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The MCU Actors You Likely Never Realized Starred In True Grit

Due to the absolutely mind-boggling number of A-list actors who have played a role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there are plenty of films from the last decade or so that (in hindsight) function as some sort of MCU reunion. A few great examples include "Chef," which features the likes of Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), or "The Hurt Locker," which starred Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Anthony Mackie (the new Captain America) and Evangeline Lilly (the Wasp).

The same is true for 2010's "True Grit" which stars no less than four actors who played prominent roles within the MCU. Directed by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, "True Grit" is an adaptation of the 1968 Charles Portis novel of the same name, and follows the story of a young farm girl who hires a Deputy U.S. Marshal to hunt down and kill the man who murdered her father. It's absolutely remarkable to look back now and see these four actors sharing the big screen together in non-superhero form, especially knowing that they would eventually all feature very prominently in the MCU.

Jeff Bridges - Obadiah Stane

Having famously worked with the Coen brothers on their cult classic "The Big Lebowski," Jeff Bridges reunited with the pair of directors to take on the lead role of Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit." Cogburn is a former Confederate soldier who lost his eye while fighting in the Civil War, and — as a man who is said to have "true grit" — is the source of the film's title. Rooster claims to have killed well over a dozen men at his time as a US Deputy Marshal, and he is defined by his stubborn pride and tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.

In the MCU, Bridges joined the universe from the very beginning: 2008's "Iron Man," where he played Obadiah Stane, a former mentor of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) who attempts to take over the Stark Corporation. Stane serves as the primary antagonist of the first "Iron Man" film, as he orchestrates Tony's capture in Afghanistan and attempts to build a replica of his Iron Man armor (calling himself Iron Monger in the comics, though that name is only alluded to on film), eventually leading to a battle above Stark Industries. Though Stane would end up meeting an untimely demise when he fell into an exploding arc reactor, it's still important to recognize the part he (unintentionally) played in the MCU at large — as without his villainous actions, there would be no Iron Man.

Hailee Steinfeld – Kate Bishop

The other lead of "True Grit," a young girl named Mattie Ross, is played by none other than Hailee Steinfeld. After her father is murdered by a notorious outlaw, Mattie hires Cogburn to help her track down and kill said outlaw — since the man had fled to Native American Territory, where the local sheriff has no authority whatsoever. Though Steinfeld was only 13 when she was cast in the Coen brothers' Western, she actually earned an Academy Award nomination for her performance, and "True Grit" is considered by many to be her breakthrough role.

While Jeff Bridges played a part at the very beginning of the MCU, his "True Grit" co-star would not join the franchise until the end of 2021, when she starred as Kate Bishop in the Disney+ miniseries "Hawkeye." Like her "True Grit" counterpart, Kate Bishop also loses her father at an early age, this time in the Battle of New York that takes place in 2012's "Avengers." From that point on, she idolizes non-powered Avengers member Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), training to become a master of archery. During the events of "Hawkeye," she ends up becoming his protégé, and Clint ends up passing the torch to her at the end of the series, seemingly naming her as the next "Hawkeye" in the MCU.

It's unclear what Kate Bishop's role in upcoming MCU films may be, but considering how essential Hawkeye was to the original Avengers, one has to assume she will have a major part in the films to come.

Matt Damon – Fake Loki

As Mattie and Cogburn travel across the American frontier in "True Grit," they are joined along the way by a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf, who is played by legendary actor Matt Damon. LaBeouf is attempting to track down the same man who killed Mattie's father, since he is also accused of murdering a Texas State Senator – though this disrupts Matties plans, since she wants the man to be hanged in her home state of Arkansas, not Texas.

In the MCU, Damon has what might be the funniest cameo in the entire franchise, appearing very early in "Thor: Ragnarok," as an Asgardian theater performer. In the film, Damon's character portrays Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in a play that dramatizes Loki's "death" at the end of "Thor: The Dark World." The scene is undoubtedly hilarious, particularly because of just how overdramatic Damon's performance is as the struggling actor. Thor himself eventually ends up crashing the event and unveiling the real Loki, who is posing as Odin, and Damon's time in the MCU comes to an abrupt (and hilarious) end. Or did it? Because it seems that Damon's Asgardian actor might be returning in "Thor: Love and Thunder" ...

Josh Brolin -- Thanos

Throughout the entire "Avengers" saga of the MCU, one name breathes fear into the hearts of heroes and villains alike: Thanos, the so-called Mad Titan, as played by the incredibly talented Josh Brolin. Thanos is a fanatical conqueror whose feverish intent is to wipe out half of all life in existence, something he believes will bring "balance" and "peace" to the universe. He eventually completes this goal in "Avengers: Infinity War," defeating the combined strength of the Avengers and their allies by assembling all of the Infinity Stones. 

Before Josh Brolin ever strapped on his mo-cap suit to star as the Mad Titan, he showed off his talent for playing the villain when he took on the role of Tom Chaney in "True Grit" –- the man who killed Mattie's father and the Texas Senator. Chaney is ruthless murderer who takes no issue with killing anyone who gets in his way.

Considering just how intimidating he was in both "True Grit" and the MCU, one has to hope that Brolin will take on more antagonistic roles in the future, since he is a commanding force nearly every time that he's onscreen.