For actors, playing different characters is par for the course. It’s in the job description. Most of the time, audiences don’t give it a second thought. Ben Affleck can be both Daredevil and Batman. Of course, it can get a little out of hand at times - we get it, Tim Burton. You love Johnny Depp.
Then again, if an actor works, why not keep them around? Marvel studios loves to re-use actors. It's done all the time with background actors and stunt people.
There are justifications for extending the practice to more prominent characters. Sometimes the actor wasn’t all that famous the first time, and so they have a chance to reshape their legacy in the Marvel oeuvre. For instance, Michael B. Jordan’s performance as Erik Killmonger in Black Panther has completely eclipsed Johnny Storm in that tragic Fantastic Four remake.
Mind you, there’s a difference between movies based on Marvel charactersand titles that exist within the cohesive Marvel Cinematic Universe from Marvel Studios. Sticklers might complain that dual casing creates MCU canon contradictions. Fortunately, most fans don’t seem all that bothered. After all, suspension of disbelieve is a crucial part of enjoying any film or television show, and the comics have a long history of retcons.
Here are 20 Actors Who Played Multiple Marvel Characters.
20 Idris Elba
Fans most recently caught Idris Elba when he reprised his role of Heimdall in Thor: Ragnarok. But the same year he first donned that ostentatious Asgardian hat, Elba also appeared in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
Elba initially had reservations about portraying both Marvel characters. But he found a way to reconcile the perceived paradox. It was his idea to give Ghost Rider's Moreau red eyes that matched Heimdall’s.
Elba told Cinema Blend, “…it didn't make sense that I would play in another Marvel film as a different character completely. So, I said, how about this, we'll just make them related. And the other thing is that Moreau in the script is described as someone who can see into someone's soul. I didn't want to do acting like this [He makes some serious crazy eyes] so the eyes became the solution.”
19 Ray Stevenson
Ray Stevenson splashed onto the Marvel scene as the star of one of Marvel’s worst-reviewed films to date, Punisher: War Zone. Originally, Thomas Jane was set to reprise his role as the PTSD-driven vigilante, but despite numerous re-writes, Jane was never happy with the script and neither were the string of attached directors. Producers finally roped in the towering Brit Stevenson and a green Lexi Alexander to take the helm of the sinking ship.
Mercifully, Stevenson got another shot at cementing his Marvel legacy when he was cast him as the fun-loving Asgardian warrior Volstagg in the Thor series. The popular character wraps comic relief and action cred into one giant ginger package. The prolific breeder and his fellow Warriors Three always had Thor’s back in Asgardian battles.
18 Patton Oswalt
Patton Oswalt has gone full Tatiana Maslany on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as the quintuplet Koenig brothers. That wasn’t his first time working for Marvel, though. The comedian also had a small role in 2004’s Blade: Trinity, as Hannibal’s go-to weapons guy. While the nerdy Hedges doesn’t have much screen time, he does get to die at the hands of vampire royalty (Dracula). However, the job wasn’t a total waste of time because it gave Oswalt a collection of crazy stories about his eccentric co-star, Wesley Snipes.
On S.H.I.E.L.D., Oswalt gets to stretch his acting muscles as 4 brothers who are as different in personality as they are alike in appearance. The nice thing about playing quadruplets is that you still have a job even after the writers kill off one or two of your characters.
17 Alfre Woodard
Alfre Woodard is a powerhouse character actress who is more than capable of disappearing into a role. On the Netflix series, Luke Cage, Woodard even manages to upstage the Big Bad. She plays Mariah Dillard, an ambitious politician who takes Shakespearean vengeance on her crime boss cousin, Cottonmouth.
Woodard also has a small but pivotal role in Captain America: Civil War. Her character is Miriam Sharpe, the grieving mother of a boy who died in Age of Ultron’s climactic battle in Sokovia. She confronts Tony Stark to say that the Avengers are doing more harm than good and she blames them for her son’s death. Miriam’s speech convinces Stark to sign the Avengers over to the government via the Sokovia Accords.
16 Jon Favreau
If you haven’t managed to suppress your memory of Ben Affleck’s Daredevil, you may recall that Jon Favreau cut his teeth on superhero assistance as Foggy Nelson, Matt Murdock’s business partner.
Though the film bombed, Marvel saw fit to have Favreau helm their flagship MCU film, Iron Man. The Swingers auteur also had a cameo as Tony Stark’s chauffeur, Happy Hogan. Favreau also directed the sequel while Happy became Iron Man’s sparring partner. Without directing duties to bog him down for Iron Man 3, Happy was free to become the Head Chief of Security at Stark Industries.
Meanwhile, Elden Henson took over as Foggy Nelson for the Netflix produced series, Daredevil. Favreau will appear as Happy in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War as well as the untitled 2019 Avengers film.
15 Kate Mara
For Kate Mara’s Marvel debut, she played the comely U.S. Marshal who served Tony Stark a subpoena at the start of Iron Man 2. Clearly aware of her target’s weakness for the ladies, “Marshal” flirts with Stark to catch him off his guard before serving him with both a subpoena and a sweet burn
While Mara’s second foray into the world of Marvel was more substantial, it definitely wasn't as well-received as the underwhelming Iron Man 2. Mara played Sue Storm in the disastrous 2015 Fantastic Four reboot. Director Josh Trank blames the studio for the film’s failure. Others suggest that Trank tanked his own movie.
Perhaps Mara will be able to redeem herself in a future marvel role. On the plus side, she at least met her husband, Jamie Bell, on the Fantastic Four set, where he played The Thing.
14 Olivia Munn
You would have to be an Olivia Munn superfan to remember her first Marvel role. She appeared very briefly in Iron Man 2 as Chess Roberts. The television reporter with the name of a Bond girl is live on the scene at the Stark Expo and… that’s it.
Munn is much more notable for playing the latex-clad Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse. Psylocke is a chaotic neutral telekinetic mutant who can locate other mutants and manifest telekinetic weapons. She is also the second mutant that Apocalypse recruits for his team of Horseman.
Munn’s character is one of numerous divisive elements regarding the most recent X-Men installment. Nevertheless, Psylocke will play a role in Marvel’s upcoming Dark Phoenix Saga do-over.
13 Ben Foster
Before Ben Foster spread his wings as the conflicted mutant Warren Worthington III, he lived next door to the Punisher. Spacker Dave is one of Frank’s 3 misfit neighbors who befriend him and then risk their lives to protect him from the mob. Dave goes the extra mile by refusing to dime on Frank even when the goons rip out his face piercings.
Two years later, Foster managed to deliver a surprisingly sincere performance in the most infamous installment of the X-Men franchise. In X-Men: The Last Stand, Foster plays Angel, a tortured trust fund kid with daddy issues the size of his wingspan. Despite a lifetime of parental rejection for his avian mutation, Warren uses his powers to save the life of his bigoted patriarch.
12 Rebecca Romijn
Rebecca Romijn is best known for playing the self-actualized blue mutant, Mystique. But her first Marvel role was very different. In The Punisher Romijn plays Frank’s neighbor, Joan.
Joan is a shy recovering alcoholic who is hiding out from an abusive boyfriend. Frank tries to keep a low profile, but when Joan’s ex finds her, the Punisher can’t help but intervene. Joan repays Frank’s kindness by nursing his wounds and helping him hide from the mob.
Conversely, Romijn spends much of the first 2 X-Men films using her shape-shifting powers to infiltrate top secret government labs and attend important political meetings.
The manner in which they retire Romijn in The Last Stand is way harsh. When Raven takes a mutant cure bullet for Magneto, her longtime BFF tells her that she’s lost both her looks and her usefulness in the revolution.
11 Vincent D’Onofrio
Vincent D’Onofrio has a long history of playing memorable villains. He is easily one of the best things about the adaptation of Marvel's Men in Black. D’Onofrio plays Edgar, a cranky alien cockroach who traverses Earth inside the ill-fitting and slowly decomposing skin of an abusive farmer. D’Onofrio inspiring performance manages to be gross, disturbing, and hilarious all at once.
D’Onofrio also shines as Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin on the critically-acclaimed Netflix series Daredevil. The talented thespian injects an astounding amount of nuance into a character that is pretty one-dimensional in the comics.
After spending much of season 2 in his own version of Orange is the New Black, Daredevil will catch up with Kingpin in season 3.
10 Ken Leung
Ken Leung didn’t have a whole lot to do the first time he played a Marvel mutant. In Brett Ratner’s disastrous X-Men: The Last Stand, Quill is a member of the Brotherhood of Mutants. He’s best known for giving painful hugs and throwing shade at Magneto about the cape.
Leung got another go when he joined the MCU for the ABC series, Inhumans. Originally conceived as a feature film, Inhumans follows the trials and tribulations of mutant royalty. Leung’s character, Karnak, is the Attilan king’s trusted advisor thanks to his ability to “see the fault in all things”. Karnak and Quill are alike only in their proclivity for face tattoos. After being ravaged by critics and ignored by audiences, ABC seems to have closed the book on Inhumans after one season.
9 Ryan Reynolds
If Ryan Reynolds ever runs into Patton Oswalt, they can reminisce about those wacky days spent filming Blade: Trinity with Wesley Snipes. As the vampire hunter Hannibal King, Reynolds also got plenty of practice dispensing superhero snark.
Of course, these days Reynolds is better known as Deadpool, the wisecracking disfigured mutant with accelerated healing powers. Fans took issue with Deadpool’s first appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. When Logan encounters his old buddy Wade in William Stryker’s lab at Alkali Lake, the freshly revived Deadpool has his mouth sewn closed. To add insult to injury, the Merc with the Mouth appears to be under Stryker’s mind control.
Fortunately, the next time fans met Wade Wilson, he was the star of his own movie and no one could shut him up. Reynolds will return in Deadpool 2 later this year.
8 Sam Elliott
They might not be the pinnacle of his long career, but legendary actor Sam Elliott has played two Marvel characters on screen.
Elliott admits he initially signed on to play Thunderbolt Ross in Hulk because he was eager to work with director Ang Lee. Ross is a US General who worked with Bruce Banner’s father. He also happens to be the disapproving daddy of Bruce’s main squeeze, Betty.
Later, Elliott killed it in Ghost Rider as the original rider, Carter Slade. After Slade dares to defy Mephistopheles, he spends 150 years disguised as The Caretaker in order to hide from the Devil. Slade agrees to ride out one last time in order to help the new Ghost Rider defeat Blackheart. This role is especially meta because, in the comics, the Caretaker was inspired by Sam Elliott.
7 Ray Wise
To Twin Peaks fans, Ray Wise will always be Leland Palmer. To everyone else, he’s “that guy” – a distinctive character actor who frequently plays affluent and powerful creeps. Wise first joined the Marvel family when Matthew Vaughn squandered his talents as the nondescript Secretary of State in X-Men: First Class.
Fans of the short-lived ABC series Agent Carter will also recognize him as Hugh Jones. For two seasons, Wise got to stretch his acting muscles as the slimy CEO of Roxxon Oil Corp who also sits on the Council of Nine. In addition to the nefarious deeds he carries out with the council, he also steals Howard Stark’s wife. The affair leads to a bitter rivalry between the two figureheads.
6 Tony Curran
Tony Curran had the privilege of dying in both Asgard and Hell’s Kitchen. In 2013, the ginger character actor appeared in Thor: The Dark World flashbacks as Thor’s Grandpappy Bol. Three years later, Curran’s gangster Finn Cooley was a baddie of the week in season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil. Unfortunately, Cooley doesn’t make it out of the episode alive.
Curran’s Marvel resume doesn’t end there. The Scottish actor is a vampire priest in Blade 2. He also pops up in 2011’s X-Men: First Class as a Division X agent. Sadly, he is on screen only long enough to die at the hands of Sebastian Shaw. Curran is building a career as Marvel’s go-to when they require nuance from their expendable characters.
5 Tim Blake Nelson
Tim Blake Nelson is another great character actor who can breathe life into small but pivotal roles in mediocre genre films. In 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, he played a scientist named Samuel Sterns. Sterns tries to help Bruce Banner tame the emerald beast within, only to wind up contracting his own gamma ray-based infliction.
Six years on, the O Brother, Where Art Thou star joined the doomed Fantastic Four reboot as Dr. Harvey Allen. Dr. Allen is the scientist who unwittingly creates the four heroes as well as their arch-nemesis, Victor Von Doom. Dr. Allen eventually succumbs to Dr. Doom’s newly-acquired head-exploding powers. That means Nelson is free to step in the next time Marvel needs a hapless scientist to catalyze their plot!
4 Kenneth Choi
This is one of those rare times when Marvel may have actually thought through their actor upcycling. In Captain America: The First Avenger, Kenneth Choi played the endearing Howling Commando Jim Morita. Choi’s Captain America character also pops up a couple of times in flashbacks on Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.
Astute Marvel fans noticed that Principal Morita in Spiderman: Homecoming bears a striking resemblance to Captain America’s old Army buddy. It’s no coincidence that the characters share a surname and a face. As confirmation of their connection, Principal Morita has an old photograph of Grandpa Jim in his office.
We don’t know whether or not this connection was planned all along or if the production was just trying to cover up as casting snafu. Either way, it’s pretty neat.
3 Chris Evans
O Captain, our Captain! Since 2011, Chris Evans has been synonymous with Steven Rogers, aka Captain America. It’s as difficult to disassociate Evans from Cap as it is to imagine anyone else wielding that patriotic Vibranium shield. Six years before he became Steve Rogers, he blazed up the silver screen as The Human Torch in 2005’s Fantastic Four. The film was successful enough to spawn a sequel, so Evans played Johnny Storm once more in Rise of the Silver Surfer.
His enigmatic performance in an otherwise unremarkable film was apparently enough to convince Marvel that Evans was up to the task of becoming The First Avenger. Later this year, Evans will play Captain America for the eighth time in Avengers: Infinity War. He’s also slated to appear in the as-yet untitled 2019 Avengers movie.
2 Michael B. Jordan
As the intricate and enigmatic villain of Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan is having a moment. From here on out, this phenomenal talent ought to have his pick of roles in genre films and otherwise. You might have already been aware of him from his great performances in Friday Night Lights, Fruitvale Station, and Creed. Less fortunate filmgoers will recall that in 2015 he took the Torch from Chris Evans.
Yes, sadly Jordan is another gifted actor who fell into the stinky bog known as the Fantastic Four reboot. Fortunately, his work in Black Panther (and elsewhere) earns him a massive pass. His character’s fate in Wakanda also frees him up to headline his very own Marvel movie. With that much talent, we doubt fans will mind his resemblance to Erik Killmonger.
1 Josh Brolin
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige is entirely unapologetic about actor Josh Brolin playing 2 different Marvel villains in their upcoming films. Feige told The Hollywood Reporter, “We don’t have anything written into our contracts about other roles that people can do… Indiana Jones and Han Solo are the same person… it hasn’t been a problem. And I think Thanos and Cable are two very different characters.”
For years, the MCU has teased Thanos as the Big Bad, finally cementing Brolin in the role in the post-credits scene of Age of Ultron. Responding to the internet uproar, Ryan Reynolds was very much on-brand when he sarcastically tweeted, “"The f***, Fox! You can't play 2 characters in the same universe!! Josh Brolin was in Sicario and I was in Sabrina The Teenage Witch!"
Do you know of any other actors who played multiple roles in Marvel titles? Let us know in the comments!