Tom Cruise Nearly Played An Iconic 1980s Superhero And Even Recorded For The Role

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

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Just about every ‘80s and ‘90s kid remembers Captain Planet, the superhero who taught us all a bit more about doing our own part to save the planet. The concept and characters made his eco-friendly adventures very memorable, but the show might have achieved even greater popularity with its original voice actor. Blockbuster star Tom Cruise was originally set to play Captain Planet and even recorded some lines, but he was ultimately replaced by David Coburn.

Tom Cruise Was The Original Captain Planet

live-action remake

Decades ago, casting Tom Cruise as Captain Planet was the ultimate PR move for this new show. Movies like Top Gun had made him one of Hollywood’s hottest stars, and any project he was attached to got plenty of media attention. As a 1990 article from the Orlando Sentinel says, the only thing that could bring movie star Cruise star to television was “the chance to save the world.”

By Your Powers Combined, I Am Corporate Synergy

Looking back, it’s not entirely clear what drew Tom Cruise to the role of Captain Planet, but we know a bit more about why he was replaced. Originally, the entire idea for the show came straight from Ted Turner, and the media mogul was driven by the idea of creating a show that would encourage kids to recycle and otherwise take care of the planet.

DIC Entertainment developed the idea for the show, and senior staff writer Phil Harnage said that Turner originally used his influence to gather several celebrity voices.

Major Stars Did Provide Their Voices

In addition to getting Tom Cruise to voice Captain Planet, Turner was also able to get Whoopi Goldberg to play Gaia and the musician Sting to play her evil opposite number, Zarm. While those two stuck around for a while, none of the episodes where Cruise voiced the titular hero made it to air. That brings up the logical question: why did David Coburn get the part when they already had the biggest star in Hollywood lined up for the role?

Tom Cruise’s Voice Was The Problem

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As reported by SyFy, Harnage said that Tom Cruise was replaced as Captain Planet by David Coburn for a simple reason. “We had to face the unpleasant realization that he did not have a superhero voice.” 

In other words, acting like a borderline superhero on the silver screen didn’t automatically give Cruise a recognizably heroic voice. Harnage recalls Cruise voicing only two episodes before getting replaced.

Replacing Tom Cruise

His replacement, at least, has a sense of humor about the whole thing. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Coburn later said, “I think I’m the only guy in Hollywood who can say he replaced Tom Cruise.” He claims that he actually worked better for the role than Cruise because “the guy I’m playing is not a macho superhero” and instead is more ”like a big brother, an encouraging coach. He inspired kids to do better.”

The Future Of Captain Planet

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Since he only recorded a couple of episodes and was then replaced, Tom Cruise hasn’t had anything to do with Captain Planet for decades. However, he does have a surprising connection to the long-gestating Captain Planet live-action movie. That film is being written by and will star Glenn Powell, the charismatic Hollywood icon who flew alongside Tom Cruise’s character in the blockbuster hit Top Gun: Maverick.

Tom Cruise Might Be Involved

There’s always a chance things will come full circle: if that movie ever comes out and kicks off a revival of the cartoon, Tom Cruise may yet officially provide the voice for Captain Planet. Whether or not that happens, though, the Top Gun star remains forever linked to the superhero that he recorded lines for. We’d love to hear those original recordings, but they are likely sealed up in a vault deep within Ted Turner’s home.