Back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, actors got cast in movies and, based on their performances in those movies or well the movies performed at the box office, they got cast in more movies. If they became popular enough, they made it into the strata of superstardom. But times are changing. Now, intellectual properties are the real stars. Iron Man and Captain America are the real stars of the Avengers movies, not Robert Downey, Jr. or Chris Evans. The quickest way to become a movie star today is to land a role in a big franchise. For example, here are 8 Actors Whose Careers Were Completely Changed By The MCU.
8 Sebastian Stan
Before playing Bucky Barnes in Captain America: The First Avenger, Sebastian Stan was known – if he was known at all – for minor roles in projects like Gossip Girl and Hot Tub Time Machine. The First Avenger didn’t make him a huge star, but when he returned as a brainwashed assassin with a metal arm in the present day in its sequel The Winter Soldier, moviegoers’ interest was piqued. After seeing Stan balance the conflicted mentality of Bucky as he combats his own brainwashing and tries to become a hero again, producers started casting him in substantial roles in Oscar-baiting dramas like I, Tonya, The Martian, Logan Lucky, and the Nicole Kidman cop thriller Destroyer.
7 Anthony Mackie
Before playing the Falcon in the MCU, Anthony Mackie was recognizable from supporting roles in Oscar-winning movies like 8 Mile, Million Dollar Baby, and The Hurt Locker. But he wasn’t necessarily a star until he joined the Avengers. Now, he’s had a bunch of opportunities to show his range as an actor. He’s appeared in comedies like Seth Rogen’s R-rated Christmas romp The Night Before, action thrillers like Triple 9, and socially conscious dramas like Detroit and The Hate U Give. Plus, he’ll be taking the lead role from Joel Kinnaman in the second season of Netflix’s cyberpunk science fiction series Altered Carbon.
6 Dave Bautista
It’s tough to make the jump from professional wrestler to Hollywood star. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a former wrestler who is now the biggest movie star in the world, is the exception that proves the rule. They either go into B-action movies, like Stone Cold Steve Austin, or mock their formidable physique with comedic roles, like John Cena.
But Dave Bautista is following in the footsteps of The Rock and becoming an actual bona fide movie star, thanks to his role as Drax the Destroyer in the MCU. After Guardians of the Galaxy made him a favorite among blockbuster moviegoers, Bautista took roles in blockbusters like Spectre and Blade Runner 2049, as well as a starring role in the upcoming action comedy Stuber alongside comedian Kumail Nanjiani.
5 Tom Hiddleston
Tom Hiddleston was a little-known Shakespearean thespian before Kenneth Branagh cast him as the trickster god Loki in 2011’s Thor. He quickly became a popular character among both Marvel fans and regular moviegoers, which led to his role in the wider franchise being expanded significantly, including being the villain in the first Avengers movie. Now, Hiddleston is a huge star, which means that he’s getting high-profile projects like Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak and AMC’s spy thriller miniseries The Night Manager, and also that passive viewers have taken notice of his more highbrow performances in Shakespeare. He’s even tipped to take the role of James Bond from Daniel Craig.
4 Paul Rudd
A few years ago, Paul Rudd was known solely for starring in “bromantic comedies” with co-stars like Jason Segel and Seann William Scott. In fact, he became the poster boy for that whole subgenre. But when he took on the role of Ant-Man in the MCU, the kind of movies he was doing started to change. It’s weird, because the Ant-Man movies aren’t overly serious – they’re among the wackiest and most comedically toned movies in the MCU. Still, producers have started casting Rudd in a more serious light with dramatic roles in films like The Catcher Was a Spy and Mute.
3 Cobie Smulders
Most actors on successful TV shows struggle to shake the image of that character after the show goes off the air. But when Joss Whedon cast Cobie Smulders as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill, the closest confidante of Nick Fury, he ensured she’d continue to get film work after How I Met Your Mother ended.
We no longer see Robin Scherbatsky popping up in various movies; we see Cobie Smulders escaping the trappings of the sitcom and taking action roles in movies like Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. As the Infinity War post-credits scene and Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer show, Smulders still has a bright future in the MCU, too.
2 Robert Downey, Jr.
As a young man, Robert Downey, Jr. was a big movie star, but not as big as he is today. His drug addiction and public controversies led to a stint in rehab and what was thought to be the end of his career. But then Marvel took a chance on him with 2008’s Iron Man, betting on a comeback, and he was back in the Hollywood fold. The moviegoing public welcomed Downey back with open arms and he enjoyed the mother of all comebacks. Now, he can command $50 million paychecks for a single film and he’s fronting other franchises like Sherlock Holmes and the upcoming Dr. Dolittle reboot.
1 Chris Pratt
Before James Gunn took a chance on Chris Pratt by casting him as Peter Quill/Star-Lord in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, he was only known for playing the idiotic, yet well-meaning schlub Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation. No one thought he could play an action hero. But then he dropped the Andy weight, packed on a bunch of muscle, and embodied a cross between Han Solo and Indiana Jones to become an overnight sensation. Now, he’s one of the biggest movie stars in the world with leading roles in other huge franchises like Jurassic World and The LEGO Movie(s).