Why “the gray man” cast Dhanush and kept his character alive

  • Bollywood star Dhanush has a scene-stealing role in Netflix’s The Gray Man.
  • Insiders asked directors Anthony and Joe Russo in June how he was cast in the film.
  • The Russians teased that he has a story they want to tell more about in the future.

Netflix’s expensive The Gray Man, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, may star Hollywood A-listers Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling, but Bollywood star Dhanush has been cleverly integrated as a savings partner for Gosling’s CIA assassin, who it manages to get the best of him shortly late in the film.

If you’ve seen the film, an adaptation of Mark Greaney’s bestseller of the same name, you might have been pleasantly surprised that the Russians didn’t just throw in the beloved action star for a little cameo before killing him off.

Instead, Dhanush’s character, assassin Avik San aka the lone wolf, leaves the film very much alive and will likely return for the film’s recently announced spin-off or sequel.

Dhanush in The Gray Man.

Dhanush in The Gray Man.

Paul Abell/Netflix

During a face-to-face meeting with the Russos in late June, Insider asked the directing duo what inspired Dhanush’s casting and why they made it a point not to kill him off as a brief cameo.

The two told us that their time at Marvel Studios, where they directed four films including Avengers: Endgame, helped in their decision-making process.

“Part of global storytelling is trying to invite more people to see the film from their perspective,” Russo told Insider. “Movies have been so American, so Anglocentric, for so long.”

“One of the key benefits of working with Marvel was that we were able to travel the world and meet and talk to fans up close and culturally understand where they come from when they watch stories,” Russo continued, adding, ” Bollywood has a history as rich as Hollywood and has incredible talent and stars that just don’t get a platform on a bigger stage.”

Promoting Marvel films in India has allowed the Russians to connect with other talent, including Priyanka Chopra, who stars in her upcoming Amazon Prime sci-fi thriller, Citadel. The two also shot the Netflix film Extraction partly in the country.

Online fans were really excited about the scale of Dhanush’s role in the film.

As the Russos told us in June, they were well aware that the comments in the trailer for The Gray Man were less about Evans or Gosling and more about Dhanush.

Dhanush fan comments on The Gray Man trailer

If you visited any of the film’s YouTube trailers prior to the film’s release, the comments section was peppered with love, not for Evans or Gosling, but for the Bollywood star’s appearance in the film, something the Russians picked up on.


“We’re fortunate to have Dhanush,” Russo added, teasing that they already have plans for the actor’s return. “We weren’t interested in him playing a one-off character who only shows up to be blown away by the lead role in the film. He is just as skilled and determined as Gosling in the film. He has a story that allows him to come back into the story at some point – as his own hero.”

Over the weekend following the reported $200 million film’s release on Netflix, the streamer announced that a sequel to The Gray Man, along with a spin-off film, is already in the works, with the Russos and Gosling returning.

Anthony Russo and Joe Russo on the set

Anthony Russo and Joe Russo on the set of The Gray Man with Chris Evans.

Paul Abell/Netflix

It’s likely that Dhanush’s character will play a major role in at least one of these projects.

“We wanted to create a lot of tension around this character,” Anthony Russo told Insider in June of Dhanush’s Lone Wolf. “The Gray Man does not overcome him. Dhanush decides to let the conflict rest. That’s the character we’ve seen the best, ‘The Gray Man’. That’s what we know about him. “

The Gray Man is now streaming on Netflix. You can read our longer interview with the Russians here.

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