We are well and truly living in the superhero era and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. Do you want to don the tights and cape? Keen to swing from skyscrapers? Race around the world? Save Gotham? Earn millions of dollars? Be on every child’s bedroom wall? Here is our practical and down-to-earth advice for how to get cast in a Marvel film.
Updated 10 January, 2022.
Given the ever-expanding nature of the MCU, there has never been a greater display of diversity and inclusion in mainstream cinema and television. After all, we’re living in a post-Black Panther world. However, while productions (and the number of casting opportunities) continue to compound, it’s still vital that you set firm goals and work hard to achieve them. Know what you want, how to get them but remember that you’re up against thousands of actors with the exact same goals and drive. In short: this won’t be easy.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through a few steps you can take to get you in fighting shape before you start cold-emailing self tapes to Kevin Feige (actually, maybe don’t do that). As always, we can’t guarantee success … but any point on the list below might be the thing that separates you from the pack!
We bang on A LOT about training here at StageMilk—but there’s good reason for it. If you do not have solid acting skills, you will not have a career in this industry. So if you’re serious about wanting to become an actor, and one of your goals is to play a superhero, start by finding yourself some formal training. As always, we’d recommend going to a drama school. Not only will the training be more focused, it will likely give you a leg-up in finding representation and building an industry reputation (more on these points below). However, acting training can take many forms including online classes, joining a scene club or working with an acting coach.
You may be familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of “the 10,000 hour rule”: to truly master something you need to practice it for 10,000 hours. As a musician, would you expect to audition for the national symphony, and get in, without having done hours and hours of practice on your instrument? Or win the Olympics for 100m sprint, with only 3 months training behind you? OF COURSE NOT! Acting is no different. Actors should train hard and work hard, and then never stop training. And reciting Marvel monologues in your bedroom doesn’t count.
First impressions are everything in the entertainment industry. It’s imperative that you turn up for each opportunity prepared and with confidence. It’s a nerve-wracking experience and you want to walk into that room and do the best job you possibly can. What are the steps you need to take in order to build that confidence and amplify your skills? Do you need to do more research, learn more about the casting process, work on your US Accent or hone your skills? If you’re reading this article and you’ve never been to an audition in your entire life: build some experience first! Sign up for acting classes, read plays, read scripts, go to casting workshops—do whatever you need to do so you feel more than ready when you walk into that audition room.
#2 The Actor’s Toolkit
In order to be considered a professional actor in this industry, you need to get the following sorted:
- Showreel: consisting of professional clips or self-tapes that showcase your work.
- Headshot: something simple and up-to-date.
- CV/Resume: you’re going to need some experience, even if it’s unpaid work and drama school productions.
- Representation (an Agent or Manager): Signing with any agent/manager will open you up to more possibilities, BUT signing with a top-tier agent will definitely get you in the room frequently, and for big gigs such as Marvel productions. Read more: How to Get an Agent.
- Social Media Presence: this is one that is becoming increasingly relevant in modern casting. A strong following on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok can make a big difference in getting your name out there; it has certainly been the reason some actors are cast over others when competing for the same job.
With the exception, perhaps, of your social media presence, you won’t be even considered for a Marvel audition without these things under your belt. These signify that you are professional, trustworthy and able to manage the ‘business’ side of acting.
#3 Know who you are!
Okay, great: you’ve got a killer showreel, a captivating headshot, a nice looking resume and an agent. What next?
Know you who are and what you have to offer the industry. What do you play towards? What can you uniquely offer to this film? Better yet, think bigger: what could you offer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Some actors have made their living ten times over playing the same roles across multiple films and tv series. How do you think you could contribute to that world of storytelling?
Once you’ve specified this, dress the part. And don’t be afraid with making strong costume choices for your audition. Comic book films rely on a colourful and large visual aspect, so give them exactly that in your audition. You will find that your costume will aid you in your choices and give the scenes a larger than life quality, which is exactly what they’re looking for. Be careful on covering up your face—they still need to see you—but a strong character and costume choice will go a long way in impressing the casting agent. This doesn’t mean renting a cape, but feel free to wear bold colours, tight clothes or something that hints at character.
Going hard for the hero? Hit the gym. There’s no secret in saying all superheroes need to look physically impressive. A specific mass-building training regime together with a strict diet over several months is your only option, here. However, there are ways of looking bigger in the room than you are in reality. There is a perception that casting agents despise actors doing push-ups before they shoot (which is, largely, true) so do them in the toilets right before you go in. It may seem silly, but pumping out 100 push-ups will jack your glamour muscles, get your blood pumping and will make you look ripped through a tight t-shirt. It’s a technique that works, just be a little sneaky about it.
Watch the films! And not just for the stories. All of the MCU films have a very similar tone and rhythm: something that has been tweaked and perfected since Iron Man back in 2008. Get familiar with their style; know what casting directors might be looking for. Know who the writers are, the directors and cinematographers and study their choices. Playing a scene naturally is not always the answer. Within the superhero world, the stakes are unusually high, decisions and choices are frequently life or death; underplaying these scenes will not always work to your advantage.
It’s also helpful to research the filmmakers who bring these action films to life. Who writes Marvel films? Who directs them? Most importantly: who casts them? It’s great to have a handle on how the Marvel world operates, so you can have some ownership over your audition.
#5 Nail your American accent
Characters in the MCU films are usually speaking with a general American accent. Be extremely comfortable with this dialect. If a casting director spots a drop in the accent, they could check out and cross you off the list straight away—regardless of how good the rest of your performance is. Whatever your process might be, make sure your accent is solid and comfortable that you can take direction without the accent being an issue. Take time to practice; if it’s a really big opportunity, consider working with a vocal coach! You shouldn’t be worrying about the dialect when you walk into the audition room. It should already be there.
Finally: leave everything you have in that room. Absolutely go for it. Superheroes need to be strong, passionate, courageous and confident in their own skin. You have the fate of the world in your hands—you are not the actor this film needs, but the actor it deserves.
It’s not easy to get cast in a Marvel film, even as a small role. In fact, it’s not easy even getting an audition! But if you want to be in the running to get noticed, you need a solid agent or manager and the acting skills to get you there. And what can you do day-to-day as you work toward this goal? Test out your skills and stay audition-ready with the StageMilk Drama Club. This is our private acting coaching community to help you achieve your goals, even ones as grand as being the next Spider-man! Learn more.
Whatever you do, the main goal is to keep working at it. Keep improving your skills and building your contacts and reputation. Some actors stumble into incredible opportunities in the MCU—even at a relatively advanced age or during quiet periods in their careers! Make sure, whenever you’re called to assemble, that you’re ready for it.