‘Thunderbolts’: New Rumor Has Bucky Barnes Sidelined in the 2025 Ensemble

Marvel Studios Thunderbolts has faced its fair share of delays since being announced in 2022. The project’s script has passed through several writers since Black Widow scribe Eric Pearson‘s first draft came in. Most recently, The Bear showrunner Joanna Calo was brought on board to take a pass at the script just as cameras are finally set to roll in Atlanta. Sporting an ensemble cast that includes Florence Pugh, Sebastian Stan, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Wyatt Russell, David Harbour and Lewis Pullman as the powerful Sentry, the project seems loaded with potential; however a new rumor indicates that a fan-favorite character won’t have as large of a role as once thought.

Though details on the film’s plot are scarce, it’s said that the story “centers on villains and antiheroes going on a mission that was supposed to end with their deaths.” When the film’s cast was introduced by Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios One-Above-All said that Bucky would serve as the “de facto leader” of the team. While that may have been true at the time, according to insider Daniel RPK, that no longer seems to be the case.

Though he was front-and-center on the concept art released for the film in 2022, RPK has indicated that not only is Sebastian Stan’s Bucky not one of the film’s main characters but also that some other, surprising characters are potentially set to play a larger role. In response to a line of questioning on X, RPK claimed that “Bucky is definitely NOT a co-lead with Yelena” and provided a list in which he laid out the priority taken by each character in the film. Bucky, as it turns out, is right near the bottom with characters such as Russell’s U.S. Agent, Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost and even Olga Kurylenko’s Taskmaster ahead of him.

As has been shared before, the film was originally a nearly full-fledged sequel to 2021’s Black Widow but even as rewrites have changed the film a bit, it’s still Pugh’s film to lead and thus she’s surrounded by supporting characters from her first MCU appearance. While there’s plenty of intrigue around why a character as popular as Barnes might not be one of the film’s leads, there’s less question about why Harbour’s Red Guardian won’t have a ton of screen time. With Thunderbolts having worked through multiple delays, it’s now filming right smack dab in the middle of production on Stranger Things Season 5, meaning the project will have to make due with whatever they can get out of Harbour.

Bucky’s potential role in Thunderbolts has always been an interesting one. Though he was introduced as part of the team, which is clearly going to be run by Dreyfus‘ CIA director Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, the two have never interacted. While she recruited Yelena Belova and John Walker, Bucky never seemed to be on her radar. Furthermore, what we’ve seen of Val’s intentions for the team would seem ideologically opposed to where Bucky found himself at the end of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Wharver the case, it seems far more likely that Bucky will be doing his own thing in the film rather than taking orders from Val.

Thunderbolts hits theaters on May 2, 2025.

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