The Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought together a wide array of talented actors. Some of them-- like Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and Paul Rudd-- were already A-list stars when they signed on to play beloved comic book heroes. Others-- such as Chris Hemsworth, Chadwick Boseman, and Tom Hiddleston-- saw their careers skyrocket as a result of their participation. What's particularly impressive is how much care Marvel Studios has put into selecting just the right performers for each role. You'd have a hard time finding a single case of egregious miscasting.
2019 is set to be another banner year for the company. There are three major movies set for release. Captain Marvel will hit screens on March 8, followed by the eagerly-awaited Avengers: Endgame on April 26 and Spider-Man: Far From Home on July 5. Some new faces will coming to the MCU with these releases. At the same time, a few familiar friends will lkely be bidding us farewell. We were prepped for this by the rough ending of Avengers: Infinity War.
If you want to know which side of the equation some of your favorite MCU stars will come down on, keep reading. We'll tell you who's joining the franchise and why their addition is noteworthy. We also have some educated guesses as to who might be hanging up their superhero costumes permanently. Although such parting is bittersweet, the nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is to evolve, and in 2019, it will evolve in a big, big way.
Here are 11 Actors Joining The MCU In 2019 (And 9 Who Are Probably Leaving).
20 Joining: Brie Larson
Brie Larson is already an Academy Award winner, thanks to her powerful work in 2015's Room. She's also a box office star, as evidenced by the success of Kong: Skull Island. In 2019, she can add "superhero" to her list of accomplishments. Larson will play Carol Danvers in the much-anticipated Captain Marvel, which opens on March 8.
Her casting makes complete sense. She's mega-talented, has a natural likability, and is known off-screen for being a compassionate person who is involved in charities and supports humanitarian causes that make the world a better place. These qualities are true of many of Marvel's biggest stars. Given her high profile, it's probably safe to say that Larson will be a member of the MCU for years to come.
19 Probably Leaving: Dave Bautista
Dave Bautista gave a star-making performance as Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy films, as well as Avengers: Infinity War. The former professional wrestler proved his worth as an action star. More than that, though, he displayed an ace sense of comic timing that allowed Drax to steal scenes from every other Guardian.
By his own admission, Bautista would love to continue playing the character. However, he has publicly stated that he won't reprise the role for any future Guardians of the Galaxy sequels unless Disney re-hires James Gunn, who was fired after a controversy involving some old Tweets. Disney has refused to bring Gunn back into the fold, and the director has reportedly moved on to other projects. Therefore, Bautista is very possibly done with the MCU after Endgame.
18 Joining: Gemma Chan
Gemma Chan is definitely having a career "moment." A breakthrough role in last year's smash hit Crazy Rich Asians raised her profile significantly, as did a supporting part in the star-studded Mary Queen of Scots. Now she becomes an official MCU player as Minn-Erva in Captain Marvel.
The character, also known as Doctor Minerva, is a geneticist. She's one of the Kree, a technologically-advanced race hailing from the planet Hala. As you may already know, Ronan the Accuser, who was the villain in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, is a member of the Kree, too. Minn-Erva has a fairly extensive history in Marvel comics, so there are plenty of potential MCU plot threads Chan can be part of, both in Captain Marvel and beyond. Her star is clearly going to continue rising.
17 Probably Leaving: Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo is the third actor to portray Hulk in modern superhero movies. Original Hulk Eric Bana didn't really work out, and first replacement Edward Norton didn't either. It wasn't until Ruffalo took over the role that the mix of actor and character truly clicked.
Unfortunately, his days in the part would seem to be coming to an end. Ruffalo told Collider in 2012 that he signed a six-picture deal with Marvel Studios. His first was The Avengers. Then came a brief cameo in Iron Man 3's post-credits scene, followed by Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: Ragnarok, and Avengers: Infinity War. The upcoming Avengers: Endgame would be his sixth contractual commitment. Unless he signs an extension, don't count on seeing Ruffalo in any future MCU productions.
16 Joining: Jude Law
For a while, we knew that Jude Law was joining the MCU in Captain Marvel, but we didn't know who, exactly, he was playing. There were rumors that he would be portraying Mar-Vell, the "Protector of the Universe" who comes to Earth and assumes the identity of Dr. Walter Lawson. Another theory had him cast as Captain Marvel's noted foe Yon-Rogg. Law was coy in interviews, refusing to confirm or deny any speculation.
Thanks to the official movie website, we now know that the first guess is correct, and the actor will be playing Mar-Vell. This character has been a significant part of Captain Marvel comics, and Marvel in general. Law is a versatile performer, so whichever direction the MCU takes Mar-Vell, he'll be up to the task.
15 Probably Leaving: Don Cheadle
Terrence Howard originated the role of James Rhodes, also known as War Machine, in Iron Man. He didn't return for the sequels, alleging that Marvel Studios took money earmarked for his salary and gave it to Robert Downey, Jr. instead. Don Cheadle was brought in as a replacement for all future films in which the character appeared.
The general consensus is that Iron Man's days in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are numbered. Marvel Studios honcho Kevin Feige has repeatedly said in interviews that a new crop of characters will be moving to the forefront, while the originals will be retired. If it's true that Tony Stark won't be around much longer, it's doubtful that there will be much for Rhodes to do. Cheadle will also be busy with his new TV series, Black Monday.
14 Joining: Remi Hii
Here's an intriguing little mystery. We know for a fact that Crazy Rich Asians cast member Remy Hii has joined the cast of Spider-Man: Far From Home. What we don't know is who he will be playing. There's been a veil of secrecy around his participation, which could very well mean a character of some importance.
Sony and Marvel Studios previously sent out a casting call for an actor between the ages of 18 and 24 who had "leading man qualities." Based on that, speculation began that Far From Home might include Harry Osborn. Could Hii be in the early stages of becoming the eventual Green Goblin? We'll find out when the latest Spidey adventure hits cinemas in July.
13 Probably Leaving: Jeremy Renner
The first sign that Jeremy Renner might be leaving the MCU was when he didn't appear in the trailer or on the poster for Avengers: Infinity War. Some speculated that Hawkeye might have a special purpose in the movie that simply wasn't being spoiled in the marketing materials, but he never popped up.
We do know that Renner will reprise the role for Avengers: Endgame. Beyond that, the future doesn't look so bright for Hawkeye. Although Renner has expressed a desire to have a solo Hawkeye movie, he also suggested that he was fast approaching the point where he'd be too old to play the character. "I don't want to be in my 50s in tights," he told the South China Morning Post.
12 Joining: Ben Mendelsohn
Ben Mendelsohn is a terrific screen bad guy, able to project menace without going over the top. His intensity is very focused. Anyone who has seen Ready Player One or Rogue One: A Star Wars STory knows just what he's capable of. In 2019, Mendelsohn will become Talos, the Marvel Cinematic Universe's newest villain, in Captain Marvel.
The movie's plot reportedly focuses on the Kree-Skrull war, which our lovely planet finds itself in the middle of. Nicknamed "Talos the Untamed" in the comics, the character is a Skrull warrior who, unlike his brethren, lacks the ability to shapeshift. To compensate, he transformed into a take-no-prisoners fighter. If the cinematic Talos is faithful to the one on the page, he'll be one of the MCU's best baddies yet.
11 Probably Leaving: Samuel L. Jackson
It was a major deal when Samuel L. Jackson showed up as Nick Fury in the post-credits scene of Iron Man. No one knew there was going to be a Marvel Cinematic Universe until he arrived to recruit Tony Stark into the Avengers. Since that time, he's been a consistent presence.
Jackson's original contract was for nine movies. He'll hit that with Captain Marvel and go over it with Spider-Man: Far From Home. The actor has openly stated that he'd be happy to play Nick Fury for another decade. Marvel boss Kevin Feige seems to have other ideas. He says that Captain Marvel will take the lead of the MCU following her film's release in March. Only time will tell if Jackson is departing after Spider-Man: Far From Home, but on the surface, it definitely seems as though the stage is being set.
10 Joining: Mckenna Grace
Twelve-year-old Mckenna Grace will come into the MCU as the young Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel, but she has a previously established connection to it. The actress starred opposite Captain America himself, Chris Evans, in the 2017 drama Gifted. She played his daughter, a child prodigy who gets caught up in a custody battle. The film established that she possessed a lot of talent at a tender age.
Presumably, Grace will be used in flashback sequences showing Carol's upbringing. However much screen time the childhood Carol gets, this is not the first time Grace has portrayed the younger version of someone. She was also the young Tonya Harding in last year's Margot Robbie-starring biopic I, Tonya, and the young Theo in The Haunting of Hill House.
9 Probably Leaving: Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow was there at the very beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She played Pepper Potts, Tony Stark's right-hand woman and eventual love interest, in all three Iron Man adventures. Given that she's an Oscar-winning actress, it's slightly unexpected that she would take on a supporting role, especially since she doesn't get to play a superhero. Then again, she imbues Pepper with so much humanity that she makes an impression despite portraying an ordinary person.
Paltrow has been acting far less frequently in the past decade. Part of that is because she's a devoted mother. She is also spending a lot more time focusing on Goop, the "lifestyle brand" that she launched in 2008. With Goop continuing to thrive, Paltrow will undoubtedly channel the bulk of her creative energy into that.
8 Joining: Lashana Lynch
Lashana Lynch nearly didn't get to be part of the MCU. The role of Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel was initially to be filled by She's Gotta Have It star Wanda DeWise. A scheduling conflict on the second season of that Netflix series caused DeWise to drop out. Lynch, whose ABC drama Star-Crossed had recently been canceled, was chosen as the replacement.
How integral Maria will be is unknown at this point. That said, she is the mother of Monica Rambeau, who becomes the first female Captain Marvel in the comics. With the film adaptation featuring Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel, that story arc seemingly won't be possible. Marvel is good at tweaking its tales for the screen, so we could see Maria's history slightly altered for this movie or some future MCU adventure.
7 Probably Leaving: Chris Hemsworth
Chris Hemsworth has had an impressive run as Thor. The role made him a star, while also setting him up to appear in other non-MCU franchises like the Ghostbusters reboot and the upcoming Men in Black: International. He's been so consistently good in the part that it's virtually impossible to imagine anyone else ever playing it.
All good things must come to an end, and this appears to be one of them. Hemsworth told USA Today that his contract with Marvel is up after Avengers: Endgame. "Contractually, right now — yeah, this is it. I’m done. I won’t be playing the character again," he said. If there's a ray of hope, it's that the actor also expressed a willingness to extend his contract, should a great Thor script come about.
6 Joining: Algenis Perez Soto
You probably don't know the name Algenis Perez Soto, but you most definitely will. This relative newcomer had his first screen role in the 2008 baseball drama Sugar, which was directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. They're the team behind Captain Marvel, and they gave Soto a supporting role as Att-Lass.
For those uninitiated, Att-Lass in the comics is a highly-decorated Kree warrior. He additionally has professional ties to his fellow Kree, Minn-Erva. In a rather interesting twist, Att-Lass eventually switched sides, faking his own demise and reinventing himself as the villainous Titanium Man. Whether any of this will be included in Captain Marvel remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Soto is an actor to watch.
5 Probably Leaving: Chris Evans
In October 2018, Chris Evans used his Twitter account to confirm what many people suspected -- that he would depart the MCU after his contract expired following completion of Avengers: Endgame. "Playing this role over the last 8 years has been an honor," he wrote. "To everyone in front of the camera, behind the camera, and in the audience, thank you for the memories!"
We already know Endgame will mark the start of a new direction for the MCU, so the actor's departure makes sense. Interestingly, co-director Joe Russo teased that Evans is "not done yet" in the role. While it's true that a contract extension could be a possibility, it's equally likely that Russo is purposefully misleading fans to preserve the surprise of a Captain America exit.
4 Joining: Annette Bening
One of the most impressive things about the MCU is the caliber of talent it has been able to attract. For definitive proof, look no further than Annette Bening, who will star as Carol Danvers' mother in Captain Marvel. Bening has received four Oscar nominations for her work in the films The Kids Are Alright, Being Julia, American Beauty, and The Grifters. She is widely considered one of our greatest living actresses.
The casting of such a powerhouse performer implies that Carol's family life will comprise a key part of the story. Bening certainly wouldn't have signed on if this was just a generic "mom role." The thought of Bening and Brie Larson sharing scenes makes Captain Marvel seem even more exciting.
3 Joining: Rune Temte
Rune Temte is an intimidating-looking man. The actor, who hails from Norway, spent years playing professional football in his homeland. He also played bandy, a sport similar to hockey. His intense physicality doubtlessly served him well in those rough-and-tumble sports. His real love was acting, though, and he has perhaps not surprisingly specialized in playing villains.
Temte will make his MCU debut as Bron-Char in Captain Marvel, and this time he'll be a good guy. Bron-Char is a member of Starforce alongside Carol Danvers herself. If you want to know how powerful the character is, consider the fact that, in the comics, he once destroyed a replica of Captain America's shield. Temte looks like just the right guy to embody him.
2 Probably Leaving: Robert Downey, Jr.
We all knew this was coming sooner or later. Robert Downey, Jr. kicked off the MCU with his stellar turn as Tony Stark in Iron Man. Had that movie flopped, it's questionable whether we would have gotten this franchise as we know it. Downey has been the linchpin from day one. The actor is getting older -- he's 53 now. Since Iron Man was stabbed in the stomach during Infinity War, a permanent demise seems imminent.
Downey gave perhaps the key hint that he's walking away, telling an interviewer that he wants to "hang up my jersey before it's embarrassing." With the certainty that Avengers: Endgame will be sending a few major characters into the Great Beyond, this seems like his moment to step away.
1 Joining: Jake Gyllenhaal
It's always exciting when a major star plays a well-known villain in a superhero movie. Seeing how they conceptualize the character and bring it to life provides an extra layer of enjoyment. For this reason, every MCU fan should be stoked to see what happens when Jake Gyllenhaal becomes Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
The casting is ironic, given that Gyllenhaal was once in contention to play Spidey himself, during the Sam Raimi years. That didn't pan out, so he's playing one of the web-slinger's most notorious enemies instead. Because he's such a dynamic actor, there's an almost absolute certainty that Gyllenhaal will do something extraordinary. Seeing him tackle a larger-than-life villain should be one of the highlights of the summer.
Which of the MCU's actors are you most sad to see go? Which of the newcomers are you most excited about? Tell us in the comments.