70s career was pretty much the acting equivalent of being trapped in The Phantom Zone, so effectively he was Method acting as Zod.
The Role: Bruce Wayne/Batman, in Batman (1989).
When They Got The Call: Beetlejuice was still fresh in the mind when Tim Burton reunited with that film's star, but Keaton's most recent role was mental patient Billy Caulfield in The Dream Team .
Impact On The Character: Did somebody say mental? Keaton was a controversial choice but brought exactly the right not-quite-there quality to Burton's take on the Caped Crusader.
The Role: Jack Napier / The Joker in Batman (1989).
When They Got The Call: The double-Oscar'd star joined Batman off a busy period whose roles included a drunkard (in Ironweed ) and The Devil (in The Witches Of Eastwick ).
Impact On The Character: When you put it like that, Jack Nicholson seems the most obvious casting choice ever.
The Role: Dr Peyton Westlake / Darkman in Darkman (1990).
When They Got The Call: Out for revenge - and playing Patrick Swayze's brother! - in Next Of Kin .
Impact On The Character: Darkman goes one better. Where Neeson dies in Next Of Kin , here he survives - albeit impervious to pain and with synthetic skin - to fight crime.
The Role: Selina Kyle / Catwoman in Batman Returns (1992).
When They Got The Call: A late replacement after first choice Annette Bening fell pregnant, Pfeiffer had completed civil rights drama Love Field . [Ironically, that film's release was delayed and it didn't come out until after Batman Returns .]
Impact On The Character: Love Field showcased Pfeiffer's flair for innocence but she had also successfully played sex sirens (notably in The Fabulous Baker Boys ), so the transformation from dowdy Selina to Catwoman's leather-clad minx was seamless.
The Role: Bruce Wayne / Batman in Batman Forever (1995).
When They Got The Call: Gunfighting at the OK Corral as Doc Holliday in Tombstone .
Impact On The Character: Both Holliday and Batman are iconoclasts fighting alongside - but not necessarily for - the law, although the Doc is far funnier.
The Role: Edward Nygma / The Riddler in Batman Forever (1995).
When They Got The Call: Lowering I.Q.s as Lloyd Christmas in Dumb And Dumber .
Impact On The Character: Most supervillains are all about the brooding menace, but that was never going to be on the table with Carrey at the peak of his comedic fame.
The Role: Dick Grayson / Robin in Batman Forever (1995).
When They Got The Call: Buckling swashes as D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers .
Impact On The Character: Over-enthusiastic sidekick to an established hero? There's nothing quite like typecasting.
The Role: Bruce Wayne / Batman in Batman And Robin (1997).
When They Got The Call: A getaway with a difference as Seth Gecko discovers that surviving From Dusk Till Dawn ain't that easy.
Impact On The Character: Good practice for being forced to survive the even bigger freakshow of Batman And Robin .
The Role: Mr Freeze in Batman And Robin (1997).
When They Got The Call: Ignoring the spirit of Christmas as a stressed-out dad hunting a rare toy in Jingle All The Way .
Impact On The Character: It's more snow-ho-ho, as Mr Freeze unites Arnie's increasingly family-friendly image with his penchant for terrible puns.
The Role: Eric Brooks / Blade in Blade (1998).
When They Got The Call: Winning Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for having a One Night Stand with Nastassja Kinski.
Impact On The Character: It's fair to say that his brief return to art-house drama was genuinely a one night stand, as the 'daywalking' vampire hunter Blade restored Snipes' standing as 90s action hero.
The Role: Roy / Mr Furious in Mystery Men (1999).
When They Got The Call: Becoming a global comedy star while discovering that There's Something About Mary .
Impact On The Character: You'd be furious after getting your dick caught in a zipper.
The Role: Professor Charles Xavier in X-Men (2000).
When They Got The Call: Last seen on-screen in his signature role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Insurrection .
Impact On The Character: Wheelchair and mutant powers notwithstanding, Professor X pretty much is Jean-Luc Picard.
The Role: Erik Lensherr / Magneto in X-Men (2000).
When They Got The Call: Oscar-nominated as Frankenstein director James Whale in Gods And Monsters , although the role that matters is the one before, as a fugitive Nazi in Bryan Singer's Apt Pupil .
Impact On The Character: Singer again cast McKellen as a character with a WWII past, albeit this time as a Jew who survived the Holocaust with the help of mutant powers.
The Role: Logan / Wolverine in X-Men (2000).
When They Got The Call: Primarily a stage musical actor, Jackman's most recent film was playing a chick-lit author in Aussie rom-com Paperback Hero .
Impact On The Character: Sod all, but then Jackman was a late replacement for Dougray Scott, so it's understandable.
The Role: Peter Parker / Spider-man in Spider-man (2002).
When They Got The Call: Voicing Lou the Beagle in canine/feline face-off Cats & Dogs .
Impact On The Character: Puppyish innocent discovers a new calling saving the world, in a performance where the CGI takes precedence? Nah, it's probably just a coincidence.
The Role: Norman Osborn / Green Goblin in Spider-man (2002).
When They Got The Call: Enjoying a career renaissance after an acclaimed, Oscar-nominated turn as deeply weird Nosferatu star Max Schreck in Shadow Of The Vampire .
Impact On The Character: Dafoe has always specialised in the dark undercurrents lurking within - even when playing Jesus - so the Green Goblin is really an armoured, bells-and-whistle take on Dafoe's whole career.
The Role: Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Daredevil (2003).
When They Got The Call: Trading blows with Samuel L. Jackson in Changing Lanes as a lawyer undone by road rage.
Impact On The Character: Yes, he's blind but otherwise super-sensed, but Murdock's another lawyer. Was Affleck trying to convey an image of upright professionalism to offset his gossipy celebrity lifestyle?
The Role: Bruce Banner / The Hulk in Hulk (2003).
When They Got The Call: After his Hollywood debut as one of the grunts in Black Hawk Down , Bana was back in more familiar territory in Aussie comedy The Nugget .
Impact On The Character: The story of a guy who turns into a bouncing green monster when he gets mad could - at a push - be a metaphor for Bana's jump into the big league.
The Role: Dr Otto Octavius / Doc Octopus in Spider-man 2 (2004).
When They Got The Call: Trying to figure out what's going on in Identity as psychiatrist Doctor Malick.
Impact On The Character: Molina's so prolific and versatile it's a surprise to see him cropping up as another doctor, albeit one with metallic limbs and a rewired brain.
The Role: Patience Phillips / Catwoman in Catwoman (2004).
When They Got The Call: Enjoying her first post-Oscar starring role in mental asylum thriller Gothika .
Impact On The Character: Berry was given her own shot at a franchise after Bond and X-Men support... but sadly chose a project that may as well have been created in a mental asylum.
The Role: Hellboy in Hellboy (2004).
When They Got The Call: A veteran character actor, Perlman's CV displayed the randomness of the truly prolific. A case in point was his most recent credit, Looney Tunes: Back In Action .
Impact On The Character: Aside from his physical presence and familiarity with prosthetics, it was the world-weariness of being in too many duff movies that gave Perlman's Hellboy such wit and irony.
The Role: Bruce Wayne/Batman, in Batman Begins (2005).
When They Got The Call: Starving himself down to 54 kilograms as troubled Trevor Reznick in The Machinist .
Impact On The Character: The chameleonic Bale got back into shape, adding 50% in weight to play Batman... but something of the haunted obsessive remained.
The Role: Susan Storm / Invisible Woman in Fantastic Four (2005).
When They Got The Call: Winning a Teen Choice Award for Breakout Movie Star in Honey (after having long 'broken out' on TV in Dark Angel ).
Impact On The Character: Honey Daniels hit the big-time as a music choreographer through hard work and dedication. Susan Storm needs a dose of cosmic energy to become a superhero.
The Role: Victor von Doom / Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four (2005).
When They Got The Call: Slicing and dicing in his Golden Globe-nominated role as plastic surgeon Dr Christian Troy in Nip/Tuck .
Impact On The Character: If plastic surgery is unavailable wearing a supervillain mask is one way of hiding unsightly blemishes.
The Role: Superman / Clark Kent in Superman Returns (2006).
When They Got The Call: A bit part in Canadian serial killer movie Karla .
Impact On The Character: A case of art imitating art, as Bryan Singer picked the unknown Routh for embodying "our collective memory of Superman" - ie he's a dead ringer for Christopher Reeve, in looks and personality.
The Role: Johnny Blaze / Ghost Rider in Ghost Rider (2007).
When They Got The Call: As heroic New York police officer John McLoughlin, saving lives on 9/11 in World Trade Center .
Impact On The Character: Cage's career has been one of curveball decisions, so following a real-life hero with the story of stunt motorcycle turned Devil-assisted skull-faced vigilante is par for the course, really.
Robert Downey Jr.
The Role: Tony Stark / Iron Man in Iron Man (2008).
When They Got The Call: Playing lackadaisical, iconoclastic reporter Paul Avery, on the hunt for the Zodiac killer.
Impact On The Character: Marvel harnessed Downey Jr's bad boy image to portray the most rock-star of superheroes - a role that fitted the star so well his Sherlock Holmes is arguably Iron Man in period dress.
Samuel L. Jackson
The Role: Nick Fury in Iron Man (2008).
When They Got The Call: On villain duty as murderous Roland Cox in Doug Liman's Jumper .
Impact On The Character: It hardly matters what Jackson had been doing. Marvel had based Nick Fury on Jackson in their comics since 2002, so this casting choice wasn't exactly rocket science.
The Role: Bruce Banner / The Hulk in The Incredible Hulk (2008).
When They Got The Call: Piling on the misery as a scientist forcing his adulterous wife to accompany him to remote China in The Painted Veil .
Impact On The Character: The angst remains, and indeed spilled off-screen amidst rumours that the hands-on star clashed with producers over final cut.
The Role: The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008).
When They Got The Call: Ledger was one of six actors to play Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes' I'm Not There .
Impact On The Character: Dylan's freewheeling insouciance suited Ledger more than his best-known role (as uptight Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain ) but The Joker dropped the safety net completely with a wildly anarchic, unsettling performance. Sadly, Ledger died before the film's release but secured a posthumous Oscar.
The Role: Harvey Dent / Two-Face in The Dark Knight (2008).
When They Got The Call: Cooking up a romance with Catherine Zeta-Jones in kitchen-based rom-com No Reservations .
Impact On The Character: Eckhart's always been good at villains…but playing a romantic hero undoubtedly helped to make Dent's pre-accident idealism convincing.
The Role: Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass in Kick-Ass (2010).
When They Got The Call: Struggling Liverpudlian musician in Nowhere Boy . Oh, who are we kidding? He's only John Lennon.
Impact On The Character: Gawky lad thinks big and comes good? Absolutely, but with considerably more violence.
The Role: Mindy Macready / Hit Girl in Kick-Ass (2010).
When They Got The Call: Providing 'wise beyond her years' relationship advice to elder brother Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days Of Summer .
Impact On The Character: Wise beyond her years? Try a pre-adolescent kid whose dad has shaped her into a potty-mouthed, ultra-violent vigilante.
The Role: Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow in Iron Man 2 (2010).
When They Got The Call: Playing the 'other woman' in a love triangle with Jennifer Connelly and Bradley Cooper in He's Just Not That Into You .
Impact On The Character: More secrets and lies as Tony Stark's secretary turns out to be an ass-kicking S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
The Role: Britt Reid / The Green Hornet in The Green Hornet (2011).
When They Got The Call: Getting semi-autobiographical as an aspiring stand-up learning the ropes in Funny People (2009).
Impact On The Character: The swerve to blockbusters is not as strange as you think. After all, becoming a superhero is just as good a way of voicing your slacker iconoclasm as telling jokes.
The Role: Thor in Thor (2011).
When They Got The Call: Extraordinary bad luck, as Hemsworth made two films for MGM - The Cabin In The Woods and Red Dawn - that were both postponed after the studio's financial troubles.
Impact On The Character: A God who is banished to Earth and has to become a mortal? Kind of like Hemsworth having to re-earn his spurs after his 'next big thing' status was put on ice.
The Role: Loki in Thor (2011).
When They Got The Call: As posh City boy Edward in Brit drama Archipelago , trying to escape his dysfunctional family with a career change into voluntary work.
Impact On The Character: More family troubles, only this time posh Loki's escape route is into super-villainy. That Hiddlestone fella has range.