The Marvel Cinematic Universe has firmly established itself over the last decade as the all-conquering multi-billion dollar franchise-to-end-all-franchises. With 20 films released so far and three more scheduled for release in 2019, the MCU shows no signs of slowing down. Over the years it has amassed a rolling cast of hundreds of the biggest actors and actresses in Hollywood, and the likes of Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johannson have had extremely positive experiences playing their roles over multiple films. But, of course, the MCU is not the only place that Marvel heroes have been seen on the big screen. Fox has released 11 X-Men-related films and Sony has released five Spider-Man-related films over the years. Countless other characters have been the stars of big screen adventures too and actors such as Hugh Jackman, Tobey Maguire, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen have reaped the rewards.
Not everyone has had such a rewarding time working on Marvel movies, though. There have been a number of actors who have parted ways with Marvel under clouds of acrimony, especially during the early years of the MCU, and plenty of other actors have had legitimate gripes with the people behind the movies they were a part of. Making blockbuster movies can be a stressful business, and tempers can certainly fray when so many creative people are trying to do good work while huge amounts of money and prestige are at stake. Here are 20 actors who weren't happy working on Marvel movies.
20 TERRENCE HOWARD (IRON MAN)
When Terrence Howard was signed on to star as James 'Rhodey' Rhodes in 2008's Iron Man, he was arguably the biggest star in the cast. He had a significant role in the Academy Award Best Picture winner Crash in 2004, and was then nominated for Best Actor the following year for Hustle & Flow.
This led to him being the highest paid cast member of the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and subsequently the first to be ousted from his role when Marvel reportedly tried to lowball him on his contract for Iron Man 2! Howard has gone on record to say that he helped Robert Downey Jr originally get the role of Tony Stark, so was hurt when Downey took the payday that was supposed to go to him and then refused to take his calls! Oh dear.
19 EDWARD NORTON (THE INCREDIBLE HULK)
The Incredible Hulk was released only a month after Iron Man in summer 2008, and it also suffered from bad blood between one of its stars and Marvel. Two-time Academy Award nominee Edward Norton played Bruce Banner/Hulk in the film, and was also an uncredited writer on the project. He clashed with the studio and refused to participate in much of the promotion for the film.
The reason for the clash has been put down to classic Hollywood 'creative differences'. Norton has a reputation of being somewhat difficult to work with and was reportedly unhappy with the script even well into production, pushing for more changes and fighting with the studio over the length of the film. He was replaced by Mark Ruffalo in 2012's The Avengers.
18 NATALIE PORTMAN (THOR: THE DARK WORLD)
On December 6th 2011, director Patty Jenkins was fired from her position as director of the in-development Thor sequel due to 'creative differences'. If she had stayed on the film, she would have become the first female director of a superhero blockbuster. Marvel replaced her with Game Of Thrones director Alan Taylor, but star Natalie Portman was reportedly furious.
It had been rumored at the time that she was contemplating time away from acting to be with her baby boy, but was re-energized about Thor 2 due to Jenkins' involvement. In the end, she was contractually obligated to do the film, which took a critical mauling, and didn't return for Thor: Ragnarok. Meanwhile, Jenkins went on to direct the all-conquering Wonder Woman in 2017.
17 CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON (THOR: THE DARK WORLD)
Natalie Portman wasn't the only person unhappy on the set of Thor: The Dark World. Director Alan Taylor had a pretty torrid time by most accounts, and British actor Christopher Eccleston has been remarkably open with how much he hated playing the lead villain, dark elf Malekith. He conducted an interview in 2018 in which he said he chose roles in movies like G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra and Gone In 60 Seconds for financial reasons, and the same was true for Thor.
With a true actor's sense of drama, he described working on Thor as a situation that made him want to put a gun in his mouth, and on G.I. Joe he wanted to cut his own throat every day. Geez... it's no wonder Malekith wasn't brought back for any future MCU movies.
16 WESLEY SNIPES (BLADE: TRINITY)
Wesley Snipes' performances as the titular vampire hunter in Blade and Blade II are iconic. However, Snipes was apparently very unhappy on the set of Blade: Trinity, the final movie in the beloved trilogy. Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel had been brought in as Hannibal King and Abigail Whistler, aka The Nightstalkers, and a spin-off was rumored but Snipes reportedly hated the idea of them stealing his franchise from him.
He then acted out. A lot. His behavior, if rumours are to be believed, extended to assaulting director David Goyer, smoking every day on-set, only communicating in post-it notes, and staying in-character as Blade at all times. He then subsequently sued the production for $5 million, and it was settled out of court.
15 BEN AFFLECK (DAREDEVIL)
Ben Affleck doesn't mince his words when talking about Daredevil, the 2003 movie in which he played the titular blind vigilante. In an interview with TimeTalks in 2016, he flat out said that he 'hates' the film, and part of his motivation for taking on the role of the Dark Knight in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice was that he wanted to do a good version of a superhero movie.
He went on to praise the Netflix Daredevil show, saying that they achieved what the creative team behind the 2003 movie was aiming for but didn't get right. Unfortunately for Affleck, BvS was even more reviled than Daredevil in some quarters, although his performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman was generally singled out for praise.
14 JENNIFER GARNER (ELEKTRA)
Elektra was released in 2005 and, despite being a spin-off of the reasonably profitable (if critically lambasted) Daredevil, it bombed harder than expected at the box office. Along with 2004's execrable Catwoman movie, it effectively killed the idea of a female-led superhero movie until 2017's Wonder Woman.
Now, unlike many of the actors on this list, star Jennifer Garner didn't publicly say anything derogatory about Marvel or her time shooting the movie. But, only a few weeks after the movie's release, her ex-boyfriend Michael Vartan did let slip to US Weekly that she called him and said the movie was awful and she had to do it because of her contract, which was signed before the release of Daredevil.
13 MICKEY ROURKE (IRON MAN 2)
Notorious Hollywood hellraiser Mickey Rourke played Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash, in 2010's Iron Man 2, and he has been completely transparent with how much he despised the experience. In interviews he told of how he and writer Justin Theroux tried hard to bring some nuance to the character of Vanko, but Marvel Studios executives simply wanted a one-dimensional villain for the film.
He spoke of how angry it made him that he spent three months perfecting a Russian accent and tried desperately to portray some layers and depth, but most of it wound up on the cutting room floor due to 'some nerd with a pocketful of money calling the shots'. He also hinted that director Jon Favreau didn't have the conviction to stand up to the studio.
12 HUGO WEAVING (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER)
Australian actor Hugo Weaving played the Red Skull in 2011's Captain America: the First Avenger, and did a pretty darn good job as the villainous Johann Schmidt. However, in a 2012 interview, he said that he didn't think Marvel would bring him back for any sequels, even though he would be contractually obligated to do them, which was good for Weaving because he didn't want to do them anyway.
He said he no longer had any plans to act in films that he had no personal connection with, and said that movies of its ilk weren't the sort that excited him. However, in a later 2016 interview he seemed to have softened towards the idea of reprising the role, but Marvel still recast him for Red Skull's appearance in Avengers: Infinity War.
11 JESSICA ALBA (FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER)
Jessica Alba starred as Sue Storm in both Tim Story-directed Fantastic Four movies, but it eventually emerged that it wasn't plain sailing for her. In a 2012 interview, she revealed that her time on the set of Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer actually made her want to quit acting.
She said that Story's critical (and borderline offensive) direction, particularly in scenes where she was required to cry, made her doubt her acting instincts. In the end, it left her feeling like she didn't care about the business anymore. However, it should be said that Alba's beef wasn't solely with Marvel, as in the same interview she also slung barbs at screenwriters and first-time directors she'd worked with on bad movies like The Love Guru and Good Luck Chuck.
10 LEA THOMPSON (HOWARD THE DUCK)
As hard as it is to believe, 1986's Howard The Duck was the first Marvel Comics movie ever made. About as ignominious a start as any comics company can have on-screen, the movie was a box office bomb and is generally regarded as one of the worst films ever made. Star Lea Thompson, who was fresh off a breakout role in 1985's classic Back To The Future, was particularly devastated by its failure.
She panicked and quickly took a role in a movie she had previously turned down, so scared was she that Howard's bad press made it difficult for her to get work. However, that movie was Some Kind Of Wonderful, which was a hit and she also met her future husband on the movie, director Howard Deutch. So it all worked out well in the end for her, which is nice.
9 IDRIS ELBA (THOR/AVENGERS FRANCHISES)
Idris Elba seems to have a very conflicted relationship with his role as Heimdall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At times he has described his time with the 'Marvel family' as 'amazing', and said that working on Thor: Ragnarok was fun (mainly due to director Taika Waititi). But he has also been quite public with his complaints about Heimdall's fairly minor role in the movies, and described the first two Thor movies as 'work'.
He didn't like filming reshoots for Thor: The Dark World only mere days after leaving the set of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. The inherent ludicrousness of playing a space alien in a funny helmet straight after playing Nelson Mandela in a stirring biopic clearly did not sit well with Elba.
8 SALLY FIELD (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN)
Two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field played Aunt May in both 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man and its 2014 sequel. However, it appears her opinion on the films line up with most of the fan community and critics, who resoundingly rejected the vaguely pointless reboots.
Firstly, she said that they wouldn't be her sort of movie, and then said (in very colorful terms that we unfortunately can't repeat here) that it was very hard for her to find a three-dimensional character in the script she was given to work with. In the end, she confirmed that she only did the movies as a favour to her friend, producer Laura Ziskin. But hey, she did say that Andrew Garfield is a lovely actor and that he was fun to work with, so that's nice.
7 RHYS IFANS (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN)
Sally Field wasn't the only actor who found her character in The Amazing Spider-Man to be lacking. Rhys Ifans, who played Dr Curt Connors and his villainous alter ego The Lizard, told Total Film in 2015 that the character he was told he was going to be playing, and the overall movie he was promised the studio was making, was not what ended up on-screen.
He said he had read some of the Lizard's comics appearances in preparation, and felt it would've been interesting to explore a character who takes his work so seriously that he would experiment on himself at home and risk the lives of his wife and kids. At the end of the day, though, this edgy idea was taken away and his villain wound up being decidedly bland in the finished film.
6 ANDREW GARFIELD (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2)
Andrew Garfield described himself as 'heartbroken' when talking about the compromises the filmmakers had to make when bringing the Amazing Spider-Man movies to the screen. He said he signed up to do justice to a character he'd been dressing up as since he was three, but quickly found out that story and character were not top priorities for the corporate machines making the films.
Garfield then didn't show up to an event in Brazil where The Amazing Spider-Man 3 was set to be announced, and it was soon revealed he wouldn't play Spidey again. Garfield insisted he wasn't fired by Sony, but rather that he didn't compromise who he was as a person, and some people might have found that difficult.
5 ALAN CUMMING (X2: X-MEN UNITED)
X2: X-Men United is still regarded as one of the best superhero movies ever. It was one of those rare sequels that improved upon the original movie, and one of its highlights was Scottish actor Alan Cumming's performance as Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler. Sadly, Cumming never reprised the role and it likely had something to do with his relationship with director Bryan Singer.
When asked in 2005 about X-Men 3, he said that he wasn't disappointed Singer wasn't going to direct it, as he 'didn't enjoy working with him' on X2. He did say that he was very proud of the film, though, and added that he thought it was 'great'. He was then rumored to make a return in X-Men: Days Of Future Past, but clarified that he was never officially contacted about it.
4 ELLEN PAGE (X-MEN: THE LAST STAND)
Both Bryan Singer, who has directed four films in the X-Men franchise, and Brett Ratner, who directed X-Men: The Last Stand, have had several allegations of improper conduct levied at them in the last few years. One of Ratner's most inappropriate moments happened on the set of the third X-film, according to star Ellen Page, who played Kitty Pryde.
She wrote in a Facebook post that he made a crude joke in front of the entire cast and crew. Page, who was 18 at the time, said she felt violated by his comment. She was then reprimanded by producers when she wouldn't wear a crew T-shirt that said 'Team Ratner', but he wasn't punished at all and hopefully he will never be heard of again.
3 RYAN REYNOLDS (X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE)
These days, with two Deadpool movies under his belt and over $1.6 billion banked at the worldwide box-office, it's safe to say that Ryan Reynolds did justice to the role he was seemingly born to play. But it wasn't always this way, as fans of the character well know. In 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Reynolds was effectively backed into a corner where either he played Deadpool, or someone else would.
He argued with the studio that the version of the Merc with a Mouth they were planning wasn't correct, but conceded and signed on. He then said the shoot was a very frustrating experience and that basically every line he says in the movie was written by him on-set, as the script often simply called for 'Wade Wilson shows up, talks really fast'.
2 JENNIFER LAWRENCE (X-MEN FRANCHISE)
This one isn't quite as cut-and-dry as some of the others on the list. Jennifer Lawrence has played Mystique in four X-Men movies, including the soon-to-be-released Dark Phoenix. There is no one single incident that can be pointed to to say she has been unhappy, but rather numerous reports have emerged over the years about her frustration with the make-up process required to transform her into Mystique's naked blue form.
She has said it's uncomfortable, takes too long to apply, and forces her to endure indignities. It's the reason why Mystique's blue form is very, very sparingly used in the third film, X-Men: Apocalypse. All in all, it sounds like she has a love/hate reationship with her role in the franchise.
1 JIM CARREY (KICK-ASS 2)
Jim Carrey starred in Kick-Ass 2 as Colonel Stars and Stripes. The film, which was based on a comic published by Marvel imprint Icon, was a violent and anarchic actionfest in much the same vein as the first film. However, Carrey withdrew his public support for the movie in the lead-up to its release after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012.
A passionate advocate of gun control, he said he couldn't support the movie's violence in good conscience. John Romita Jr, the artist of the comics, saw things differently though. He criticized Carrey for cashing the large paycheck he got from the movie, before jeopardizing the earning potential of the crew who worked hard on the film. He even said Carrey should have been ashamed of himself.