You don’t need to be a genius like Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man) to know that Marvel Studios struck gold when it began adapting its popular superhero comic books into interconnected blockbuster films and streaming TV series. But it doesn’t hurt to have a friendly, neighborhood magazine like Saratoga Living to key you in on all of Marvel’s connections to Saratoga and the greater Capital Region.
Any fictional world as large as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is going to need to employ myriad actors and actresses to portray all of its superheroes, villains and sidekicks. Not one, not two, but three actors with Capital Region ties have found their way into the MCU.
Mickey Rourke, a Schenectady native and Oscar nominee, plays Ivan Vanko, the electric whip–wielding Russian antagonist in Iron Man 2.
Zazie Beetz, who portrays the extraordinarily lucky superhero Domino in Deadpool 2, cut her teeth onstage at Skidmore College (she’s graduated in 2013).
Jon Bernthal turned heads in the Skidmore theater department (so what if he didn’t graduate?)—and then bashed a few in as tough guy Frank Castle (a.k.a. the Punisher), first on Daredevil, then The Punisher, both of which were Marvel/Netflix series.
The Capital Region has hosted many a film crew throughout the years—see Seabiscuit and Salt, for example—and is often portrayed, in theatricals set in New York City, as this far-flung, otherworldly place “upstate.” Marvel’s crews have gotten in on the action, too.
• Speaking of The Punisher, the series filmed scenes for its second and final season in Albany in 2018.
• In several MCU films, characters visit an Avengers facility in Upstate New York. Its location is such a secret that scenes at it weren’t actually filmed upstate.
• Rumor has it that sure-shot summer blockbuster Black Widow, which stars Scarlett Johansson and hits movie theaters July 9, will feature a cameo by the Albany Police Department—though it’s unclear whether it’ll be our Albany Police Department or that of the same-named Georgia city, near which the scenes were filmed. True fans will have to wait until the end credits to find out.
Maybe the strongest connection between Marvel and the Capital Region comes courtesy of a sensational Saratogian. Former Marvel Studios Founding Chairman David Maisel, a Saratoga native, played a major role in launching the MCU itself, serving as executive producer for a string of original MCU movies, including Iron Man (and its sequel), The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. Maisel also has some superpowers of his own: He helped grow Marvel from a company worth a reported $400 million in 2003 to the one purchased by Disney for $4 billion just six years later.