As longtime fans of the franchise know, Marvel loves to bring back familiar faces for shocking value. According to this strategy, IGN reports that Tim Blake Nelson is set to reprise his role as Dr. Samuel Stearns, aka The Leader, in Captain America: The New World Order. Sterns first appeared in The Incredible Hulk as the enigmatic “Mr. Blue”, a scientist who tries to help Bruce Banner (Ed Norton) get rid of his Hulk persona. Like Blonsky, Banner’s exposure to Stearns’ blood causes him to mutate, though viewers don’t know his final form. In the comics, Sterns becomes the Leader after exposure to gamma radiation gives him green skin, a bulging head, and heightened intelligence (via Marvel Database). However, his origin story already has a different basis in MCU canon, so it’s possible that the character’s appearance and skill set will also be changed.
To his credit, Nelson is looking forward to playing Stearns again. “I’m ecstatic,” the actor said at the D34 Expo (via Term). “Marvel is part of the history of cinema, and to be a part of it is an absolute honor. Thank you for staying with The Leader.” According to the same source, the next movie, Captain America: The New World Order, is set to release on May 3, 2024.