Since the 2008 film Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has continued to grow and evolve. Multiple Hollywood stars have joined the fascinating world of superheroes and have brought several characters to life. Along with some of the iconic superheroes, the cinematic universe is also full of unforgettable villains who have had a significant part throughout the MCU.
While these characters might have drawn the audience’s disdain, the actors who portray such characters have been praised for their immense talent and for their ability to embody some of the most memorable villains in the MCU. Unfortunately, the passing of time has brought with it the inevitable loss of some of the actors who graced the screen, not only as Marvel villains but also with their several performances. Here are eight Marvel actors who sadly passed away throughout the years.
Remembering the Iconic Marvel Villain Actors
The late actor William Hurt had an applauded career before he made his MCU debut as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk, and went on to reprise his role in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. He was last seen as Thunderbolt Ross in Scarlett Johansson’s 2021 film Black Widow.
The actor is known for his performance on the stage and on-screen in movies like Broadcast News, A History of Violence, and Kiss of the Spider Woman, and has won the Best Actor Academy Award for the latter. Following a decade-long career, he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 2018. He took the silver screen one last time to portray the character of Père La Chaise in the 2022 film The King’s Daughter.
The Oscar-winning actor passed away in March 2022 at his home from complications of the disease. The actor’s legacy spans several iconic films, including the MCU, where his character will be portrayed by the Hollywood star Harrison Ford in the upcoming Marvel films, including Captain America: Brave New World and Thunderbolts.
The American actor and filmmaker Bill Paxton made a name for himself in the industry with movies like Aliens, Tombstone, Twister, True Lies, and many more. In 2014, the Emmy nominee joined the cast of the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the Marvel villain John Garrett.
Bringing the cyborg assassin on the screen for the first time, the actor has been credited as one of the names behind the series’ success. The character is described to have a different perspective than the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson, and the executive producer Jed Whedon has stated that everybody wanted the Titanic actor to portray the character.
The cast and crew of the series have shared that they loved working with him. The 2017 techno-thriller The Circle marks his last on-screen presence. Paxton passed away in February 2017 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles due to a stroke he suffered 11 days after his heart surgery.
One of the great actors to ever grace the silver screen, Powers Boothe is widely known for his antagonistic roles, one of which also includes the role of Jim Jones in the miniseries Guyana Tragedy. The late actor landed the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his performance in the 80’s series.
The actor made a cameo appearance in the 2012 Marvel film The Avengers as Gideon Malick, where he is seen supporting the decision to nuke New York City to stop the alien army. Following his brief appearance in the MCU, he officially joined the cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the secondary antagonist for season 3.
Apart from the MCU, he has also voiced the DC character Gorilla Grodd in the animated series Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. He also gave voice to the DC villain Lex Luthor in the 2006 animated feature Superman: Brainiac Attacks. Boothe passed away at the age of 68 after he suffered a heart attack in May 2017.
Michael Clarke Duncan
One of the most iconic and popular Marvel villains is the crime boss Wilson Fisk. The character is known for his massive appearance and immense strength. The makers of the 2003 film Daredevil found the best actor for the character in Michael Clarke Duncan.
Having a six feet five inches figure and weighing close to 300 pounds, the actor dedicated himself to preparing for his Marvel role. Being a superhero fan growing up, he was very enthusiastic about playing the character and went on to reprise his role in the TV series Spider-Man: The New Animated Series.
Before pursuing a full-time acting career, he took several security jobs in Los Angeles, working as a bodyguard for several celebrities. Apart from his Marvel role, Duncan is also known for his work in Armageddon, The Whole Nine Yards, The Scorpion King, Sin City, and The Green Mile. He also landed an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the latter. He passed away in September 2012 from a heart attack.
Known for starring in TV shows like Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future and Mr. T-starring “T. and T., David Hemblen voiced the X-Men character Magneto in X-Men: The Animated Series. Joining the cast as the series antagonist, Magneto goes on to join forces with the superhero team to battle Apocalypse.
Hemblen is also widely known for portraying the role of Johnathan Doors in the sci-fi TV series Earth: Final Conflict. The actor passed away in November 2020. Marvel Studios has been working on X-Men ’97, an animated show that is being credited as the sequel/reboot to the 1990s X-Men: The Animated Series. It will bring back the original cast, and the studio has recast Hemblen’s role with Matthew Waterson.
Starting acting from a very young age, Gaspard Ulliel had his big break in Hollywood with his role as the young Hannibal Lecter in the Silence of the Lambs prequel Hannibal Rising. Following significant appearances in movies like Saint Laurent, It’s Only the End of the World and A Very Long Engagement, he was cast as Anton Mogart in Marvel’s miniseries Moon Knight.
He portrayed the character of a wealthy collector, who appeared in the episode titled The Friendly Type. Unfortunately, the actor passed away in January 2022 at the age of 37 after suffering critical injuries in a skiing accident in France. Marvel Studios paid tribute to the late actor during the end credits of the Moon Knight episode, The Friendly Type, featuring Ulliel’s guest appearance as Anton Mogart.
Nicolas Cage brought the Marvel character Johnny Blaze, aka Ghost Rider, to life in his 2007 action film. Starring alongside Eva Mendes and Wes Bentley, the movie follows the stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze, who gives up his soul to the demon lord Mephisto to save his father.
Peter Fonda portrayed the character of the demon lord Mephisto alongside Cage. The actor is also known for his work in the 1969 drama Easy Rider, for which he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. He landed his second Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his role in performance in Ulee’s Gold. His filmography credits also include The Last Movie and Escape from L.A. Fonda passed away at the age of 79 following a battle with lung cancer.
The athlete-turned-actor, Neil Fingleton, starred in the 2015 sequel to The Avengers. Starting as a basketball player, he decided to pursue an acting career after suffering an injury in 2007. He is known for starring alongside Keanu Reeves in 47 Ronin.
He was also named the tallest man in Britain, having a seven feet, seven inches tall figure, which turned out to be a plus point for his acting career. He landed significant roles in Game of Thrones and Doctor Who and also played two Marvel roles.
Before starring as a motion capture actor for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron, he also played a Russian bodyguard in the 2011 film X-Men: First Class. The actor died in February 2017 at the age of 36 due to heart failure.
Along with a hero, the villain of the story also holds a significant role. And while it seems reasonable to despise these characters on the screen, it’s also necessary to continue to celebrate and praise the exceptional work of the actors who bring these antagonistic characters to life on the screen. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand, it’s important to remember the contribution of these great actors to the MCU and Hollywood.