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Scarlett Johansson is considered to be one of modern film’s greatest starlets, a highly-acclaimed actress known for her sultry look, she often takes roles that are challenging and against type. These days, she is most famous for playing Black Widow, a member of the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her fierce fighting style and independent attitude has won legions of fans in every corner of the globe.
But before she was Black Widow . . . she was Kathy Caldwell, the older sister of an annoying little brother who accidentally turns him into a pig in the accurately named, My Brother the Pig. Co-starring with Eva Mendes, this ‘family’ comedy is ultra-low budget and even more ultra-shallow. Poor production value, after school special TV quality and an obvious cash grab to soak up some of that cute Babe pig movie gold mine, this is nearly unwatchable. Johansson is adorable though even is she hasn’t quite perfected her line delivery.
Chris Evans has quickly skyrocketed to fame as Marvel’s Captain America, a central figure in the Avengers team of superheroes as a leader of the now divided group. One of the most popular characters in the series, Evans has become an international superstar and inspiration for many young fans.
But before he was Captain America . . . he was Jake Wyler, a rom-com leading man archetype in the poorly-made parody film of the teen sex-comedy genre, Not Another Teen Movie. At his lowest point, he dons a whipped cream bikini that is meant to poke fun at Ali Larter‘s memorable moment in the teen football drama, Varsity Blues. He’s a good looking guy, but whipped cream? No, Mr. Evans. No.
Patrick Stewart is one of the most respected actors in the business, having been working in the industry for decades. While his role as Star Trek‘s Captain Jean-Luc Picard has immortalized him in cinema and television history, modern audiences know him best as the wheelchair bound Professor X of the X-Men movie franchise, a fan favorite in the long series.
But before he was Professor X . . . he was Peter Loomis, a ruthless drug kingpin with a stolen fortune who sends his best hitman (Denis Leary) to recover the goods in Gunmen. Cheesy 90s low-budget fare, this over-the-top, heavily clichéd movie is a mess from start to finish and no amount of telepathic abilities will make this any good. Least he got practice with the chair.
Christian Bale is an Academy Award-winning actor who has made a career out of transforming himself for his roles, but despite his truly great work in myriad films, he will always be Batman, and the one that many consider the best iteration of the classic superhero character. Setting the bar high for most comic book adaptations to come, he and filmmaker Christopher Nolan created some of the greatest superhero movies ever made.
But before he was Batman . . . was a singing homeless kid selling newspapers on the street in Disney’s Newsies. The story follows him and hundreds like him trying to scratch out a living, all while ruthlessly exploited by their maniacal, greedy bosses. A flop on release and critically rejected, it’s built up a huge fanbase for its quirky approach. Fans of Bale defend it with vigor.
Ben Affleck is an acclaimed writer, director, and actor who is the latest to don the cape and cowl of the Dark Knight. Taking the mantle of Batman for the next series, he debuted the character in the Man of Steel sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, though while his performance was met with mostly positive reviews, the film underperformed and was heavily criticized. Still, Affleck is ready to carry on and is set to star in a stand alone Batman film and will be featured in a small part in the up-coming Suicide Squad, so be ready to see lots more of the tormented hero.
But before he was Batman . . . he was Superman. Wait. What? Yup, in the little seen crime/drama Hollywoodland, based on the real life mysterious death of George Reeves, Affleck plays the first actor to wear the blue tights and red cape in movies. Bet that got plenty of laughs on the set of Batman v Superman.
Henry Cavill is the chiseled face of the latest Superman, a broad-chested, Man of Steel tormented by his powers and the role he plays on his adopted planet. While the movies have met with less than stellar critical praise, they’ve been hugely popular with fans. Cavill may not yet have the international recognizability as others on this list, but he’s bonafide star and his role as Superman is reason why.
But before he was Superman . . . he was running from Pinhead in an old mansion after playing an online computer game in Hellraiser: Hellworld. This eighth installment in the the long-running series is a low-budget mess with more gore that scares. Pinhead is the real hero.
Paul Rudd is an uncommon superhero, one nobody expected would be cast in that kind of movie, but not only did he get the part, he’s made the Ant-Man character a popular hero, bringing to the genre a fresh sense of humor it really needs. While the debut film was a big success, it was his brief reprisal of Ant-Man in the blockbuster Captain America: Civil War that had everyone talking. His wit and charm won more fans then ever before and the future looks big (small?) for the huge (tiny?) star.
But before be was Ant-Man . . . he was Wyatt Trips, a frustrated boyfriend who thinks his long-distance relationship is over when he becomes convinced his girlfriend is cheating (even though she’s not). He sends her a letter (how 90s of him) and then douses his sorrow in beer at a strip club where perky dancer Ivy Miller (Reese Witherspoon) wins his heart. Sappy, predictable rom-com shows off some of the ways Rudd will eventually earn his way to the top.
Mark Ruffalo is the latest actor and technically the first in movies to actually play the Hulk (all others were CGI, Ruffalo performed motion-capture) and arguably the most successful, playing Bruce Banner and his big green alter ego in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After his debut in 2012’s The Avengers, the character become one of the most popular superheroes on the team. While we’re still waiting for a stand alone story, and he was absent from the latest Captain America story, fans are eagerly awaiting the next appearance of this gigantic star.
But before he was the Hulk . . . he got his start in a schlocky horror movie series about an evil living inside a mirror that feeds on the blood of the wicked in Mirror, Mirror II: Raven Dance. Ruffalo plays a young man named Christian who tempts those to ‘believe’ in themselves, though it’s all a ruse. Cheap, cable TV-production and a dreadful script, this one is laughably bad, though Ruffalo shows a lot potential and it’s easy to see why he was destined to do better. But not right away as he shows up in Mirror, Mirror III as well. Smash, Hulk. Smash.
Ryan Reyonlds tried a few times to get the superhero thing right but finally found the role of a lifetime with the wise-cracking anti-hero, Deadpool, another member of the Marvel Universe. Taking the expected in a whole new direction, the success of Deadpool is largely due to Reynold’s spot-on comedic timing and natural charm. Surely the start of a series of appearances by the unusual hero, Reynolds and Deadpool have created a huge shift in the superhero genre and will have great influence on what comes next.
But before he was Deadpool . . . he was Henry Lipschitz, a garage band musician with a crush on the girl he can’t have, yet, in the predictable 1999 rom-com, Coming Soon. Controversial in its day for its sexual themes (the title is hint enough), the female-centered teen is about just what you think it is. Orgasms. It’s about orgasms. Too bad it has nothing else to say.
Robert Downey Jr. has been in the business a long time but is best know for his turn as Tony Stark, the billionaire playboy and superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe starring in the Iron Man series, Avengers, and Captain America movies. The true leader of the group and easily the most popular character in the line-up, Downey Jr. is the very heart of the superhero genre and a big reason why it’s the biggest money-making venture in movies today.
But before he was Iron Man . . . he starred as Wolf Dangler, a temperamental actor in the comedy, Rented Lips about a documentary filmmaker (Martin Mull) trying to make his dream project but forced to produce a porn film to finance it. The film is directed by Downey Jr.’s real life father. Dangler spends most of his time dressed as a Nazi with no pants, making enemies of the cast and crew as he struggles to find motivation . . . for his butt. You’ve come a long way. Mr. Downey Jr.