High School Photos Of Marvel Stars Before They Became Superheroes And Villains
With the end of an era, some people wonder where the heroes and villains of the various Marvel universes started. The truth is, these prominent actors had lives before becoming superheroes; some of them are even known for things other than being part of the MCU.
Since we invested so many years watching these characters grow and mature, it’s only fair that we also see them in all of their awkward high school glory. Keep scrolling to see what some of the popular marvel heroes and villains looked like back in the day. Be forewarned: there are more than a few mullets involved.
Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man
With actress Elsie Downey and director Robert Downey Sr. as parents, it seems as though Robert Downey Jr. was destined to follow in their footsteps. He made his acting debut at the young age of five when he played a sick puppy in his father’s comedy Pound. By the age of 10, he was living in England and studying classical ballet.
Downey Jr. moved to California, attending Santa Monica High School before he dropped out to pursue acting full-time. The actor is now known as being one of the most beloved heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man.
Brie Larson – Captain Marvel
Born Brianne Sidonie Desaulniers, Brie Larson grew up “straight-laced and square.” Being homeschooled for most of her life, Larson was able to explore her creativity and have abstract experiences, something she doesn’t believe she would have been able to do in a public school environment.
Although she was shy and had social anxiety growing up, it didn’t stop young Larson from expressing her interest in acting at the age of six. Little did that young girl know, she was going to be an Oscar winner and become part of the biggest blockbuster to date as Captain Marvel, arguably the strongest hero in the MCU.
Elizabeth Olsen – Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
Elizabeth Olsen had a leg-up on the competition growing up, being the younger sister of super-stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. She began acting at a young age, often being included in small roles in her sisters’ films. Her major acting debut wasn’t in Hollywood, though, but rather an indie film called Martha Marcy May Marlene in 2011.
It took a few years for Olsen to breakthrough main-stream Hollywood, but in 2015 she joined the MCU as Wanda Maximoff, aka The Scarlet Witch. First appearing in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Olsen went on to reprise her role in three more films. She even landed her own Disney+ series, WandaVision.
Chris Evans – Steve Rogers/Captain America
Chris Evans wasn’t always Captain America, wielding a shield and saving humankind from aliens and foes. Once, he was growing up in Boston, Massachusetts, with his two siblings and attending Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. After graduating from high school, he moved to New York to pursue acting, taking classes at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute.
Evans is one Marvel alumn that portrayed two characters, the first being Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch, in the 2005 movie Fantastic Four. The second, more well-known, character is Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, who Evans portrays through a total of nine MCU films.
Tom Hiddleston – Loki
At the age of 13, Tom Hiddleston attended Eton College, a prestigious all-boys academy that is known for its VIP clientele, such as Prince William. It wasn’t until his second term at Cambridge that Hiddleston was “found.” He was performing in A Streetcar Named Desire when talent agent Lorraine Hamilton approached him.
From there, the actor appeared in many films and television series, but his big break came in 2011 when he was asked by director Kenneth Branagh to audition for the role of Thor. In the end, they thought he’d be more suited for the role of Thor’s trickster brother, Loki.
Zoë Saldana – Gamora
Zoë Saldana grew up wanting to be a ballerina. When her family moved to the Dominican Republic when she was ten, Saldana attended the ECOS Espacio de Danza Academy, a prestigious dance academy. Unfortunately, she didn’t “have the feet” and was too ambitious to lead a life in the back as part of the corps de ballet.
Her family returned to New York while Saldana was in high school, and she began pursuing acting. In 2014 Saldana landed the role of Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy. She says that her character was brought to life through make-up and not CGI, unlike some of her co-stars.
Scarlett Johansson – Natasha Romanova/Black Widow
Manhattan native Scarlett Johansson expressed an interest in acting at a young age. Early on, she left her public school in Greenwich Village and transferred to a prestigious prep school dedicated to helping aspiring child actors and dancers, Professional Children’s School.
Johansson has said she used to stare in the mirror until she cried because Judy Garland was able to cry on demand in Meet Me in St. Louis. That’s some dedication! Even so, Johansson has come a long way from crying in mirrors. She is now known as the ex-KGB assassin turned Avenger, Black Widow. Her character appears in eight films and stars in a standalone.
Bradley Cooper – Rocket
Growing up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bradley Cooper developed a love for acting at a young age. His interest in the arts is thanks to his father, who introduced him to the movie The Elephant Man. The film inspired Cooper to pursue acting, a career his parents were skeptical about until they saw him perform a short scene from the very movie that inspired him.
Cooper’s big break didn’t come until 2009 when he played the part of Phil in The Hangover. Then, in 2014, Cooper became part of the MCU, voicing weapon-loving Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Jennifer Lawrence – Mystique
Jennifer Lawrence grew up in Indian Hills, Kentucky. As a young girl, she would perform for her father and has said that acting was a way for her to overcome her anxieties. At the age of nine, she had her acting “debut,” performing in a local church play.
Although not part of the MCU, Lawrence is still part of the Marvel family. She plays Mystique, the blue shape-shifting mutant in X-Men: First Class. The actress told Jimmy Fallon that the blue make-up took up to eight hours to apply and she either had to stand or sit on a bike during the process!
Gwyneth Paltrow – Pepper Potts
Native to Los Angeles, Gwyneth Paltrow is the daughter of actress Blythe Danner and producer-director Bruce Paltrow. So, acting was always in her blood. Paltrow attended Crossroad School in Santa Monica before relocating to New York and attending Spence School, a private all-girls academy. She decided to pursue acting later in life, dropping out of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and moving back to Los Angeles.
In 2008, Paltrow joined the MCU as Pepper Pots in Iron Man. Originally, she was hesitant about the film and asked Marvel to send her comics relevant to the character. Obviously, she took the role and became Tony Stark’s personal assistant and budding love interest.
Cobie Smulders – Agent Maria Hill
Cobie Smulders was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and was, at first, a model. The soon-to-be actress later admitted that she didn’t necessarily like modeling because people were constantly judging. But, she was an artist, and performing was in her blood. So, she decided to pursue acting.
In 2012, Smulders was cast to play S.H.I.E.L.D agent Maria Hill. The actress said she received training from Los Angeles SWAT to learn how to handle a gun properly. She went on to reprise the role numerous times, including a few episodes on the hit television show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Chris Hemsworth – Thor
Chris Hemsworth was born in Melbourne, Australia, and he ventured to the Australian Outback of Bulman, Northern Territory, a lot while growing up. He attended Heathmont College before moving to Phillip Island with his family. Hemsworth pursued acting in Australia, but it wasn’t until 2011 that he had his big Hollywood break.
That year, he was cast as the Norse God of Thunder, Thor, for the MCU film of the same name. Although he was already in great shape, Hemsworth packed on 20 pounds of muscle for his audition! He went on to reprise the role in seven other MCU films.
Olivia Munn – Psylocke
Olivia Munn started her personal career as a television journalist, obtaining her bachelor’s degree at the University of Oklahoma in journalism with a minor in dramatic arts and Japanese. Before starting her career in front of the camera, Munn attended Putnam City North High School and was a cheerleader.
In 2016, Munn joined the Marvel family as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Psylocke, in X-Men: Apocalypse. In the film, Munn’s character helps the ancient mutant, Apocalypse, take over the world. Thankfully, they don’t succeed. Although Psylocke does just slip away after her boss is defeated, so, who knows, maybe Munn will reprise the role one day!
Chris Pratt – Star-Lord
Growing up in Virginia, Minnesota, Chris Pratt always had an inkling that he would one day be famous and make a boatload of money. Pratt attended Lake Stevens High School in Washington, after moving there with his mom after the passing of his father. Then, after dropping out of community college, Pratt found himself living out of his van in Maui, Hawaii.
Thankfully, while working at a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant he was found by a talent scout and made his way to Hollywood. In 2014, he joined the MCU as the charismatic Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, in the film Guardians of the Galaxy.
Marisa Tomei – Aunt May
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Marisa Tomei expressed an interest in acting after becoming captivated by the Broadway plays her parents would bring her to. In 1982, Tomei graduated from Edward R. Murrow High School before attending Boston College for a year. She dropped out to pursue a career on the stage.
In 2018, Tomei joined the MCU as Aunt May, opposite Tom Holland’s Spiderman, in Captain America: Civil War. She goes on to reprise the role of the quirky hippie-version of Aunt May in three films. Who knows, though, she might make another appearance in the upcoming third Spidey film.
Natalie Portman – Jane Foster
Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem, moving to the United States in 1988. About her childhood Portman has said, “[I was] different from the other kids. I was more ambitious. I knew what I liked and what I wanted, and I worked very hard. I was a very serious kid.” That mentality led her to become an Academy Award-winning actress.
Portman signed on to play Jane Foster for the 2011 film Thor. To get prepared to play a devote scientist, she read the biographies of some of the world’s renowned scientists, such as Rosalind Franklin.
Paul Rudd – Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Paul Rudd was born in Passaic, New Jersey, but moved around a few times during his childhood. He lived in Lenexa, Kansas, and Anaheim, California, before graduating from Shawnee Mission West High School in 1987. Afterward, he attended the University of Kansas, majoring in theatre, and also spent three months studying drama at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford.
Rudd starred as the title character in the 2015 MCU film Ant-Man. Scott Lang then made appearances in three more Marvel movies, including Ant-Man and The Wasp, a movie Rudd helped co-write. It was confirmed on November 1, 2019, that a third Ant-Man film would be happening!
Jennifer Garner – Elektra
While Jennifer Garner was born in Houston, Texas, she was raised in Charleston, West Virginia, where her family moved when she was three. She graduated from George Washington High School and enrolled at Denison University in 1990. It didn’t take long for Garner to switch her major from chemistry to theatre. And, in 1994, she graduated with a B.F.A. in theatre performance.
In 2005, Garner joined the Marvel world, albeit not the MCU, as the title character in Elektra. Although, the film was a reprisal of the character, as Garner portrayed the assassin in the 2003 movie Daredevil, opposite Ben Affleck.
January Jones – Emma Frost
Born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, January Jones lived a very humble life early on. In 1979, her family uprooted from their town and moved to Hecla, South Dakota, with a population of 600 people. But they moved back to Sioux Falls, where Jones graduated from Roosevelt High School.
She started her career at the age of 18 when a scout found her in high school and told her she should be a model. So, after graduation, Jones left South Dakota and moved to New York. In 2011, she joined the Marvel family with her portrayal of Emma Frost in the film X-Men: First Class.
Anna Paquin – Rogue
Anna Paquin was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Paquin made her film debut at age 11 in The Piano, receiving an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance, making her the second-youngest Oscar recipient ever. In 2000, she graduated from the Winward School in Los Angeles. Then after being accepted into Columbia University, Paquin dropped out to pursue acting.
In 2000, Paquin played the mutant Rogue in the Marvel film X-Men. She went on to reprise her power-sucking mutant role in three more X films. Unfortunately, most of her scenes were cut in Days of Future Past, but an alternative The Rogue Cut was released in 2015.
Halle Berry – Storm
Halle Berry was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but was raised in Oakwood. She had a very decorated school life, being a cheerleader, honors student, prom queen, and even the editor of Bedford High School’s paper. In 1986, she was the first-runner up in the Miss USA pageant, where the judges awarded her interview the highest score.
In 2000, Berry began her journey with Marvel Comic book films, portraying the mutant Storm in the movie X-Men. She went on to reprise the white-haired weather and element-controlling mutant in three more films.
Chadwick Boseman – Black Panther
Before becoming the Black Panther of Wakanda, Chadwick Boseman was growing up in South Carolina. Before graduating from T.L. Hanna High School, Boseman wrote his first play, Crossroads. Ironically, the now critically-acclaimed actor was more interested in writing and directing, graduating from Howard University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing.
Then, in 2008, Boseman decided to take a chance and move to Los Angeles and pursue a career in acting. But it wasn’t until 2016 that he joined the MCU as T’Challa, the Black Panther of Wakanda, first appearing in Captain America: Civil War and then in the standalone Black Panther.
Samuel L. Jackson – Nick Fury
Samuel L. Jackson attended a few segregated schools during his youth, but eventually graduated from Riverside High School. You’d never guess it, but Jackson had a stuttering problem growing up, something he dealt with be “pretending to be other people who didn’t stutter.”
In 2009, Jackson joined the MCU, singing on for a nine movie deal as S.H.I.E.L.D agent Nick Fury. His first appearance as the character was in a post-credit scene in Iron Man. It was inevitable for Jackson to portray the no-nonsense character, though, because, in 2002, Marvel Comics asked him if they could use his likeness for Fury’s design in the “Ultimate” comics.
Mark Ruffalo – Bruce Banner/The Hulk
Mark Ruffalo was raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and graduated from First Colonial High School, where he was a competitive wrestler. During his time down south, he also dabbled in acting at Patriot Playhouse. His interest in the art followed him out west when his family moved to San Diego and eventually Los Angeles.
Although he acted prior to the MCU, Ruffalo gained wider recognition in 2012 with his portrayal of Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, in The Avengers. He went on to portray the green monster for four more Marvel films and is rumored to be reprising the role in a She-Hulk series.
Don Cheadle – Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine
Before becoming a best friend to Iron Man, Don Cheadle was playing saxophone in East High School’s jazz band. He also enjoyed other extra-curricular activities, including miming and performing in musicals and plays for the theater department. It’s no wonder he attended the California Institute of the Arts and graduated with a degree in theater.
In 2012, Cheadle joined the MCU family, replacing Terrence Howard as James “Rhodey” Rhodes, aka War Machine, in Iron Man 2. He reprised the role another five times, becoming one of the new Avengers in training at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Peter Dinklage – Bolivar Trask And Eitri
Peter Dinklage is one of those lucky souls who was able to snag two characters in the Marvel universe. But before either of those roles, he was living in Morristown, New Jersey, and attended Delbarton School, where he honed in on his love for acting. It was a passion that started from a young age when he and his brother performed puppet shows for people in their neighborhood.
Dinklage was introduced to Marvel films in 2014 when he played villain Bolivar Trask in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The role was a bit bigger than his second dabble in the Marvel universe. He played Eitri in Avengers: Infinity War.
Josh Brolin – Thanos
Before portraying an evil purple alien who wants to wipe out half of all living things in the universe with the snap of his fingers, Josh Brolin lived a fairly normal life. He grew up on a ranch in Templeton, California, and joined a surfing friendship group in Santa Barbara during the ’80s.
In 2014, viewers saw Brolin portray Thanos for the first time, in cameo appearances in both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Guardians of the Galaxy. He later reprised the role of the main villain in the final two Avengers movies.
Jeremy Renner – Hawkeye
Jeremy Renner has a very interesting background, and we’re not just talking about the mullet he used to sport. After graduating from Fred C. Beyer High School in 1989, Renner enrolled in Modesto Junior College. There, he studied criminology and computer science; it was only after taking a drama elective that he decided to pursue acting.
In 2012, Renner became one of the original Avengers in the movie that started bringing the heroes together, The Avengers. Renner went on to reprise his role of the bow and arrow expert Hawkeye for four more MUC flicks.
Anthony Mackie – Sam Wilson/Falcon
Anthony Mackie had lots of help honing his acting career while he was growing up in New Orleans. He attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and then graduated from the drama program at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Most impressively, he attended Julliard School and graduated from their drama division.
In 2015, Mackie joined the MCU as Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, in Captain America: Winter Soldier. He went on to reprise the role for five more films. He is currently working on reprising his role yet again in the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Solider.
Vin Diesel – Groot
Vin Diesel had a very unorthodox introduction into the acting world. He, along with his brother and some friends, was offered a role in the play Dinosaur Door after breaking into the Theater for New York to vandalize it; Diesel was seven at the time. Afterward, he stayed involved with the theater and eventually attended Hunter College, where he studied creative writing.
In 2014, Diesel’s voice was introduced to the MCU in the form of a talking tree that says nothing but “I am Groot,” with different tonal afflictions, in Guardians of the Galaxy. He went on to voice Groot in three more films.