With the first half of 2018 boasting such high-profile movies as Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Solo: A Star Wars Story, it seems that Marvel and Star Wars’ respective franchises are thriving more than ever under the firm but savvy sway of Disney’s influence. While fans are excited to see the latest instalments in their favorite series’ however, many in Hollywood are excited for a different reason entirely: opportunity.
Landing even a small role in such a huge franchise is a major milestone in any actor’s career, and while it’s always great to see a renowned actor take on an iconic role in one of these movies, it’s equally fun to see fresh, up and coming actors earn their stripes in popular movies before becoming famous further down the line. Every once in a while, though, performers are lucky enough to score roles in multiple big franchises, sometimes decades apart, and sometimes in rapid succession -- but even the most celebrated actors in Hollywood seem to have held roles that managed to fly under the radar of movie buffs worldwide. With that in mind, here are 15 actors you may not know appeared in both Star Wars and Marvel Movies.
15 ANDY SERKIS
Making his brief MCU debut as Ulysses Klaue back in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Serkis’ villainous character is set to return in the hotly anticipated Black Panther to cause trouble for T’Challa and Wakanda at large. Generally regarded as the king of performance capture, it’s become somewhat surprising to see Serkis appear in a role outside of his motion capture bubble -- but Serkis’ acting chops shine through in whatever manner he appears.
Given that Serkis plays mostly creatures, monsters and animals who don’t resemble the actor whatsoever, it might come as a surprise to learn that he also took on the role of Supreme Leader Snoke in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, where he managed to bring an impressive amount of menace to what is essentially a withered and scarred old man.
14 LUPITA NYONG'O
Perhaps best known for her Oscar-winning turn in the harrowing 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong’o has since become something of a hot commodity. Quickly snapping up roles in two of Hollywood’s largest franchises, Nyong’o is set to appear in the upcoming Black Panther as Nakia, an ally of T’Challa who shares a tumultuous history with the character in the comics -- possibly implying that future appearances as the Wakandan warrior are in the pipeline.
Couple this with her fantastic performance capture role as the wise, millennia-old pirate queen Maz Kanata in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, and it seems that Nyong’o is rapidly building up one of the most envied resumes in Hollywood. Here’s hoping she gets a little more to do in Episode IX.
13 DONNIE YEN
Recently endearing himself to audiences worldwide as the blind, force-worshipping warrior Chirrut Imwe in Rogue One, Donnie Yen has a long history with martial arts in film -- even reigniting a dwindling form of martial arts known as Wing Chun following his role in Ip Man. Proficient in over a dozen different forms of martial arts, it’s no surprise that Yen’s characters tend to be highly-skilled combatants, with Rogue One being no exception.
Taking advantage of Yen’s rising stardom in Asian cinema, it wasn’t long before Hollywood came knocking, with Yen not only acting in several popular movies but often taking on the role of action choreographer too. Blade II was one such film, with Yen appearing as Snowman, a master swordsman, vampire and member of the vicious Bloodpack.
12 DONALD GLOVER
Set to play a young Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story, Donald Glover’s natural charisma and acting chops make this role the definition of dream casting. Sharing the screen with Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo, the movie will explore some of the storied history between the two characters.
Also appearing briefly in last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, Glover played a surprisingly small role as Aaron Davis, a young criminal whose comic book counterpart is actually the uncle of Miles Morales -- an alternate version of Spider-Man and fan-favorite character. Opening up the possibility of Morales appearing in the MCU, the role was likely satisfying for Glover as a vocal fan of the character -- with the actor even campaigning to play Morales back in 2010.
11 ROSE BYRNE
One of the most recognisable actresses working today, Rose Byrne has starred in a whole host of popular movies over the past decade, including Insidious, Sunshine, 28 Weeks Later, Bridesmaids, Neighbors and of course, the X-Men franchise. Playing Moira MacTaggert -- CIA agent and ally of the X-Men -- Byrne’s role in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Apocalypse is a prominent one. Bringing to life a beloved character from the X-Men comics, this is arguably the role that made Byrne such a big name.
The same can’t be said for her role in the Star Wars franchise, however. Appearing as Dormé, one of Padmé Amidala’s handmaidens in Attack of the Clones, Byrne is given very little to do outside of a few background appearances and small handful of lines, making it easy for even hardcore Star Wars fans to forget Byrne was in the movie.
10 DOMINIC WEST
Most widely recognized for his role as Detective Jimmy McNulty in The Wire, Dominic West has built a great career for himself outside of the popular HBO show. Starring as the villain Jigsaw in 2008’s Punisher: War Zone -- almost a full decade before Ben Barnes would take on the role in Netflix’s The Punisher -- Dominic West’s performance is memorable and delightfully unhinged despite the movie’s poor critical reception.
What’s less memorable however, is the role West played in The Phantom Menace. With just one line in the entire movie, West plays one of Padmé Amidala’s palace guards, who allows Anakin Skywalker into her private quarters. Donning a full leather uniform and a large headpiece to boot, only the most eagle-eyed of viewers would spot West’s role without prior knowledge of his presence.
9 PETER SERAFINOWICZ
A well-known actor and comedian in the UK, Peter Serafinowicz is recognizable to many for his role as the dry, sarcastic Nova Corps member Garthan Saal in Guardians of the Galaxy, where he sends the titular team to the maximum-security space-prison known as the Kyln, before forming an alliance with them to put a stop to Ronan the Accuser.
One of the more obscure roles on the actor’s resume however, is his role in The Phantom Menace. Providing the voice for Darth Maul to match Ray Park’s physical performance, Maul only had a small handful of lines, but Serafinowicz delivers them with gravitas -- even if the voice doesn’t quite sync up with Park’s mouth convincingly (seriously, you can’t unsee it).
8 RICHARD ARMITAGE
Best known for his performance as Thorin Oakenshield, leader of the dwarves in The Hobbit trilogy, Richard Armitage has been active in film, TV and theatre for decades. Showing up fairly early in the MCU’s history, Armitage had a small but pivotal role back in Captain America: The First Avenger. Playing Heinz Kruger, a Hydra spy who kills scientist and Cap’s mentor Abraham Erskine, Armitage’s character kicks off Steve Rogers’ continuing war with the evil organisation.
Armitage’s first credited film role however, was actually in The Phantom Menace, where he plays an anonymous Naboo fighter pilot. Armitage recalls that he did in fact have a line, which was unfortunately cut from the final product, leaving him as little more than an extra in the movie -- which is probably for the best given the movie’s eventual reception.
7 TERENCE STAMP
One of many great actors wasted in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Terence Stamp appeared in The Phanton Menace as Finis Valorum, Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic whose removal from the Senate facilitated soon-to-be Emperor Sheev Palpatine’s corrupt rise to power.
Also appearing in several superhero projects, you might initially associate Stamp with DC Comics considering his memorable performance as General Zod in Superman and Superman II. Stamp did also make an appearance in a Marvel movie however, but unfortunately that movie was the ill-fated Elektra. Taking on the role of Stick -- Elektra’s teacher and ally -- Stamp’s casting was a decent choice, but that wasn’t quite enough to save the movie from the critical mauling it received at the hands of critics.
6 FOREST WHITAKER
You’d be forgiven for forgetting that Forest Whitaker played Saw Gerrera in 2016’s Rogue One given that the role appears to have been heavily cut in the film’s final edit. Leader of an extreme group of rebels deemed too violent for the rebellion, Gerrera was marketed as a mentor to lead character Jyn Erso, his journey from well-intentioned rebel to violent extremist representing the larger theme of moral grays in the movie.
Hopefully Whittaker will get a little more to do in Black Panther, where it’s likely he’ll play yet another mentor role, this time to Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa. Playing Zuri, an older, grizzled Wakandan warrior, Zuri’s fierce loyalty and immense strength make him a valuable ally to Black Panther. Hopefully he makes it through the film so he can appear in Avengers: Infinity War later in the year.
5 PAUL BETTANY
Starting off his MCU career as J.A.R.V.I.S., the trusty AI assistant of Iron Man in his first few outings, Paul Bettany’s role in the Marvel Universe was expanded significantly in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Becoming the vastly powerful Vision after having his consciousness uploaded to a synthetic body, Bettany nails the balance between the incredible power and serene demeanor of the character.
Not content with having a role in just one cinematic mega-franchise however, Bettany was recently cast in the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story in a mystery role. Replacing Michael K. Williams who was unable to attend reshoots for the film, Bettany’s character will take on a more humanoid appearance than was intended for Williams, who was supposed to play an alien character through motion capture.
4 OSCAR ISAAC
Easily one of the best actors working today, Oscar Isaac has built up a tremendous filmography over the past few years. Delivering star-making performances in critically acclaimed films such as Ex Machina and Inside Llewyn Davis, Isaac is probably most widely recognized for his role as the brash, impulsive, but infinitely likable Resistance pilot Poe Dameron in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
Despite being such a well-known actor, it may not be immediately apparent to many that Isaac also played Apocalypse -- one the X-Men’s most formidable villains -- in X-Men: Apocalypse. Covered head to toe in thick prosthetics and make-up, Isaac is completely unidentifiable in the role, with the script affording the villain very little depth. Unable to truly sink his teeth into the somewhat hollow role, Isaac’s strong acting chops aren’t able to shine through, making both his appearance and performance unrecognizable.
3 BENICIO DEL TORO
Known for his convincing portrayal of various oddball characters throughout his career, Benicio Del Toro brings a certain quirkiness to the roles he’s given. Playing The Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy (as well as this year’s Avengers: Infinity War), Del Toro is a perfect choice for the strange, ostentatious character. Disappearing completely behind the bleach blonde hair and flamboyant get-up, it’d be easy to forget that it’s Del Toro under there at all.
More recently Del Toro also made an appearance in The Last Jedi as the mysterious DJ -- a shady codebreaker of dubious moral fiber. Although the character has a prominent stutter, this alone isn’t enough for his character to be considered “quirky”, but Del Toro injects DJ with a distinct set of peculiar mannerisms and idiosyncrasies that make the character a lot of fun to watch in his somewhat limited screen time.
2 RAY PARK
A Scottish martial artist and actor, Ray Park was picked for the role of Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace due to his impressive physical prowess and familiarity with hand-to-hand combat, though the few lines he had were dubbed over in the film’s final cut. While he isn’t the most prolific actor as it stands, the heavy make-up used in the role ensure that Park is even harder to recognise despite his prominent role in such a widely-known film.
In fact, it’s for this reason that many people may not realize that the same actor also plays Toad in the first X-Men movie, where he serves as the right-hand man to Ian McKellen’s Magneto. Once again though, green make-up, thick contact lenses and dyed hair obscure the actor’s true appearance, making him relatively hard to identify.
1 FELICITY JONES
Before landing her star-making role as Jyn Erso -- ringleader of a small sect of Rebel soldiers in Rogue One -- Felicity Jones made a brief appearance in another popular franchise with the hopes of becoming part of an extended universe. That franchise was Spider-Man, with Jones appearing in the poorly received The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Showing up as Felicia Hardy, a character with a complicated history with Spider-Man in the comics, the character was set up to return as criminal and cat burglar Black Cat in future instalments of the franchise. Acting sometimes as a villain, other times as a hero – and usually as a love interest for Spidey – the direction that Sony planned to take the character remains unclear. Given the critical and financial disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 though, Felicity Jones’ role in the franchise never came to fruition.