Steven Yeun explains why he ditched Marvel’s ‘Thunderbolts’

Steven Yeun broke up with Marvel by email.

Amid news of his departure from the upcoming “Thunderbolts” superhero film, Yeun told Variety that he had spent a lot of time trying to write the break-up message to the production. He had been cast to play Sentry, a high-flying antihero who possesses the power of “a million exploding suns” as well as a dark alter ego.

“It took a lot of drafts on email to make sure that I conveyed the sincerity of how sorry I was to have to back out,” Yeun said.

“Thunderbolts” was originally slated for a July 2024 release but was pushed back to 2025 after the historic SAG-AFTRA and WGA double strike halted production in May. Filming is expected to begin in March or April, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The “Beef” and “Nope” actor cited the time off during the Hollywood strikes as among the reasons for his departure, saying, “Time passing and things shifting kind of pulled me out of it.” But he sent well wishes to Jake Schreier, who is directing the film.

In February, multiple outlets had reported Yeun’s casting in the Marvel Studios project. Then, in November, showrunner Robert Kirkman, who collaborated with Yeun on “The Walking Dead” and Prime’s animated superhero series “Invincible,” all but confirmed the casting by commenting during an interview, “My good friend Steven Yeun is playing the Sentry in a movie.”

Kirkman added that the actor called him after a costume fitting for the film and made a joke about playing another superhero dressed in yellow and blue (his “Invincible” character wears a similarly colored suit). Yeun and Marvel, however, had never confirmed the role.

The studio previously announced that the “Thunderbolts” cast would feature Florence Pugh, Sebastian Stan, David Harbour, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Wyatt Russell and Harrison Ford. “Beef” and “Bottoms” star Ayo Edebiri also has been attached to the film. Lee Sung Jin, creator of the acclaimed Netflix drama “Beef,” which starred Yeun, is writing the script.

On Tuesday, rumors began to swirl among fans on X and Reddit that Yeun had dropped out of the project. Hours later, the Hollywood Reporter confirmed his departure.

In his interview with Variety, Yeun said he still intends to be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“I wanna do a Marvel movie,” he said. But, he added, “It’s too early to say” which project he’d want to be a part of.

“I probably pissed off too many people leaving, so I’m just gonna say, ‘Thank you for having me,’” he said.

Marvel is dealing with a separate casting void after it cut ties with Jonathan Majors, who played supervillain Kang. The studio cut ties with the actor immediately after Majors was convicted of assaulting and harassing his former girlfriend. Its latest film, “The Marvels,” was released in November to a lackluster showing, ending the year as the lowest-grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The superhero project that Yeun is already a part of, “Invincible,” started streaming its second season on Prime in November. He also is starring in Oscar-winner Bong Joon Ho’s upcoming sci-fi film “Mickey 17.”

Yeun is up for an Emmy nomination for “Beef” in the limited or anthology series category. He was star and executive producer of the show.

Times reporter Alexandra Del Rosario contributed to this report.

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