Of the many superheroes in the vast Marvel Cinematic Universe, the only one who seems to bother with a secret identity is Daredevil. Even then, we as the audience still know he’s Matt Murdock. What that means is that the MCU heroes are kind of open books, though the same can’t be said about the actors who play them. Some of your favorite superhero actors have some interesting facts hiding in their history. These little tidbits of previously unknown pasts range from interesting to bold to downright bizarre, be it hidden talents, strange career origins or silly off-the-wall factoids, there are many of things you might not know about the people who portray your favorite film heroes.
Some MCU actors weren’t all that well known before playing a comic book character, so there are some strange and interesting things that went on in their professional pasts. It’s not just their past, though, as some MCU actors are hiding some insane talents and personal anecdotes! It’s easy to forget with all the amazing action and acting of the MCU that the characters are being portrayed by some interesting, well-rounded people… and some people who are zany characters, themselves. So, what are some of the craziest secrets of the actors of the MCU? Let’s dig deep and find out, shall we?
20. RDJ VS SNL
In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked every Saturday Night Live cast member from worst to best, with Robert Downey Jr. being declared the worst of them all. Now, this might surprise Iron Man/MCU fans for two reasons. First, because they didn’t know RDJ was on SNL, and second, because they’re shocked he’s considered the worst of all time.
Iron Man gave Downey a second breakthrough in film due in no small part to how much comedy he brought to the role, so how did he end up being the worst cast member of a comedy show?! The man portrayed Charlie Chaplin for goodness sakes! The Rolling Stone ranking says that it was actually on the sketch show, that it was a failure on the writers’ part for making such a comedic genius appear so un-fun. We’re inclined to agree.
19. JINKIES, STAR-LORD!
Chris Pratt is everywhere now — in the MCU, in Jurassic World and in a growing list of box office hits, but things weren’t always great for the Star-Lord actor. Before his recurring role on Parks & Recreation as lovable goof Andy Dwyer — heck even before his small role on The O.C. — Pratt was practically homeless while working in Maui. We say practically because he was living in his van.
This wasn’t just any van, though. Painted on the side of his former car/home were Shaggy and Scooby Doo. In the picture of the Van that Pratt shared with the world, he is holding the script that started his career. Pratt was discovered by actress turned director, Rae Dawn Chong, while waiting tables at a Bubba Gump. Chong cast Pratt in his first role in a short horror film, Cursed Part 3.
18. SPIDER-MAN’S DAD IS FUNNIER THAN YOURS
Tom Holland was a bit of a no-name actor before breaking out as the MCU’s Spider-Man, at least in America. Prior to his Hollywood breakout, Holland gained fame portraying the titular character in the musical adaptation of Billy Elliot. However, even before this, Holland had a different claim to fame: his dad.
Tom is the son of Dominic Holland, a famous British Comedian known for his stand up and comedy novels. As his son began to gain fame, starting as a dancer, to a stage actor, then film, Dominic soon found he was being eclipsed by his own son, and while he was still a teenager at that! Holland, true to his comedian nature, wrote a book on the subject, titled “How Tom Holland Eclipsed His Dad,” about “how a kid danced his way from London’s West End to Hollywood and overtook his ‘celebrity’ dad.”
17. DANCING WITH THE GODS
Let’s be honest, Dancing With The Stars has always been a bit loose with their definition of “stars.” The Australian version of DWTS is no different, recruiting their “stars” from reality shows and soap operas. In the 2006 season of the show, one of the “stars” chosen was none other than Chris Hemsworth, whose only claim to fame at the time was the Australian soap opera, “Home and Away.”
Though he made it six weeks before being eliminated, Hemsworth said he wasn’t very confident in his dancing abilities. In fact, when clips of his dancing stint were brought up on The Tonight Show, the actor turned red with embarrassment. Of course, wether that was because of his dancing or his outfit is unknown. Then again, his Thor outfit might have been ridiculous the first time he put it on. Either way, who knew the thunder god could tango?
16. LOKI’S LOW-KEY SHOWER
Tom Hiddleston is one of the few British actors of the MCU who isn’t putting on an American accent. And it sort of makes sense since all the other inhabitants of Asgard speak in a British accent. It also makes sense that Hiddleston is well-trained stage-actor, one who consistently performs in Shakespeare productions, since Loki feels a lot like a character out of a Shakespeare tragedy.
One of Hiddleston’s strangest Shakespeare portrayals was a 2013 production of Coriolanus. This was a strange role for two reasons; first because it’s one of Shakespeare’s least-known works, and second because there’s a scene where Hiddleston took a shower on stage. Now, before all you Loki-lovers get too excited, Hiddleston was still wearing pants during this strange scene, he was also covered in blood… Shakespeare is weird, man.
15. BLACK WIDOW CAN SING
Scarlett Johansson is easily one of the most famous actresses in the world. She’s an action star who’s been everything from a superhero to a robot to an unstoppable being. She’s also in her fair share of dramas and one of her first big roles was actually a comic book movie, the adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World. We all know her for her role as Black Widow, but, did you know she’s also an accomplished singer?
ScarJo doesn’t consider herself to be much of a songwriter and says she is more of a vocalist, which is why her first album, titled “Anywhere I Lay My Head,” consisted of 10 Tom Waits covers and one original track. Her second album was also mainly not written by her, a collaboration with Pete Yorn titled “Break Up.” Johansson also starred in the animated musical film Sing.
14. A MOTHERF***ING STUTTER
Samuel L. Jackson is known for cursing (a lot) in his roles and, honestly, we love him all the more for it. His salty language is a part of what makes him a great actor, since he’s able to convey some great emotion behind the profanities. He’s also just a great actor in general, though he wasn’t always a great speaker.
Some might not know that Jackson actually suffered from a severe stutter as a kid. It was so bad that he didn’t speak in school for almost a year. So, how did he go from a stuttering kid to one of the biggest actors in film, and by far one of Hollywood’s most famous voices? Cursing. Yes, you read that right, cursing, specifically the word “Motherf***er.” Jackson states he has no idea why it helped, but dropping F-bombs turned the stutters off like a switch. Just when we thought he couldn’t get any more badass.
13. BLACK PANTHER, DIRECTOR
Before he was known as Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman made a name for himself by playing famous figures in black history. First he played Jackie Robinson in the biopic 42, followed by James Brown in Get On Up. Not wanting to be typecast, Boseman said he wanted to move away from biopics after he had been cast as Black Panther. However, acting wasn’t his first choice of career.
In fact, Boseman initially wanted to write and direct and only studied acting to better understand the relationship between writer/director and actors. Before acting, Boseman actually wrote and directed a play titled “Deep Azure.” Based on the story of Prince Jones,”Deep Azure” followed a Howard University student who was shot by the police the year Boseman graduated from the same school. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a Black Panther sequel directed and/or written by Boseman!
12. BENEDICT CUMBER-NAPPED
Benedict Cumberbatch has portrayed a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, Kahn in Stark Trek: Into Darkness and, most recently, Doctor Stephen Strange in the MCU’s Doctor Strange. Clearly, Cumberbatch has got some acting chops, but did you know he once used his acting talent to escape a kidnapping?
While driving with two friends in South Africa, their car got a flat tire. While grabbing the spare, six robbers held them at gunpoint before tying them up and throwing them in the car, later putting Cumberbatch in the trunk. In a moment of adrenaline, Cumberbatch talked his way out, claiming that he had “heart and brain problems” that would lead the robbers with a “dead Englishman” in their trunk, and it would be a “problem.” Apparently, the argument was convincing, since he and his friends were released without a word. Do they give our awards for that kind of acting? They should!
11. GAMORA DOES DANCE
“I’m a warrior, and an assassin. I don’t dance.” Gomora made it very clear that she doesn’t like to dance, or rather, that she won’t in the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Thanos trained her to be a weapon, so it makes sense that her training didn’t include how to boogie. However, the opposite is true of the actress who portrays Gamora, Zoe Saldana.
Guardians fans might be surprised to find out that Saldana was a dancer for most of her early life. The actress studied ballet, but eventually chose acting since it gave her a voice. Saldana said that dance uses your whole body except for your voice, and she didn’t want to be voiceless. Also, she was told she didn’t have the feet for ballet, and didn’t want to be sentenced to a life of an in-house background dancer.
10. MAC AND RUDD
Before Paul Rudd was Ant-Man, he was primarily a comedy actor, and true to this comedic nature, Rudd has pulled a continuous prank on Conan O’Brian for over 10 years. Every time Rudd shows up on whatever show Conan is hosting, he sets up a clip to promote his latest film, only to show a scene from the terrible McDonald-sponsored E.T. ripoff, Mac And Me.
The scene involves a kid and a runaway wheelchair, which goes off a cliff, followed by the appearance of a weird-looking alien. For about 15 years, Rudd has pulled this joke, testing Conan’s patience, especially when he splices in clips of the actual film he’s promoting, like he did with Ant-Man. Specifically, the clip revealed that Ant-Man was actually the cause of the runaway wheelchair thanks to CGI. We hope this bit goes on for more years to come.
9. WINTER SOLDIER, WORLD TRAVELER
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we find out that Cap’s best friend, Bucky Barnes, didn’t actually die in the first film. Bucky had been brainwashed and trained to be an assassin for Hydra, killing major figures throughout history, in places all around the world. Though he may not be an assassin frozen in time, the actor who portrays Bucky, Sebastian Stan, is somewhat of a world traveler himself.
Stan was born in Constanța, Romania, moving to Vienna, Austria with his mother after the Romanian Revolution when he was just eight years old. Four years after that, Stan and his mother moved to New York, where his mother met and married the headmaster of Rockland Country Day School, where he went to school and starred in school plays. Stan then moved to New Jersey to study acting at Rutger’s University, later studying abroad at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.
8. DRAX THE WITNESSER
Prior to his role as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy, Dave Bautista was a wrestler and MMA fighter, holding a long list of titles in a host of physical pursuits. Bautista is also an avid collector of vintage metal lunch boxes (thanks to his first wife, Angie), was a grandfather at 40 and started his acting career as Aldar on Smallville. If all those facts weren’t interesting enough, Bautista also has a bit of a dark past.
Growing up in a bad area, Bautista lived near a lot violence, somewhat of a daily occurrence in his life. Violence was so rampant that a young Bautista was no stranger to witnessing murders. In fact, by the time Bautista was just nine, he had witnessed three murders, each on his front lawn. We can only imagine what that was like to see at such a young age.
7. WAIT, DAREDEVIL IS BLIND?!
Charlie Cox is a fantastic Matt Murdock/Daredevil, and his acting skill really comes through in the role. With his impeccable acting skill, it’s no wonder the British actor got the part, though he almost didn’t, since he didn’t know the character was blind until a day before the audition. Cox says that before the audition, he received a script with a fake title and character names that his agent said was most likely for Netflix’s upcoming Daredevil series.
To help him better prepare for the part, his agent also emailed him a description of Daredevil that read “redhead, tall, athletic, gymnastic, strong,” completely leaving out his powers and blindness. While going over lines, Cox’s friends asked “isn’t Daredevil blind?” to which Cox assumed his agent wouldn’t leave that kind of detail out. Luckily, Cox double-checked with his agent, who confirmed this suspicion. Talk about a blind audition!
6. BANNER’S BRAIN
After The Incredible Hulk, we didn’t see much of ol’ Bruce Banner, and it seemed that Edward Norton was no longer involved in the role. But, we got a new face of the Hulk, Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo replaced Norton in the Hulk’s second MCU appearance, The Avengers, reprising the role for every appearance afterwards. Ruffalo is also the face model/motion capture actor for the big green guy himself, the first actor to play both parts.
Ruffalo has had quite the filmography, though there was a time when he had to step down due to medical reasons. Back in 2001, after filing The Last Castle, Ruffalo was diagnosed with a brain tumor known as an acoustic neuroma. Luckily, the tumor was benign and removed with surgery, though Ruffalo still suffered from a short period of facial paralysis. The actor eventually recovered, but became deaf in his left ear as a result.
5. AKA MODEL/MUSICIAN
Before playing everyone’s favorite super-strong, super-drunk private eye, Jessica Jones, Krysten Ritter was known for playing Jane on Breaking Bad and starring in Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. However, before all of that, Ritter was a model, and a rather well-known one at that. Ritter’s modeling career started when just was only 15, having been recruited by a modeling agent at a mall. While still in high school, Ritter would fly to New York on the weekends to do photoshoots, establishing an international career by the time she was 18.
Modeling and acting aren’t the only pursuits of the Jessica Jones actress, as Ritter is also a musician. Ritter put together a personal music project known as Ex Vivian, with an album distributed by WT records. Ritter wrote, sang and played guitar for all the songs for the Ex Vivian album, which was realized in 2012.
4. HAWKEYE’S MANY TALENTS
Aside from acting, Jeremy Renner also has quite a few hidden talents. Renner renovates houses, fixing and flipping them for a higher price. It’s a business that helped him and business partner Kristoffer Winter during their struggling actor days. But this is just one of Renner’s many skills.
Renner has also dabbled a bit in makeup artist work, having done it to make ends meet between auditions. He said he did it because he did theater and could draw (another talent of his), so he took the job instead of waiting tables (like a lot of struggling actors). Just when you thought the guy doesn’t do enough, he also learned Muay Thai and Arnis (Filipino martial arts) to prepare for Mission Impossible and the Avengers. We’re surprised archery isn’t on his long list of talents, but at least he can fake it pretty darn well!
3. A MYSTERY DATE WITH CAP
Captain America is a selfless hero, one who uses his strength, skills and smarts to do all he can to protect the world. He’s strong, he’s fast, he… likes walks around the cliffs and hanging with friends at the bonfire? Wait, we might be confusing Cap with another one of Chris Evan’s roles. That’s right, we’re talking about Tyler from the Early 2000’s board game, Mystery Date.
Yes, you read that right, Chris Evans, Captain America himself, once worked as a model for a “dreamy boy” game. Shown above, Tyler was clearly a surfer, one who you could “call” on the toy phone that came with the game. As embarrassing as this job might be for Evans now, he never really stopped being a heartthrob… though he doesn’t really surf.
2. PUKEY CARTER
Hayley Atwell’s depiction of Peggy Carter is a bit different from the comics, and it’s an improvement. Instead of being a damsel in distress, we got a capable soldier who was an equal to Steve Rogers. This depiction was so beloved by fans that we were treated to two seasons of Agent Carter as well as various other appearances of the character. As much as fans love Hayley Atwell, the role wasn’t always glamorous, especially not the training for The First Avenger.
In preparing for the role, Atwell took part in the same training as Chris Evans and the other cast members. Atwell tried to keep up with everyone, wanting to look good in front of them. After pushing herself too hard, however, Atwell said she turned green and puked before being sent home to rest in bed. Good thing she pushed through, since we can’t imagine anyone else as Agent Carter!
1. AGENT COULSON’S BLACK BELT
There’s a lot to love about Agent Coulson, he’s depicted wonderfully by Clark Gregg who agent-ed his way into our hearts and is essentially what The Avengers “avenged” in the first movie. Coulson ended up being alive by the time Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. rolled around, giving us more time with everyone’s favorite kooky agent. Being a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Coulson is highly trained in combat, something he and Gregg have in common.
Clark Gregg has studied Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for around 15 years, something he started because he was filming a movie directed by David Mamet (Redbelt), who thought the actor should start training. Thinking that his part might require grappling, Gregg obliged, only to learn that Mamet just thought he’d enjoy it. Turns out he was right, since Gregg continued to study and earned his black belt in 2015.
What other little factoids do you know about MCU actors? Let us know in the comments!
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