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Superhero actors who were never the same after their roles

Audiences haven't lost their enthusiasm for superhero films. From Mavel's epic Avengers saga to inspiring DC blockbusters like Wonder Woman, fans keep asking for more, and these major studios keep delivering. Over the past two decades in particular, we've seen big names in Hollywood put on a cape, hide behind a mask, or pick up a shield to bring stories from classic comic books to life. 

But as a wise Uncle Ben once told Peter Parker, "With great power, comes great responsibility." And while these actors aren't actually saving their cities or protecting the galaxy like the superheros they're portraying, it turns out that playing a caped crusader does make them feel like they have a high standard to live up to. Maybe that's why taking on a superhero role tends to have a long-lasting impact on an actor's outlook. From Marvel stars to DC legends, here's why these superhero actors were never the same after their iconic roles.

Robert Downey Jr. had to say he wasn't Iron Man

In 2008, Robert Downery Jr. starred in Iron Man, the very first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's easy to assume that in terms of his personality, Downey is basically Iron Man in real life, just without all of the incredible technology produced by Stark Industries. Downey started to feel that way, too, and he had to separate himself from the character as his time with Marvel wound down. 

"Being a good company man, but also being a little off-kilter, being creative, and getting into all these other partnerships, it was a time when ... what do they say? Owners start looking like their pets," Downey said in an interview on Off Camera With Sam Jones. Downey explained that he eventually had to establish "aesthetic distance" from his character, a concept that he learned about in his past theatrical training. He had to re-establish his own identity outside of Iron Man, recognizing, "I am not my work. ... I am not that period of time that I spent playing this character."

Spider-Man turned Tom Holland into a star

Since 2003, we've seen three different actors take on the live-action role of Spider-Man: Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and most recently, Tom Holland. But long before he put on the suit and started slinging webs around Queens, Holland always wanted to play friendly neighborhood crime-fighter. In fact, it was his dream role. During an interview in 2013, Holland was asked if he ever wanted to play a superhero. He said that if there was ever another Spider-Man reboot, he hoped to star in it, predicting that it might take another ten years. 

But Holland's luck was better than that. In 2015, he officially signed on to play Spider-Man in the MCU. And his dream role turned out to be his breakout role, too. Holland had been a working actor for several years before playing Peter Parker, with roles in critically acclaimed films like The Impossible and In the Heart of the Sea, but it wasn't until Spider-Man that he gained widespread recognition. 

Captain Marvel completely changed Brie Larson's life

Brie Larson had been a struggling actress for years. She'd been working in Hollywood since she was a little kid, but it wasn't until her role in the 2013 film Short Term 12 that she really hit her stride. Just a few years later, she suddenly found herself up for the part of Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel, an opportunity that her childhood self could've only dreamed of. But Larson was nervous about how her life could change if she played such a big part in the MCU, with the lack of privacy and the pressure of high expectations. And to make things even more stressful, Marvel had sworn her to secrecy after reaching out to her about the role, so she couldn't ask her loved ones for their opinions. The decision was completely on her — and obviously, she ended up going for it.  

"I had to sit with myself, think about my life, and what I want out of it," Larson told Vanity Fair. "Ultimately, I couldn't deny the fact that this movie is everything I care about, everything that's progressive and important and meaningful, and a symbol I wished I would've had growing up." Now, Larson gets to play the kind of woman she would've looked up to as a kid.

Chris Evans needed help to prepare for his superhero role

It's easy to assume that most actors would jump at the chance to play a superhero like Captain America. But Chris Evans, who eventually got the part and picked up that famous shield, wasn't so keen to take on the challenge when it was offered to him. 

"I was nervous about the lifestyle change, about the commitment. ... I also like having anonymity," Evans told We Got This Covered, adding, "Losing that and having to change my lifestyle was just terrifying." 

Evans went on to explain that his loved ones helped him realize why he couldn't skip out on this incredible opportunity. "The more I spoke to people about it though, the more they said that I can't make a decision based on fear," he said. But even though Evans was about to start playing a superhero, he certainly didn't feel like one. He decided to begin seeing a therapist to deal with his anxiety about his new role. Going to therapy helped him embrace his new status and understand why playing Captain America was worth all of the changes and sacrifice. 

Thor helped Chris Hemsworth prove his comedy chops

When Chris Hemsworth signed on to star in Thor and Thor: The Dark World, the character was much more stoic than the Thor we saw in the 2017 film Thor: Ragnorak. And Hemsworth can be credited for that positive shift in tone. "I felt like I was typecast by whoever was writing those scripts," Hemsworth told Variety. "I feel like the creators were stuck on where they could take the character, and was this all he had to offer? I felt there was so much more we could do."

Marvel fans immediately noticed a huge difference in tone between Thor: Ragnorak and Hemsworth's previous films in the franchise. After all, Ragnorak revealed a whole new side of the character: funny, irreverant, and refreshing. But it wasn't the writers or director who made the initial decision to take a risk and change things up. Instead, it was Hemsworth himself. He took a leap of faith and pitched the idea, and thankfully, it was well-received. There's no doubt he made the right call, as it displayed Hemsworth's amazing comedic abilities and made him a much more beloved member of the Avengers.

Chris Pratt became a blockbuster star thanks to Star-Lord

Chris Pratt spent years playing the lovable, scatterbrained Andy Dwyer on the feel-good sitcom Parks and Recreation, but all along, he had his sights set on bigger projects. It was hard to imagine that the same guy who portrayed Andy playing a superhero, but when the opportunity came up to audition for the role of Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy, Pratt eventually decided to go for it. He didn't think he had a real shot, but against all odds, he nailed it.

Guardians premiered to rave reviews, and Pratt took his career to a whole new level. "I made a genre jump," Pratt told Vanity Fair, "a category jump, some kind of jump." After playing Peter Quill, new doors opened up for him in Hollywood, paving the way to leading roles in other blockbuster films. He starred alongside Jennifer Lawrence in the film Passengers, and while that film was mired in controversy, he made the big bucks by starring as raptor trainer Owen Grady in the Jurassic World franchise. 

Chadwick Boseman is incredibly proud of Black Panther

For many people, Black Panther was more than just a superhero film, and for Chadwick Boseman — who played T'Challa himself — it was the role of a lifetime. And to this day, the actor isn't just proud of the Black Panther cast and crew, who created the only MCU film to win an Academy Award so far. He's also proud that he became one of many black filmmakers, actors, and screenwriters making waves in Hollywood and bringing fresh perspectives to movies and TV. 

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2018, Boseman pointed to a number of TV shows and films created and led by black visionaries, projects like Atlanta, Empire, and Insecure. And as Boseman explained, filmmakers like Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler are blazing a trail, and he's excited to be a part of that movement. In fact, Boseman is helping change the Hollywood landscape, as Black Panther is the highest-grossing solo superhero film of all time. That's absolutely staggering, especially since Hollywood has historically been reluctant to produce mainstream films with black casts and black creators. So it makes a lot of sense that when Boseman attended a Black Panther panel at the legendary Apollo Theater, he joyfully told the audience, "I don't know if we've ever been this proud to be African-American."

Paul Rudd got to share this superhero role with his son

For a long time, Paul Rudd always seemed to pop up in romantic comedies. From his breakout role in Clueless to Knocked Up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he definitely had a niche. Starring in a superhero film didn't seem like it would be in the cards for Rudd, but in 2015, the comedian played Scott Lang in Ant-Man and went on to appear in the sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, as well as a couple of crossover films like Avengers: Endgame.

But there was something extra special about playing the pint-sized superhero, and it wasn't just the fact that Rudd got to become a part of the MCU. After decades of working on movies that were clearly geared towards adult or teenage audiences, he had finally starred in a movie that he could enjoy with his young son, who was ten years old at the time. "This is the first film of mine that he's seen," Rudd told The Guardian, "and it makes me proud and nervous at the same time. I took him to the premiere — he'd never been to a premiere, and that was a very moving experience for me. The best thing about anything is sharing it with your kid."

Margot Robbie became an action star thanks to Harley Quinn

Although Suicide Squad received generally negative critical reviews, Margot Robbie had a fantastic time playing Harley Quinn. And Robbie definitely wasn't ready to leave Harley behind. While filming Suicide Squad, she realized that this character had so much more potential, and she wasn't quite ready to let her go just yet. 

"I wasn't seeing enough girl gangs on screen, especially in the action space," Robbie told Collider, adding, "I was like, 'I love action. I love action films. I'm a girl. What, are we meant to only like a specific thing?'" So Robbie took matters into her own hands, and she pitched an idea for an action film starring Harley and her girl gang. 

And Robbie's vision came to life with Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), a movie about Harley saying goodbye to the Joker and taking matters into her own hands to save an innocent girl. Thanks to her superhero role, Robbie has gone from sex symbol to a legitimate action star, complete with her own team of heroic sidekicks.

Gal Gadot was never the same after Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot just might've been born to play Wonder Woman. She embodies her character so well that you could be forgiven for thinking she was actually a skilled Amazonian warrior who just happened to stumble on a Hollywood set one day. The crazy part? Gadot nearly quit acting before she was offered the role of Diana. She was so discouraged by countless rejections that she was ready to throw in the towel. 

"I was thinking about never coming back to Los Angeles. ... Because there had been so many 'no's," she admitted to Glamour, adding "I reached a place where I didn't want to do that anymore. ... I was thinking, 'What am I good for?' And that's when I got Wonder Woman." Finally, she'd landed the life-changing role she'd been searching for all along, and the film made an incredible impact on audiences around the world, proving that yes, people were more than ready for female superheroes. 

Christian Bale is filled with regrets over Batman

Despite the popularity of superhero films, they still don't get much love during awards season. The Dark Knight was an exception. Christopher Nolan's dark, gritty follow up to Batman Begins exceeded expectations and blew critics and audiences away. But Christian Bale still thinks that he didn't do Bruce Wayne justice. 

"I didn't quite manage what I hoped I would through the trilogy," Bale told The Guardian. "Chris [Nolan] did, but my own sense of self is like, 'I didn't quite nail it.'" Bale felt like he could've pushed himself to show a more disturbed side of Batman's psyche, and looking back on the films, he doesn't feel like he accomplished that. His time as Batman is long over, and he regrets that he can't do anything more with the character. 

One reason for Bale's insecurity about his own performance? Heath Ledger's masterful portrayal of the Joker, which earned the actor a posthumous Oscar. Bale said that Ledger's acting was "so much more interesting," even though Bale had the starring role.  

Ryan Reynolds dealt with serious anxiety thanks to his superhero role

Years before the superhero comedy Deadpool hit the big screen, Ryan Reynolds dreamed of playing this character in a movie that wasn't X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He'd already pitched the idea to studios and was turned down, but those early rejections didn't quell his enthusiasm for this story. He knew that his ideas for the script were gold, and he just needed a chance to prove it. When Deadpool finally premiered, over a decade after Reynolds began pushing for it, the response was overwhelming ... and it was almost too much for Reynolds to handle. He felt overexposed and vulnerable.

"I had a little bit of a nervous breakdown," Reynolds told GQ. "I literally had the shakes. I went to go see a doctor because I felt like I was suffering from a neurological problem or something. And every doctor I saw said, 'You have anxiety.'" Looking back on his emotional state after the release of Deadpool, Reynolds said, "I think that was a slightly fear-based reaction." Now, he feels more comfortable with himself, and he's not so scared to have all eyes on him.