[Update: Due to Popular Demand, Edits Were Made to this list.]
In modern Hollywood, playing a superhero can make you super rich. Where multi-year studio contracts were once an actor’s dream, thespians wearing capes today are all but guaranteed to be wealthy tomorrow. Robert Downey Jr. embodied the financial potential for actors in the Marvel Comic Universe, making $75 million for Iron Man 3 alone. What about the smaller players in the MCU? Many of them have fared quite well since playing in Stan Lee’s sandbox.
Here’s our list of 10 Actors Who Got Big Career Boosts after Marvel Movies.
9 Dave Bautista
The ex-WWE wrestler has been accustomed to showbiz success for some time, but he really hit his stride after playing “Drax” in Guardians of the Galaxy. The taciturn yet funny green behemoth proved to be a fan-favorite that has since launched him into the prestigious world of James Bond. He’ll next be seen in November as the villainous “Mr. Hinx” in Sam Mendes’ second 007 mission, Spectre. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 coming up and a bevy of fight-scenes opposite Daniel Craig, Dave Bautista is undoubtedly enjoying the fiscal fruits of his MCU debut.
8 Karen Gillan
Despite being doused in blue and purple paint, Karen Gillan’s performance as “Nebula”in Guardians of the Galaxy launched her career into orbit. Across the pond, Gillan was already firmly set in Doctor Who legend, but state side, she has since starred in the short-lived Pygmalion-lite series, Selfie, as well as the acclaimed horror film, Oculus. While she has yet to strike gold on the level of her star turn in James Gunn’s smash-hit, her forthcoming role in Jenji Kohan’s mini-series The Devil You Know could add several zeros to her financial assets, and Nebula is still set for future MCU appearances - which (if comic book history is any indication) could include a pivotal role in Avengers: Infinity War.
7 Kate Mara
Kate’s sister Rooney has gotten some Oscar love, but the older of the two Maras has made bank. Playing the “US Marshall” in Iron Man 2 may not sound compelling, but in the five years since she teased Tony Stark, Kate Mara has worked with Danny Boyle, starred as the memorable Zoe Barnes on House of Cards, worked with several film directors, including Ridley Scott on The Martian, and will be seen as “Sue Storm” in Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot. Working for the US government often equals tenure. Kate Mara, by playing an agent of the state in the MCU, has done the same in Hollywood.
6 7. Idris Elba
“John Luther” is one of the most interesting detectives on television. Idris Elba christened BBC’s Luther character in 2010, on the eve of his icy turn as “Heimdall” in Thor. Elba’s signature blend of strength and vulnerability has since catapulted him from the MCU into Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim - and even into awards season contention as the eponymous leader in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Elba is joining the Enterprise in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond and is also venturing into Pixar’s waters for Finding Dory. Jon Favreau also took a liking to Elba’s vocal prowess, as he’ll be on the prowl in The Jungle Book as “Shere Khan.” Elba also had a cameo this summer in Avengers: Age of Ultron, as if to remind audiences that he has an extended lease on silver screens for the foreseeable future.
Ask ten struggling actors in Hollywood what they hope to achieve and at least eight will tell you: “I want to get a television pilot.” By that definition, Jaimie Alexander has succeeded. Like Elba, Alexander dawned the Asgardian armor in Thor and used it as a defense mechanism to work her way up the Hollywood ladder. She has guest starred on a slew of popular TV shows (including Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), the sequel film Thor: The Dark World, and is now capitalizing on her MCU exposure by headlining the NBC drama series, Blindspot. The compensation on a primetime cable show is rewarding, but the opportunity for Alexander to shoulder the show is even better. If she can channel the warrior spirit in “Sif” on Blindspot, she’ll undoubtedly make some noise.
5 Dominic Cooper
Birds of a feather flock together, and Dominic Cooper has taken flight alongside Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci and others. Playing a young Howard Stark in Captain America, Cooper drew attention to his impressive filmography pre-MCU. His sense of decorum and retro sensibilities emboldened his presence in Captain America and landed him a recurring role on Agent Carter. Outside of the Marvel madness, Cooper has starred in big genre films like Dracula Untold, headlined the miniseries Fleming (literary father of James Bond), nabbed a key role in the upcoming Warcraft movie, and jumped to the top of the AMC programming lineup with the lead role in the highly-anticipated comic book adaptation, Preacher. Dominic Cooper is undoubtedly keeping his accountants very busy.
4 Hayley Atwell
Chris Evans may have been the titular character in Captain America: The First Avenger, but that adjective also applied to the handsome Hayley Atwell. Since her introduction as the feisty “Peggy Carter,” Ms. Atwell has been put to work by the Marvel execs almost as much as Downey himself. With quick turns in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, Atwell has also been green-lit for a second season on her ABC solo-series, Agent Carter. Because Carter isn’t a superhero, she has given Atwell the chance to portray a grounded, yet extraordinarily capable woman. This has given her more opportunities in the independent film world, including a role in Kenneth Branagh’s well-regarded 2015 Cinderella remake.
3 Tom Hiddleston
UK viewers may have already recognized Tom Hiddleston from a variety of TV roles across the pond (Wallander), but stateside, he was a virtual unknown. That all changed when Hiddleston won the role of trickster god, Loki, in Marvel's big-budget adaptation of Thor. So good was Hiddleston in the role, that Marvel Studios changed their original plan and made HIM the centerpiece of their first Avengers movie. Since then Hiddleston has become a mainstay of the MCU, appearing in Thor 2 and slated to likely return in Thor 3 and Avenger: Infinity War. Given the mortality rate of Marvel movie villains, that's a record in and of itself; but in the meanwhile, Hiddleston has used his MCU clout to nab roles in awards-worthy films (Midnight in Paris), big-budget blockbusters (Crimson Peak, Skull Island), and is even continuing his TV work in 2016 with The Night Manager. Oh, and in case we forget, he's also become one of the leading geek girl heartthrobs, with the fan pages to prove it. Not too shabby for a bad boy.
2 Chris Hemsworth
Chris Hemsworth has parlayed his fan-favorite turn as Thor into an increasingly impressive career. Having starred as “The Huntsman” in Snow White and the Huntsman, Formula One racer James Hunt Ron Howard’s Rush and In the Heart of the Sea, Hemsworth continues to expand his filmography with roles in Michael Mann's Blackhat, the National Lampoon reboot of Vacation, and Paul Feig’s renewal of Ghostbusters, Hemsworth has made a fortune in a variety of franchises and genres. His performance in Snow White and the Huntsman proved so effective that his character received a standalone film in the same universe. He will continue to be a key Avenger in the MCU, but as his credits continue to stockpile, Marvel will have to offer increasingly attractive incentives to keep Thor in their superhero stable after Thor: Ragnarok.
1 Chris Pratt
In one of the most fascinating and exciting careers in recent memory, Chris Pratt has become a bankable Hollywood star of the old order. Marvel may not have put been him on the map as much as his Parks and Recreation character “Andy Dwyer,” but his turn as “Peter Quill” in Guardians of the Galaxy ensured he would stay at the top. Now that more people respectfully recognize him as Star Lord, Pratt has captained the most profitable movie of 2015 in Jurassic World, laying the groundwork for his teaming with Jennifer Lawrence next year in the sci-fi romance, Passengers. His success in Jurassic World proved so indomitable that he received a 20 percent pay raise to work opposite Jennifer Lawrence, boosting his salary from $10 million to $12 million.
Life is good for the Marvel Comic Universe alumni. Who do you think has made the most money after starring in one of their films? Sound off in the comments below!
Star-Lord Header Image by zerochan:Mackerel