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‘Avengers’ TV Takeover: While Marvel Movies Get Little Awards Love, Their Acting Stable Rules the Emmys

Cinema's mightiest box office franchise owes an awful lot to actors twice as often recognized by the Emmys than the Oscars.

"Avengers: Infinity War"

“Avengers: Infinity War”


Actors don’t sign up to play (or fight) a superhero for awards glory. But when you look at many of their careers, there’s a reason why — they don’t need to, because they already have statues on their mantels.

Over the last 10 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown from “that movie where Robert Downey Jr. wears a robot suit” to one of the most dominant forces in today’s pop culture, with (currently) 19 total movies of varying quality building a world of gods, heroes, superpowers, magic, aliens, and most importantly good people doing their best against the forces of evil.

Along the way to box office ownership, the MCU has attracted a vast swath of acting talent, including some of Hollywood’s finest actors as well as emerging stars who were cast just on the cusp of fame. So many people have been enlisted in these films, in fact, that you might find yourself checking random actors to see if they haven’t been cast in a Marvel movie at one point. And a lot of them have been nominated for awards — including Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes. So many, in fact, that we did the math.

IndieWire looked at the awards history of 75 actors who have appeared in MCU films, from “Iron Man” to “Avengers: Infinity War” (that’s right, Peter Dinklage, you made the cut!), breaking down the ways in which they have been recognized by their peers over the years.

You can see the full results in this Google spreadsheet, but here are the basic numbers: To the best of our ability, actors who have appeared in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film have received 502 nominations for various awards across the Oscars, Golden Globes, and Emmys. The full breakdown:

Oscar Nominations: 87
Oscar Wins: 15
Emmy Nominations: 156
Emmy Wins: 38
Golden Globe Nominations (Film): 102
Golden Globe Wins (Film): 20
Golden Globe Nominations (Television): 69
Golden Globe Wins (Television): 15

Some technical notes about this survey:

  • This was limited strictly to acting awards, but just for the record, a ton of these performers have made notable behind-the-scenes contributions as producers or otherwise. Garry Shandling, for example, was recognized often for his writing by the Emmys, while Stanley Tucci executive produced the Emmy-winning short form series “Park Bench with Steve Buscemi.”
  • Special or honorary awards were not included in this tally.
  • Movies produced by other studios were also not included, with the exception of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” given its placement as canon within the MCU.
  • There were some people who could have been included but were cut based on level of appearance. For example, Gary Sinese narrates the Captain America war exhibit in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” but never appears on screen, while Jennifer Connolly is the voice of Peter Parker’s new suit in “Homecoming.”

On a general level, here are some fascinating tidbits discovered from this deep dive:

  • Actors like Paul Bettany and Chadwick Boseman, who you might have expected to receive some sort of recognition from one of these voting bodies after years of appearing in prestige films, have gone overlooked for decades of great performances.
  • This industry has not done nearly enough to appreciate the gift that is Jeff Goldblum. Over the decades of his career, he has received exactly one award nomination for acting, an outstanding guest actor nod for “Will and Grace” in 2005.
  • It’s fun to see how a quick scene featuring Alfre Woodard or Tyne Daly affects the stats here.

But here is the overwhelming takeaway: The legacy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been built upon Kevin Feige and the studio’s casting departments looking towards actors who might not have been the obvious or highest-profile choice, but were ultimately the right ones. And it was the realm of television, not film, which was more likely to recognize the abilities of these performers.

Consider this an after-the-fact appreciation of how Feige has essentially used the principals of Moneyball in his hiring process, especially during the early years, when Downey Jr. wasn’t perhaps seen as a bankable star and talent like Idris Elba was going under-appreciated.

We may be in a whole new media age, where the lines between film and TV barely exist — hell, where the boundaries between a superhero blockbuster and an awards contender are pretty blurry. But one of the most remarkable things about the Marvel universe is the way it has made heroes out of unlikely sorts, both on and off the screen.

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