'The Crown's Next Prince Philip May Be This Superhero Favorite

The Duke of Edinburgh will look a little different when The Crown (writer: Amy Jenkins) returns for Season 3. Like all of the royal characters, Queen Elizabeth II's husband is being replaced with an older actor, but Matt Smith fans shouldn't despair. According to Variety, Paul Bettany may be the new Prince Philip, and the talented actor would be the perfect man to continue the fascinating character evolution that Smith started.

It hasn't yet been confirmed that Bettany will take over the role, but the Avengers star is reportedly in talks with Netflix. If he does become the next Philip, he will be starring alongside Olivia Colman, who will be taking over for Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II. Colman and Bettany already share a striking resemblance to the younger actors who starred in The Crown's first two series, but perhaps more importantly, they seem to be in the perfect position to deepen the relationship between Elizabeth and Philip.

During his time on the show, Smith imbued Philip with a restlessness that bounced between charming and petulant. His resentment of coming in second to his wife seemed to bleed through their every interaction after Elizabeth's coronation. Meanwhile, Foy brought new meaning to the phrase, "heavy is the head that wears the crown." As the queen, Foy often spoke volumes without ever saying a word. She could convey the frustration, the sense of feeling trapped by duty, and the rare moments of true happiness with such ease.

Following up Foy and Smith is not going to be an easy task, but Colman and Bettany are surely up for it. Colman's credentials have been well-established — she's even previously played the Queen Mother in Hyde Park on Hudson — but Bettany comes with a shining résumé himself.

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Bettany might be best know for his voice. The actor has portrayed the voice of JARVIS in all of the Iron Man films, and he's the man behind the purple CGI who stars as Vision in the Avengers. Superhero credentials aside, Bettany is a true chameleon. Over the years he has starred as a self-flagellating monk in The Da Vinci Code, Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight's Tale, and he even flirted with royalty as Lord Melbourne in The Young Victoria. He most recently portrayed Ted Kaczynski in the miniseries Manhunt: Unabomber.

It truly seems that there is nothing Bettany can't do, and that includes playing Prince Philip as he settles into middle age. By the time the '70s rolled around, Philip had taken up the sport of combined driving, which suggests he was still searching for outlets for his energy. Meanwhile, his children were growing up, and there is even the potential to see Philip meddling a bit in Charles' love life. Later in the decade, the prince's uncle was assassinated, a sad story that could see Philip interacting with his family a bit more.

As expected, The Crown creator Peter Morgan is keeping details about Season 3 quiet for now. Since Season 3 will be the first with the show's new cast, it marks the beginning of a new era for the series. In addition to Colman, it's been rumored that Helena Bonham Carter will take over the coveted role of Princess Margaret. Add in the potential of Bettany joining the cast, and there are more reasons than ever before to be excited for The Crown Season 3. Sure, cast changes are scary, but it's hard to complain when Netflix appears to be set on finding the perfect successors for the talented actors who led The Crown through its first two brilliant seasons.

Bidding farewell to Smith's Philip isn't going to be easy, but if any actor can ease the pain, it's Bettany. Everyone keep those fingers crossed that this deal goes through, because Bettany as Prince Philip is what casting dreams are made of.