THEN AND NOW: The 'Avengers' stars before they were famous

Crawfords Australia and Disney/MarvelChris Hemsworth is known for his role as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“Avengers: Endgame” is the result of characters fans have seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the past 10 years. The movie, which is now in theatres, follows the surprising events of 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and focuses on the superheroes creating a new plan to face Thanos.

Though the actors in the “Avengers” films are now huge names in Hollywood, it wasn’t always that way. They started out in small film and TV series before earning a spot in the franchise.

Here’s what the “Avengers” stars looked before they were famous.


Long before playing Tony Stark/Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. landed his first role in the movie “Pound.”

Floyd L. Peterson ProductionsFive-year-old Robert Downey Jr. probably had no idea that he would later play a superhero.

The movie was written and directed by his father. Downey was five years old when the movie was released, and played a puppy.

Downey went on to star in movies like “Hail Cesar,” “Home for the Holidays,” “The Shaggy Dog,” and “Gothika.”


These days, he is known for his Marvel role as a genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist (Tony’s words, not ours).

MarvelTony is very concerned in ‘Avengers: Infinity War.’

He made his first appearance as “Iron Man” in 2008, and his character has had three total standalone films. With the introduction of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Tony also took on the role of a mentor to the teen web-slinger.


Before Mark Ruffalo became known for his reputation as one of the worst secret-keepers in the “Avengers” cast, he starred in a variety of films, from comedies to horrors.

Paramount ClassicsOne of Ruffalo’s breakout roles was in the 2000 film ‘You Can Count on Me.’

When he was younger, Ruffalo was a bartender, navigated Los Angeles with a motorcycle, and participated in theatre productions.

He also starred in movies like “13 Going on 30” and “Collateral.”


In “Avengers: Infinity War,” Ruffalo reprised his role as Bruce Banner/The Hulk.

MarvelThe last time we saw his character was in ‘Thor: Ragnarok.’

In recent years, Ruffalo has been nominated for Golden Globes and Oscars. He has also won two SAG awards.


One of Scarlett Johansson’s first roles was in “Home Alone 3.”

Twentieth Century FoxJohansson played Molly Pruitt in the 1998 film.

She also starred in the 2003 movie “Girl With a Pearl Earring” and the 2004 movie “The Perfect Score” (alongside future “Avengers” co-star Chris Evans).

Acting aside, she also released albums back in the day.


Scarlett Johansson has become an A-list celebrity and is most-recognised for her role as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow.

Disney/Marvel StudiosShe’s a total badass.

Johansson also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012, just one mark of her successful career.


Aside from one role in 1999, Chris Evans’ acting career really kicked off in the early 2000s.

Columbia PicturesEvans as Jake Wyler in the 2002 film ‘Not Another Teen Movie.’

He starred in comedies like “Not Another Teen Movie” and “The Perfect Score,” but also starred in the 2004 thriller “Cellular” alongside Jason Statham.

And let’s not forget that he played another superhero before starring as Steve Rogers/Captain America – Johnny Storm/Human Torch in the original “Fantastic Four” movies.


Chris Evans currently plays Captain America, who’s showed off a different look in “Avengers: Infinity War.”

MarvelThe superhero from Brooklyn has been through a lot.

Evans’ role as Cap has earned him several award nominations, especially at the Teen Choice Awards, Kids Choice Awards, and People’s Choice Awards.

In 2018, Evans sported a moustache for his role as a police officer in the Broadway show “Lobby Hero” (which received a Tony Award nomination for best revival of a play).


Back in the day, Don Cheadle appeared on an episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

NBCHe played Ice Tray on the first season.

He also had roles on shows like “The Golden Palace,” “Picket Fences,” and “ER.” You might also remember Cheadle for his role as Basher Tarr in the “Ocean’s” movies.


Don Cheadle played James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine in “Infinity War.”

MarvelHe was first introduced in ‘Iron Man 2.’

Based on an interview that has resurfaced, he’s not a fan of co-stars who accidentally blurt out spoilers (like Ruffalo).


Anthony Mackie landed his first movie role in “8 Mile.”

Universal PicturesMackie played Papa Doc.

He also starred in “Million Dollar Baby,” “The Hurt Locker” (with Jeremy Renner), and played Tupac Shakur in “Notorious.”

Additionally, he’s done various theatre productions, and was an understudy for “Avengers” co-star Cheadle and “Westworld” star Jeffrey Wright.


Anthony Mackie stared as Sam Wilson/Falcon in “Infinity War.”

DisneyHe was first introduced in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier.’

Mackie starred in the movie “Detroit.” Most recently, he starred in “The Hate You Give” alongside “Riverdale’s” KJ Apa, Regina Hall, and Common.


Before Chris Hemsworth played the God of Thunder, he was on several Australian shows.

Crawfords AustraliaHemsworth on ‘The Saddle Club’ in 2003.

His first role ever was on the Australian soap opera “Neighbours.” He was also on the Australian version of “Dancing With the Stars” in 2006. Watch him samba here.


After cutting his hair in “Thor: Ragnarok,” Hemsworth returned to help take down Thanos in “Infinity War.”

Disney/Marvel StudiosLike his late father, he wore an eye patch.

He was also in the 2018 drama “12 Strong.”


Before playing mischievous Loki, Tom Hiddleston played a lord in a British TV movie that was based on a Charles Dickens book.

Company TelevisionHiddleston in ‘The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby’ in 2001.

Hiddleston appeared in various UK TV series before making it big.


Even though Loki can’t be trusted, fans love seeing Hiddleston’s portrayal of the character.

Disney/MarvelHiddleston is now a Golden Globe winner.

Hiddleston made his debut as Loki in 2011’s “Thor.”


Before playing an Asgardian in the MCU, one of Idris Elba’s first roles was on the TV show “Space Precinct.”

Grove Television EnterprisesHe played a pizza delivery man.

He went on to land roles on shows like “The Wire” and “The Office.”


Idris Elba returned as Heimdall in “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Disney/Marvel StudiosHe’s played the role since the first ‘Thor’ movie.

In 2012, Elba won a Golden Globe for his role in “Luther.”


“Gossip Girl” fans recognise Sebastian Stan for his role as Carter Baizen. But before that, one of his first roles was on “Law & Order.”

NBCHe played a teenage sniper with a complicated history.

He was also in “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “Black Swan.”


Stan returned as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier to fight alongside Cap and the Avengers.

Marvel StudiosPrior to ‘Infinity War,’ Bucky was seen in Wakanda recovering from his injuries.

He also starred in the award-winning movie “I, Tonya” with Margot Robbie and Allison Janney.


Before playing Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Elizabeth Olsen landed her first role in a 1994 TV movie that starred her twin sisters.

Dualstar ProductionsElizabeth Olsen in ‘How the West Was Fun.’

She is the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.


In “Avengers: Infinity War,” she tried to prevent Thanos from attaining the mind stone in Vision’s head.

MarvelThe yellow stone is one of six that Thanos was on a quest to get.

She also recently starred in “Ingrid Goes West” with Aubrey Plaza and “Wind River” with Jeremy Renner.


Paul Bettany’s earliest roles were in TV movies, TV shows, and miniseries.

Carlton TelevisionBettany starred alongside Sean Bean in ‘Sharpe’s Waterloo’ in 1997.

Before becoming Vision, Bettany started as Tony’s A.I. system, Jarvis.


Paul Bettany’s character, Vision, was one of Thanos’ targets in “Infinity War.”

Disney/Marvel StudiosVision was stressed.

Bettany starred in the 2018 movie “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”


Before playing a master of the mystical arts, Benedict Cumberbatch appeared on several British TV series.

Yorkshire TelevisionBenedict Cumberbatch in ‘Heartbeat’ in 2000.

He also played Stephen Hawking in a 2004 TV movie. Later, he became known for his role as Sherlock Holmes in “Sherlock.”


In “Infinity War,” Cumberbatch returned as Doctor Strange, with one of the infinity stones in his possession.

MarvelDr. Strange and Tony tend to disagree because of their different perspectives.

He had the green stone, which allowed him to manipulate time and space.


Tom Holland was a theatre kid before starring in movies, and his feature film debut was in “The Impossible.”

Summit EntertainmentThe movie was released shortly after the first ‘Avengers’ film came out.

In the UK, Holland played the titular character in the theatre production of “Billy Elliot the musical.” Watch young Holland talk about the show without giving away too many spoilers here.


Holland returned as Peter Parker/Spider-Man to deliver more great one-liners in “Infinity War.”

Marvel StudiosThe superhero found himself in space with some familiar faces.

He made his debut as Peter Parker in “Captain America: Civil War.”


Before becoming a major movie star, Chris Pratt starred on the cult TV show “Everwood.”

Warner Bros. TelevisionHe played Bright Abbott.

He went on to land roles in popular shows like “The O.C.” and “Parks and Recreation.”


In “Avengers: Infinity War,” Peter Quill/Star-Lord and the Guardians finally met some other characters in the MCU.

MarvelHe was concerned for Gamora.

Pratt also stared in the movie “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”


Zoe Saldana’s career took off in the early 2000s.

MiramaxSaldana in the 2001 movie ‘Get Over It.’

She also had roles in “Crossroads,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” and “Avatar.”


As one of Thanos’ adopted children, Saldana’s character played an important part in “Infinity War.”

MarvelShe warned the other characters about what to expect from Thanos.

Saldana appeared in Drake’s star-studded music video for “Nice for What.”


Before being a Guardian, Pom Klementieff starred in several French films.

Media in SyncShe starred in the 2015 movie ‘Hacker’s Game.’

One of her breakout roles was in the movie “Old Boy,” which starred future “Avengers: Infinity War” cast members Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, and Samuel L. Jackson.


In “Infinity War,” Klementieff returned as Mantis.

Disney/Marvel StudiosShe looked concerned.

Like co-star Elizabeth Olsen, Klementieff was also in the 2017 movie “Ingrid Goes West.”


Before joining the MCU, Dave Bautista was a WWE champion.

Jason Kempin/Getty ImagesHis stage name was ‘Bautista.’

Bautista and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson competed against each other when they were wrestlers.


Bautista reprised his role in “Infinity War.”

Disney/Marvel StudiosHe was first introduced in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’

Bautista also starred in “Blade Runner 2049.”


One of Vin Diesel’s first roles was in the Oscar-winning 1998 movie “Saving Private Ryan.”

DreamWorksDiesel played Private Caparzo.

He’s known for his roles in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, “xXx,” and “The Chronicles of Riddick.”


In the latest MCU film, Diesel voiced a teenage Groot.

Walt Disney/Marvel StudiosHe was sassy and didn’t want to listen to the adults.

Groot would rather play video games than help with a mission.


Bradley Cooper’s first role ever was on the show “Sex and the City.”

HBOWho could have predicted that he would become an Oscar nominee?

Cooper went on to star in other TV shows, including “Alias” and “Kitchen Confidential.”


Cooper’s character, Rocket, met Thor in “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Disney/Marvel StudiosRocket had no idea who he was.

Over the years, Cooper’s various acting roles have earned him award nominations – from Oscars to Golden Globes. In 2014, he won a SAG award with the cast of “American Hustle.”


Before joining the MCU, Karen Gillan was on “Doctor Who.”

BBC WalesGillan played Amy Pond.

She was on the popular show for several years.


Gillan returned as Nebula.

Disney/Marvel StudiosNebula in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.’

Like Gamora, she was an adopted daughter of Thanos.


Before “Black Panther,” Chadwick Boseman appeared on an ABC Family (now Freeform) show called “Lincoln Heights.”

FreeformBoseman had a recurring role.

He also had roles on “Law and Order,” “ER,” and “CSI: NY.”


Now, Boseman stars as T’Challa/Black Panther, the leader of Wakanda.

MarvelT’Challa was ready to team up with the other superheroes.

Boseman hosted “Saturday Night Live” in April 2018.


Letitia Wright’s earliest roles were on British TV shows and movies.

ZeppotronWright in ‘Black Mirror.’

She was also on an episode of “Doctor Who.”


Letitia Wright returned as T’Challa’s younger and wiser sister, Shuri.

MarvelShe is the mind behind genius tech innovations.

We first met Shuri in “Black Panther.”


You probably recognise Danai Gurira for her role on “The Walking Dead.”

Gene Page/AMCGurira as Michonne.

She also had roles in “Restless City” and “All Eyez on Me.”


Gurira continued to prove how badass Okoye is in “Infinity War.”

Disney/Marvel StudiosShe was ready for battle.

Her first appearance in the MCU was in “Black Panther.”


Winston Duke started acting a few years ago.

Warner Bros. TelevisionDuke in ‘Person of Interest.’

Before “Black Panther,” he had roles on “Person of Interest,” “The Messengers,” and “Modern Family.”


Duke returned as M’Baku.

MarvelM’Baku in ‘Black Panther.’

He was one of the most entertaining characters in “Black Panther.”


Josh Brolin’s first role was in the hit movie “The Goonies.”

Warner Bros.The movie was released in 1985.

He went on to land roles in “No Country for Old Men,” “American Gangster,” and “Men in Black 3.”


Brolin played the villain at the center of “Avengers: Infinity War,” Thanos.

MarvelHe was on a path of destruction.

Brolin also starred as Nathan Summers/Cable in “Deadpool 2.”


Peter Dinklage’s first credited role was in a 1995 movie, long before he became known for his role on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

Lemon Sky ProductionsDinklage in ‘Living in Oblivion.’

He also went on to land starring roles in “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” and “Ice Age: Continental Drift.”


In “Infinity War,” Dinklage’s character played an important role in helping Thor.

Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for IMDbThis isn’t the first time he’s been in a Marvel movie.

Dinklage will also voice a character in the upcoming film “Angry Birds Movie 2.”


Benedict Wong had roles on several TV shows and movies before joining the MCU.

Celador FilmsWong in ‘Dirty Pretty Things.’

He was in “Prometheus” and “Kick-Arse 2.”


Wong returned in this film to help the others figure out Thanos’ masterplan.

Disney/Marvel StudiosWong in ‘Avengers: Infinity War.’

We first met his character in “Doctor Strange.”


Gwyneth Paltrow started acting in the ’90s.

Universal PicturesPaltrow in the 1991 movie ‘Shout.’

She was also in “Hook,” “Sliding Doors,” and “Shakespeare in Love” (which she won an Oscar for).


Paltrow returned as Pepper Potts in “Infinity War.”

Disney/Marvel StudiosPepper Potts made an appearance in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming.’

These days, Paltrow spends much of her time on her website,Goop. She also married Brad Falchuck in September 2018 and had a star-studded ceremony in the Hamptons.


One of Benicio Del Toro’s first roles was on the show “Miami Vice.”

Universal TelevisionHe played a character named Pito.

He also starred in “Sin City” and “Traffic.”


Benicio Del Toro returned as The Collector.

MarvelHis character has shown up in two previous MCU films.

He’s an Oscar-winning actor and starred in the “Sicario” sequel.


Samuel L. Jackson has been acting since the 1970s.

Warner Bros.Jackson in the 1900 movie ‘Goodfellas.’

He was also in “Jurassic Park,” “Hail Cesar,” and “Pulp Fiction.”


Jackson reprised his role as Nick Fury.

Disney/Marvel StudiosHe can’t seem to keep the Avengers in line.

Jackson reprised his role as the voice of Lucius Best/Frozone in “Incredibles 2.”


Cobie Smulders started acting in the early 2000s and landed roles on TV shows.

FoxSmulders as Sarah Webb in ‘Tru Calling.’

Smulders is most-known for her role as Robin Scherbatsky on “How I Met Your Mother.”


Cobie Smulders returned as Maria Hill.

Disney/Marvel StudiosPrior to ‘Infinity War,’ she was last seen in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron.’

Aside from her MCU role, Smulders had roles in shows like “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “Friends From College.” In 2017, she made her Broadway debut in the comedy “Present Laughter.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.