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13 Marvel movie actors who struggled with starring in the superhero franchise

13 Marvel movie actors who struggled with starring in the superhero franchise
  • Marvel movies are hugely popular but not always easy to make for the actors who star in them.

  • Kumail Nanjiani recently said that he had to go to therapy after working on "Eternals."

  • There are plenty of other stars who have had problems working on the superhero movies.

Audiences have always loved superhero movies, right the way back to "Superman" in the 1970s. But the genre's popularity has hit new heights in the last decade thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has told an ongoing story in over 20 movies and TV shows (so far).

While these projects have raked in huge profits at the box office, some of the stars who have donned the colorful costumes have been vocal about the difficulties that go into making them: From issues with filming against a green screen to getting into makeup, and negative audience reactions.

Here are 13 actors who have been open about struggling with appearing in a Marvel movie.

Kumail Nanjiani

Kumail Nanjiani at the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards, and as Kingo in "Eternals."
Kumail Nanjiani at the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards, and as Kingo in "Eternals."Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images/Marvel Studios

"Silicon Valley" and "The Big Sick" star Kumail Nanjiani opened up about the negative reaction to Chloe Zhao's "Eternals" on the "Inside of You" podcast with Michael Rosenbaum. He explained that Marvel had faith in the 2021 movie, and sent the cast on a global tour.

"It was really, really hard because Marvel thought that movie was going to be really, really well-reviewed, so they lifted the embargo early and put it in some fancy movie festivals and they sent us on a big global tour to promote the movie right as the embargo lifted," Nanjiani said in the episode published February 6.

He said that he had to go to therapy after the press tour ended.

"I think there was some weird soup in the atmosphere for why that movie got slammed so much, and I think not much of it has to do with the actual quality of the movie. It was really hard, and that was when I thought it was unfair to me and unfair to [my wife] Emily, and I can't approach my work this way anymore," he said.

"Some shit has to change, so I started counseling. I still talk to my therapist about that. Emily says that I do have trauma from it," Nanjiani added.

Nanjiani said he wasn't the only person who worked on the Marvel movie that struggled with the harsh reaction they got.

He explained: "We actually just got dinner with somebody else from that movie and we were like, 'That was tough, wasn't it?' and he's like 'Yeah, that was really tough,' and I think we all went through something similar."

Jessica Alba

Jessica Alba arrives for the 2023 Baby2Baby Gala in Los Angeles, and as Sue Storm in "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer."
Jessica Alba arrives for the 2023 Baby2Baby Gala in Los Angeles, and as Sue Storm in "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer."MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images/20th Century Studios

Jessica Alba played Sue Storm A.K.A. the Invisible Woman in 2005's "Fantastic Four," and reprised the role for "Rise of the Silver Surfer." In the sequel's climax, her character nearly dies. In an interview with Elle US in 2010 (via Vulture), Alba said director Tim Storey told her to "cry pretty."

"I remember when I was dying in Silver Surfer. The director was like, 'It looks too real. It looks too painful. Can you be prettier when you cry? Cry pretty, Jessica.'"

Alba said the comments knocked her confidence. She recalled: "It all got me thinking: Am I not good enough? Are my instincts and my emotions not good enough?… And so I just said, 'Fuck it. I don't care about this business anymore.'"

Anthony Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins attends the 94th Annual Academy Awards, and as Odin in "Thor."
Anthony Hopkins attends the 94th Annual Academy Awards, and as Odin in "Thor."David Livingston/Getty Images/Marvel Studios

British star Anthony Hopkins is best known for playing iconic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in "Silence of the Lambs" and its sequels, but he dabbled with the superhero genre in the "Thor" franchise.

But he told The New Yorker in 2021 that he didn't find the script of the first "Thor" movie very enjoyable to work with. Hopkins decided to use his "No acting required" approach for the project — where he writes "N.A.R." on blockbuster scripts as a note to himself about the type of work needed for the film.

"I try to apply it to everything I do: no acting required. On 'Thor,' you have Chris Hemsworth—who looks like Thor—and a director like Kenneth Branagh, who is so certain of what he wants," Hopkins explained.

"They put me in armor; they shoved a beard on me. Sit on the throne; shout a bit. If you're sitting in front of a green screen, it's pointless acting it."

Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal at the Prada Fall/Winter 2024 Menswear Fashion Show in Milan, Italy, and as Mysterio in "Spider-Man: Far From Home."
Jake Gyllenhaal at the Prada Fall/Winter 2024 Menswear Fashion Show in Milan, Italy, and as Mysterio in "Spider-Man: Far From Home."Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Prada/Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios cast "Donnie Darko" star Jake Gyllenhaal as the villain, Mysterio, in "Spider-Man: Far From Home" opposite Tom Holland. Although the actor liked director Jon Watts' spontaneous approach to filmmaking on the "Spider-Man" sequel, he struggled to cope with it when production first started.

"If someone has a good idea, they will shift an entire day around that idea. For me, I loved it," he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2021, before explaining that he kept forgetting his lines.

"I was freaking out. It was a scene with [Samuel L.] Jackson, Tom … there were a number of actors in that scene. And I remember not being able to remember my lines. I was the wooden board," Gyllenhaal said.

He noted that Holland helped him figure out the situation, adding: "They were like, 'Whoa.' And I went up to Tom Holland and was like, 'Dude, help me out.' He's like, 'It's all good, man. Just relax.' It was like he was me in so many situations. And I finally did. I just put a lot of pressure on [myself] because I love that world."

Michael B. Jordan

Michael B. Jordan at the David Yurman High Jewelry Event in Los Angeles, California, and as Killmonger in "Black Panther."
Michael B. Jordan at the David Yurman High Jewelry Event in Los Angeles, California, and as Killmonger in "Black Panther."Leon Bennett/Getty Images for MBJx DAVID YURMAN/Marvel Studios

"Black Panther" tells the story of King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and the hidden country of Wakanda, with Michael B. Jordan playing a long-lost descendant of the throne, Killmonger.

The "Creed" star said during Oprah's "Supersoul Conversations" in 2019 that he isolated himself from the cast as a way of getting into character.

"I was by myself, isolating myself, I spent a lot of time alone. I figured Erik [Killmonger], his childhood growing up was pretty lonely. He didn't have a lot of people he could talk to about this place called Wakanda that didn't exist," he said.

"I got a little depressed, It was a little tough for me for a minute. Readjusting to people caring about me, getting that love that I shut out," he continued. "I shut out love, I didn't want love. I wanted to be in this lonely place as long as I could in order to capture the essence of what Killmonger was."

The star also got counseling as a way of dealing with what he was feeling as a result of playing the character.

"I went to therapy, I started talking to people, starting unpacking a little bit. Honestly, therapy, just talking to somebody just helped me out a lot," Jordan explained. "As a man you get a lot of slack for it. … I don't really subscribe to that. Everyone needs to unpack and talk."

Christopher Eccleston

Christopher Eccleston at the Los Angeles premiere "True Detective: Night Country," and as Malekith in "Thor: the Dark World."
Christopher Eccleston at the Los Angeles premiere "True Detective: Night Country," and as Malekith in "Thor: the Dark World."Gregg DeGuire/WireImage/Marvel Studios

"Doctor Who" alumni Christopher Eccleston has always been open about how much he disliked working on "Thor: The Dark World," in which he played the villain: a dark elf called Malekith.

In 2018, he briefly spoke to The Guardian about a few roles that he regretted doing.

"Working on something like 'G.I. Joe' was horrendous. I just wanted to cut my throat every day. And 'Thor'? Just a gun in your mouth," he said.

"'Gone in 60 Seconds' was a good experience. Nic Cage is a gentleman and fantastic actor. But 'G.I. Joe' and 'Thor' were…I really paid for being a whore those times."

Idris Elba

Idris Elba attends the London Premiere of "Bob Marley: One Love," and as Heimdall in "Thor: The Dark World."
Idris Elba attends the London Premiere of "Bob Marley: One Love," and as Heimdall in "Thor: The Dark World."Karwai Tang/WireImage/Marvel Studios

"Luther" star Idris Elba has starred in six different Marvel movies since 2011, most recently appearing in the post-credits scene of "Thor: Love and Thunder." But when filming 2013's "Thor: The Dark World," he had only just finished working on "Mandela," where he played anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela. And he found jumping between the two projects to be a jarring experience.

"I'd just done eight months in South Africa. I came to England and the day I came back I had to do reshoots on 'Thor 2,'" he told The Telegraph in 2014. "And in the actual scene my hair was different, my… I was like, 'This is torture, man. I don't want to do this.' My agent said: 'You have to, it's part of the deal.'"

I'm actually falling down from a spaceship, so they had to put me in harness in this green-screen studio. And in between takes I was stuck there, fake hair stuck on to my head with glue, this fucking helmet, while they reset." he continued.

"And I'm thinking: '24 hours ago, I was Mandela'. When I walked into the set the extras called me Madiba."

Elba added: "I was literally walking in this man's boots. [Within] six months, the crew, we were all so in love with this film we had made. I was him. I was Mandela, practically. Then there I was, in this stupid harness, with this wig and this sword and these contact lenses. It ripped my heart out."

Dave Bautista

Dave Bautista backstage of "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," and as Drax in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."
Dave Bautista backstage of "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," and as Drax in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images/Marvel Studios

Dave Bautista's big Hollywood break was in "The Guardians of the Galaxy" where he played the lovable idiot warrior, Drax the Destroyer.

However, last year, Bautista stepped away from the role after appearing in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3."

When speaking to GQ in 2023 about why he left the franchise, Bautista shared his struggles with playing Drax.

"It wasn't all pleasant. It was hard playing that role," he said. "The makeup process was beating me down. And I just don't know if I want Drax to be my legacy — it's a silly performance, and I want to do more dramatic stuff."

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence at the 81st Annual Golden Globe Awards, and as Mystique in "X-Men: Days of Future Past."
Jennifer Lawrence at the 81st Annual Golden Globe Awards, and as Mystique in "X-Men: Days of Future Past."Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/20th Century Studios

Jennifer Lawrence told Entertainment Weekly in 2015 that she loved starring in the recent "X-Men" movies, but struggled with being made up for her character.

Lawrence played Mystique, a shapeshifting mutant whose natural skin color is blue, which meant the actor had to be spray-painted blue numerous times while filming the franchise.

Lawrence told EW on the set of her third Marvel film, "X-Men: Apocalypse," that she originally did not mind the transformation process.

"I was 20 and I didn't care about fumes and toxins and now I'm almost 25 and I'm like, 'I can't even pronounce this and that's going in my nose? I'm breathing that?'" she said.

Lawrence also told EW that she wasn't keen on starring in the fourth and final film of the "X-Men" prequel series, "Dark Phoenix."

"I kind of fucked myself because when I was trying to talk Simon into directing, he said something like, 'If I direct it, you have to do it,' and I was like, 'Of course! Duh!' Then they offered me the movie, and I was like, 'Goddammit!'" she said, referring to "X-Men: Dark Phoenix" director Simon Kingberg.

Sally Field

Sally Field at a screening of "Norma Rae" at Vidiots Theater in Los Angeles, and as Aunt May in "The Amazing Spider-Man."
Sally Field at a screening of "Norma Rae" at Vidiots Theater in Los Angeles, and as Aunt May in "The Amazing Spider-Man."Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty Images/Sony Pictures

Sally Field was not a fan of playing Aunt May in "The Amazing Spider-Man" movies.

During an interview on "The Howard Stern Show," Field said she agreed to the role as a favor to the producer Laura Ziskin, who died of breast cancer in 2011.

"It's not my kind of movie," Field said. "But my friend Laura Ziskin was the producer, and we knew it would be her last film, and she was my first producing partner, and she was a spectacular human."

Field also said she found it hard to turn Aunt May into a three-dimensional character.

"You work it as much as you can, but you can't put 10 pounds of shit in a five-pound bag," she said.

Despite her criticism of her role, Field said she enjoyed working with Andrew Garfield, who played Spider-Man in the film.

Zachary Levi

Zachary Levi at the Los Angeles screening of "Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget," and as Fandral in "Thor: The Dark World."
Zachary Levi at the Los Angeles screening of "Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget," and as Fandral in "Thor: The Dark World."Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Netflix

Before Zachary Levi starred as the lead hero in "Shazam," he made two appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the "Thor" character Fandral, an Asgardian hero who was part of a special group called the Warriors Three.

Levi took over the role in "Thor: The Dark World" after Josh Dallas left the franchise, but in 2019, Levi told Screen Rant that his character was not used properly.

"I knew that the Warriors Three could be really fun characters if they ever developed them. They just didn't," Levi said. "They didn't in the first one. They didn't really in 'Dark World.'"

Fandral was killed off in the third "Thor" movie, "Thor: Ragnarok" but Levi said this helped him since it allowed him to star in the DC movie "Shazam."

"Looking back, if I didn't die, I might still be under contract with Marvel and I never would have been able to get this job. And I say, 'Fuck that,'" Levi said. "This is the coolest thing ever. I'm so happy. And literally to be able to jumpstart my life. I'm healthier and stronger and happier than I've ever been in my life."

Kate Mara

Kate Mara at the Los Angeles special screening of "All of Us Strangers," and as Sue Storm in "Fantastic Four."
Kate Mara at the Los Angeles special screening of "All of Us Strangers," and as Sue Storm in "Fantastic Four."MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images/20th Century Studios

Kate Mara is another female actor who said she had a bad experience filming a "Fantastic Four" movie because of a director. Mara starred as Invisible Woman in Fox's 2015 reboot of the franchise.

Mara told Emmy magazine in 2020 she had a "horrible experience" filming "Fantastic Four."

"I married one of my costars, so I don't regret doing that movie at all. But do I wish I had responded differently to certain things? Yes, definitely," she said.

Mara did not detail what went wrong on the "Fantastic Four" set, but she seemed to hint that it had something to do with the movie's director, Joshua Trank.

"The fact of the matter is that my two horrendous experiences with directors were male directors," she said. "And on both of my bad experiences, the movies were 95 percent men and I was the only woman in the movie."

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