The upcoming release of Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange marks the 14th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since its inception eight years ago (not counting the several Marvel One-Shots and TV series on both ABC and Netflix). Ever since Jon Favreau’s Iron Man released in 2008, dozens, if not hundreds, of high-profile actors and actresses have appeared sporadically throughout the MCU — though we may not be fully aware of it. Sure, casual fans will remember actors like Tommy Lee Jones and John Slattery popping up in their respective films, but what about everyone else?
The thing is, with Marvel planning on releasing three movies a year beginning in 2017, their shared universe is about to get a lot more crowded, which means now is as good a time as any for a refresher. With that in mind, here are 15 Actors You Forgot Were In The Marvel Cinematic Universe.
15. Ty Burrell
Ty Burrell is known to most people as funnyman Phil Dunphy from ABC’s Modern Family, though before he made a big splash on the small screen, he starred in a number of blockbuster movies — including Black Hawk Down, Dawn of the Dead, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, and of course, The Incredible Hulk.
In Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, Burrell played psychiatrist Leonard Samson, based on the superhero Leonard Skivorski, Jr., AKA Doc Samson, from the comics. Burrell originally had a bigger role in the movie, but after the bulk of his scenes were left on the cutting room floor, his character was relegated to nothing more than being Betty Ross’ boyfriend before she runs off with her main squeeze, Bruce Banner.
You wouldn’t be faulted for not remembering Ty Burrell was part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for until the release of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War — in which William Hurt reprised his role as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross — Marvel seemingly refused to acknowledge the existence of The Incredible Hulk.
14. Josh Dallas
After starring in a handful of movies and TV shows, Josh Dallas took some time away from Hollywood and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. But when he returned to the U.S., he quickly signed on to star as Fandral in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor.
Fandral the Dashing was a charter member of the Warriors Three, a group of Asgardian warriors — consisting of Hogun, Volstagg, and of course, Fandral — who aid Thor in battle. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen actor Stuart Townsend was originally cast as Fandral but dropped the project mere days before filming commenced. He was ultimately replaced by Josh Dallas, though Marvel Studios reportedly wanted a bigger name replacement (more on that in a bit).
Interestingly, unlike all of the other actors on this list, Dallas’ role as Fandral was recast for the movie’s sequel, Thor: The Dark World. Since Dallas had previous commitments playing Prince Charming on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, Marvel replaced him with Chuck star Zachary Levi.
13. Neal McDonough
Neal McDonough is no stranger to geekdom, having starred in numerous nerd-tastic movies, TV shows, and video games, though his first big role in the superhero genre was playing Timothy Aloysius Cadwallader Dugan, AKA Dum Dum Dugan, in Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Characterized by his trademark bowler hat, Dum Dum Dugan was a member of Captain America’s Howling Commandos in the movie, a twist on Sgt. Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos from Marvel Comics.
Although he had a relatively substantial role in The First Avenger, and appeared briefly in both Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., McDonough is likely more recognizable for his role as Damien Darhk in The CW’s affectionately named Arrowverse. After all, he spent the majority of Arrow‘s fourth season as the big bad, and he is now appearing in a recurring arc on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow as a member of the Legion of Doom. That hefty mustache he sported while playing Dugan certainly doesn’t help his recognizability, either.
12. Alexis Denisof
In Hollywood, actors and directors frequently tend to collaborate with their friends. It’s probably a blast to be afforded the opportunity to make movie magic with your pals, and the familiarity aspect between such pairings — in this case, Alexis Denisof and Joss Whedon — often leads to some stellar results. Denisof famously played Wesley Wyndham-Pryce in the Whedon-created TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer as well as its spin-off series, Angel. So when it came time for Whedon to direct The Avengers, he hired his buddy Denisof.
Throughout the movie, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki comes in contact with an alien who works for Thanos, the Mad Titan, though we don’t discover just who that mysterious being is and who he speaks for until the movie’s post-credits scene. Alexis Denisof played that alien, known simply as the Other, not to be confused with the demonic Elder God Chthon, who also goes by the alias The Other.
It would be understandable if you didn’t even know that Wesley from the Buffyverse had appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After all, with the costume and makeup, we never actually see his face, and he does carry quite the accent as The Other.
11. David Bradley
David Bradley has had a prolific career in acting, appearing in numerous TV series and movies, including Game of Thrones, Hot Fuzz, and now, The Strain, a series in which he has a starring role. Bradley plays Professor Abraham Setrakian on The Strain, a Holocaust survivor who takes it upon himself to kill the Master and rid the world of Strigoi (or vampires). But, of all his roles, he’s probably best known for playing Hogwarts caretaker Argus Filch in Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter movies.
The same month the final Harry Potter movie released in theaters also featured the premiere of Captain America: The First Avenger, which also starred David Bradley. He appears at the beginning of the movie as the Tower Keeper, a sentry who is tasked by an unknown group to protect and defend the Tesseract, which was being kept in a secret compartment within a church in Norway. Unfortunately, he was killed shortly after a run-in with the Red Skull.
10. Olivia Munn
Much like Neal McDonough, Olivia Munn is no stranger to geeks; she was a host for the famed G4 network series Attack of the Show! — a series dedicated to covering the latest happenings in the video game industry — for a number of years before moving onto acting.
One of her first roles in Hollywood was a cameo appearance as Chess Roberts in Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2. Coincidentally, the character she played was an on-camera reporter covering the Stark Expo mere moments before Iron Man and War Machine had to take own Ivan Vanko’s armored drones. It was easy for her to improvise with the role, since it heavily resembled her previous work with G4.
On a side note, earlier this year, it was revealed that Munn had turned down the role of Vanessa in Tim Miller’s Deadpool in order to star as Psylocke in Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse. That makes her just one of the growing list of actors that have appeared in multiple superhero franchises, several of whom will be discussed in this article.
9. Zachary Levi
As previously mentioned, Zachary Levi — best known for his role as Chuck on the series of the same name and voicing Eugene “Flynn” Rider in Disney’s Tangled — replaced Josh Dallas as Fandral in Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World, since Dallas had previous commitments playing Prince Charming on Once Upon a Time. Interestingly enough, very few viewers (MCU fanatics notwithstanding) noticed the switch from Josh Dallas to Zachary Levi in the Thor sequel.
Levi wasn’t the first MCU actor to replace another performer in a movie’s sequel, of course. Don Cheadle and Mark Ruffalo infamously subbed in for Terrence Howard and Edward Norton as James Rhodes and Bruce Banner, respectively. Although filming on Thor: Ragnarok is almost finished, there is still no official word on whether or not Sif and the Warriors Three will appear in the movie. All we have thus far are nudges and teases, which aren’t much to go on when it comes to superhero movies.
8. Adam Pally
Adam Pally has appeared in a number of movies over the years, though he is most widely-recognized as Max Blum from ABC’s Happy Endings series as well as Dr. Peter Prentice on The Mindy Project. He’s also one of the many actors to have a small role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe on their resume — specifically, Iron Man 3.
About midway through the movie, Tony Stark finds himself stranded in rural Tennessee, with his Iron Man suit lacking ample power to return to California. So he enlisted the help of a 10-year-old boy, Harley, to investigate a local Extremis bombing, and when he needed to get a message out to Col. James Rhodes, he used Gary the cameraman’s van to do it.
That cameraman, played by Pally, is one of the universe’s biggest Tony Stark fans, which is why he has a tattoo of Stark’s face on his arm. Although we haven’t seen Pally return to the MCU yet, he did become a Civil War re-enactor with Veep star Tony Hale — to re-enact the events of Captain America: Civil War, that is.
7. Natalie Dormer
Natalie Dormer is a highly talented actress, one who’s recognizable for several different roles. For a while, she was best known for her award-winning role as Anne Boleyn on The Tudors, though she didn’t achieve global fame until after the series concluded in 2010. Dormer’s career truly took off when she was cast as Margaery Tyrell, the future Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, in Game of Thrones, as well as the Capitol’s and later District 13’s resident director Cressida in The Hunger Games series.
But before she starred in Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, Dormer popped up in Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s entirely understandable that many have forgotten that she starred in the movie, for she only appears in a rather brief scene. In the movie, Dormer plays U.S. Army Private Loraine, who attempts to seduce Steve Rogers not long after he undergoes the super-soldier transformation. While her actions most notably resulted in revealing a jealous Agent Peggy Carter’s feelings for Steve, she did manage to steal a quick kiss from the Star-Spangled Avenger along the way.
6. Lizzy Caplan
Shortly after the release of Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, Marvel Studios decided to produce what they called Marvel One-Shots — direct-to-video short films that help expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe and further develop backstories for both characters and organizations. The first two Marvel One-Shots pertained to Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. But the third short, Item 47, showcased what New York was like after the Chitauri invasion in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.
Lizzy Caplan played a civilians in the film, Claire Wise, who happens upon one of the Chitauri weapons (designated Item 47). She and her boyfriend used the weapon to rob banks throughout New York City, but are then apprehended by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell. Instead of killing them, Sitwell recruited them to join the covert organization. Interestingly, though, despite Item 47 being the inspiration for ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we have yet to see or hear from Caplan’s Wise again.
5. Titus Welliver
Another actor who appeared in the Marvel One-Shot Item 47 is Titus Welliver, who people may recognize for his starring role on the Amazon series, Bosch. The former Man in Black from ABC’s LOST, the 55 year old has also appeared in numerous guest-starring roles since in the early ’90s, and has been cast in every movie directed by Ben Affleck (though we don’t yet know if that means he’ll pop up in The Batman, too).
As we discussed in the previous entry, Item 47 features a couple that happened to come across a Chitauri weapon, which they used to rob banks until they caught the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. While Agent Sitwell is the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who captured and recruited them, it’s Agent Felix Blake, played by Titus Welliver, who tasked Sitwell with the assignment in the first place.
While the majority of Marvel One-Shot characters haven’t appeared again in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Welliver has appeared in a handful of episodes on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. With the agency being reintroduced to the world, perhaps we’ll be seeing more of Agent Blake in the future.
4. Leslie Bibb
Leslie Bibb is a unique choice for this list, for she is the only person on it to appear in multiple movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and is therefore the most likely one that you do actually remember. She originally appeared as Vanity Fair reporter Christine Everhart in the first Iron Man movie, a role she later reprised in Iron Man 2.
Everhart is based on the comic book character of the same name, though instead of working for a real-life magazine, in the comics, she works for The Daily Bugle, which people might recognize from pages of the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, as well as the Spider-Man movies. With Spider-Man now a part of the MCU, perhaps we’ll see Everhart make the switch back to The Daily Bugle.
After a few years, Marvel began a web-series in partnership with Google, WHIH Newsfront, as part of a viral marketing campaign to promote upcoming releases. Beginning with Ant-Man and continuing with Captain America: Civil War, Bibb’s Everhart reports on the latest happenings in the MCU.
3. Scoot McNairy
Scott McNairy has appeared in a number of high-profile movies over the past few years — namely Ben Affleck’s Argo and Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie in which his role as former Wayne Enterprises employee Wallace Keefe played a vital part in warping the world’s view of Superman.
But before he appeared in the DC Extended Universe, McNairy popped up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in the Marvel One-Shot, All Hail the King. In the short film, McNairy’s Jackson Norriss appeared as a member of the Ten Rings terrorist organization who was posing as a documentary filmmaker.
It’s unclear if McNairy’s character is the same Jackson Norris from the comics, whose name is spelled with one “s” instead of two. The character, who goes by the codename Nighthawk, worked alongside the original Nighthawk (after he switched from supervillain to superhero) and the Defenders, before becoming a S.H.I.E.L.D. file clerk. Given the events of All Hail the King, we’re going to guess that the two have nothing to do with each other.
2. Kate Mara
After the success of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, everyone’s attention turned to Iron Man 2 and the inevitable Avengers movie. With every new cast member, fans and reporters speculated on who would be playing whom. In regards to Kate Mara, the majority of people assumed she would be playing Tony Stark’s comic book girlfriend, Bethany Cabe.
Those rumors proved to be pretty far off the mark (as many whispers surrounding major comic book movies tend to be nowadays). Kate Mara did not play Stark’s girlfriend, though she did have a run-in with him outside the Stark Expo in the film’s opening act. Instead, she played an unnamed U.S. Marshal who subpoenaed Tony to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Seeing as Mara starred as Sue Storm, AKA the Invisible Woman, in Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot last year, we doubt we’ll be seeing her return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe anytime soon. However, her co-star Michael B. Jordan recently made the jump from Fantastic Four hero to Black Panther villain, so anything’s possible.
1. Gary Sinise
Everyone knows who Gary Sinise is, either for his role as Lieutenant Dan in Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump or as Detective Mac Taylor on CBS’s CSI: New York TV series. But did you know that he too appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Even the most devout fans may have missed this secret cameo, since he only provided his voice.
Sinise appears in Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a narrator at the Smithsonian Museum. When Steve Rogers covertly attends the Museum, Sinise’s voice can be briefly overheard. His role amounts to nothing more than a cameo, but it’s certainly a fun easter egg for those paying close attention.
However, could it be possible for us to see Gary Sinise in a more prominent role in the future? It’s unlikely, but it could happen. After all, look what Marvel did with Paul Bettany, transforming him from Tony Stark’s artificial intelligent J.A.R.V.I.S. to the superhero Vision.
What other notable actors popped up in MCU films only to be forgotten once the credits rolled? Let us know in the comments.