The Marvel Cinematic Universe may be more packed with stars than the Andromeda Galaxy, home of the planet Xandar, but they didn't all just appear from nowhere as genius billionaire playboy philanthropists or big green rage monsters. Just like weedy Steve Rogers before he became steroidally bulked up as Captain America, the real-life heroes of the MCU had their own humbler origins.
Before they put on the superhero spandex the Marvel cast were just like any other jobbing actor needing to take whatever work was available. Inevitably that means that there are more than a few skeletons in their cinematic closets. And if you're Guardians Of The Galaxy's Benicio Del Toro then that skeleton is of a dog-faced boy (his first big screen credit for Big Top Pee-wee).
Benicio the Dog-Faced Boy isn't even the weirdest early movie role for a Marvel star, though, not by a long shot. In fact that only scratches the surface of the madness of the early careers of some of Marvel's biggest names.
A quick scroll through these superhero A-listers' IMDb pages reveals more sex crimes, racial insensitivity and secret lizard people than the British royal family. These are twelve of the most bonkers entries into MCU stars' early filmographies.
12. Stan Lee's Evil Ambulance Movie - The Ambulance
It wouldn't be the MCU without a Stan Lee cameo, so here's one for this list.
Master of B-movie trash Larry Cohen described his filmmaking motivation as turning things that seem wholesome and safe into objects of terror. He'd done it with junk food in The Stuff and a baby with It's Alive, and in 1990's The Ambulance he'd do the same for the title vehicle.
In this tonally all over the place comedy-thriller people with diabetes who collapse in the street get whisked away by an old fashioned ambulance. Rather than taking them to a hospital, they are brought to a creepy doctor who both cures their diabetes and murders them. "When you die, you'll be in perfect health," he explains helpfully (there really is no further attempt to outline what the doctor's evil experiments actually are).
Eric Roberts chews the scenery as the gloriously mulleted hero, as confused as the audience by the way that the fast-paced story rides roughshod over gaping plotholes and implausibilities. James Earl Jones, meanwhile, just chews gum as the cop who refuses to do anything about the disappearances before getting a weird peanut-chomping death scene.
Roberts's character has a job as an artist with Marvel, a plot point which appears to exist solely to allow Lee to cameo as himself. Which is especially odd given that Marvel weren't exactly riding high in 1990 nor was "the obligatory Stan Lee cameo" yet a thing. Still, this oddball thriller may have inadvertently invented one of modern movies' most beloved traditions by providing Lee with his first big screen role.
An accompanying Donald Trump cameo was left on the cutting room floor, which is probably for the best.