- Marvel has made a conscious effort to cast younger actors to accurately portray teenage characters, although there is still an age discrepancy between the actors and their characters.
- Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker as a teenager was convincing and well-received, despite him being 18 years old during filming.
- Despite the age differences, the believability of the cast’s performances and their chemistry with each other have made the ages of the characters in the MCU Spider-Man films seem plausible.
Marvel has done an excellent job when it comes to the casting of teenagers, even if they are off by a couple of years. Long-gone are the days of a 26-year-old Tobey Maguire playing Peter Parker in a high school clearly filled with 30-year-olds. In the modern age of filmmaking, much closer attention is paid to cultivating younger talent to more accurately portray young characters. With the Young Avengers strongly rumored to appear in future MCU movies, that will probably only continue.
That being said, there’s always going to be at least some age discrepancy between the actor or actresses involved in the Marvel movie universe and the characters they bring to life. The unfortunate reality is that people age faster than characters, and movies can only be produced so fast. Not only that, but studios will typically opt to use older actors when possible due to the difficulty of filming around the strict labor laws that protect child actors. Marvel usually does an excellent job with believable casting, but some of the discrepancies in character ages over the years can be surprising to say the least.
10 Tom Holland (18) as Peter Parker (15)
Introduced into the MCU in Civil War, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker was the youngest on-screen adaptation of the character yet, being only 15 years old when beginning his career as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. The choice to use an actual teenager to play Peter Parker was something that hadn’t yet been done, and Holland stepped up to the plate in a big way. Though he was 18 at the time of filming, his performance was convincing enough not only to audiences, but to actual high schoolers as well, with Holland going undercover in an American High School to fully immerse himself in the character.
Taking place only a few short months after Civil War, Holland’s first flagship appearance as Peter Parker was in Spider-Man: Homecoming. In his premiere solo film, Tom Holland was 20 years old, officially losing his status as a teenager playing a teenager. Still, his boyish looks kept Holland believable as a teenaged Peter Parker even during his latest appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home, in which he had the furthest distance yet between his age in real life and the character’s age at 6 years.
9 Zendaya (19) as Michelle “MJ” Jones (15)
Being in the same grade as Peter Parker, Zendaya had a slightly larger age gap to cover between her and her character, being 19 at the time of filming for Spider-Man: Homecoming. Not the Mary Jane Watson MJ come to be known as Peter Parker’s archetypal love interest, Zendaya had a more minor role in the first film, only teasing her nickname of “MJ” towards the end of the movie. It wouldn’t be until her first role featuring more prominently as Peter Parker’s primary romantic pursuit in Spider-Man: Far From Home that her larger age gap could present a problem.
In her more significant role in Spider-Man: Far From Home, Zendaya was 21 at the time of filming, her character still being somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 or 16 years old. Luckily, her talent, believable looks as a teenager, and fantastic chemistry with Tom Holland both on and off-screen kept Zendaya’s real age from being anywhere near the forefront of audience’s minds. It’s safe to say that many casual viewers would be surprised to learn the pair were ever older than their characters in the first place. The ages of the entire MCU Spider-Man cast have never veered far from the realm of possibility.
8 Iman Vellani (19) as Kamala Kahn (16)
One of the fresher characters in the MCU, Kamala Kahn made her on-screen debut in 2022’s Ms. Marvel. Another high school-aged hero, Kamala Kahn takes the stage as “Nightlight” before settling into the role as Ms. Marvel. Significant for being the first Muslim super heroine, the character’s actress, Iman Vellani, wasn’t far off the mark at 19 years old at the time of the series’ filming.
Vellani will be moving forward with the character in the upcoming MCU film The Marvels, taking place shortly after the series finale of Ms. Marvel. Once again, the drift in real time vs. the canonical timeline of the MCU means that Iman Vellani will be two years older, still portraying a high school junior at 21 years old. As the film will be many audiences first introduction to Vellani’s performance, she’ll have to sell herself as a teenager to a whole new set of eyes.
7 Xochitl Gomez (16) as America Chavez (14)
Making her debut in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Xochitl Gomez holds a unique position as one of the youngest Marvel stars ever to grace the silver screen. Similarly, America Chavez herself is canonically the youngest Marvel hero in human terms, excluding the likes of Vision. Xochitl Gomez first auditioned for the role at the tender age of 13 years old, impressing casting directors with her dedication to martial arts training.
Interestingly enough, America Chavez was originally written as being 18 years old when Gomez auditioned, not quiet being high school age herself. Later, the character was re-written to be 14, possibly purely to accommodate Xochitl Gomez to take the character. This would mark a rare instance of a character actually being aged down to reflect casting, the opposite usually being more common. It’s unclear if or when America Chavez will return to the MCU, leaving her task in aging herself down even further as time passes uncertain.
6 Shameik Moore (23) as Miles Morales (14)
Obviously, animation eschews many of the issues with age when it comes to casting teenaged characters. As long as an actor can sound like a teenager, their actual age doesn’t matter. This was the case with Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse‘s Shameik Moore as Miles Morales. Though Miles is somewhere around 14 years old in the first Spider-Verse film, Shameik Moore’s 23-year-old voice is able to capture the teenage awkwardness beautifully. As a veteran on-screen actor, his voice performance was certainly impressive.
Being able to reprise his performance in Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse, Moore was able to recapture the still young, but slightly more matured Spider-Man at 25, de-aging his voice by a solid ten years. Shameik Moore’s ability to capture the youthful exuberance and plucky charm of Miles Morales over animation is well-established, but the now 28-year-old actor is also interested in portraying a live-action version of the character. Fan backlash deeming Moore as too old to play a live-action Miles Morales makes this an unlikely prospect, audiences possibly having grown too attached to a teenaged Miles.
5 Hailee Steinfeld (21) as Gwen Stacy (14-15)
Alongside Miles Morales, Hailee Steinfeld lent her voice as Gwen Stacy, also known as Spider-Woman, Ghost Spider, or simply Spider-Gwen. As Miles’ more experienced counterpart, Gwen Stacy’s voice reflected her maturity while still reflecting her teenage uncertainty. While Steinfeld herself wasn’t a teenager at the time of recording, she did have experience acting as a teenager, starring in the 2010 remake True Grit at the age of 13 and 2013’s Romeo and Juliet at the age of 14.
Hailee Steinfeld has since gone on to lend her voice to other critically-acclaimed works of animation, playing Vi in Netflix’s Arcane series. Continuing to hone her skills as a voice actress, Steinfeld returned as Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse, now having aged up a year and a half. As recording began directly after the release of the first Spider-Verse film, Steinfeld was able to carry the momentum of her teenage angst into the next film.
4 Kathryn Newton (26) as Cassie Lang (18)
Scott Lang’s daughter, Cassie Lang, first appears in the MCU as a child, portrayed by child actress Abby Ryder Fortson, aged 8 years old at the time of the first Ant-Man film. Surviving a harrowing attack from the villain Yellowjacket, Cassie appears again in Ant-Man and The Wasp, now 11 years old in the MCU timeline. However, with the time jump of the blip rapidly aging the character up, Cassie Lang was recast in Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, the role being taken over by Kathryn Newton.
Having jumped forwards seven years in time between The Blip of Avengers: Endgame and the natural time skip in between Ant-Man movies, it made sense for Newton to take over as the now 18-year-old Cassie in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Though 26 years old, Newton was deemed as a great choice for the older, more cynical Cassie, now taking part in the action directly rather than just being motivation for Scott. Newton’s physicality and passing appearance as a teenager make her a great fit to grow into the role further, as Cassie’s career may be expanded upon in future films.
3 Will Duesner (19) as Skaar (17-18)
Though only making a brief cameo appearance in She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, The Hulk’s son, Skaar, is a recent teenage addition to the MCU. Played by up-and-coming actor Will Duesner in the series, Skaar’s age was revealed to be around 17 or 18 years by concept artist Constantine Sekeris, citing the age range as being what he was aiming for in the character’s design. Being 19 years old at the time of filming, Will Duesner was right on the money for portraying an adolescent son of Hulk.
Not the star of the show by any means, Skaar’s only appearance in the MCU thus far is a brief, non-speaking introduction in She-Hulk: Attorney At Law. As a CGI-heavy character, it’s interesting that Will Duesner’s role as Skaar is among the most faithful to his real-life age compared to other teenaged Marvel characters, considering the wiggle room given by the VFX. This means that Will Duesner as Skaar has excellent room to grow in future appearances, possibly as part of the rumored Young Avengers lineup.
2 Dominique Thorne (24) as Riri Williams (19)
One of Marvel’s most highly-featured new heroes of the last ten years, Riri Williams is a genius inventor, following in Tony Stark’s footsteps as the armored hero Iron Heart. In her MCU debut in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Riri Williams is depicted as 19, just starting college but already a prodigy engineer. Riri is played by Dominique Thorne, who was 24 at the time of filming. Being already college-age, Riri Williams is barely still a teenager, taking a lot less pressure off of the five years of difference in age of Thorne’s portrayal.
Interestingly, Riri’s actress was in the running for a different teen heroine in the MCU, Thorne nearly being cast as Shuri as early as 2016. Though she was beaten out by Letitia Wright for the role, Thorne made such an impression at Marvel that when it came to casting Iron Heart, she was the only name they considered, landing the part without even having to audition. Dominique Thorne will return as Iron Heart in her own eponymous series as part of Phase 5.
1 Letitia Wright (24) as Shuri (16)
In her first appearance in Black Panther, Letitia Wright brought Shuri to life in a more supporting role, acting as the Q to T’challa’s James Bond on top providing emotional support as his sister. Over time, Shuri steps into the limelight as a leading role, officially taking over the mantle of The Black Panther in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Actress Letitia Wright had to age herself down quite a bit to play T’Challa’s sister Shuri, who was only 16 years old in her first appearance.
The Guyanese-British actress did a fine job of capturing Shuri’s teenaged sense of humor and cheery spirit in the first Black Panther film, despite a now-dated meme reference. In the second installment, however, Shuri had to grow up fast in order to succeed the late T’Challa as both ruler and the Black Panther, leaving little time for her to act like a typical carefree teen. As a strong contender for one of the most powerful teen heroes in the current Marvellineup, Letitia Wright’s Shuri has become a staple of the MCU.