Here’s Our Favorite Marvel Stars in Their First Major Starring Roles

Here’s Our Favorite Marvel Stars in Their First Major Starring Roles

Warner Bros + Walt Disney Studios

When Marvel Studios released Iron Man in theaters back in 2008, no one predicted the impact it would have on the future of film. Since then, audiences have been introduced to a long list of superheroes portrayed by a unique group of actors, with each character having its own diverse storyline. While many of these stars became household names thanks to Marvel, for most it wasn’t their first professional acting job. In fact, so many of the people behind the MCU heroes you’ve come to know and love have been in the industry for quite a while. From soap operas to award-winning films, here’s a look at how some of your favorite Marvel actors got their start.

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Chris Evans

A decade before he was wielding a vibranium shield as Captain America, Evans starred in the 2000 TV series Opposite Sex. The show only lasted eight episodes, but it helped kick-start his career.

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Chris Hemsworth

American audiences met Hemsworth in 2011’s Thor, but back home in Australia the actor spent four years portraying Kimberly “Kim” Hyde on the hit soap Home and Away.

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Robert Downey Jr.

Almost three decades before Robert Downey Jr. donned the Iron Man suit, he was just another ’80s teen heartthrob, getting his first onscreen credit in the 1983 comedy Baby It’s You.

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Scarlett Johansson

While Johansson is well-known for her role in The Avengers franchise, the actress’ career started back in the 1990s, when she starred in the the film North in 1994.

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Mark Ruffalo

Yes, Ruffalo’s career has spanned multiple genres throughout the years, but you might’ve never guessed the Hulk’s film debut was in a 1994 horror film called Mirror Mirror 2: Raven Dance.

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Jeremy Renner

Before Renner wielded bows and bomb arrows, he was just another actor starring in a teenage road trip comedy…specifically 1995’s National Lampoon’s Senior Trip. Classic.

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Chadwick Boseman

Black Panther might’ve been Boseman’s most famous film, but back in 2008, the late actor was just hitting his stride in Hollywood in The Express.

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Elizabeth Olsen

Before she became an Avenger, Olsen had smaller roles in her sisters’ movies (aka Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen). Her real breakout came in the form of the title role in 2011’s Martha Marcy May Marlene.

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Aaron Taylor-Johnson

Long before Taylor-Johnson was portraying twins with Elizabeth Olsen, he was sharing the screen with himself, starring as twins in the 2002 British family film Tom & Thomas.

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Paul Rudd

Back in 1992, way before he was well-known for his roles in Clueless and Ant-Man, Rudd had a recurring role on the TV series Sisters for four years.

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Michael Douglas

Already a bonafide star by the time he starred as Hank Pym in 2015’s Ant-Man, Douglas achieved his first major role in the 1969 drama Hail, Hero!

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Don Cheadle

While Cheadle technically was the second person to portray James “Rhodey” Rhodes in the Marvel universe, one of the actor’s first major roles had him playing a gang member in the 1988 film Colors.

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Evangeline Lilly

A decade prior to Lilly portraying Ant-Man’s partner in crime in the MCU, she was busy being stranded on an island for six seasons in the hit TV series Lost.

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Gwyneth Paltrow

As Pepper Potts, Paltrow starred opposite Robert Downey Jr. in the Marvel universe. But back in 1991, she was just an innocent teenager in the film Shout.

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Michael B. Jordan

Long before he went to battle with Boseman in Black Panther, one of Jordan’s first major roles was a recurring stint on the popular HBO series The Wire.

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Natalie Portman

In the Thor movies, fans love and relate to Portman’s portrayal of Jane Foster. But Portman’s career started back in the ’90s, when she became famous for playing a child assassin in Léon: The Professional.

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Danai Gurira

A few years before Gurira signed up to fight for the people of Wakanda in Black Panther, she was busy trying to fight off possessed zombies in the hit AMC series The Walking Dead.

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Emily VanCamp

Almost two decades before she portrayed Sharon Carter in various Captain America films, VanCamp was a child actress and in a few episodes of the Nickelodeon series Are You Afraid of the Dark?

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Angela Bassett

Another actress to find herself starring in 2018’s Black Panther, Bassett made her mark in Hollywood in various movies throughout the ’90s, including the hit film Boyz n the Hood.

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Letitia Wright

Fans of Black Panther loved Wright’s portrayal of Shuri in the 2018 film. But what really made her stand out to movie critics was her role as Jamie Harrison in the 2015 British drama Urban Hymn.

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Lupita Nyong’o

A few years before Nyong’o portrayed Nakia in 2018’s Black Panther, she made major moves in Hollywood when she won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her breakout role in the 2013 drama 12 Years a Slave.

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Brie Larson

Larson might be one of the newest actors to join the Marvel film universe, but she’s been acting since the early aughts, when she starred as a young teenager on The WB series Raising Dad.

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Idris Elba

For the last two decades, Elba has been no stranger to Hollywood. But he first began to turn heads over his acting abilities when he starred as Augustin Muganza in the 2005 HBO film Sometimes in April.

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Sebastian Stan

Prior to Stan portraying Bucky Barnes in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, he portrayed an evil magician in the 2006 cult film The Covenant.

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Tom Holland

Five years before Tom Holland portrayed Spider-Man in various Marvel films, he was trying to not get pulled into the Indian Ocean in the 2012 film The Impossible.

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Jake Gyllenhaal

Another relatively new member to the world of the Marvel films, Gyllenhaal became an established actor in Hollywood when he landed the title role in 2001’s Donnie Darko.

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Tom Hiddleston

Although Hiddleston had worked on smaller projects and films in the U.K., people began to notice him when he starred in the 2007 British drama Unrelated. Four years later, he’d forever become a member of the MCU for his portrayal of Loki.

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Clark Gregg

While Gregg’s portrayal of Agent Phil Coulson is now iconic within the Marvel universe, his first major role was portraying a stage manager in the 1988 dramedy Things Change.

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Anthony Mackie

Over the years, Mackie’s role as Sam Wilson/Falcon made an impact on the Avengers franchise. But back in 2002, he was trying to one-up Eminem in a rap battle in the hit film 8 Mile.

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Benedict Cumberbatch

Long before Cumberbatch portrayed the title role in the 2016 MCU film Doctor Strange, he was making a name for himself in various British TV shows. One of his first roles had him playing the son of Hugh Laurie on ITV’s Fortysomething.

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