Following the events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (which can be streamed with a Disney+ subscription), Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson is now officially the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s new Captain America. As such, the stage is set for him to lead Captain America 4, a.k.a. Captain America: New World Order, which is part of the MCU’s official Phase 5 slate. This lineup also includes Thunderbolts, which sees Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes standing in the spotlight, and Mackie has shared his funny thoughts about whether Sam and Bucky could re-team for that project.

A Thunderbolts movie was confirmed to be in development at San Diego Comic-Con in July, and at D23 earlier this month, it was revealed that Bucky, once known as The Winter Soldier, will be joined on the team by Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost, Wyatt Russell’s U.S. Agent, Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, David Harbour’s Red Guardian and Olga Kurylenko’s Taskmaster. That’s already a lot of protagonists to keep track of, but when asked by Variety if he’ll appear in Thunderbolts, Anthony Mackie amusingly responded:

Given that the MCU’s Thunderbolts roster is decently sized and chiefly comprised of characters who fit more into the anti-hero mold, as well as the fact that Captain America: New World Order comes out just a few months beforehand, I wouldn’t bet on Anthony Mackie having a major role in the Phase 5 capper. That said, there have been plenty of instances where major Marvel characters cameo in movies or TV shows not about them, so I could easily see Sam Wilson popping into Thunderbolts briefly for some catch-up time with Bucky Barnes. Conversely, it’s easy enough to imagine Bucky popping into New World Order, particularly since Sebastian Stan appeared in all three prior Captain America movies.

Basically, Anthony Mackie hasn’t heard anything about appearing in Thunderbolts, but he’s ready for the chance that Marvel Studios will call just a short amount of time before he’s expected to be on set. For now though, the actor is focused on getting ready for Captain America: New World Order, which is being directed by The Cloverfield Paradox’s Julius Onah and being written by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier alums Malcolm Spellman and Dalan Musson. Mackie will be joined by Tim Blake Nelson, Danny Ramirez, Carl Lumbly and Shira Haas. As for Thunderbolts, that’s being directed by Paper Towns’ Jacob Schreier and written by Black Widow’s Eric Pearson.

Captain America: New World Order hits theaters on May 3, 2024, and Thunderbolts will follow on July 26 of the same year. Learn what else the MCU has coming up with our guides of upcoming Marvel movies and upcoming Marvel TV shows.

Thunderbolts: Harrison Ford Rumored to Be Marvel’s Top Choice for General Thunderbolt Ross

Marvel’s Thunderbolts is in development for release in 2024, and a new rumor points to a major actor possibly being courted by Marvel Studios for the film. According to movie scooper Jeff Sneider, Star Wars and Indiana Jones icon Harrison Ford “either is or was the studio’s top choice to star in THUNDERBOLTS as the General himself.” That said, the scoop does come with the critical qualifier that “It’s unclear if he already passed…”.

Later on his breakdown with John Rocca, Sneider claims that Marvel wanted to announced.Harrison Ford as Ross with the rest of the Thunderbolts cast at D23 Expo; however, Ford didn’t finalize anything by that time, with speculation citing everything from Lucasfilm wanting Ford’s focus (pun) on Indiana Jones 5, to Ford’s hesitation to replace his friend and colleague William Hurt.

Hurt played Thunderbolt Ross in the MCU from Incredible Hulk in 2008 through Black Widow in 2021; William Hurt died on March 13, 2022 from complications resulting from the terminal prostate cancer he had been diagnosed with since 2018. Having been ill that long – and with the character being as pivotal as he is (see below), it would make sense that the studio had plans to recast Ross – and who to do it with.

General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross is the former general who was first introduced in The Incredible Hulk. General Ross was a key backer of Bruce Banner’s research and the accident that created the Hulk; his daughter Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) was Bruce’s girlfriend, which estranged her from her father. Ross led the experiment to use a Super Soldier Serum variant on Emile Blonsky, creating The Abomination.

Later on, Ross became Secretary of State and was a leading force in creating and enforcing The Sakovia Accords, which formally put him at odds with The Avengers, and led to the “Civil War” between the heroes.

Why Is Thunderbolt Ross Important to Thunderbolts?

In the Thunderbolts comics, Thunderbolt Ross becomes leader of one iteration of the team while in his “Red Hulk” persona. That version of the Thunderbolts wa a non-government funded strike squad, whose primary mission was cleaning up loose ends from Ross’s own military career. So he definitely has a legacy presence in The Thunderbolts that Marvel may want to tap into.

With Ross Comes Red Hulk

The current story arc of the She-Hulk: Attorney at Law TV series has clearly been slow-burn introducing some key Marvel elements that can later add up to General Ross and the Red Hulk storyline. That includes the introduction of the MCU Intelligencia; the threat of Jen Walters/She-Hulk’s blood being stolen; as well as the return of The Leader (Tim Blake Nelson), who we know is showing up in Captain America: New World Order. There are a lot of Marvel fans who want to see the Red Hulk mythos imported into the MCU – but it will certainly take a new Thunderbolt Ross to make it happen.

Thunderbolts will be in theaters on July 26, 2024.