27 MCU Actors’ Audition And Casting Stories


Kevin Feige offered Hailee Steinfeld her role on the spot!

Landing an MCU role — even a minor one — can really change an actor’s career trajectory. This kind of opportunity often propels up-and-coming actors into the spotlight, and it also breathes new life into more established actors’ careers.

While playing a hero or villain comes with plenty of challenges, the first hurdle an actor has to jump is actually booking the part.

Here are the stories behind how 27 MCU actors got their roles:

2.

After getting her career off to a strong start in independent films, Elizabeth Olsen told her manager and agent that she wanted to be considered for roles in big franchises like the ones she obsessed over growing up.

They advised her to take meetings with the people in charge of the big film companies, so she did. Soon, Avengers: Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon had her and her Godzilla costar, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, in mind for the roles of Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.

“He and I both took separate meetings with Joss while we were doing reshoots for Godzilla,” she told Collider Ladies Night. “[We] were like, ‘Are we both gonna do this? Like, this is so funny. Should we move on from being husband and wife to being brother and sister?'”

3.

Iman Vellani read all the Ms. Marvel comics in high school and even dressed up as the superhero for Halloween. However, when her aunt sent her the casting call on Whatsapp, she almost didn’t send in her audition tape.

She worried that it was a fake casting call, but her mom convinced her to submit her resume and headshot. She told the Globe and Mail, “I was making excuses for myself out of fear…Then 3 a.m. hits the night it’s due. My 10-year-old self is going to hate me if I don’t even try. So I quickly recorded it and then two days later, I get a call. They’re like, ‘Do you have a lawyer? We want to fly you to L.A.”

“That was in February of 2020. And the pandemic hit. So my screen test happened in June over Zoom, and it was super weird. But then I got cast on the last day of high school, and here we are,” she said.

4.

When Zendaya auditioned for the role of MJ Watson, she wasn’t supposed to know what she was auditioning for, but through her agents, she discovered it was for Spiderman: Homecoming.

However, she still didn’t know exactly which role. She told GQ, “I didn’t really know what character or what kind character they would be.”

She continued, “Right before the screen test, they were kinda saying, ‘Okay, these are the characters that we’re reading for, MJ being one of them.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, that would be so cool.'”

5.

Tom Holland went through a “horrible” seven-month audition process for the role of Peter Parker. Then, he — along with six other actors — traveled to Atlanta for a screen test alongside Robert Downey Jr.

He told Variety, “It’s the best audition I’ve ever done, him and I were riffing off each other. My agents told me that Marvel likes you to learn the words exactly — you can’t improvise. And then, on the first take, Downey just completely changed the scene. We started riffing with each other, and I mean, to sound like a bit of a dick, I rang my mum afterward and was like, ‘I think I’ve got it.'”

Another six weeks later, it was narrowed down to Holland and one other actor. Both of them were flown back to Atlanta for a screen test with Chris Evans. Afterward, he didn’t hear anything back, so he assumed he didn’t get the part.

However, sometime later, he searched “Marvel” online and discovered that he did indeed book the role. He said, “I’ve still got the article saved on my computer. It said, ‘We would like to introduce our new Spider-Man, Tom Holland.’ I broke my computer, because I flipped it up in the air. It fell off my bed…And then the studio called me and gave me the news.”

6.

While Jacob Batalon was studying at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, he auditioned for “Untitled Marvel Project.” He told Comicbook.com, “The specs were so general. It was like ‘Any body type, any age as long as you look like you’re 17.'”

After he got a callback for a second self-tape, Marvel gave him the actual Spider-Man script — then decided he should skip straight to the screen test with Tom Holland.

Finally, after months of waiting, his manager called to inform him that Marvel wanted him. A few more weeks passed, he graduated, then he learned that he was going to play Ned Leeds.

“I hung up the phone. I started crying, I started screaming, I started yelling and running down the sidewalk. All these people are staring at me…I missed my train but that was the best,” he said.

7.

Harry Styles was director Chloé Zhao’s only choice for Starfox in Eternals. In fact, when she pitched the character to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, “It was a package deal.”

She told ScreenRant, “I thought about Harry since Dunkirk. I thought was very interesting what he did there, and I like casting people who are pretty much a version of that character in real life. And these two, as soon as I met Harry, I thought that he is Eros.”

“If Kevin says yes, and if Harry says yes, then this is going to happen. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be having that post-credits scene,” she said.

8.

Gemma Chan wasn’t initially considered for the role of of Sersi because she’d already had her Marvel moment as Minn-Erva in Captain Marvel. However, the casting team found that it was one of the hardest roles to fill.

Eternals producer Nate Moore told ScreenRant, “I do remember the point where we said, ‘Maybe should we read Gemma, is that weird? Is our audience going to go with us or are they going to say no?’ But we read her, and she was perfect for us. We said, ‘Well, let’s see.'”

“I think if Minn-Erva [was] not blue, I don’t know if we would have pulled that trigger,” he said.

9.

When Marvel offered Brian Tyree Henry the role of Phastos in Eternals, he responded, “Cool. How much weight do I have to lose?”

However, Zhao told him, “What are you talking about? We want you exactly as you are.”

He told Variety, “To be a Black man, to have someone look at you and say [that] is unlike anything that I’ve ever felt. It just triggered me to be an 11-year-old kid who is watching these superhero movies, and not ever seeing anyone like me reflected…I truly believe that that moment started when I sat down with Chloé. It’s unlike any feeling I’ve ever experienced.”

10.

When Lauren Ridloff brought one of her sons to an audition, the casting director expressed interest in casting her for a different project.

A few months later, that casting director told her manager, “We want to consider Lauren for a Marvel film, and I can’t tell you what it is.”

She told the New York Times, “I got the call that the director of the movie wanted to meet with me, so I dropped everything and came to LA. Chloé Zhao and Nate Moore broke everything down and asked if I was interested [in playing Makkari], and my immediate answer was yes.”

11.

When 13-year-old Xóchitl Gómez submitted her audition tape for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, America Chavez was still being written as a young adult around 18 years old, so she assumed she wouldn’t even be considered.


Jay Maidment /© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

However, several months later, she got a callback because screenwriter Michael Waldron had decided to write a younger version of America.


Jay Maidment /© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Gómez dedicated herself to hours of stunt training until she landed a screen test with Benedict Cumberbatch in London. Only a few days later, she booked the role.


Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

12.

Marvel and Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson had their eyes on Benedict Cumberbatch from the very beginning — but he initially turned down the offer to play Stephen Strange.

Between the production schedule for Sherlock and his theatrical run in Hamlet, Cumberbatch didn’t have time for the movie. So, Marvel moved on.

Eventually, the studio settled on Joaquin Phoenix. However, when he backed out due to “too many requirements that went against [his] instincts for the character,” Marvel went back to the drawing board.

Finally, they offered the role to Cumberbatch again, and he accepted when they agreed to push back production to oblige his commitments to Sherlock and Hamlet.

13.

Benedict Wong first learned about the role of Wong from his The Martian costar Chiwetel Ejiofor, who told him that he was going to be in Doctor Strange.


Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Disney

Wong told Variety, “I looked it up on the internet and saw a photo of Strange with Wong peeping out on the side, and my jaw dropped. I joked about having a petition called ‘Wong for Wong.’ One day, I got this mysterious email asking me to audition.”

He said, “I got the part when I was on the set of Marco Polo. I was dressed as Kublai Khan and sitting on a throne, not being able to tell anyone. I texted Chiwetel and said, ‘I think I’m going to have to borrow your lawyer.’ He texts back, ‘Wong for Wong?’ And I replied, ‘Wong is Wong.'”

14.

Samuel L. Jackson first saw himself as Nick Fury in the pages of The Ultimates. Writer Mark Millar had based his reimagined version of the character off of his favorite actor — without realizing Jackson was actually a huge comics fan.

So, the actor had his agents get in touch with Marvel, who apologized for using his likeness without permission. They also promised to let him play Fury in any future onscreen adaptations.

Later on, Iron Man director Jon Favreau decided that having Jackson appear as Nick Fury in a post-credits scene would be a great easter egg for comic fans. However, the rest of the MCU blossomed from Fury’s mention of the Avengers Initiative.

15.

Marvel did not want to cast Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and the studio told Favreau, “Under no circumstances are we prepared to hire him for any price.”

After the director delivered the bad news, Downey replied, “With your permission, I’m going to hold out hope.” His tenacity inspired Favreau to keep fighting for him until he got a screen test, which in turn got him the role.

Feige told CinemaBlend, “Everybody knew he was an amazing actor. But he hadn’t been an action star. He wasn’t a marquee star, necessarily. And we quickly realized the risk, I’ve said this before, was not casting him. And Jon Favreau really had that vision for that movie and for Robert in that role.”

“It was both the biggest risk and the most important thing in the founding of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Without Robert, we wouldn’t be sitting here today,” he said.

16.

Before he played Bruce Banner in The Avengers, Mark Ruffalo was actually one of director Louis Leterier’s top choices for the lead role in The Incredible Hulk.

However, after The Incredible Hulk, Norton’s relationship with Marvel soured, so they decided to replace him in The Avengers. Ruffalo was scared to accept the role because he didn’t know if he was the right person for it — until Robert Downey Jr. called.

“He just simply said, ‘Ruffalo, let’s go! We got this’ in true Iron Man fashion,” Ruffalo told The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. “And then after that, I was like, ‘I guess I have to do it.'”

17.

Captain America: The First Avenger producer Joel Silver wanted to cast Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, but Fiege and co-producer Stephen Broussard wanted to cast Sebastian Stan.

Ultimately, Marvel decide to pursue Evans, but he turned them down several times. Lisa Evans, his mom, told Esquire, “His biggest fear was losing his anonymity…I said to him, ‘Look, you want to do acting work for the rest of your life? If you do this part, you will have the opportunity. You’ll never have to worry about paying the rent. If you take the part, you just have to decide, It’s not going to affect my life negatively — it will enable it.'”

Personal calls from Silver and Downey also helped convince him to accept the role.

18.

While filming for The Apparition in Germany, Sebastian Stan submitted several audition tapes. Once production wrapped, he planned to go home to Romania, but he had a feeling he should go to LA instead — then he landed a screen test for the role of Captain America.

His screen test went well, but the studio heads decided to go in a different direction. He told MTV, “Kevin Feige and Stephen Broussard over at Marvel asked me to sit down with them and they talked about the comic books and Bucky and his entire arc, and I was really attracted to that.”

However, he wasn’t formally offered the role of Bucky Barnes until April Fool’s Day. He told Variety, “I was on set working on something and then this unknown number called me, and I don’t usually pick up unknown numbers. I kept shooting, and then, an hour or two later, I finally looked at my voicemail, clicked on it, and it was Kevin.”

19.

Anthony Mackie didn’t have to audition to play Sam Wilson because he was Marvel’s “unanimous first choice to play the character.”

Feige told Variety, “That’s only happened a handful of times at Marvel. Mr. Mackie was one of those times.”

“As we often do, when we’re casting, you cast for the immediate role at hand — which was Sam Wilson in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but if it all goes well, that can grow and evolve into numerous things. You want an actor who can do it all, which of course, Anthony can,” he said.

20.

In a group chat she was part of, Meng’er Zhang saw a casting call for a woman who could speak both Chinese and English — but she didn’t know it was for the role of Xu Xialing.

So, she submitted her self-tape, then she got a callback.

“They flew me to do a screen test with Simu [Liu] and that’s when I found out I was auditioning for Shang-Chi,” she told the Hollywood Reporter.

Though he auditioned for the role of Thor, Branagh decided to cast him as Loki instead. The actor told the Hollywood Reporter, “We ended up spending about 12 months working together in different media.”

22.

Sophia Di Martino — who previously worked with director Kate Herron — got the role of Sylvie in Loki with only an audition tape.

She told the Hollywood Reporter, “I didn’t really have an in-person audition; we didn’t do any screen tests. I couldn’t travel at the time because I was pregnant, and Tom [Hiddleston] was in New York on Broadway.”

“It was quite a risk that they took, really. And it never happens. You never get a job of this size off a tape, usually. My agent couldn’t believe it. They must’ve just been so sure,” she said.

23.

Lupita Nyong’o signed on to play Nakia in Black Panther solely on the strength of the pitch director Ryan Coogler gave her. At the time, there wasn’t even a script.

She didn’t get the see the script until six weeks before production began.

She told Vanity Fair, “When I choose projects, I want to have faith that as an artist it will speak to a time when it is needed as much as it speaks to me at the time that I make it. I really understood this with Black Panther, when we were making that movie in such a different political climate than the one in which it came out…Ryan was speaking to a future relevance that he could not have predicted.”

24.

Brie Larson auditioned for roles in Iron Man 2 and Thor unsuccessfully — but she was on Marvel’s radar.

While she was filming Kong: Skull Island, she got a call that Marvel was interested in casting her as Captain Marvel — but she turned them down twice, citing her anxiety and introversion as reasons she wouldn’t be a good fit.

Finally, the third time Marvel asked, she discovered that her team hadn’t actually carried out her instructions to decline the offer. So, she agreed to meet with the studio, where they pitched the movie to her and showed her ideas for her costume.

In a YouTube video, she said, “I was very moved by what they were trying to achieve, [and] what they were talking about. It felt very progressive…I was very surprised by that, by the way they were talking about feminism [and] the way they were handling it. There were all female writers, [a] female director, [and it was] going to have as many female voices in this as possible.”

25.

Florence Pugh was the first actor Black Widow director Cate Shortland mentioned when the Marvel Studios execs asked her which actors she was excited by.

Shortland told the Hollywood Reporter, “I’d seen Lady Macbeth a couple of times, and I really wanted to work with her.”

“Then I met her in London with Brian Chapek, my producer, and we just got on really well. By putting her with Scarlett [Johansson], I knew that Scarlett would have someone on screen with her that could match her energy,” she said.

26.

Hailee Steinfeld was in the back of Feige’s mind for the role of Kate Bishop in Hawkeye, so he invited her in for a meeting.

Their meeting went so well that he offered her the part on the spot.

In the Hawkeye episode of Marvel Studios: Assembled, executive producer Trinh Tran said, “That was pretty remarkable that we came out of that meeting shaking her hand and going, ‘Okay you’re in. You’re gonna play Kate Bishop.'”

27.

Zoe Saldaña was Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn’s first choice for the role of Gamora.

When he pitched his concept for the movie to Marvel, he included the idea of casting her.

“I think that’s the only casting idea in my pitch that ended up happening,” he said on Twitter.

28.

And finally, Gunn had the idea to have Miley Cyrus cameo as the voice of Mainframe while he was watching her as a judge on The Voice Season 11.

He told BuzzFeed News, “I was admiring the tone of Miley Cyrus’s voice. I find her funny and likable and sweet. I liked that she cared about the contestants. So I was like, I think she would be a funny person to have as a voice [in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2].”


Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

“So we contacted her, and she said yes. She came in and recorded, and she was a delight to work with,” he said.


Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images




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