Origin Stories: How Marvel Cast All Of Your Favorite Superheroes

Captain Marvel, Marvel Cinematic Universe CastWatch: "Avengers: Endgame" Stars Get Silly for 3 Minutes Straight

Every hero has their own story and each story is worth telling.

Nine years ago, six superheroes came together to take on an alien invasion, a mischievous brother and, sometimes, each other in a little movie called The Avengers. Little did we know what was to come: One snap from Thanos, two hit Disney+ TV series, three follow-up Avengers movies and billions of dollars.

It's been nine years since Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) assembled to truly kick off the MCU's epic journey. So it was fitting that the studio unveiled its line-up of what's to come just ahead of The Avengers' anniversary. Marvel announced the official titles and release dates for several highly anticipated movies, including Black Panther 2, The Eternals, The Marvels and more.  

In honor of The Avengers' ninth anniversary and Phase 4's stacked schedule being released, we're revealing the origin story for each of Marvel's biggest stars, including how they were cast and who else was up for the role, with quotes from the heroes themselves.

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MCU fans, assemble, to learn which actors auditioned for Captain America only to land other superhero roles, and who had to beat out his brother to earn the right to wield Mjollnir...

Marvel / Walt Disney StudiosIron Man/Tony Stark

The man who started it all...was basically the last person Marvel wanted to hire to play Tony Stark, a role that now is forever tied to Robert Downey Jr. Director Jon Favreau fought to land Downey, despite his troubled past that included stints in prison and rehab. 

"We didn't want to just go with a safe choice. The best and worst moments of Robert's life have been in the public eye. He had to find an inner balance to overcome obstacles that went far beyond his career. That's Tony Stark," Favreau explained to USA Today, drawing comparisons between the actor and the character. "Robert brings a depth that goes beyond a comic book character having trouble in high school, or can't get the girl." 

And Downey took the role seriously, offering notes and requesting multiple takes to really nail a scene. "I'm more diligent than I used to be," he said. "I want to show Jon he was right to have faith in me. Whatever questions might have arisen about my life weren't issues with him."

The risk paid off big time, delivering the world's most successful franchise ever, and turning Downey into one of Hollywood's most-sought after (and highest paid) stars, staging the ultimate comeback. 

"He's an unparalleled talent. He's an amazing actor. He has an amazing personality and an amazing persona that we thought could be tapped into in an amazing way," Marvel boss Kevin Feige gushed to The Toronto Sun. "We knew he was a great actor and we knew he was unbelievably charismatic and he'd be able to bring Tony Stark to life in an unbelievable way. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the MCU would not exist without Robert Downey Jr."

While Downey really was Favreau's first and only choice to play Iron Man, other actors who were considered were Clive Owen, Timothy Olyphant, and Sam Rockwell. The latter ended up being cast as one of the main villains in Iron Man 2. 

Marvel / Walt Disney StudiosCaptain America/Steve Rogers

Some were surprised when Evans, then 29 and best known for the less-than-stellar Fantastic Four movie, was named by Marvel as their guy for 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger and the emotional anchor for the entire Phase 1 run. But it was far from an easy process.

"Casting Captain America was super hard. I started to think, 'Are we not going to be able to find Captain America, and if we can't, what are we going to do with Avengers? Is the whole thing going to fall apart?'" Feige recalled to Vanity Fair. "And, then, finally opening ourselves up to Chris Evans, who we had initially sort of just looked past because he was Johnny Storm in a Fantastic Four franchise. Then, bringing him in and showing him the artwork, showing him what was happening in this movie, and he took a weekend to decide.

"Chris Evans has embodied Captain America as well as any actor has ever embodied an iconic pop-culture figure like that," Feige continued. "I go back to Chris Reeve as Superman as the gold standard, and I think Evans is right there. I couldn't imagine anybody else."

But Evans has admitted to being hesitant to take on the role and said he actually turned it down "a few times" before eventually signing on. "I was scared," he admitted to Jimmy Kimmel, explaining the daunting number of films he'd be signing on for and his general "social anxiety with this industry" were major factors. 

Of course, he came around in the most Cap way possible: "I was saying no out of fear, really," Evans said. "You can't do anything out of fear. You can't be doing something because you're scared. It ended up kind of clicking to me in the way that whatever you're scared of, push yourself into it."

AmazonAlmost Captain Americas

A few big names allegedly went in for Cap, including Channing Tatum, Garrett Hedlund, Scott Porter, Chace Crawford...and Dane Cook?!

"[I] actually am going in to meet on 'Captain America,' which is kind of cool," the comedian spilled to MTV in 2010. "After Superman, he was kind of my favorite." (Bit of advice? Don't say a DC superhero is your favorite when you're trying to land a Marvel movie!)

Of course, John Krasinski has told the story of how he made it far enough in the casting process to try on the suit. 

"In my head I got the part. It was a big deal for me...when they asked me to test they actually allowed me to put on the suit, I was on a set," The Office fan favorite said on Conan. "It was all very interesting."

Alas, he got the call that the shield was going to Evans on his wife Emily Blunt's birthday, but Krasinski took the news in stride. 

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All of the MCU's films are streaming on Disney+. 

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