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How these MCU actors found out they were cast

The Marvel Cinematic Universe might have the world wrapped around its armored, super-soldier-serum-enhanced, magic-manipulating finger, but it would be nowhere without its talented cast. Who can imagine Iron Man brought to wise-cracking life by anyone but Robert Downey Jr.? Can you picture someone besides Chris Hemsworth wielding Mjolnir? Who but the steely Scarlett Johansson could've infused Black Widow with the same mixture of cunning and compassion? The MCU isn't a machine, but a tapestry woven from the talents, specialties, and improvisations of its tremendous cast.

Just because they've become iconic, however, doesn't mean these actors were always certain of their status in the Marvel moviescape. Many of them reacted to the news of their casting with outright shock, tears, and disbelief. Who broke down in the gym? Who learned of the new direction their life was set to take on the red carpet? Did someone really find out about their casting through Instagram? Yes, yes, and unbelievably, yes. Read on to find out how these MCU actors found out they were cast, and how they reacted in that critical, career-defining moment.

Chris Evans mulled it over

Nowadays, it feels absurd to imagine anyone but Chris Evans as Captain America. When Steve Rogers gained tremendous abilities, Evans convinced us that maintaining his essential goodness was possible. When Rogers emerged from the ice, Evans carried the character through heartbreak into a solemn dedication to making the modern world a more fair and just place. When Avengers: Endgame rolled around, Evans didn't just make us believe in a hero capable of wielding a Norse god's hammer — he showed us that the very same man could also choose to leave it all behind and give regular life a try.

It's shocking, then, to learn that Evans very nearly passed on playing Captain America. As he told Jimmy Kimmel in 2016, he actually turned down the role several times, as the nine-movie commitment and his struggles with social anxiety made him reluctant to take the part. "I was saying no out of fear, really," he remarked, "you can't do anything out of fear."  Ultimately, he overcame his concerns, but not before talking it over with loved ones, a former teacher, and Robert Downey Jr. himself. At last, Evans became Captain America, and superhero fans the world over were spoiled beyond their wildest, star-spangled dreams.

Chadwick Boseman learned the importance of international calling

It's Black Panther's world now. We're just living in it. With one solo movie, the clawed king became one of the most beloved superheroes in the genre's long and storied history. After all, he's a diplomat who can attend UN conferences with the same confidence and acumen he brings to a battle. He and his fabulous cast of warriors, scientists, and rogues are one of the most exciting parts of Marvel and absolutely crucial to the company's current success. 

Chadwick Boseman had already played a host of larger-than-life characters before he stepped into the king's catsuit. He was, in fact, on the Get On Up red carpet, in which he plays legendary musician James Brown, when he learned he'd be Marvel's Black Panther. "We were in Zurich," he said at a 2018 Black Panther press conference. "I was coming off the red carpet for Get On Up and my agent was like, 'You've gotta get on the phone.' And the crazy thing is I didn't even have international calling on my phone until that morning." Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, producers Louis D'Esposito and Nate Moore, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo were on the phone, eager to tell him that they wanted Black Panther to appear in Captain America: Civil War, and that they wanted him to play the role. The rest is history — gorgeous, Vibranium-driven, Xhosa-speaking history.

Tom Holland learned he was cast in the MCU by accident

Sure, live-action Spider-Man has been played by three different actors in the last two decades, but Tom Holland's web-slinger is so charming that he makes you forget his predecessors. He's eager to change the world, whether that's through attending charity events, saving classmates at the top of the Washington Monument, or giving directions. Spider-Man doesn't discriminate. Whatever it takes, he's down. If he's able to do good, spend some time with MJ and Ned, and get his homework done on time, he's golden.

Tom Holland's not too different, really. A charity-minded young man who loves his dog, dancing, and goofing around with his brothers, he's treated stardom like a never-ending jaunt he can't believe he gets to go on. Not surprising, then, that he learned of his place in the Marvel firmament so casually. As he told Ellen DeGeneres in 2017, "One day Marvel just posted on their Instagram, 'Go to our website to find out who the new Spider-Man is.' And that's it, I just found out online!" The experience was as disorienting as it was exultant. "My poor dog Tessa was terrified," Holland said. "And my brother Harry, who's pretty savvy with technology and stuff, was like, 'Dude, they've probably been hacked, bro. They would call you. They would let you know.'" Holland, however, was right, and soon received a call from Kevin Feige confirming his casting. Sure, the news might've been spoiled for him, but we're pretty sure Tom Holland was happy anyway.

Tom Hiddleston found success amid disappointment

Long before such villainous greats as Thanos, Killmonger, and Hela had graced the MCU with their ill intentions, there was Loki — tricky, cunning, strangely sympathetic Loki. Sure, he's stabbed Thor in the back more times than any moviegoer can count, and no, as the literal god of mischief, it's not likely he'll stop anytime soon. But audiences embraced him regardless, to the point that he got his own streaming series. The man with the horns is a complicated figure, especially when compared to his noble brother ... but that's why fans adore him.

It's shocking to learn, then, that the man who brought Loki to such vivid life wasn't originally planning to play him at all. Tom Hiddleston actually auditioned to play Thor, in fact, and only learned of Loki's part when he was told that Chris Hemsworth would be playing the blonde god. "Kevin [Feige] and Ken [Branagh] called me personally and said, 'Well, you're not going to play Thor, but we would like you to play Loki,'" he told The Huffington Post in 2014. "Ken said to me, 'Actually, this is the role that I would want to play.' In a way, it was a gift, and I have no regrets about it at all. I've never once thought, 'I wish I were playing Thor.'" Loki was a blessing in disguise — a serpent-green, frequently two-faced, utterly bewitching disguise.

Vin Diesel consulted his kids before joining the MCU

Vin Diesel might be famous as the star of action franchises like The Fast and the Furious and XXX, but before any of that, he's a total nerd. We're talking the kind of nerd who gets a Dungeons and Dragons-themed cake for his 48th birthday. "I kind of became who I am because I played Dungeons and Dragons," Diesel told Jimmy Fallon in 2014, "We acted! Every time we played, for the first couple hours we would just be talking, shooting the s**t, and then, once we started getting into the game, everything changed!" 

It makes sense, then, that he plays Groot, a sentient tree who can only say "I am Groot," with roots in Marvel's 1960s monster comics. But his journey to playing the character was more complicated than fans might guess, despite the fact that Diesel credits his fans for pushing Marvel to consider a place for him within their sprawling universe. Initially, as he told Maria Menounos, Marvel didn't have a concrete idea for his spot in the MCU, and even when James Gunn approached him with the idea of playing Groot, Diesel was skeptical. So why did the actor change his mind? As Diesel explained, "I took the book of conceptual art into the room with my kids, and I opened it up to the page where all five Guardians of the Galaxy characters are, and I say, 'Who do you think they want daddy to play?' And my daughter so quickly pointed to Groot. From that moment on I was Groot."

Letitia Wright let faith guide her

Shuri's only been part of the MCU since 2018, but it's already impossible to imagine it without her. The irrepressible genius isn't just a scientist and technological innovator, but also a mischievous younger sister, a wannabe Coachella-goer, and a fierce warrior in her own right. Given that she's recently been declared the smartest character in the MCU, gotten her own solo comic series, and manages to inspire new feats of cosplay every day, it seems likely that Marvel fans will be enjoying her exploits for years to come.

But was it meant to be? Well, the actress who plays her, Letitia Wright, certainly feels as though that's the case. "I've got this role, God has told me," she recalled saying to her agent. And then, of course, she got the call from Marvel. Wright credits her religious faith with helping her out of a "very dark place" and sustaining her through the ups and downs of a career in the performing arts. "I pride myself on keeping it the same as when I came into acting, to not just change the lane and take everything, just because it may have a big name or a big budget," she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018, proving that her intelligent take on the Wakandan princess comes from a personal place. She's not just talented. She's grounded as well.

Danai Gurira had to hear it again

As the esteemed Wakandan general and captain of the Dora Milaje, T'Challa's all-female royal guard, Okoye stole audience's hearts the moment she strode onto the screen, spear in hand and quip at the ready. There's nothing Okoye won't do to protect her country, her king, and her loved ones. But she's not all close-quarters combat. Okoye is also one of the funniest parts of Black Panther's corner of the MCU. Whether she's roasting the king with his sister, rolling her eyes at gun-toting gangsters, or disdaining the wig she must wear while working undercover, she does it with wry aplomb.

Given that Danai Gurira was already famous for playing the mysterious Michonne on AMC's The Walking Dead, her prowess isn't surprising. Still, when she nabbed the role of Okoye, Gurira was totally shocked. She was, in fact, among the most surprised actors on this list. "I was like, 'What?' I couldn't even believe it. I was like, 'Marvel and Ryan Coogler are doing what?'" she told NPR in 2018, "Like, I was trying to piece [it] together in my brain. My manager had to repeat it like four times." It was true, as fans worldwide now know, and she played the role with such deftness and skill that imagining Okoye inhabited by anyone else now feels impossible. Here's to many more wig-throwings to come.

Jacob Batalon took a really long trip

Spider-Man might be famous for protecting his friendly neighborhood, but he'd be nothing without friends like Ned. Ned allows Peter to be the kid that he still is, and to believe in himself, whether he's facing down a baddie or just trying to work up the courage to approach the aloof MJ. He's not just a buddy — he's an ally in everything from world-saving to test-taking.

Jacob Batalon knows a little about that sort of steadfastness. A college dropout, his path to fame was a twisting one that led through his home state of Hawaii, film school, and eventually, an intriguingly vague casting call for a teenage supporting character in a Marvel movie. Batalon didn't expect much from sending in his self-filmed audition tape — not only because of its humble origins, but also because it was his first audition. His talent was apparent, however, and when Marvel called him back, they didn't just want to express their interest. They wanted to fly him out to Burbank to see how he played on-screen opposite Tom Holland. "It was really nerve-wracking for me, honestly. Tom had a really good time but I was shaking in my shoes," he told IndieWire in 2017. "But it was really fun." The two actors clicked, Batalon was cast as Ned, and the dynamic duo of the Midtown School of Science and Technology were off and running.

Lashana Lynch stayed practical after learning she'd been cast in the MCU

Captain Marvel set the world on fire when she took to the skies in her 2019 movie. But behind this heroine, there's a steadfast best friend, and Lashana Lynch brought that character to electric life. As Maria Rambeau, Lynch refused to be categorized. She portrayed Maria as a single mom who's cool with both karaoke and flying a spaceship. Maria proved to be a hero in her own right over the course of the movie, and her daughter, Monica, will likely go on to become an MCU superstar given the character's spectacular comic origins. Maria isn't just a mom, a friend, or a pilot. She's all that and more.

Lashana Lynch's life is taking the same path in many ways. A multi-talented performer, Lynch was recently announced as the world's new 007, and she's set to star as Agent 355 in Y, a dystopian tale adapted from the bestselling Y: The Last Man comic series. But being cast as Maria was still a shock, one that came in the middle of a dinner out with friends. "I heard 'congratulations' and literally just dropped on the ground, crying in sobs of tears," Lynch told Entertainment Weekly in 2018. "My friends were filming me, just jumping up and down." Practicality soon took over, however, when Lynch realized she still needed to grab a few necessities before the night was over, like face wipes and garbage bags. No wonder, then, that she's so good at portraying the serious-minded Maria.

Benedict Cumberbatch made his own demands

Benedict Cumberbatch took the world by storm with his portrayal of the titular detective in the BBC's Sherlock series, and then he upped the ante by playing a motion-captured dragon, one of the greatest villains of the Star Trek universe, and a little role you might've heard of called Hamlet. Even he, however, couldn't ignore the lure of a Marvel role ... but it did take some finagling.

"I thought Benedict was perfect as Doctor Strange, because [he] has the combination of high education and high intelligence. I believe that he can be a top neurosurgeon," Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson told Vanity Fair at the film's 2016 premiere. "I felt that he would be a great action star. He has the ability to give the audience emotion even in the middle of an action scene." So strongly did he feel this, in fact, that Marvel was willing to push filming back to allow Cumberbatch to play Hamlet on London's West End. That's right. Cumberbatch got the coveted call, and he was willing to turn it down. For an actor of his caliber, it turns out, Marvel wanted to wait, and everything eventually managed to fall into place for the MCU's master of the mystic arts. 

Dave Bautista 'broke down' after he was cast

Dave Bautista isn't the kind of guy one can easily picture falling apart. The six-time WWE Champion is a vision of athleticism, someone more easily pictured hefting a car than wiping away a tear. But strength is a complicated business, and Bautista's journey to playing Drax the Destroyer, a warrior as revenge-minded as he is hilariously literal, was an emotional one. "Each time I was called back, it became more nerve-wracking and more real. And of course, there was a bigger chance I wouldn't get the part," he told Wired when discussing the audition process. "I'm still new to acting and haven't found my comfort zone with it." 

The anxiety and callbacks were, of course, worth it, but that doesn't mean Bautista felt an immediate surge of relief upon getting the call that confirmed he'd be playing Drax. In fact, the man was a little overwhelmed. "I was on my way to the gym when I got the news on the phone — [I] broke down, I drove home, walked in, and I was just a mess," he told Collider. Luckily, he managed to muster the confidence necessary to play the alien hero, and now Drax is beloved the world over as a Guardian of the Galaxy.