Before they were Avengers

Screenshot of Justin Timberlake from "What Goes Around… Comes Back Around"
Screenshot of Justin Timberlake from “What Goes Around… Comes Back Around”

Music video appearances by ‘Avengers’ actors

By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor

To celebrate the recent release of Avengers: Age of Ultron on Blu-ray and DVD, we’re taking a look at what the actors did before they became Avengers. From the Wild West to the city, movie tie-ins to short films, members of the Avengers cast have appeared in a variety of music videos often portraying very different characters from their superhero counterparts.


“I Want Love” by Elton John (2001)

Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) slowly walks through an empty mansion lip-syncing to Elton John’s “I Want Love” in this one-shot video. The emotional song and video related to the issues RDJ was struggling with at the time, remnants of which have appeared in his performance of Tony Stark. While RDJ is clean-shaven in the video instead of sporting his famous Stark facial hair, the video still plays out like out an inner monologue of Stark’s need for love, even though it often means the people around him get hurt.


“Trouble” by Pink (2003)

In this Western-themed video, Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) plays a nasty town sheriff who allows the local horses to be mistreated. When Pink comes to town, she gets the townspeople to fight back against the sheriff and teaches him a harsh lesson on animal cruelty. Unlike other Avengers’ actors who have appeared in music videos because of their name recognition, Renner’s appearance was just another role since he wasn’t that well-known at the time.


“Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)” by Cobra Starship (2006)

This music video opens with Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) delivering his famous line from the film Snakes on a Plane as the song’s performers exit their car and head into the airport. While the line doesn’t quite live up to its humorous censored version—“I have had it with these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday–Friday plane”—it does nicely connect the video to the film. Jackson appears in person about two minutes and 15 seconds into the video for a brief cameo. He watches the singers pass by in the airport, as, unbeknownst to him, they’re carrying suitcases full of snakes.


“What Goes Around… Comes Back Around” by Justin Timberlake (2007)

A bright blonde Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) plays Justin Timberlake’s unfaithful girlfriend in this nine-minute short film. The video tells the story of a young couple from the first meeting to the tragic ending, interspersing dramatized segments with Timberlake performance scenes. While the video doesn’t include any action sequences for Johansson, it does feature her in a death race against Timberlake that is somewhat exciting.


“ÜBerlin” by R.E.M. (2011)

Aaron Johnson (Quicksilver) dances to his own beat as he strolls down a city street in this music video directed by Sam Taylor-Wood, his then-fiancée and current wife. As he swings around street posts and performs a chaotic series of dance moves, viewers have to wonder if the routine was choreographed or just Johnson doing his thing. While the opening seems like a great set-up for a one-shot video, the scene quickly cuts to another take of the scene and continues to splice together takes instead.