Strange Things That Happened On MCU Sets

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is easily one of the most successful film franchises of the 21st century. While there have been many great films inspired by comic books, the MCU was the first interconnected saga that brought multiple heroes together for a crossover event. Ever since the success of 2008's "Iron Man," the MCU has pulled off the rare challenge of pleasing both hardcore comic book lovers and more casual movie fans. There's a consistent level of quality in the MCU's output. While not every film or television show is a home run, the franchise has avoided any complete disasters.

The third phase of the MCU concluded in 2019 with "Avengers: Endgame," which brought the "Infinity Saga" to a close. While COVID-19-related pushbacks may have delayed the next stage of the franchise, Phase Four has been the most ambitious entry within the series thus far. The next era of the MCU will be known as the "Multiverse Saga." Later this year, we can expect "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" to bring Phase Four to an exciting conclusion.

Marvel fans have a packed slate ahead of them. 2023 will bring "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," "Secret Invasion," "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," "Echo," "Loki" Season 2, "The Marvels," "Blade," "Ironheart," and "Agatha: Coven of Darkness." It's overwhelming, but for the most part, the cast and crew seem to have a good time making these films. Here are some of the strangest things that happened on MCU sets.

Tom Holland went undercover as a high school student — Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Spider-Man finally entered the MCU in 2016's "Captain America: Civil War." Since movie fans were already very familiar with Peter Parker's origin story thanks to Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" trilogy and "The Amazing Spider-Man" films, going back to the beginning to tell another version would feel like a waste of time. The MCU made the clever decision to introduce Tom Holland's Peter Parker after he had already become the iconic web-slinger. Not only had Peter been saving people for a while, but he was familiar with what was going on in the universe.

Although 2017's "Spider-Man: Homecoming" didn't go back to the character's origin story, it did bring Peter back to high school. After helping Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) face off against Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Peter struggles to readjust to a world of homework, bullies, and school dances. While "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is very much a superhero adventure, it feels like a coming-of-age comedy similar to the work of John Hughes in the 1980s.

To prepare, Holland went undercover as a high school student at the Bronx High School of Science in New York City. Holland enrolled in many of the same math and science classes that Peter took in the film. Since Holland attended the school before the release of "Civil War," he was able to hide his identity for a few days.

Florence Pugh making fun of the superhero landing became part of the script — Black Widow (2021)

Ever since Scarlett Johansson made her MCU debut as Natasha Romanoff in 2010's "Iron Man 2," fans demanded a "Black Widow" movie. While Johansson got more dramatic material to work with thanks to her beefed-up roles in "The Avengers" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," it was clear that Natasha was a character that deserved a franchise of her own. However, Natasha sacrifices herself to save Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) in 2019's "Avengers: Endgame."

This put a "Black Widow" movie in an awkward position. Would it bring Natasha back from the dead, or would it go back to the very beginning to tell her origin story? 2021's "Black Widow" takes place in between "Captain America: Civil War" and "Avengers: Infinity War." After Natasha goes on the run for her involvement in Steve Rogers' resistance movement against the Sokovia Accords, she teams up with her old friend, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh). Yelena and Natasha trained together to be assassins in the "Red Room."

The two characters know each other pretty well, and Yelena enjoys making fun of Natasha for leaning into her reputation as a superhero. She lampoons her old friend for doing a "superhero landing" after she executes an attack. Ironically, this was inspired by an on-set observation by Pugh. After Pugh started poking fun at Johansson's stunts while they were training, her comments were incorporated into the script.

The cast started filming without a script — Iron Man (2008)

The MCU would not be what it is today if not for 2008's "Iron Man." If the first entry in the saga was not successful, then there's no reason to believe that the franchise would have reached any of the heights that it has. The casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was an act of genius. Downey Jr. leaned into the character's cocky charisma and modernized the superhero origin story in a way that felt relevant. The film does a great job of exploring how Tony becomes worthy of wearing his suit. He learns about the damage that the weapons manufactured by Stark Industries cause and decides to take his life in a more humane direction.

Although "Iron Man" set the precedent for what the MCU would become, it's also an anomaly within the franchise. The film tells a relatively gritty story that plays into Bush-era anxieties about international terrorism, the arms race, and unchecked consumerism. It's also one of the most heartfelt entries in the franchise. The relationship between Tony and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is very touching.

Even though "Iron Man" remains one of the best entries in the MCU, it's a miracle that the film came together so well. Jeff Bridges admitted in an interview that filming began without a completed script. "We would show up for big scenes every day, and we wouldn't know what we were going to say," he said.

Brie Larson's allergy necessitated CGI cats — Captain Marvel (2019)

The MCU has pushed computer-generated imagery and visual effects to the next level. Considering how many alien creatures, complex action sequences, and strange environments are in the universe, it's impressive that the visual effects team is able to constantly outdo themselves. Visual effects artists are among the most hardworking people in the film industry. They deserve to be treated with the respect that they deserve from corporations like Disney that employ them.

"Captain Marvel" features some of the most stunning visual effects in the franchise. Since the film takes place in the 1990s, the visual effects team utilized digital de-aging techniques to make Samuel L. Jackson look nearly three decades younger. There are also some very impressive action sequences, including the climactic third-act showdown in which Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), Nick Fury, and Monica Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) help free the Skrulls. However, some latent visual effects were used to overcome a strange issue on set.

Brie Larson is allergic to cats, so CGI was needed to bring Danvers' feline companion, Goose, to life. Reggie, the feline actor who portrays Goose, was used in a few scenes with a stand-in actor, but the scenes with Larson used a CGI cat. Despite Larson's issues, Samuel L. Jackson and Reggie bonded. Reggie learned to love Jackson after he started bringing cat treats to set.

Robert Downey Jr. snuck food on all of the sets

When Robert Downey Jr. made his debut as Tony Stark in 2008's "Iron Man," it was clear that he was not an ordinary superhero. Unlike Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man, Tony has a sense of humor and enjoys luxuriating in his celebrity lifestyle. Downey Jr.'s personality was essential to nailing the depiction of the character. His additions to the films are integral to their success.

Over time, Downey Jr.'s personality began influencing Tony's behavior in the films. If you've ever wondered why Tony seems to constantly be snacking, it's because that's something that Downey Jr. would do when they were filming. It became an essential part of the character. When Tony is first rescued in "Iron Man," he requests a cheeseburger before he delivers a press conference. Downey Jr. and Tony share the way that they like their burgers. "I want bacon on it. I know I'm not supposed to," he said. "I want a lot of cheese. I want Thousand Island. I might even put some Mulberry Street pizza oil on it."

While Downey Jr. initially did not inform the cast and crew ahead of time that he would be munching in between takes, Tony's snacking habit was incorporated into the narratives. Considering that filming tentpole films can be a grueling task, it's understandable that Downey Jr. would want to have a bite to eat during a long day of shooting.

Florence Pugh gets spicy — Hawkeye (2021)

After training to be an assassin in the Red Room, Yelena certainly got used to some weird customs. Yelena adds a sense of humor to the projects that she's involved in. Although 2021's "Black Widow" served as a tribute to Natasha's importance in the MCU, it also worked as an introduction to Yelena, who will undoubtedly be one of the most exciting characters in Phases Five and Six.

Yelena will next be seen in 2024's "Thunderbolts," where she will team up with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), John Walker (Wyatt Russell), Ava Starr (Hannah John-Kamen), Alexei Shostakov (David Harbor), Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and Antonia Dreykov (Olga Kurylenko). However, she briefly appears in a surprise cameo role in the last three episodes of the Disney+ series "Hawkeye." In Episode 5, Yelena takes a moment to bond with Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld). Yelena reveals that she likes a secret ingredient in her macaroni and cheese: Sriracha sauce.

According to "Hawkeye" directors Bert and Bertie, this was Pugh's idea. Bertie says, "The hot sauce was right there, then Florence was, 'Well this now needs to go on the mac and cheese.'" Pugh is a bit of a hot sauce junkie. She admitted that she carries around mini bottles of both Sriracha and tabasco sauce in her purse. 

The cast was given fake scripts — Avengers: Endgame (2019)

In the age of instant reactions on social media, movie fans are more cautious than ever before about spoilers. If you're looking forward to a new movie in a highly-anticipated franchise like the MCU, you probably need to avoid looking at the internet during the days leading up to a new film's release. Some people online just want to ruin things for everybody by leaking critical plot points to the masses. Understandably, the MCU's production team has had to be very cautious about avoiding leaks on set.

2019's "Avengers: Endgame" was perhaps the most anticipated film in the franchise. Not only was "Endgame" the conclusion of the "Infinity Saga" that began with 2008's "Iron Man," but it also had to resolve the massive cliffhanger at the end of 2018's "Avengers: Infinity War." To keep the plot under wraps, next-level precautions were put in place. Some members of the cast were given fake scripts to avoid accidental leaks.

However, directors Anthony and Joe Russo knew that they had to be particularly careful when dealing with Tom Holland. After Holland accidentally spoiled the ending of "Infinity War" during a screening event, the Russo brothers decided to only give Holland access to his lines. Joe Russo said, "We use ... very vague terms to describe to him what is happening in the scene because he has a very difficult time keeping his mouth shut."

Taika Waititi kept falling asleep — Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

2017's "Thor: Ragnarok" was a breath of fresh air for the MCU. The first two films in the "Thor" series were not among the most acclaimed projects in the franchise. "Thor" was a little too melodramatic and heavy on exposition and "Thor: The Dark World" is largely forgettable and inessential to the overall trajectory of the franchise. However, the recurring problem was the main character himself. Thor was a little too self-serious for his own good. "Ragnarok" allowed Chris Hemsworth to have more fun with his performance. This more jovial, goofy version of the God of Thunder made him more interesting in the next slate of films.

This new direction for Thor's story arc comes from Taika Waititi, the brilliant New Zealand filmmaker behind "What We Do in the Shadows," "Hunt for the Wilderpeople," and "Jojo Rabbit." Waititi encouraged the cast to improvise their lines, creating an enjoyable working environment. Although making a massive blockbuster like "Ragnarok" sounds like a lot of fun, it's also hard work! To take a break from his directorial duties, Waititi napped on set.

Mark Ruffalo chimed in on social media to comment on Waititi's hilarious habit. Waititi endorsed the thread, and "Taika Napiti" quickly became an internet meme. This has been a running joke for Waititi's entire career. Waititi pretended that he was asleep during the 2005 Academy Awards. He also discussed his habit with Jimmy Kimmel.

The cast filmed a goofy music video — Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

"Avengers: Infinity War" is among the most ambitious films in the MCU thus far. The film had to unite a massive group of characters and create an existential threat worthy of bringing them together. Although Thanos (Josh Brolin) had been teased since the post-credit scene in 2012's "The Avengers," "Infinity War" had to make him a compelling character. The film also had to tie together all the ongoing storylines that the MCU had introduced in the "Infinity Saga."

While this certainly put a lot of pressure on the cast, it also gave them the chance to interact for the first time. According to Anthony Mackie, the cast decided to celebrate their time together by filming a goofy music video. Mackie said, "We shot half of it, and then people realized how bad they were at dancing, and we couldn't get anyone else to dance." Mackie told an audience at MCM Comic Con that "Mark Ruffalo dancing is a spectacle that everyone should behold once in their life."

This isn't the first time that an MCU cast has gotten together to show off their dancing skills. The cast of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" filmed a music video for the song "Guardians Inferno," which was written by James Gunn and producer Tyler Bates. The video is included on the film's DVD and Blu-ray releases.

Tom Holland's chair was replaced with a toilet — Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

The entire cast and crew of the MCU enjoy having fun at Tom Holland's expense. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have poked fun at Holland during press tours and Benedict Cumberbatch was assigned to be Holland's "babysitter" during interviews so that the young star wouldn't leak any plot spoilers. Holland even got freaked out by Willem Dafoe on the set of 2021's "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

Although Holland made his first MCU appearance in 2016's "Captain America: Civil War," he got his first solo adventure in 2017 with "Spider-Man: Homecoming." "Homecoming" had to introduce a new, modern version of Peter Parker that felt different from both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. While this put a lot of pressure on Holland, it sounds like the crew took turns pranking him. Holland revealed on social media that his set chair had been replaced with a toilet.

Holland said that he was "loving [his] new set chair," and that the crew should "really be treating number one like number two." Eric Hauserman Carroll, "Homecoming's" co-producer, replied that "being pranked on set is a right of passage," and that it was "a sign of love and respect." Holland managed to get back at his tormentors. During the filming of "No Way Home," he pranked the crew by replacing bottles of hand sanitizer with lube.