Tragic Details Of The MCU Cast

It's accurate to say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated the box office over the past decade and a half like Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great building their continent-spanning empires. According to Box Office Mojo, eight of the 25 highest lifetime grossing films have been movies in the MCU, with two, Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War, claiming second and fifth place, respectively. The MCU's formula of using individual films to introduce characters before bringing them all together in an ensemble has been copied (with far less success) by their competitors Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures with DC Comics characters and the classic movie monsters. While these competitors struggle to make their own properties into box-office gold, Marvel films have turned characters like T'Challa, Iron Man, and Black Widow into beloved heroes on the screen.

Disney and Marvel have changed the modern movie landscape. At the same time, the actors we cheer for on the big screen hide in their backgrounds battles with personal addiction, health problems, the loss of loved ones, and more. All the glitz and glamour of Hollywood can only mask so much for so long, regardless of how many billions a film can bring in. Here are some tragic details of the cast of the MCU.

Chadwick Boseman's death

When Disney planned for a spring 2022 sequel to their most successful standalone Marvel franchise, Black Panther, this came with the belief that the full cast of the original would be returning. These plans came to a tragic halt with the death of the film's main star, Chadwick Boseman. As NBC News reports, the 43-year-old actor had kept his battle with colon cancer a secret from the public for years.

According to Biography, after being diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, Boseman continued his acting career, starring or co-starring in more films, including all four MCU movies that featured him as the king of Wakanda, T'Challa, the Black Panther. He also gave award-winning performances in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Da 5 Bloods, which became the final two films of his life.

However, it is the role of T'Challa that will be the actor's legacy. Not only was it the most financially successful MCU film for an individual hero, but as The New York Times editorialized, the film was also a transcendent moment for African Americans and Black cinema in the 21st century. Children, especially young Black children, paid tribute to the fallen actor by posing with their arms forming an "X" across their chest, which was popularized by Boseman in the film, and tweeting with the hashtag "Wakanda Forever." Deadline reports that the president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, told investors there would be no recast for T'Challa for future MCU films.

Robert Downey Jr.'s substance abuse

Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man created the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The 2008 Iron Man film was the first in the MCU, and its post-credits scene teasing future installments and the Avengers both excited fans and led to the tradition of post-credits scenes in these movies. For Downey Jr., the role was a phoenix comeback after his own personal demons nearly destroyed his acting career.

According to Biography, after an uneventful tenure on Saturday Night Live in the 1980s, Downey Jr. took off as a critically acclaimed actor. Although the early and mid-1990s were a fruitful time for him, he was also abusing cocaine, alcohol, and heroin. 1996 was a turning point for the actor, Casa Recovery reports. He was arrested twice that year, once after being pulled over for speeding, only for the officer to find Downey Jr. with a plethora of illegal drugs and an unloaded .357 magnum. The next arrest came when his neighbors found him passed out in the bed of their son! Despite this, the actor refused to complete his required rehab and was ultimately sentenced to a year in jail.

By the turn of the century, the actor was still struggling with addiction and could not find steady work. The Canyon Malibu reports that by 2003, Downey Jr. began to take his addiction seriously, leading him to get clean and re-enter Hollywood as a new person.

Zoe Saldana's health issues

As the daughter of Thanos and arguably the strongest character on the Guardians of the Galaxy team, Zoe Saldana has flexed her muscles in many scenes. Unfortunately, as Hello Magazine states, these same muscles have caused her pain in her everyday life, as Saldana suffers from Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The disorder causes her immune system to turn against her own body, leading to symptoms such as muscle pain and fatigue. Saldana talked about how she feels at times as a result of the disorder: "Your body doesn't have the energy it needs to filter toxins, causing it to believe that it has an infection, so it's always inflamed."

According to WebMD, the actress knew from a young age that she could develop Hashimoto's thyroiditis during her life. Her mother and two sisters also suffer from the disorder, and Saldana herself began to show the early signs at 17 years old. The actress recalled her mother facing the illness during her childhood, saying, "My mother struggled with Hashimoto's early on in her life — fighting fatigue, wanting to live a more active life, constantly feeling like her body was inflamed — and we were already showing markers for it from bloodwork [we had done] as teenagers."

Hashimoto's often leads to hypothyroidism, a disorder with symptoms including fatigue, weight gain, and memory problems. As a result, Saldana altered her eating habits and does not consume diary or gluten.

Tom Holland's many injuries

This young man cannot catch a break! From having his fellow co-stars limiting his words in interviews to prevent him from spoiling important movie details to being "snapped" by Thanos out of existence, Tom Holland has become like the freshman picked on by the upperclassmen on the high school football team. It also doesn't help that he has suffered multiple injuries while filming movies.

In an interview with E! News, Holland admitted that toward the end of filming the first installment of his Spider-Man movies, Spider-Man: Homecoming, he "tweaked" his ACL after falling down the stairs. Despite the injury, he was still able to film the last shots of the movie in New York.

Fast-forward to more recently, and Holland, in the span of a few months, suffered two more injuries. According to Cinema Blend, Holland almost broke his nose while filming another movie, Cherry. Then he was preparing to begin filming on Spider-Man: No Way Home. However, as Den of Geek reports, Holland suffered another knee injury that kept him off the shooting lot for a few days. Like the other injuries, this one doesn't look to be too serious, and production looks to continue, assuming Holland doesn't slip on a banana peel left by one of the Russo Brothers!

Letitia Wright has struggled with depression

As Shuri, the younger sister of T'Challa and technological genius of Wakanda, Letitia Wright bought a humorous sarcasm to the role and made the character a fan favorite. Her performance garnered critical praise and awards, including a 2019 BAFTA for "Rising Star." According to Insider, Wright used her acceptance speech to reveal the personal struggles she'd faced with depression and how she had been ready to give up on acting.

Wright credits much of her success and ability to pull out of her depressed state to her faith, family, and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, stating during the speech, "The only thing that pretty much pulled me out of that was God, my belief, my faith, my family, and an email from BAFTA saying that they wanted me to be a part of the BAFTA Breakthrough Brits, and I was like 'let me try again.'"

During her press tour for Black Panther, Wright used her platform and her own personal experience in order to change the narrative of mental health in the Black community, as told by USA Today: "In the Black community, it's something that happens, but we don't speak about it. We have to continue to talk about it and bring it straight to the forefront."

Rotten Tomatoes reports that with the death of Chadwick Boseman and the studio having no plans to recast for the role of T'Challa, future installments of the Black Panther franchise will focus more on Wright's character Shuri.

Pom Klementieff's family tragedy

Pom Klementieff's character of Mantis brings humor and surprisingly important powers to the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, seeing that she has been able to slow down both Thanos and Ego the Living Planet. Mantis was introduced as an orphan who served Ego. Sadly, like her character, Klementieff has suffered many losses during her life.

According to Answers Africa, the actress was born to a French-Russian father and a Korean mother. Because of her father's job as a consul with the French government, the family moved around the world before settling in France. When she was just five, Pom's father died of cancer. She says she has very few memories of him. Soon after this tragedy, Pom and her older brother Namou had to move in with her uncle and aunt, as her mother suffered from schizophrenia.

Tragedy continued to follow Klementieff. Her uncle died on her 18th birthday. In order to make her aunt happy, she began law school but soon chose to pursue acting at the Cours Florent drama school in Paris, as told by The Famous People. On Pom's 25th birthday, her brother committed suicide. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, she credits acting for helping her deal with all of these losses: "It's cathartic in a way. [...] You relive it and become accepting of it and you touch other people's hearts with your experience and performance."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Mark Ruffalo's brother was murdered

Mark Ruffalo's journey in the MCU began at the front of the line, making his first appearance as Dr. Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, in The Avengers, having taken over the role from Edward Norton. Still, Ruffalo's portrayal of the doctor trying to control his emotions before embracing the powerful green monster became as loved as anyone else in the ensemble cast. In December 2008, the actor lost his younger brother, Scott Ruffalo, to a murder that remains unsolved, according to the Huffington Post.

According to Reuters, the case originally had two persons of interest. Brian Scofield and his girlfriend at the time, Shaha Mishaal Adham, both turned themselves in but were eventually released. Adham claimed that the death was not a murder but the result of a game of Russian Roulette gone wrong, as reported by Medium. Her lawyer claimed that Scott Ruffalo had been a known cocaine user (Scott was convicted in April 2002 for possession of a controlled substance for sale) and had often toyed with firearms in the past, leading the Beverly Hills Police Department to proclaim Scott's death a suicide. However, physical evidence indicated suicide was impossible, and his death was re-labeled as a homicide.

ABC News reports that between 1991 and 2001, Scott held a cosmetology license and set up his own studio, Ruff Inc., which took in massive profits from high-class clients with locations in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. In 2012, Adham died of a drug overdose, and to this day, Scott's murder remains unsolved.

Chiwetel Ejiofor's tragic car accident

Although he's appeared in only one MCU film so far, Chiwetel Ejiofor's character looks to be the main villain in future installments of the Doctor Strange franchise after being one of the title character's teachers. According to The Famous People, Ejiofor's acting career has already seen him win a BAFTA and other awards for great performances.

Chiwetel's father, Arinze Ejiofor, was a musician and doctor, as told by Answers Africa. Originally from Nigeria, his mother, Obiajulu, was forced from her home when she was a teenager because of the Biafran War that ravaged her home country of Nigeria. Her family relocated to the United Kingdom, and she eventually married Arinze.

In 1988, while back to their homeland to attend a wedding, Chiwetel and Arinze were involved in a serious car crash that left the young future actor in the hospital for months and killed Arinze. A pregnant Obiajulu returned to Nigeria to be with her son, and the accident left the young man with permanent scars on his forehead. Following Arinze's death, Chiwetel and his mother grew closer, and soon, he became enthralled with acting.

At the age of 13, Chiwetel began performing onstage in plays at Dulwich College. During his teen years, he performed in Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and Blue/Orange before transitioning to film, debuting in Steven Spielberg's Amistad.

Clark Gregg's struggles

Agent Phil Coulson was Nick Fury's right-hand man and helped him recruit the heroes for the Avengers before spinning off in his own cable series. His actor, Clark Gregg, went through quite lot to get to that point.

In a 2016 interview with Marc Maron, Gregg described himself as having been a functional alcoholic and stated that he regularly used drugs and alcohol before launching his career as an actor. In fact, he admitted that it was "a miracle" he was able to become an actor, as he regularly abused substances for more than a decade.

Gregg overcame his struggles with substance abuse and became a successful actor within the MCU. However, he soon found himself faced with another issue. In a 2018 feature in Men's Health, Clark admitted to having suffered anxiety and panic attacks during his acting career. He recalled a moment when he was sitting in what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation spot with his family but felt "as uncomfortable as you can possibly be in your own skin." Gregg described panic attacks that came without the common symptoms one would expect before them, as well as the anxiety that followed after these attacks. Only after beginning cognitive behavior therapy did he begin to see a change in himself. Like his career, Clark Gregg refers to the therapy as "a miracle."

Stan Lee endured elder abuse

If Robert Downey Jr. helped create the MCU, then Stan Lee helped create the "M" of that acronym. Lee, along with his longtime creative partner Jack Kirby, is responsible many of Marvel's iconic original comic book characters. Once his comic creations became film characters, Lee made a cameo appearance in each MCU film during his lifetime. While his life was dedicated to these characters and he became a beloved figure with millions of fans, the last years of Lee's life remain a disturbing mystery played out behind closed doors.

The Hollywood Reporter released a long feature in April 2018 describing the homelife of the then-95-year-old Lee as a constant battle with multiple people, including his daughter J.C. Lee, who desired to control his finances and properties after his death. That February, a notarized declaration from Lee, signed in the office of his lawyer, stated that they normally gave a monthly stipend to their daughter, who would regularly become enraged and demand more money. It also stated that she was being manipulated by three men with "bad intentions": Jerardo "Jerry" Olivarez, Keya Morgan, and J.C.'s attorney, Kirk Schenck.

Only a few days after the declaration, Lee (or someone close to him) fired his attorney. Many people who were close to Lee for decades began to be removed from his life, his communications became limited and monitored, and Morgan and J.C. took over his estate. According to The Guardian, a year after his passing, Morgan, who was Stan Lee's business manager, was charged with elder abuse.

A tragic death on the set of Deadpool 2

Deadpool might not have started out as an MCU character, but, as reported by Collider, Deadpool 3 will, in fact, be an MCU film. The previous two movies were packed with impressive stunt work, yet, tragically, according to BBC News, a failure to implement proper safety measures led to the death of a stuntperson on the set of Deadpool 2.

Joi Harris was a 40-year-old motorcycle road racer and stuntwoman who used her platform to push for more women of color in road racing, as told by People. Harris marketed herself as "the first licensed African American woman in U.S. history to actively compete in sanctioned motorcycle road racing events." In 2017, she worked as the double for Zazie Beatz's character, Domino, in Deadpool 2. However, during a stunt on a motorcycle, Harris suffered a fatal crash.

According to The Wrap, the stunt involved Harris driving a motorcycle down a ramp on a flight of stairs. She lost control and collided with a building. An investigation following the incident by WorkSafe BC said that 20th Century Fox had violated multiple safety rules, such as setting up a barrier to protect her from hitting the building and not allowing her to wear a safety helmet. Harris also was not given an orientation, despite the film being her first job as a stuntperson. Global News reports that a Vancouver-based production company was fined approximately $300,000 for these failures.