‘Avengers’ Star Cobie Smulders Poised to Join Tom Cruise in ‘Jack Reacher 2’ (Exclusive)

The “How I Met Your Mother” alum is in early talks to play the female lead in Ed Zwick’s sequel

After playing Agent Maria Hill in the blockbuster “Avengers” movies, Cobie Smulders is poised to add another action franchise to her resume, as she’s in early talks to play the female lead opposite Tom Cruise in “Jack Reacher 2,” multiple individuals familiar with the project have told TheWrap.

Ed Zwick is set to direct from a script by Richard Wenk that Zwick recently rewrote with longtime collaborator Marshall Herskovitz.

Rosamund Pike played the female lead in the original “Jack Reacher,” but as evidenced by his “Mission: Impossible” franchise, Cruise likes to switch up his female leads to keep things fresh. Smulders may not have an official offer yet but multiple insiders say she has landed the coveted role of Danika, though character details remain under wraps.

Christopher McQuarrie directed the first “Jack Reacher” movie, which grossed $218 million worldwide. The sequel will be based on author Lee Child’s “Never Go Back,” in which Reacher travels to the headquarters of the U.S. Army Military Police Corps and finds his commanding officer has been arrested.

Paramount and Skydance are backing the sequel, which Cruise will produce with Don Granger and McQuarrie will executive produce. Production is slated to start in November, as Paramount intends to release the sequel in late 2016.

Smulders starred on the long-running sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” before joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill, a character she reprised in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” She has also been challenging herself as an actress with leading roles in indie films such as Andrew Bujalski’s “Results” with Guy Pearce and Kris Swanberg’s “Unexpected” with Anders Holm.

Smulders, who recently wrapped Clea DuVall’s untitled directorial debut, is represented by UTA, ROAR and attorney Cheryl Snow.

Paramount had no comment on Smulders’ possible casting, while a representative for Smulders told TheWrap on Thursday that “there’s nothing to talk about.” Let’s just agree to disagree on that. Stay tuned…