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Cobie Smulders closing in on The Avengers role of SHIELD Agent Maria Hill

Deadline is reporting that “How I Met Your Mother” star Cobie Smulders is the front runner to play the role of SHIELD Agent Maria Hill in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. The deal is said to be in the final stages, with the site reporting it could be closed before the end of the weekend. This confirms Thursday’s report that the audition took place on Friday. Others candidates for the role included Morena Baccarin; Jessica Lucas and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Deadline has learned that the role is Maria Hill, who in the comics was the ruthless interim executive director of SHIELD, who was not above blackmailing and bullying superheros to get her way. She was eventually supplanted in that top job by Tony Stark aka Iron Man. As with all Marvel movies, the deal comes with a pile of options for appearances in future superhero films.

The Avengers is scheduled to hit theaters on May 4, 2012. Disney will distribute.