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Stagey Avengers assemble: Superhero stars with surprising theatre backgrounds

As Marvel's Avengers: Endgame hits cinemas, find out how Spider-Man, Black Panther and more all went from the stage to some of the biggest superhero films

Danai Gurira
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

With the whole world in superhero fever right now, we wanted to highlight some of the more surprising stagey origin stories – note this article doesn't contain any spoilers for Avengers: Endgame!


Tom Holland

Tom Holland
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

The Marvel Cinematic Universe's own friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is no stranger to the West End, having been plucked from obscurity by choreographer Lynne Page and recommended for the titular role in the London production of Billy Elliot. He started in the show in 2008, long before gaining his web-slinging powers, and stayed in the role for two years – you can even see him in action in the picture above!


Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick Boseman
© Gage Skidmore (flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Did you know the King of Wakanda never expected to be an actor – he actually trained to be a writer and theatre director! Boseman wrote his first play while still at high school, about a classmate who had been shot and killed. In 2000 he graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing. According to an interview with the Washington Post, he only started to learn acting so he could work out how to relate to actors – and it took three years before he got his first role.


Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson
© Gage Skidmore (flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

She may play the kick-ass Valkyrie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Tessa Thompson first earned her stripes on the stage – playing Juliet in a reimagined take on Shakespeare's tragedy in 2003. The performance earned her an NAACP Theatre Award nomination, and things went from there!


Melissa Benoist

The resident Supergirl Melissa Benoist had a fleeting time on hit show Glee, but even then she was no stranger to the musical theatre world, having studied at Marymount Manhattan College. Before graduating she had earned some professional credits in an urban off-off-Broadway production of Thoroughly Modern Millie and taking on the role of Rosalind in As You Like It at the New York Theresa Lang Theatre.


Danai Gurira

Danai Gurira
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Gurira plays the Dora Milaje leader and warrior of few words Okoye in Black Panther and the last two Avengers films, which feels a bit ironic given she has spent over a decade being one of the most vocal and powerful playwrights of the century. Her 2012 play The Convert was recently revived at the Young Vic, and Chicago theatre company Steppenwolf recently presenting her newest show Familiar.


And all the others...

Tom Hiddleston in 2007 at the premiere of Othello, with Ewan McGregor and
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

A few other success stories OBVIOUSLY include Tom Hiddleston (who wowed at the Donmar and as part of Cheek By Jowl before enchanting audiences as Loki) as well as the likes of Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen or Patrick Stewart, all stage legends before leading some of the biggest films of the last couple of decades.