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The DC Comics Extended Universe (DCEU) is comprised of films like "Man of Steel," "Wonder Woman," and "Birds of Prey."
The actors in the DCEU might be A-listers now, but it wasn't always that way.
Some stars booked their earliest roles in the '80s, while others began in the '90s and 2000s.
Before portraying Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie starred on the Australian soap opera "Neighbours"
Meanwhile, "Aquaman" star Jason Momoa portrayed Jason Ioane on the American drama series "Baywatch."
Although the actors who have portrayed iconic comic-book characters on the big screen are now huge names in Hollywood, it wasn't always that way. In many cases, their careers began with small roles in film and TV series.
Here are the earliest roles of the DCEU stars before they were famous.
Henry Cavill's first role was in a 2001 drama called "Laguna."
From there, the British actor starred in movies like "The Count of Monte Cristo" and shows like "Midsomer Murders."
Cavill gained the attention of a larger audience when he portrayed Charles Brandon on Showtime's "The Tudors," which starred Jonathan Rhys Meyers as King Henry VIII. The royal drama lasted for four seasons.
"Twilight" fans will also recall that author Stephenie Meyer was vocal about her support of Cavill portraying Edward Cullen in the big-screen adaptation of her popular fantasy series. By the time production began on the movie, Cavill was viewed as too old for the role, and the part went to Robert Pattinson.
Cavill made his debut as Clark Kent/Superman in the 2013 film "Man of Steel."
The actor also portrayed the comic-book character in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Justice League." Cavill has repeatedly expressed interest in hoping to continue playing Superman.
One of Amy Adams' earliest parts was a guest-starring role on "That '70s Show."
Adams' film debut was in the 1999 parody movie "Drop Dead Gorgeous." She also guest-starred on popular series like "Charmed," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Smallville," and later, "The Office."
The actress became more widely recognized after starring as a nurse named Brenda Strong in the 2002 movie "Catch Me If You Can" with Leonardo DiCaprio. Three years later, Adams' supporting role as Ashley in "Junebug" earned the actress her first Academy Award nomination.
Adams portrayed Lois Lane alongside Cavill in "Man of Steel."
Adams was already an established star when she played the Daily Planet reporter. She reprised the role of Lois for "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Justice League."
Since her first Academy Award nomination, Adams has earned Oscar nominations for her roles in "Doubt," "The Fighter," "The Master," "American Hustle," and "Vice." The actress has also earned recognition for starring as Camille Preaker on the HBO miniseries "Sharp Objects."
Michael Shannon had a minor role in the 1993 movie "Groundhog Day," which starred Bill Murray.
In the years after "Groundhog Day," Shannon landed roles in films like "Pearl Harbor" (with future DCEU star Ben Affleck), "8 Mile," and "Bad Boys II." After starring as John Givings in 2008's "Revolutionary Road," Shannon received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
The actor also played DC Comics character Doc Cross Williams in the 2010 movie "Jonah Hex," which starred "Avengers: Endgame" actor Josh Brolin as the titular character. In addition, Shannon starred on the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire."
Shannon played a villain named General Zod in "Man of Steel."
The character was killed by Superman near the end of the Zack Snyder film, but his corpse appeared in 2016's "Batman v Superman" and was used to create another villain named Doomsday.
One of Russell Crowe's first parts was a recurring role on the Australian soap opera "Neighbours."
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He played Kenny Larkin on four episodes of the show in the late '80s. In the later decades, the New Zealand-born actor landed major roles in "The Insider," "Gladiator," "A Beautiful Mind," and "Cinderella Man."
Crowe received Oscar nominations for his parts in "A Beautiful Mind," "Gladiator," and "The Insider." He won the Academy Award in 2001 for his role as Maximus in "Gladiator."
Crowe starred as Jor-El, the biological father of Clark Kent/Kal-El, in "Man of Steel."
Since the 2013 movie, Crowe has starred in movies like the 2017 "Mummy" reboot and Joel Edgerton's "Boy Erased."
Ben Affleck got his acting start in the '80s.
He portrayed Tommy in the 1981 movie "The Dark End of the Street" before appearing on the educational children's series "The Voyage of the Mimi." In the '90s, Affleck starred in movies like "Dazed and Confused," "Mallrats," and "Chasing Amy."
The actor gained greater recognition for the 1997 drama "Good Will Hunting," which he starred in with longtime friend Matt Damon. The pair cowrote the script, which earned them an Oscar for best original screenplay, and they've collaborated on plenty of projects since then.
Affleck is also a director and producer, with his 2012 film "Argo" nabbing the Academy Award for best motion picture.
Affleck first portrayed Bruce Wayne/Batman in 2016's "Batman v Superman."
He reprised the role for a small appearance in the end-credits scene of 2016's "Suicide Squad" and starred in 2017's "Justice League."
Jesse Eisenberg's first role was on the Fox series "Get Real," alongside Anne Hathaway.
Eisenberg's career picked up in the late 2000s with starring roles in "Adventureland" and "Zombieland."
In 2010, the actor portrayed Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg in David Fincher's critically-praised film "The Social Network." Eisenberg earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in the movie.
Eisenberg's portrayal of Lex Luthor in "Batman v Superman" was met with mixed reviews.
Eisenberg later reprised the comic-book role for the end-credits scene in "Justice League."
Jeremy Irons has been acting since the '70s, with roles on shows like "The Pallisers" and "Love for Lydia."
Irons also starred as Charles Ryder in "Brideshead Revisited," which earned him a Golden Globes nomination for best performance by an actor in a miniseries or motion picture made for TV.
The actor won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his starring role in the 1990 movie "Reversal of Fortune."
In addition, he voiced Scar in Disney's 1994 animated movie "The Lion King."
Irons first starred as Alfred Pennyworth in "Batman v Superman."
He reprised the beloved comic-book role for "Justice League," assisting Bruce Wayne in both films.
Gal Gadot made her film debut as Gisele in "Fast & Furious," which was released in 2009.
She went on to star in two of the franchise's sequels: "Fast Five" and "Fast & Furious 6."
Gadot also appeared in comedies like "Date Night" and "Knight and Day."
Gadot brought Diana Prince/Wonder Woman to the big screen in "Batman v Superman" before landing a standalone franchise.
Gadot's performance in 2017's "Wonder Woman," directed by Patty Jenkins, was praised by fans and critics. She also starred in "Justice League" and will reprise the role for a standalone sequel titled "Wonder Woman 1984."
One of Viola Davis' earliest roles was on the CBS medical drama "City of Angels."
Davis also had a recurring role as Donna Emmett on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
The actress earned her first Oscar nomination with her supporting role in 2008's "Doubt." She went on to land another nomination a few years later for her starring role in 2011's "The Help." Davis won her first Academy Award for her performance in the 2016 movie "Fences."
She also gained recognition for her role as Annalise Keating on ABC's "How to Get Away With Murder." Davis' performance led her to make history as the first Black woman to win the Primetime Emmy for outstanding actress in a drama series.
Davis portrayed comic-book character Amanda Waller in David Ayer's 2016 film "Suicide Squad."
She assembled a group of powerful (but expendable) people to be part of Task Force X.
Will Smith got his break in Hollywood starring on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."
The sitcom lasted for six years on NBC. Since then, Smith has become an A-lister thanks to his music career and his starring roles in the "Men in Black" franchise and the "Bad Boys" movies.
Smith has also earned two Oscar nominations for playing legendary boxer Muhammad Ali in a 2001 biopic titled "Ali" and portraying Chris Gardner alongside son Jaden Smith in 2006's "The Pursuit of Happyness."
Smith played Floyd Lawton/Deadshot in "Suicide Squad."
Despite box office success and boasting a stellar cast, the film was panned by critics.
Jared Leto starred as Jordan Catalano on the short-lived '90s teen drama "My So-Called Life."
Leto, who's the frontman of the band 30 Seconds to Mars, also appeared in films like "Girl, Interrupted," "American Psycho," and "Requiem for a Dream."
He was already an established actor by the time he won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of a transgender woman in "Dallas Buyers Club."
Leto took on the iconic role of the Joker in "Suicide Squad."
The Joker isn't the only comic-book character that Leto has portrayed. Next, he'll star as the titular character of Marvel's "Morbius."
At the start of his career, Jai Courtney appeared on shows like "Spartacus" and "Packed to the Rafters."
In the 2010s, the Australian actor landed roles in popular franchises. He portrayed Eric in two "Divergent" films (based on a popular young adult book series), appeared in "Terminator Genisys," and starred in "Jack Reacher."
Courtney starred as George Harkness/Captain Boomerang in "Suicide Squad."
He was described as a "deranged lunatic" and "possible alcoholic" in the movie. The character also had a strange obsession with a unicorn plushie.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje started acting in the '90s, starring in movies like "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls."
He went on to portray Simon Adebisi on the HBO drama "Oz" and portray Lock-Nah in the 2001 movie "The Mummy Returns."
The actor's film credits also include roles in "The Bourne Identity," "Get Rich or Die Tryin,'" and "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra." He portrayed a Dark Elf named Algrim/Kurse in "Thor: The Dark World," too.
Fans of the hit show "Lost" will also recognize Akinnuoye-Agbaje for his role as a plane crash survivor named Mr. Eko.
Akinnuoye-Agbaje portrayed Waylon Jones/Killer Croc in "Suicide Squad."
According to Amanda Waller, he was "chased out of Gotham" by Batman.
Model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne's first role was portraying Princess Sorokina in the 2012 movie "Anna Karenina."
Around the same time as the release of the period film, Delevingne walked runaway shows for major designers. Delevingne also appeared in ads for brands like Burberry and Marc Jacobs.
After "Anna Karenina," Delevingne starred as Margot in a film adaptation of John Green's young adult novel "Paper Towns" and portrayed a mermaid in the 2015 movie "Pan."
In "Suicide Squad," Delevingne starred as an archeologist named June Moone, who became the Enchantress after a metahuman took over her body.
June's life was altered after she explored a cave in Peru and unintentionally released the metahuman.
Jay Hernandez starred as Antonio Lopez on the NBC sitcom "Hang Time."
He joined the show during season four. "Hang Time" ended in 2000 after six seasons.
Hernandez went on to play Kirsten Dunst's love interest in the 2001 movie "Crazy/Beautiful" and star as Brian Chavez in the 2004 movie "Friday Night Lights."
The actor has also appeared on shows like "Six Degrees" and "Nashville."
Hernandez portrayed Chato Santana/El Diablo in "Suicide Squad."
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He had pyrokinetic powers and voluntarily surrendered to police custody after he set his family's house on fire.
Karen Fukuhara's first taste of Hollywood happened after she became an on-camera reporter for Disney's "Movie Surfers."
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As part of the job, Fukuhara spoke with Disney talent about their projects. The segments aired during commercial breaks on Disney Channel.
In "Suicide Squad," Fukuhara's Katana joined Task Force X during their mission in Midway City.
She was a skilled fighter and her samurai sword trapped the souls of its victims. "Suicide Squad" also marked Fukuhara's film debut.
Joel Kinnaman starred on Swedish shows like "Storstad" and films like "Easy Money."
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The Swedish-American actor also portrayed Christer Malm in the 2011 movie "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," based on a book written by Stieg Larsson. In addition, Kinnaman starred as Stephen Holder on the AMC-turned-Netflix crime series "The Killing."
In "Suicide Squad," Kinnaman portrayed Rick Flag, who was tasked with keeping Waller's squad in line.
He was also supposed to keep an eye on June and ended up falling in love with her.
Chris Pine's acting career began in the early 2000s with roles on shows like "ER" and "CSI: Miami."
In 2004, he portrayed Anne Hathaway's swoon-worthy love interest named Nicholas Devereaux in "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement," a "Princess Diaries" sequel.
A few years later, Pine starred as Kirk in "Star Trek" and its two sequels that were released in 2013 and 2016.
Pine's Steve Trevor encountered Wonder Woman after his plane crashed and landed on the island of Themyscira.
Steve sacrificed himself near the end of "Wonder Woman," but Pine is set to appear in the sequel, which is set for release on October 2, 2020.
At the onset of his acting career, Ezra Miller appeared on shows like "Californication" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
Miller also portrayed Tucker Bryant on the USA Network series "Royal Pains."
Miller had cameos as The Flash/Barry Allen in "Batman v Superman" and "Suicide Squad" before making a proper debut in "Justice League."
Miller also had a jaw-dropping cameo as the Scarlet Speedster on The CW's "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover event, coming face-to-face with the Arrowverse's version of the character that's portrayed by Grant Gustin.
Miller is expected to reprise his role for a standalone "Flash" movie.
In his first role, Jason Momoa played Jason Ioane on "Baywatch."
Afterward, he appeared on shows like "North Shore" and "Stargate: Atlantis."
Momoa garnered worldwide attention for his role as Khal Drogo on HBO's "Game of Thrones." His character was killed off during the first season, but Momoa briefly returned for season two.
Momoa was a scene-stealer as Aquaman/Arthur Curry in "Justice League."
Prior to that, Aquaman had a cameo in "Batman v Superman." Momoa also played the character in a standalone film released in 2018. He's set to return for an "Aquaman" sequel, too.
Ray Fisher starred in theater productions before making his film debut in 2016.
In 2013, he portrayed Muhammad Ali in an off-Broadway play called "Fetch Clay, Make Man." Fisher also took on roles in various theater productions of William Shakespeare's plays.
Fisher made his first appearance as Cyborg/Victor Stone during a cameo in "Batman v Superman."
Fans got to learn more about the character when he starred in "Justice League."
Amber Heard appeared on shows like "The O.C." and "Criminal Minds" before she was famous.
She also had a role in the 2004 movie "Friday Night Lights," which was released two years before the hit drama series of the same name premiered on NBC.
Heard went on to land roles in films like "Never Back Down," "Pineapple Express," "Zombieland," and "Magic Mike XXL."
Heard first appeared as Mera in "Justice League" before starring alongside Momoa in "Aquaman."
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She was a warrior who fought alongside Aquaman.
In the '90s, J.K. Simmons starred in Broadway productions and appeared in movies and TV shows.
His theater credits include roles in "A Change in the Heir," "Peter Pan," and "Guys and Dolls."
Simmons went on to star as Vern Schillinger on the HBO drama "Oz," which lasted for six seasons between 1997 and 2003. "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" fans will recognize the actor for his role as Dr. Emil Skoda on the show.
Simmons also starred as Ellen Page's on-screen father in the 2007 movie "Juno."
Simmons appeared as Commissioner Gordon in "Justice League."
Similar to the comics and previous adaptations of the character, Gordon assisted Batman in "Justice League," though his role was minor. Simmons said he'd be interested in portraying the character again.
Gordon isn't the only comic-book character that Simmons has portrayed on the big screen. He played J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" trilogy that starred Tobey Maguire.
Plus, he voiced characters on the animated series "Justice League Unlimited."
Willem Dafoe's acting career began in the '80s.
His first starring role was in Kathryn Bigelow's 1981 movie "The Loveless." Dafoe earned his first Oscar nomination after starring in the 1987 movie "Platoon." He received another Academy Award nomination for his role as Max Schreck in the 2000 movie "Shadow of the Vampire."
The actor went on to star as well-known Marvel comic-book villain Green Goblin in Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" trilogy.
Dafoe portrayed Vulko in "Aquaman."
He was Arthur's mentor who taught him how to swim and fight.
Patrick Wilson appeared in Broadway and off-Broadway shows before landing roles in films and TV shows.
Wilson's portrayal of Jerry Lukowski in "The Full Monty" resulted in the actor receiving a Tony Award nomination in 2001 for best actor in a musical. The following year, he earned another Tony nomination for his role in "Oklahoma!"
In 2003, the actor starred on the HBO miniseries "Angels in America," based on an award-winning play of the same name. Wilson got Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal of Joe Pitt on the show.
He went on to star in a 2004 film adaptation of "The Phantom of the Opera" and played Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl in Zack Snyder's 2009 "Watchmen" movie.
In "Aquaman," Wilson portrayed King Orm, Arthur's power-hungry half-brother.
They shared the same father. Arthur defeated Orm during the final fight scene of "Aquaman."
Nicole Kidman's first role was in the Australian movie "Bush Christmas."
Kidman went on to appear as Annie on the show "Five Mile Creek" and star in films like "Windrider," "Emerald City," and "Dead Calm."
In 1990, the actress starred alongside now ex-husband Tom Cruise in "Days of Thunder." Kidman and Cruise costarred in two additional films released in the '90s: "Far and Away" and "Eyes Wide Shut."
In 1995, she portrayed Dr. Chase Meridian in "Batman Forever," which starred Val Kilmer as the Caped Crusader. Three years later, Kidman played Sandra Bullock's on-screen sister in "Practical Magic."
Kidman's role as Satine in Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge!" took her career to the next level, as she got nominated for her first Oscar for best actress in a leading role. She won her first Academy Award in 2003 for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in "The Hours."
Kidman portrayed Atlanna, Jason Momoa's on-screen mother, in "Aquaman."
Atlanna left Arthur when he was a child in order to protect him, but they were reunited years later.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II landed his first role in 2016, playing Cadillac on Netflix's "The Get Down."
Prior to that, the actor starred in a short called "Crescendo."
Abdul-Mateen starred as villain David Kane/Black Manta in "Aquaman."
Abdul-Mateen told Entertainment Weekly that the character will return for the "Aquaman" sequel.
Asher Angel appeared on shows like CBS' "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders" and Nickelodeon's "Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn."
Shortly after, he landed a starring role as Jonah Beck on Disney Channel's "Andi Mack," which lasted for three seasons between 2017 and 2019.
In 2019's "Shazam," Angel starred as 14-year-old Bill Baston, who received powers from a wizard.
Billy was given the powers because he had a pure heart.
Zachary Levi starred as Kipp Steadman on the ABC sitcom "Less Than Perfect."
The show ran for four seasons between 2002 and 2006. After "Less Than Perfect," Levi landed the titular role on the series "Chuck." The Emmy-winning series lasted for five seasons.
Levi also joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Fandral, one of Thor's friends, in "Thor: The Dark World." The role was previously played by Josh Dallas in the first standalone movie.
Levi starred as the titular character of "Shazam."
He could manipulate electricity and had super strength.
Jack Dylan Grazer appeared on a few shows before starring as Eddie Kaspbrak in the 2017 remake of "It."
He reprised the role for the 2019 sequel and starred on the show "Me, Myself and I." Grazer also played a young version of Nic Sheff (portrayed by Timothée Chalamet) in "Beautiful Boy."
In "Shazam," Grazer portrayed Freddy Freeman, Billy's best friend.
He met Billy after they both ended up with the same foster family.
Long before playing Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie starred on "Neighbours."
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The Australian actress also starred in a series called "Pan Am" before her career-changing role as Naomi Lapaglia in Martin Scorsese's 2013 movie "The Wolf of Wall Street," which starred Leonardo DiCaprio.
Robbie made her debut as the iconic comic-book character in 2016's "Suicide Squad" and starred in a standalone film four years later.
Claudette Barius/DC Comics
In addition to starring in "Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn," Robbie also produced the film.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead was a child actor who starred on shows like "Passions" and "Wolf Lake."
In 2005, the actress portrayed the villain of the superhero movie "Sky High." She also starred in "Final Destination 3," appeared as Lucy in the "Live Free or Die Hard" franchise, and portrayed Ramona Flowers in 2010's "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World."
Winstead starred as crossbow-wielding Huntress/Helena Bertinelli in "Birds of Prey."
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She was out for revenge after her family was murdered right in front of her. In preparation for her role, Winstead told The Hollywood Reporter that her training was "based on a lot of jiu-jitsu, throws, wrestling, and martial arts drills."
Jurnee Smollett was a child star who appeared on shows like "Full House."
She also appeared on the shows "On Our Own" and "Cosby."
Later in her career, Smollett starred as Jess Merriweather on the hit show "Friday Night Lights." You may have also seen the actress on series like "Parenthood" and "True Blood."
Smollett starred as Black Canary/Dinah Lance in "BoP."
The actress performed James Browns' "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" in the movie, marking Smollett's first time singing on-screen.
Rosie Perez's journey in Hollywood began through dancing and acting.
In the '90s, she appeared on "In Living Color" and earned three Primetime Emmy nominations for best choreography. Perez's first acting role was in the Spike Lee film "Do the Right Thing."
She went on to star as Gloria Clemente in the 1992 movie "White Men Can't Jump" and play Carla Rodrigo in "Fearless." The latter role earned her an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe nomination.
Perez also had a recurring role as Dahlia Morales on season two of NBC's "Lipstick Jungle."
Perez portrayed Gotham City Police Department cop Renee Montoya in "BoP."
She joined the Birds of Prey in her fight against Roman Sionis.
Ella Jay Basco's first-ever role was on season nine of "Grey's Anatomy" in 2013.
Basco played a 3-year-old girl named Evelyn Yu, who got stuck on a bus that crashed outside Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital during a storm. The actress said that she was about 5 years old at the time.
Basco made her film debut in 2020, playing Cassandra Cain in "BoP."
Basco worked with a magician to learn sleight of hand tricks in order to portray the character.
A few years into his acting career, Ewan McGregor landed the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the "Star Wars" franchise.
McGregor's first role was on the show "Lipstick on Your Collar." Afterward, he portrayed a heroin addict in the 1996 movie "Trainspotting," based on a novel of the same name. McGregor also got his first Primetime Emmy nomination for his guest-starring role as Duncan Stewart on season three of "ER."
In 1999, the actor made his debut as Obi-Wan Kenobi in "The Phantom Menace."
Two years later, he starred alongside Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge!" McGregor's portrayal of Christian earned him a Golden Globe nomination for best performance by an actor in a comedy or musical motion picture.
McGregor starred as "BoP" antagonist Roman Sionis.
He was a narcissistic and well-dressed villain. Roman was also ruthless and ordered a victim to be tortured simply because he was grossed out by a "snot bubble" that he saw on her.
Chris Messina's acting career began in the late '90s with small roles in films like "You've Got Mail."
Messina also appeared as Ted Fairwell on the final season of HBO's "Six Feet Under," portrayed Chris Sanchez on FX's "Damages," and starred as Reese Lansing on HBO's "The Newsroom."
You may also recognize the actor for his role as Danny Castellano, Mindy Kaling's love interest, on "The Mindy Project."
Messina portrayed Roman's right-hand man named Victor Zsasz.
Messina reveled in the opportunity to play a villainous character and improvised some of Victor's creepy lines and mannerisms.
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