Marvel's Oldest-Ever Lead Movie Star Just Got Announced for the MCU

Marvel Studios movie stars
By Matt Roembke Posted:

The age of MCU actors has been a surprisingly contentious topic of late, particularly when it comes to headlining certain upcoming projects. 

The age-old question of age has been particularly notable leading into Marvel's Phase 5 & 6, with many using actors' ages as reasonings for whether certain stars will be chosen to star in the MCU's future movies and shows (looking at you, John Krasinski).

That isn't to say that older actors haven't been kept around or cast to kick butt and take names, with Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, & more still at the forefront of the franchise.

Marvel even recently introduced one of the franchise's oldest actors ever in an episode of She-Hulk, but now the MCU will be spotlighting an older hero in an upcoming leading movie role.

Marvel's Oldest Lead Actors

War Machine, Iron Man
Marvel

Don Cheadle's James Rhodes is a character that has been a part of the MCU for a long while, joining Gwenyth Paltrow's Pepper Potts, Jon Favreau's Happy Hogan, and Paul Bettany's JARVIS/Vision/White Vision as the longest-running character in the franchise.

With the upcoming Armor Wars now being reimagined as a feature film starring Don Cheadle as James Rhodes, Cheadle is now the oldest actor to receive top billing for a movie in MCU history. 

The bump from series to a movie not only gives another Phase 1 character a long-awaited project; it gives Don Cheadle an MCU record for leading stars.

Cheadle was born in 1964 and is currently 57 years old. There is no release date set for Armor Wars at the moment so he will likely be at least 58 when the movie hits theaters. Regardless, the previous record for oldest lead actor in an MCU movie was the legend himself Robert Downey Jr. with top billing for Avengers: Endgame at 54 years old. 

Below are the top 5 oldest actors to lead an MCU movie so far, three of those spots being held by Downey:

  • Armor Wars* - Don Cheadle - (at least) 58 years old
  • Avengers: Endgame - Robert Downey Jr. - 54 years old
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania* - Paul Rudd - 53 years old
  • Avengers: Infinity War - Robert Downey Jr. - 53 years old
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron - Robert Downey Jr. - 50 years old

- * Denotes movie not yet released

Mahershala Ali, who is set to star in Marvel Studios' Blade franchise, is currently 48 years old and will likely be in his 50s when the first movie, which is currently experiencing production delays, finally arrives in theaters.

Throughout the Infinity Saga and Phase 4, the average age for Marvel Studios movie leads has been 37.66 years old. 

In contrast, the youngest Marvel Studios leading actor is Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming at age 21.

While Don Cheadle now holds the record for Marvel Studios projects, he is still behind Patrick Stewart for oldest leading actor in a Marvel movie. Stewart received top billing as Charles Xavier in X-Men and X2 at ages 60 and 63, respectively. 

Senior Hero James Rhodes Leading Armor Wars

James Rhodes, War Machine
Marvel

Don Cheadle's Rhodey, aka War Machine, has been a pillar of the MCU since 2010. To give him this opportunity to lead his own film is well deserved and long overdue. 

It is poetic that he takes the record for oldest leading actor in an MCU movie from Robert Downey Jr. He also passes the ageless Paul Rudd, who was previously the only other actor in the top 6 oldest to lead an MCU movie. 

It is worth noting that on the streaming side of things, Samuel L. Jackson is the lead in the upcoming Secret Invasion series, which has him at the top of the overall project list at the age of 73. He will be 74 when Secret Invasion hits Disney+ in 2023.

Kathryn Hahn will get into the fold of the overall list at the age of 49, and her Disney+ series Agatha: Coven of Chaos set to release sometime in late 2023 or early 2024. 

Armor Wars will be a spinoff of the Iron Man franchise. There is an opportunity to re-cement Don Cheadle as a starter on the MCU, push the Iron Man franchise forward with a new-suited hero, or even bring back the legend Tony Stark himself. 

The CGI nature of the character will allow Don Cheadle to bring as much action as any young gun in the MCU. Joining Scarlett Johannson and Chris Hemsworth, Cheadle will be the third Phase 1 character to lead an MCU movie post-Infinity Saga. 

Armor Wars has become one of the most interesting projects in the MCU with the promotion to a movie, and it is safe to assume Cheadle is a big reason why. The veteran of the team look for James Rhodes to make an impact on the greater story in his first movie with his name first on the poster.