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LSTFI Alumni in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Paula Leon-Gambetta

The Marvel movies hold a special place in the hearts of many, but did you know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe features many former students of The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute? Across different volumes and mediums, LSTFI alumni bring to life lovable MCU characters that, when looking back at the comics, could have easily been glossed over. Whether taking on a lesser-known character, a beloved parental figure, or an iconic hero, our alumni consistently deliver deeply connected performances.

Rosario Dawson – Claire Temple, Daredevil

Young Actors at Strasberg alumna Rosario Dawson portrayed Claire Temple in Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders. Her character, a night shift nurse who provides aid to vigilantes, was vital in helping Daredevil‘s Matt Murdoch become the titular hero.

Born in New York, Dawson joined the acting scene at a young age. After appearing in Sesame Street as a child, she was cast in Larry Clark’s Kids at the age of 15. When her family relocated to Texas shortly after, Dawson decided to stay on her own in New York, finishing high school in the city and signing with an acting agent. With the support of her grandmother, she enrolled in the Young Actors program here at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. During her time at LSTFI, she took classes alongside a young Hayden Christensen and Scarlett Johansson. “I was never able to go to acting class before because it was too expensive,” Dawson shared in an interview with Backstage, “but it was a very, very perfect and incredible time.”

Sally Field – Aunt May, The Amazing Spider-Man

The role of Peter Parker’s dear Aunt May has been played by a number of actors across various adaptations of the Spider-Man comics, including the incredible Sally Field.

After finding success at an early age, starring in the hit television series Gidget and The Flying Nun, Field joined the Actors Studio in Los Angeles in 1974 and began to study under Lee Strasberg. In a 2017 StrasbergTALK at LSTFI, Field recalled meeting the legendary acting teacher. “Lee turned to me,” she shared, “and he asked me, ‘Why are you here?’ My heart fell out of my body because I was so scared he was going to tell me I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t wanted.” Lee, however, recognized her immense talent and became a mentor to Field, his training helping her to overcome her television image of the girl-next-door and tackle more demanding roles. Field studied with Lee until his death in 1982 and credits him for changing her acting and her career.

Following her time at the Actors Studio, Sally Field went on to have impressive and celebrated career, her accolades including two Academy Awards, three Primetime Emmys, two Golden Globes, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress, and the Kennedy Center Honors. An undoubtable talent, Field warmed the hearts of Marvel fans everywhere when she took the screen as the beloved Aunt May.

Miles Teller – Reed Richards, Fantastic Four

In 2005, on-screen heartthrob Miles Teller joined The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute via NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Teller is known for a number of hit films including Footloose, The Spectacular Now, 21 & Over and his most recent blockbuster, Top Gun: Maverick.

Joining the Marvel franchise, Teller was cast as Mr. Fantastic in the 2015 remake of Fantastic Four. While he didn’t grow up reading comic books, Teller shared with IGN that “Fantastic Four is [his] dad’s favorite superhero comic.” Teller’s Fantastic Four costar Michael B. Jordan starred in the film as Human Torch but ultimately broke into the Marvel Cinematic Universe via Black Panther, leaving Fantastic Four as a standalone film.

At the 2022 Comic-Con, Marvel Studios surprised fans by unveiling that Fantastic Four would in fact join the MCU with a new movie due for release in November 2024. Despite the development, no casting for the project has yet been announced.

Angelina Jolie — Thena, Eternals

When Angelina Jolie was just 11 years old, she attended The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Institute in Los Angeles for two years. Jolie was born into the industry and both of her parents, actors Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand, studied directly with Lee Strasberg. Although Jolie struggled to take hold of her career as a teen, she eventually found her footing and became the A-list star we know today.

Jolie’s diverse career well encapsulates her impressive range and versatility. Her credits encompass everything from fan-favorite action movies like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Mr. and Mrs. Smith to animation voiceover to award-winning dramas. Among her numerous accolades, Angelina Jolie took home both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her performance in Girl, Interrupted. Adding to her list of blockbusters, Jolie made her Marvel debut as Thena in the 2021 film Eternals.

Scarlett Johansson – Black Widow, The Avengers

Making her debut in Iron Man 2, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was the first female superhero introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Another major milestone, Black Widow went on to become the first female character to join the Avengers. Johansson and her beloved character paved the way for what is now an amazing roster of powerful women in the MCU.

Scarlett Johansson always wanted to be an actress and, from a young age, would practice making herself cry so she could be like Judy Garland. As a kid, she was devastated when a talent agent signed one of her brothers instead of her but decided to stick with the industry regardless. “When I was about 7,” she shared in an interview with Parade, “I started auditioning. I enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Theatre [& Film] Institute for Kids [and] I booked the first two auditions that I went on, a Kitchen-Aid commercial and a film. I loved shooting that film. So I just kept auditioning and booking stuff, and that’s how it happened. I got lucky.” Since, Johansson has gone well beyond commercial work and is now, alongside fellow alumna Angelina Jolie, one of the world’s highest paid actresses.

Chris Evans – Steve Rogers, Captain America

Before starting his senior year of high school, Chris Evans spent his summer in New York and joined the Young Actors program at LSTFI. In a passionate letter he sent to casting directors, 16-year-old Evans wrote, “I have been very actively involved in theatre for the past seven years and have chosen to spend the summer of 1998 taking acting classes on Saturdays at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York City.”

While today he is best known as Captain America, Steve Rogers the Super-Soldier, Evans started off in a completely different wheelhouse. Before taking on his first superhero role, Evans was cast in his fair share of rom-coms and teen movies, including The Perfect Score where he met his longtime screen partner Scarlett Johansson. The two alumni have now starred together in eight films, six of them as Black Widow and Captain America. Although now better known for playing Steve Rogers, let’s not forget that Chris Evans made his initial MCU debut as Human Torch in the original 2005 Fantastic Four – five years before picking up Captain America’s shield.

As you can see, the LSTFI community is full of heroes and we can’t wait to see who could be next…