Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Former Marvel Actors You Didn't Realize Had Cameos In The MCU

The Marvel Cinematic Universe may have officially "launched" with Iron Man back in 2008, but Marvel Comics has been involved in the movie and TV entertainment business for far longer. Way back in 1966, Marvel launched its first animated cartoon show with The Marvel Super Heroes — and  since then there have been plenty of non-MCU live action television series (including the popular The Incredible Hulk show from the 1970s) and theatrically-released films (the X-Men movies, for instance).

So, it's only natural that some of the actors populating those Marvel-adjacent projects would eventually make their way into the proper MCU. Sure, everybody knows that Chris Evans was once the Human Torch of 2005's Fantastic Four (and its 2007 sequel Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer) before becoming the MCU's Captain America — or that Michael B. Jordan went from being the other Human Torch of the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot to being King T'Challa's main nemesis in the MCU's Black Panther (2018), but most of you probably don't know about all the other Marvel stars from yesterday who got to reappear in the MCU. 

From meaty re-emergences to blink-and-you-miss-'em cameos, let's take a fun look back at some past MCU projects and discover where these actors first appeared in the history of Marvel media.

Bill Bixby in The Incredible Hulk (2008)

This first cameo is a bit of a cheat — but Bill Bixby was such a pivotal figure in Marvel media that most fans were probably thrilled to see his face again. 

Back in 1978, Bixby starred as Doctor Banner in the CBS television series The Incredible Hulk. Drawing from the comics and Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables, the series saw Bixby's Banner (renamed "David") wandering the country in search of a cure to stop him from transforming into the monstrous Hulk (Lou Ferrigno). Unfortunately, he was relentlessly pursued by investigative reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin), which made staying in one area impossible.

Bixby would return as David Banner in multiple made-for-TV Hulk movies, including The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988) and The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989) where he met TV versions of Thor and Daredevil respectively, but his character died at the end of the final TV movie The Death of the Incredible Hulk (1990). Bixby himself died of prostate cancer in 1993.

In 2008, however, the MCU managed to get Bill Bixby to cameo in The Incredible Hulk — well, sort of. Near the beginning of the film, Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) flipped through several TV channels while hiding in Brazil. One of the shows featured Bixby playing another of his iconic TV characters, widower Tom Corbett in the popular '70's sitcom The Courtship of Eddie's Father. It's a quick but sweet nod of acknowledgement to an actor who helped define Hulk for a generation of fans.

Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The Hulk may be a CGI creation today, but back in the 1970s and 1980s, the Green Goliath was synonymous with bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno, who played the big green guy on The Incredible Hulk TV show and movies opposite Bill Bixby's David Banner.

Even after the TV series ended, Ferrigno wasn't done with the Hulk. He voiced the gamma ray-powered gargantuan on UPN's The Incredible Hulk animated series, which ran for two seasons in the late 1990s. Then in 2003, Ferrigno appeared opposite another Marvel legend, Stan Lee, in director Ang Lee's Hulk movie. Ferrigno was cast as a security guard who briefly passed Doctor Banner (Eric Bana) as he entered his laboratory. But in a deleted scene that later saw the light of day, Ferrigno was supposed to pass Banner again and promise to check in on a poodle (one of the dogs Banner's father, played by Nick Nolte, would mutate into a "Hulk-dog" later in the film).

In The Incredible Hulk (2008), Ferrigno got another cameo, as another guard — earning some additional dialogue when Banner (now played by Edward Norton) bribed him with a pizza to get through a security checkpoint. Shaking Banner's hand, the former TV Hulk remarked, "God bless you brother," offering a sly wink to the audience about their simpatico past. The relationship was rekindled even further in the film this time, because director Louis Leterrier also cast Ferrigno to voice the Hulk (making the muscular star so excited he reportedly lost his voice from practicing), ultimately allowing him to deliver the iconic line, "Hulk smash!"

Paul Soles in The Incredible Hulk (2008)

One of the best cameos in The Incredible Hulk (2008) was offered by a Marvel star who's mostly forgotten by modern audiences. Back in 1966, voice actor Paul Soles, who became famous for playing Hermey the Dentist Elf in the Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), voiced Bruce Banner in the Incredible Hulk animated series. Soles also voiced Hulk's sidekick Rick Jones in both the Incredible Hulk and the animated Captain America 1966 series, even portraying Tony Stark's friend Happy Hogan in the 1966 Iron Man cartoon.

From 1967 to 1970, Soles voiced another Marvel Comics legend when he played Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the original Spider-Man cartoon. He would reprise the role briefly in the 1979 Spider-Woman animated television series, going on to work in both animation and live action for the next several decades. In essence, his voice was the first many Marvel fans ever heard when they initially met these characters beyond the comic book page. 

In 2008, the MCU paid homage to Soles by having him cameo as Stanley, the kind pizzeria owner who gave Dr. Bruce Banner (Norton) a place to stay and even provided him with a cover identity as a delivery man so he could sneak into a university lab. An obvious reference to Hulk's co-creator Stan Lee, Stanley would appear in multiple scenes, including one with Banner's love interest Betty Ross (Liv Tyler).

As of 2021, Soles is still with us at age 90. He's living in Canada in retirement — presumably, until the next time Marvel comes calling.

Jon Favreau in Iron Man (2008)

Celebrated as a director, writer and producer as well as an actor, Jon Favreau had several early appearances in superhero movies, including a brief scene as one of Bruce Wayne (Val Kilmer)'s assistants in Batman Forever (1995). In 2003, however, Favreau gained a more significant role in the Marvel movie Daredevil (2003) where he played Matt Murdock's friend and partner Franklin "Foggy" Nelson. Favreau's character made multiple appearances in the film, including a comedic one where he got the blind Murdock to put mustard in his coffee, only for Matt to secretly switch their cups.

By 2008, Favreau was directing the original Iron Man film and had a small role as Happy Hogan, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.)'s friend and driver. Favreau would go on to direct Iron Man 2 (2010) and reprise his role as Hogan. From there, Happy Hogan would grow into a much bigger character in the MCU, appearing in multiple Marvel films including Iron Man 3 (2013), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Avengers: Endgame (2019), and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019).

Ray Stevenson in Thor (2011)

Ray Stevenson portrayed the hefty Asgardian warrior Volstagg in MCU's original Thor film, but did you know he played a much more violent Marvel antihero a few years earlier? Long before Jon Bernthal brought his popular version of Frank Castle (aka the Punisher) to the Daredevil Netflix series in 2016, Stevenson portrayed a different version of the gun-toting vigilante in Punisher: War Zone (2008).

The film was actually the third live-action Punisher movie, following Dolph Lundgren's direct-to-video 1989 The Punisher movie and Thomas Jane's theatrically released 2004 The Punisher film. War Zone's story followed a seasoned Punisher who had been killing criminals for some time, and included other well-known comic book characters like Frank Castle's armorer Microchip (Wayne Knight) and his nemesis Jigsaw (Dominic West). Intended for mature audiences, the film featured Stevenson engaging in many graphic, blood-soaked scenes — a far cry from the gentler Volstagg, who spent most of his scenes in Thor eating.

Surprisingly, Stevenson got to voice the Punisher again in the kid-friendly animated series The Super Hero Squad Show. In the episode, "Night in the Sanctorum," a cartoon version of the Punisher let several Marvel super heroes crash in his battle van, only to freak them out by going into an intense monologue where he compared criminals to Brussel sprouts.

Garrett Morris in Ant-Man (2015)

In 2015's Ant-Man, audiences watched as Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) accidentally activated the shrinking power of a super suit he had come into possession of, nearly drowning in a bathtub. After ensuing misadventures including hungry rats and deadly vacuum cleaners, he was tossed out of his building and landed on top of a taxicab driven by an old man. The cab driver, startled by Lang, was played by veteran comedian Garrett Morris.

While his appearance is brief, Morris is one of the original "Not Ready for Primetime Players" from Saturday Night Live, and he has a fun connection to Ant-Man. Back in 1979, Morris appeared in a classic SNL sketch entitled "Superhero Party," where he joined other Marvel and DC heroes at a cocktail party hosted by Superman (Bill Murray) and Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). Morris wore a comic book-accurate version of Ant-Man's original helmet and costume, and his work was fondly remembered by director Peyton Reed, who saved the actor a cameo when it came time to give Ant-Man the cinematic treatment. 

Amazingly, Morris has an even earlier link to Marvel Comics. In 1978's Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1 #74 Spider-Man teamed up with the cast of Saturday Night Live, which included Morris. When actor John Belushi received a teleportation ring that was supposed to go to the villainous Silver Samurai, Spidey teamed up with the SNL cast to protect Belushi as the Silver Samurai came after the ring. To try and scare the villain's henchmen, Morris actually dressed up as none other than Thor. 

David Hasselhoff in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Knight Rider star David Hasselhoff was first mentioned in the MCU by 1980s-obsessed superhero Peter Quill/Starlord (Chris Pratt) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) as the man he once claimed was his father. 

A later scene in the film showed Peter still carried a photo of Hasselhoff clipped from an old TV Guide. Then, the real Hoff briefly appeared as Peter's real father — the Celestial Ego (Kurt Russell) — shapeshifted into the actor to mock his son. Lastly, Hasselhoff made a final appearance in the credits as he rapped to the song "Guardians Inferno" and reminded audiences "We are Groot."

What some audiences might not know, however, is that Hasselhoff has a previous connection to Marvel movies. 

Back in 1998, Hasselhoff played S.H.I.E.L.D agent Nick Fury in the made-for-TV movie Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD. Produced when Marvel films had minuscule budgets and special effects unable to properly portray many of the storylines they aspired to, the story was built around numerous comic book clichés and is generally not well regarded. 

If this seems strange to people who only know Samuel L. Jackson's beloved take on Nick Fury in the MCU films, it should be noted that the original comic book version of Fury was a Caucasian army sergeant. When Marvel created a separate "Ultimate Marvel" imprint of reimagined characters, Samuel L. Jackson was used as the model for a new version of Fury, leading to Jackson being cast as MCU's Nick Fury.

Jennifer Connelly in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

In Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Peter Parker (Tom Holland) learned that his Stark Tech Spider-Man suit had its own AI, which he then named Karen. Voiced by actress Jennifer Connelly, Karen tutored Peter in the advanced combat features of his suit, helped him track down criminals, and even offered some relationship advice when she learned he had a crush on a girl from his high school.

In real life Connelly is married to actor Paul Bettany, who provides the voice of Tony Stark's AI J.A.R.V.I.S, and later went on to play the android superhero Vision. This connection offers a fun bit of trivia for Spider-Man fans — but Connelly's link to Marvel movies goes beyond her husband.

In 2003 Jennifer Connelly played Betty Ross, scientist and love interest to Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) in Ang Lee's Hulk film. From Hulk's girlfriend to Peter Parker's romantic advisor, Connelly certainly seems like she could set up a side business advising Marvel characters in the ways of love.

Donald Glover in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Actor/singer Donald Glover has a unique relationship to Spider-Man that began when Sony announced in 2010 they were rebooting the character with a series of post-Tobey Maguire films. As the news broke, Glover campaigned to play the new neighborhood web-head, with the hashtag #Donald4Spiderman trending on Twitter.

Although the role of Spider-Man went instead to Andrew Garfield, Glover's appearance in a Spider-Man costume on an episode of NBC's Community caught the eye of Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis who, along with artist Sara Pichelli, helped create an all-new Spider-Man with African-American and Latino roots for the "Ultimate Marvel" imprint. This character, Miles Morales, became very popular with fans and was later integrated into the mainstream Marvel comic book line.

Glover would voice Morales in 2015's Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, and then play a quasi-villain in 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming. The casting was a crowd pleaser because in the comics Glover's character (Aaron Davis) is the uncle to Miles Morales — and since he mentioned having a nephew, that made Miles Morales an official member of the MCU.

Laurence Fishburne in Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Laurence Fishburne has left his distinctive stamp on multiple comic book and iconic action film franchises. 

Aside from playing Morpheus in the original Matrix trilogy, Fishburne portrayed a version of Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White in Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v. Superman (2016). But in 2018, Fishburne crossed over to the MCU playing Dr. Bill Foster (aka Goliath), a former partner of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) during their initial size-shifting experiments.

However, this wasn't even Fishburne's first Marvel film. In 2007's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Fishburne voiced the Silver Surfer in his first big screen appearance. Physically, the Surfer was played by actor Doug Jones (Commander Saru from Star Trek: Discovery) who provided the motion capture for the Herald of Galactus' movements and had hoped to also portray the voice. When the film came out, however, it was Fishburne's distinctive voice explaining to Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) why he needed to find new worlds for his master to consume.

Considering the Surfer survived at the end of the movie, the door was open for a Silver Surfer spinoff that never materialized. With an MCU version of the Fantastic Four on the horizon, however, perhaps we'll be seeing the Sentinel of the Spaceways soar again on the big screen.