Actors Talk About What It Was Like Playing An MCU Villain
Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes get all the glory, but MCU villains seem to have all the fun (until their almost inevitable defeat). Read what these 13 actors had to say about what it was like to play an MCU foe.
Without the mustache-twirling baddie, a superhero would never get a chance to show off his powers. Some of the most popular characters in movie history are the bad guys. Darth Vader and Freddie Krueger are mythological in their popularity, despite their evil proclivities.
Find out which Academy Award-nominated actor needed to go to intensive therapy after playing his vicious baddie. Which actor based his legendary MCU antagonist on famous Shakespeare villains? Which prolific actor suffered panic attacks from the inherent pressure of entering the MCU?
Make your voice heard. Vote up the interesting stories that make you appreciate villainous characters even more.
- 11,270 VOTES
Willem Dafoe Would Only Return As Green Goblin If He Had Action ScenesPhoto: Spider-Man: No Way Home / Sony Pictures Releasing
Veteran actor Willem Dafoe took on the villainous Norman Osborn/Green Goblin in two Spider-Man movies: Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2: No Way Home (2021). Green Goblin became Spider-Man's main antagonist after being exposed to Goblin Serum.
The Green Goblin proved to be one of the most monstrous villains in the MCU thanks to Dafoe's dedication to the character. The Academy Award nominee was concerned that his return to the Spider-Man universe nearly 20 years after his first appearance could feel contrived.
Dafoe told director Jon Watts and producer Amy Pascal how important it was for him to be 100% into the production, not just as an actor. Dafoe explained:
To do this physical stuff was important to me. One of the first things I said to Jon and Amy, basically when they pitched it to me, before there was even a script, was, “Listen, I don't want to just pop in there as a cameo or just fill in in close-ups. I want to do the action because that's fun for me.”
It's really impossible to add any integrity or any fun to the character if you don't participate in these things because all that action stuff informs your relationship to the characters and the story, and also it makes you earn your right to play the character.
- 2839 VOTES
Josh Brolin Only Agreed To Play Thanos Because He Fought ALL Of The AvengersPhoto: Avengers: Infinity War / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Perhaps no actor over the past two decades has been busier than Josh Brolin. The prolific performer can afford to be choosy with the roles he takes because he is clearly in high demand.
Brolin dipped his toe in the MCU waters by playing supervillain Thanos in an uncredited role in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy. Next, he appeared during the post-credits of 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron. Finally, he shone as the main villain in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War and 2019's Avengers: Endgame.
What made Brolin want to play the genocidal maniac? The actor revealed during an interview with ACE Universe Presents that it wasn't about the Benjamins. Brolin said:
I turned down quite a bit of those things and again people were like “money!” When I said yes to Avengers it was a small thing. It was basically a cameo, so there was not a lot of money involved. So that wasn't the reason. But when they came to me they gave me a big bible. I loved that it was all [of them]. If it had been one of the Avengers - and I don't mean this, I probably shouldn't say this but I'm just gonna say it - I probably wouldn't have done it. But the fact that it was all the Avengers against this one guy. I liked that aspect of it.
- 3523 VOTES
Tom Hiddleston Originally Based Loki Off Of Shakespearean Villains
Loki is hardly an ordinary villain. Tom Hiddleston has played the God of Mischief in multiple Thor standalone films, several Avengers movies, and the Disney+ series Loki.
Loki is a complicated and manipulative villain. The illegitimate son has sparked chaos across alternate timelines in multiple variants, yet he still remains a fan favorite.
Where does the British-trained theater actor draw his inspiration for Loki? Hiddleston revealed that he looked to classic Shakespeare villains like Iago from Othello and Cassius from Julius Caesar. Along with Shakespeare actor (and Marvel director) Kenneth Branagh, the two were able to meld together various Shakespearean villainous traits to craft Loki.
“My inspirations for building Loki were from Shakespeare,” said Hiddleston. "Loki is very Shakespearean. He has a lean and hungry look, like Cassius. He's a plotter, like Iago. He's ambitious like Macbeth."
"If Shakespeare were alive today, I think he'd be writing for the movies and television," added Hiddleston. "He'd be in the popular media. He wrote to entertain the masses."
Loki has also changed his mentality. “Over time he’s become more self-aware, perhaps … I don’t know, maybe that’s just the nature of getting older," said Hiddleston.
The MCU supervillain Grandmaster is not your everyday antagonist. The immortal godlike alien is the king of manipulation. He loves nothing more than to see heroes and villains duke it out battle royale-style.
Grandmaster is a lover of good times and seemingly fun to be around. In fact, some spectators wondered if he was in fact a villain at all. However, the Grandmaster's charm is only skin deep. He is brutally sadistic.
Director Taiki Waititi wanted Goldblum to play the humorous, over-indulging Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok as close to his own real-life character as possible.
The Fly actor revealed during an interview with GQ:
I jumped on board and he said, “You know, I don’t want you to do anything theatrical or cartoony. I think who you are - kind of in your - part of your straight behavior is a little bit useful in this so-called character. I think we’ll dress you up in some way, but I think you can be contemporary and kind of a little bit in this vein that we’re talking about. And I like to improvise a lot.”
And I said, “Well, me too.” And then we got to the set and I’ll be darned if it wasn’t as much fun as I’ve ever had.
- Photo: Avengers: Age of Ultron / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
James Spader plays the eponymous villain Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The veteran actor has had the opportunity to play all kinds of characters over the course of his prolific career - some good, some not so good.
In the 2015 movie, Spader voices Ultron. His face and body were also used for motion capture. The film's director Joss Whedon said, "Spader was my first and only choice. He’s got that hypnotic voice that can be eerily calm and compelling, but he’s also very human and humorous."
Spader compared his popular character Red on Blacklist to Ultron. "Ultron takes abrupt turns in scenes. Red isn’t psychopathic but Ultron is. Yes, he is psychopathic. He’s really batsh*t crazy!”
“There’s a humorous aspect to him, which is something that drew me in from the very first conversation I had with Joss [Whedon],” Spader added. “In many ways he’s a child, this character, because he’s a brand new being who’s just come to be. And yet, through artificial intelligence, he has an incredible capacity for knowledge. So he’s a very powerful, smart child."
- 6408 VOTES
Cate Blanchett Struggled Getting Into Character
Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett may not seem like the most obvious choice to play the villainous goddess of death, Hela, in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok.
During a 2017 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Blanchett explained her reasons for joining the MCU. “A) It was Taika. B) It was the goddess of death. And C) There's never been a female Marvel villain,” said Blanchett.
The third standalone Thor movie was directed by New Zealand auteur Taika Waititi.
The Australian actress said her agent called to inform her that Marvel producer Kevin Feige was interested in sending her some Thor material.
“I was trying to play cool, but I was so excited because you don't get offered these things often,” said Blanchett. "Then after doing a little bit of research, I realized there had not yet been a female villainess in one of the Marvel movies before. I felt the role could be really exciting."
Blanchett spoke about why Hela became such a mythical character. “You can be mysterious... but also give enough information of the back story so you understand why the character does what she or he does, because I think the best villains are those that you kind of love but hate what they do," said Blanchett. "You sort of understand it. There is a logic to it. They are just not completely nuts.”
Even with her decades of acting experience, Blanchett still had some issues feeling comfortable in the role of the Marvel baddie. She didn't have a lot of experience working in a motion-capture suit. Plus, her onset costume did not look very intimidating.
“Half of my costume was done in post,” revealed Blanchett. “So a lot of the time I was trying to look fierce and bad and indomitable in a mocap suit which is pretty hard to do. That's a lot of polyester to wear in Queensland.”