Technology is continually changing in the world of filmmaking, leading to more in-depth and startling visual effects. Over at Marvel, the movie studio has starting de-aging characters for flashbacks—or in Captain Marvel’s case more like the whole movie—instead of using different actors to play characters in past decades. (Point of clarification: Other actors do play younger versions of Brie Larson's Carol Danvers.)
Obviously, it’s a lot of work to satisfactorily de-age an actor for an entire movie, and we’ll see how it pans out when Captain Marvel hits theaters this weekend. However, from the early looks at Nick Fury and Agent Coulson, a lot of work was put into the task.
This isn’t the first time that Marvel has attempted de-aging work, however. Plenty of other MCU actors have been treated to the process, including characters in the Ant-Man narrative and Iron Man before he became a superhero. You can take a look at the de-aged characters and their counterparts today below.
Nick Fury - Samuel L. Jackson
The photo on the right is actually from last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, in which Nick Fury has a small cameo. Obviously, the eyepatch and the bald head show Samuel L. Jackson as the Nick Fury that we know and love. Honestly, it’s almost off-putting to see him with two eyes in Captain Marvel, although since Jackson actually has two eyes in real life, that wasn't something that actually needed to have altered digitally in addition to the rest of his new look. Luckily, the technology was there for Captain Marvel, as producer Jonathan Schwartz says the studio never considered recasting.
Samuel L. Jackson is 70 years old and has shown no signs of slowing down yet. Captain Marvel throws Nick Fury right into the action too. While the movie could digitally de-age the actor, I’m sure playing a spry S.H.I.E.L.D. agent wasn’t a total cakewalk.
Agent Phil Coulson - Clark Gregg
Along with Nick Fury, Agent Coulson also got de-aged for Captain Marvel, although he can be seen in fewer scenes as a whole. Still, ridding the actor of wrinkles and adding to his hairline does make the character look younger, especially since some of his scenes are in broad daylight. Still, I'd say Clark Gregg has aged pretty well, or de-aged pretty poorly, however you want to look at it.
In real life, Clark Gregg is 56 years old, but in Captain Marvel, we get a glimpse at the character when he was still very early in his S.H.I.E.L.D. career. Prior to Captain Marvel, Clark Gregg last appeared on the big screen in The Avengers, but he's endeared himself on the small screen thanks to being resurrected on ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Tony Stark - Robert Downey Jr.
Tony Stark had already been Iron Man for quite some time before Captain America: Civil War was released. That movie, however, was tasked with de-aging Tony Stark to a time well before he ever took on the popular superhero mantle. In fact, we saw him as a young man while BARF technology is being used, talking to his parents in the time before they were killed by the Winter Soldier.
In real life, Robert Downey Jr. is actually 53, and so the de-aging has to take off a lot of years in Captain America: Civil War, but the de-aging technology is not so far off from how Downey Jr. looked earlier in his career in movies like Soapdish or Less Than Zero. Still, compared to the way Nick Fury was de-aged, a lot has changed with technology in a few short years.
Ego - Kurt Russell
Kurt Russell plays Ego The Living Planet in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. While it was fun to watch his interactions with an adult Star-Lord, it was also ridiculously fun to see him hanging out at a Dairy Queen years prior. As Ego, Kurt Russell sported a fine head of hair, no matter which age he was playing -- although I personally am more impressed with the Ego with the beard.
In real life, Russell is 67 years old. He’s also sported longer hair plenty of times during his career before the de-aging sequence in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Those include but are not limited to Escape From New York and Overboard. Technically, Ego would not have had to present himself as older to his son and his son's friends, but that could have meant a lot of additional de-aging work (read: production cost) for Vol. 2 as well.
Janet Van Dyne - Michelle Pfeiffer
Playing Janet Van Dyne should have been a pretty cool gig for Michelle Pfeiffer. Not only did she get to play a mysterious character who had been lost in the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man and the Wasp, she also got to be de-aged for the movie too. The early version of Janet Van Dyne was certainly younger looking and sported hair fitting to the period although, like some of the other actors on this list, Michelle Pfeiffer was famous when she was that young in real life too!
These days, Michelle Pfeiffer is 60 years old. She actually only got back into the acting game a couple of years ago after a brief hiatus, appearing in the Ant-Man sequel and Murder on the Orient Express. Not a bad comeback tour.
Dr. Hank Pym - Michael Douglas
We’ve seen Hank Pym in multiple movies, but in Ant-Man and the Wasp we got to see the character de-aged for some scenes with his lost partner Janet Van Dyne. At first glance, honestly I never think Michael Douglas looks all that de-aged. Then, I see the Hank Pym we know and love and that's when it really hits home for me that a lot of time has passed since Michael Douglas was the young actor on the block, although he still looks great with the glasses and beard.
In real life, Michael Douglas is 74 years old, making him the oldest actor to be de-aged on this list. For Ant-Man and the Wasp, he was de-aged to look around 45 or so. Not a bad job, Marvel, not at all.
Technically, Marvel has done some digital aging as well as de-aging, as Agent Carter gets the treatment so she can be killed off in Captain America: The Winter Soldier; still, it’s de-aging that seems as if it would be more difficult and has captured my fascination more than ever, particularly now that Nick Fury has been given the treatment for a huge chunk of Captain Marvel.
You can check out the visual effects for yourself very soon. Captain Marvel hits theaters on March 8. In addition, you can see a de-aged Nick Fury right now thanks to the trailer for the flick.