Superhero roles aren’t the end all, be all of Hollywood acting jobs, but at this point in the game, they're pretty close. Many actors have made their careers for the iconic portrayal of a certain comic book character. Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Pratt, and Chris Evans are now bankable big budget actors thanks to their depictions of popular figures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Their roles in the MCU will one day come to an end, but their reputations will be rock solid for a long time coming.
Unfortunately, just because an actor stars in a superhero film doesn’t mean their career is automatically put on the fast track. There are plenty of actors who haven’t seen success despite worthy performances. There are also plenty of actors who actually suffered for their roles in comic book movies. Some were so bad that it may have very well ruined their entire career because they were either so bad or so miscast, or just given the worst material to read from. Superhero films have been making careers over the last two decades, but they have also killed quite a few as well. Here are 15 actors who ruined their careers by starring in a Marvel film.
15 TOPHER GRACE AS VENOM
From 1998 to 2006, Topher Grace was known as Eric Forman because no one knew him outside of That ‘70s Show. His first big role came in 2007 when he was cast in Spider-Man 3 as... Eddie Brock? Fans immediately were confused why the typically bullish and bulky Brock would be portrayed by someone who embodied the character in no way whatsoever.
In the movie, it was hard to take him seriously as the character Eddie Brock and the film’s villain. The movie depicted Venom very differently than in the comic, and Topher Grace took the blow on that. This should have been his first foray into blockbuster stardom, and while he shows up in films from time to time, his first chance may ultimately be his last.
14 EDWARD NORTON AS THE HULK
Edward Norton is a very gifted actor in front of the camera, but he’s built up a reputation for himself as a rather unpleasant person behind and away from it. He also didn’t do himself any favors when he fought Marvel over creative control of the film The Incredible Hulk. For Norton, if he was going to portray Bruce Banner, he wanted to have a hand in writing the film as well.
The problem was that this role was not entirely set in stone, so it turned into a conflict when Norton was rewriting scenes every other day but never got the official credit for the film. Disagreements about the editing and runtime became public and eventually Marvel just had enough and decided to recast the role for The Avengers. While Norton still has an exceptional career, the behind the scenes problems likely burned a few bridges for him.
13 REBECCA HALL AS MAYA HANSEN
Marvel used Warren Ellis’ “Extremis” storyline as the basis for 2013’s Iron Man 3. It led to the inclusion of Aldrich Killian, played by Guy Pearce, and Maya Hansen, played by Rebecca Hall. Fans of the comic book story would have known about Hansen’s involvement in Killian’s plot, but in the film, the mastermind was Killian all along, but there was a lot of behind the scenes drama surrounding it.
Apparently, Hall was originally supposed to be revealed as the ultimate villain of the film, but Marvel executives balked at the idea of having a female villain, so plans were changed. As a result, Rebecca Hall’s role in the film is cut down dramatically and she is eventually killed off unceremoniously. It was a role that could have made her a big blockbuster name, but things didn’t work out that way for her.
12 MATT SALINGER AS CAPTAIN AMERICA
Matt Salinger, the son of famed author J.D. Salinger, was the guy who played Captain America in the horrible film from 1990. The whole thing was a mess, including a terrible script and no budget to speak of, leading to the film being universally panned by just about everyone who saw it. In the end, Salinger’s weak acting was also on full display for everyone to see.
The film was in development though much of the 1980s until a movie was actually able to come together. In the end, Captain America ended up breaking almost exactly even, so there was hardly a point in making it. Salinger disappeared into obscurity and has only had a few small parts and produced a few films over the years since.
11 DAVID HASSELHOFF AS NICK FURY
David Hasselhoff has done so many things over the course of his career that it’s hard to say anything could have ruined it. However, he was a legitimate actor when he starred in The Young and the Restless, Knight Rider, and Baywatch. By 1998, he was clinging onto his star status when he portrayed Nick Fury in a misguided television movie that basically ended his run as a serious actor.
Broadcasted on Fox, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. sees Fury come out of retirement to fight Hydra. The final release varied greatly from the comic book characters and concept the movie was based on. It must have been bad enough that Hasselhoff basically gave up on trying to act and instead just started playing himself.
10 JENNIFER GARNER AS ELEKTRA
When Jennifer Garner was cast as Elektra for Daredevil, she was still noted as an action star for her role on the Alias television show. At the time, she seemed perfect for the part because she had already been doing action scenes as Sydney Bristow. She held her own in Daredevil, but when it came time to do the Elektra spinoff, the film didn’t do her any favors.
In the end, without a proper script or anything remotely interesting around her, Garner was not able to singlehandedly make the film successful. Instead of launching her into a blockbuster action star, the two films basically marked the end of her career in the action genre. She has had her successes since, but she’s no longer fighting anyone in her films.
9 IOAN GRUFFUDD AS MISTER FANTASTIC
Before he was cast as Mister Fantastic, Ioan Gruffudd had a blossoming career depicting the character Horatio Hornblower for a series of television movies in the UK. He then jumped to the United States with roles in Titanic, Black Hawk Down, and the King Arthur movie with Clive Owen from 2004. Then Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer came out.
While the cast wasn’t exactly the strength of the film, most saw Gruffudd’s Mister Fantastic as the weak link of the group. Instead of becoming a blockbuster action star, he was left behind. Gruffudd’s had lead roles in Ringer and Forever, he played British Prime Minister Tony Blair in W., and he’s a lead in the show Liar on SundanceTV. You didn’t recognize him, though. He also voiced Mister Miracle on Justice League Unlimited and Red Ryan on Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
8 FAMKE JANSSEN AS PHOENIX
As an actress, director, screenwriter, and fashion model, Famke Janssen has accomplished many things over the span of her career. However, just as her portrayal of Jean Grey in 2000’s X-Men film made her career, her time as Phoenix in X-Men: The Last Stand basically ruined it. The character was so mishandled and the movie was such a mess that it basically made everyone look bad for years.
Since the end of the original X-Men trilogy she has either appeared as Liam Neeson’s wife in the Taken series or continued to appear as Jean Grey elsewhere. On TV she had a a few recurring roles on Nip/Tuck and How to Get Away With Murder. She starred in Netflix’s Hemlock Grove and had the chance to star in The Blacklist: Redemption, but the latter was cancelled quickly.
7 DANE DEHAAN AS HARRY OSBORN
At one point, Dane DeHaan was a young actor on the rise. He starred in Chronicle and Kill Your Darlings before quickly trying to move up into the blockbuster superhero world with his role as Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t very well received and DeHaan’s turn as a bizarre goblin-like character didn’t do any favors for his career.
He has since portrayed James Dean in the film Life and one of the protagonists in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, but both are considered to be commercial failures, so DeHaan hasn’t exactly had the best to work with. He still has a reputation for being a talented actor, but he doesn’t have much name recognition.
6 WILL.I.AM AS JOHN WRAITH
Will.i.am is a talented and successful singer and songwriter from his time with the Black Eyed Peas and through his own solo career. One thing he is not, though, is an actor. He’s had a few voice roles in animated projects, but his live actions roles have been limited to basically just his time as John Wraith in the much-maligned X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
The film did well financially, but many found it to be quite a mess for several different reasons. One of those reasons was Will.i.am’s acting skills in front of a camera. He just didn’t seem like a good fit for the film, and it showed. There’s a reason this was his live action film debut, and so far it has been his last.
5 TERRENCE HOWARD AS JAMES RHODES
Terrence Howard was the original actor who portrayed James Rhodes in 2008’s Iron Man before he was replaced with Don Cheadle going forward. At the time of his casting, Howard had a reputation as a great actor, but he showed none of that to direct Jon Favreau on the set of the movie. He was apparently difficult to work with and many of his scenes were ultimately cut.
A salary dispute led to him getting replaced by Cheadle, and his reputation took a hit. Then, in 2009, his history of domestic abuse became a record of public knowledge and his star fell considerably. He spent time on Law & Order: LA before gaining some credibility back with his award-winning performance in Empire. Howard’s chance to be a blockbuster star is likely over, though.
4 AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON AS QUICKSILVER
Believe it or not, the guy who played Quicksilver in Age of Ultron was the game person who played Kick-Ass in the film series. He bulked up a ton and looks a lot different, but it’s the same person. Unfortunately for him, Quicksilver is an afterthought in the film and is so far the only Avenger to get killed off in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Despite the success of the Kick-Ass films, his turn as Quicksilver is all anyone is thinking about these days, and it is not pretty. Taylor-Johnson is still only 27, so he has plenty of time to turn things around for himself, but it’s important to keep in mind that moviegoers only remember you by your last biggest blockbuster film. He’s no longer the guy from Kick-Ass, he’s now the dude who played the weaker version of Quicksilver.
3 DICK PURCELL AS CAPTAIN AMERICA
We’re going all the way back to 1944 for this one as the Captain America movie serial quite literally ruined the life of Dick Purcell. The actor died at the age of 35 just weeks after wrapping up filming. Purcell was out of shape when he was cast in the role, and some claim that filming Captain America put too much strain on his heart.
Though he made the character of Captain America famous, he didn’t play Steve Rogers, as the film company had changed many of the signature details about the comic book character in the final product. Purcell instead portrayed district attorney Grant Gardner, which many believe was a holdover from whatever film the company had been trying to adapt before settling on Captain America.
2 JANUARY JONES AS EMMA FROST
Actress January Jones made her career with her role as Betty Draper on Mad Men, however, her attempt to launch her career into Hollywood blockbuster territory stagnated when moviegoers were treated to her dull and lifeless portrayal of Emma Frost from 2011’s X-Men: First Class. She was easily the weakest of the bunch, and her film career has practically been dead since.
She’s remained active in television, finishing up Mad Men in 2015. She has since caught on as one of the leads on Fox’s show The Last Man on Earth. After such a successful run on such a beloved show, you would think that more roles would come her way, but it would seem that her awkward performance in X-Men has sullied her name at least a slight bit.
1 ERIC BANA AS THE HULK
After spending years as a comedic actor on Australian television, Eric Bana made the transition to America and immediately became a serious dramatic actor for some reason. He had a lead role in Black Hawk Down and then suddenly he was Bruce Banner in Ang Lee’s The Hulk. That movie was so bad, not only did it ruin the character’s chances to become a film series, it also destroyed any chance Bana had of being taken seriously.
He’s cropped up in other big films, such as The Other Boleyn Girl, Star Trek, and he played the lead in 2009’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, but those movies have found success because of the bankable names around him. The Hulk proved to be too high profile a role for him to save face after it proved to be a complete failure.
What other actors ruined their careers by starring in a Marvel movie? Let us know who you think in the comments.