Paul Rudd already built a worthy resume in Hollywood before becoming Ant-Man in this weekend’s newest Marvel release. But that hasn’t always been the case for actors portraying a superhero. Some have been relative unknowns before a comic book role jolted them into the mainstream. Others, like Robert Downey, Jr., were highly praised dramatic actors. Whatever their origins, they all had to start somewhere.
Here, we’ll be taking a look at the careers of actors before they became superheroes on the big screen. This list is kept to mostly actors who have had standalone films, otherwise we could do a list on just The Avengers or X-Men, and actors that have created a name for themselves outside of the genre (so, no Henry Cavill). Let’s get to ranking, starting with the least impressive pre-superhero career…
11) Hugh Jackman
Notable pre-X-Men films: Paperback Hero, Erskineville Kings
Awards: Australian Film Institute Best Performance (nomination, 1999), Australian Star of the Year (1999), FCCA Award Best Actor (1999)
He was a relative unknown when he first appeared in Bryan Singer’s X-Men, but Hugh Jackman has become a serious marquee player since then. He’s also starred in a bevy of films as Wolverine, and his upcoming portrayal of that character may be his last. There’s no question that the Wolverine role has elevated his status in Hollywood, and Jackman is at the point now where he can pick and choose his roles.
10) Chris Evans
Notable pre-Captain America films: Cellular, Fantastic Four, Sunshine, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Evans is one of the youngest actors on this list, so his pre-Captain America credits are not very notable. Despite that, Evans is very good as Cap, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of Marvel’s best offerings thus far. With Civil War filming as we speak, Evans still has a few more Marvel roles in his contract before he hangs up the shield for good.
9) George Clooney
Notable pre-Batman and Robin films: From Dusk Till Dawn, One Fine Day
Awards: Golden Globes Best TV Performance (nomination, 1996-1998), Emmy Lead Actor in Drama (nomination, 1995-1996), Saturn Award Best Actor (1996), MTV Movie Breakthrough Performance (1996)