They’re known for having impressive superpowers on the big screen, but a number of Marvel’s superheroes and supervillains have learned the hard way that they’re not impervious to the law.
Over the years, Marvel has brought in billions at the box office and turned many of its leading actors into household names. Though there were huge successes with X-Men and Spider-Man in the early 2000s, no one could have predicted what was about to happen when the Marvel Cinematic Universe started back in 2008. That’s when director Jon Favreau begged Marvel Studios to let him cast Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man, a movie many thought would never work. Were they ever wrong! These days, superhero movies are surefire winners. 2019’s Avengers: Endgame brought in a whopping $2.79 billion worldwide and became the highest-grossing film of all time.
As much as you might enjoy the flicks, however, a number of Marvel’s leading names (including Downey himself) have troubling pasts — ones that include arrests for everything from drug possession to murder. Here are ten Marvel actors who have been arrested — many of them on multiple occasions.
Nick Nolte took the most famous mug shot of all time
It may be known as one of the most famous celebrity mug shots of all time, but as Nick Nolte revealed in 2011, the infamous image that has trailed him for nearly two decades wasn’t a mugshot at all.
The actor, who was arrested in 2002 for driving under the influence of GHB, also known as liquid ecstasy, was taken to hospital for a blood test, which is where an officer asked if he could take a photo. As Nolte told GQ (via People) in 2011, « I said, ‘Come on, you don’t really want to ask that, do you?' » After the cop agreed to share any money he made from the shot with his fellow officers, Nolte recalled, « I let him shoot the Polaroid. »
The actor, who appeared in Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk movie as David Banner, opened up about incident in his 2018 memoir, Rebel, writing (via People), « I took GHB prior to going to the gym for a long workout. A strong dose made me feel great. » He was then driving to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting when the psychoactive drug began to take effect, so he turned around. « I was a mess and driving on the Pacific Coast Highway, » he recalled. « I’m told six drivers called 911 to report a big sedan weaving on the wrong side of the road. »
Nolte entered rehab and, upon his release, was sentenced to three years’ probation. He seems to have no problem with people remembering the incident, however, as he was photographed wearing that Hawaiian shirt in 2018.
Vinnie Jones has a history of run-ins
Vinnie Jones is no stranger to breaking the law. In 1997, he was arrested and found guilty of assaulting neighbor Timothy Gear in a late-night fencing dispute. According to Gear’s account, Jones « put his teeth into the top of my scalp. »
In 2003, the X-Men: The Last Stand actor was arrested at Heathrow airport and later sentenced to 80 hours of community service and £1,100 in fines for assaulting a fellow passenger and drunkenly threatening that he could have an entire flight crew « murdered for £3,000 ».
Jump to 2008, and the British soccer player-turned-actor was arrested again, this time following a bar brawl with 24-year-old Jesse Bickett at Wiley’s Tavern in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. According to a spokeswoman for Sanford USD Medical Center, he suffered « a laceration of the head and a nasal injury » after being hit in the face with a beer glass. He was treated, then charged with assault and released on bail.
What happened? Bickett (who used his glass as a weapon) and roommate Juan Barerra claimed Jones « aggressively » demanded they free up the pool table. When Bickett asked if he was the actor from X-Men, Barerra said Jones « got offended by that, and he started pushing my other friends around. He said he’s been in so many other movies or whatever. » According to one report, Jones head-butted Bickett. Another report claimed he then punched Barrera in the mouth. In 2009, Jones said he acted in self-defense when he punched Barerra, revealed he received 70 stitches, and was found not guilty.
Woody Harrelson likes to flee from authority
It seems Woody Harrelson has a penchant for running away from authority. When a 21-year-old Harrelson was caught dancing in the middle of a busy street, he tried to run away from police before being arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. He needn’t have worried, as he got away with paying a simple fine. He didn’t learn his lesson, though, and in 2002 tried to run from cops once more.
The Venom star was in a London taxi after a night out when he reportedly broke an ashtray and lock, jumped out, hailed another cab, then sped off. The driver of the damaged vehicle called police, who stopped the « getaway vehicle. » That’s when Harrelson jumped out again and started running. He was eventually stopped and arrested for causing an estimated £300 of damage, and spent the night in a cell before getting out on bail.
As the taxi driver recalled in a Daily Mail interview, « [Harrelson] started going crazy, saying he wanted to get out of the cab. The next thing I know, he’s kicking the door. Somehow he managed to kick the whole thing open, breaking the lock; then he’s off, running down the street. » Harrelson eventually paid for the damage and charges were never pressed. What’s more, he turned the ordeal into a movie called Lost in London. As the cabbie noted, the script wasn’t very realistic: « It would surprise me if he remembered much because he was totally out of it. »
Kelsey Grammer’s addiction got the better of him
Kelsey Grammer has lived a tragic life, which has included the loss of three siblings, substance abuse, and numerous legal troubles. The Frasier star’s first run-in with the law occurred in July 1987, when he was arrested for being « under the influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug » and driving without a license, People reports. As a first-time offender, he was given probation, ordered to enter rehab, and told to return to court in October 1988 to prove he had completed treatment.
In April 1988, Grammer was arrested again and found to be in possession of $25 worth of cocaine. After missing two arraignment hearings, he was eventually sentenced to rehab and told to return in May 1990 to report his progress. In both cases, not only did Grammer not seek treatment, but he never turned up for his court dates. Finally, an arrest warrant was issued. As the outlet notes, Grammer was sentenced to 30 days behind bars, plus ten days collecting trash along the highway, for violating his probation. He also pleaded no contest to his cocaine possession charges and received 90 days’ house arrest.
The drama continued in 1996, when the X-Men actor was arrested once again after the car he was driving flipped over, People reported. He was taken to a hospital to treat a cut on his forehead and checked himself into rehab a few days later. Meanwhile, California Highway Patrol recommended he officially be charged with drunk driving, E! confirmed.
Josh Brolin’s domestic abuse charge was just the beginning
Just four months after tying the knot, Josh Brolin and Diane Lane got into a heated argument that resulted in the Thanos actor getting arrested. The incident occurred at the couple’s home and ended with Lane calling police, claiming Brolin had hit her. According to the couple’s spokeswoman, Lane didn’t want to press charges, but given the physical nature of the claim, he was arrested anyway, charged with spousal battery, and released on $20,000 bail, notes People.
In 2010, Brolin recalled the incident, telling Playboy (via Huffington Post), « I talked big, she said ‘F*** you’ and called the cops, and somebody had to go to jail. » In 2018, he told The New York Times he doesn’t talk about it much because « there’s no explaining it. » He continued, « Whatever I say [now] is going to sound like compensation for a perpetrator. »
In 2008, Brolin was arrested again, this time at a wrap party in Louisiana. W had finished filming and the bash was so raucous, a crew member was arrested for public intoxication. Brolin reportedly tried to intervene and was taken into custody, then released on $334 bond. Jump to 2013 and he landed behind bars once again, this time in Santa Monica. It was just before midnight on January 1 when the actor was arrested for public intoxication and held until he sobered up, TMZ reported. Apparently, he had a little « too much fun » ringing in the new year with friends.
Terrence Howard has a history of hitting women
Terrence Howard has a cringe-worthy history of assaulting women — something he’s somehow managed to pretty much sweep under the rug. In 2000, the Iron Man actor was on a Continental Airlines flight from Toronto to Cleveland when, according to The Smoking Gun, he grabbed a flight attendant by the wrist and tried to push her after she asked him to return to his seat — the seatbelt sign was on. Upon landing, Howard was arrested, but all charges were dropped for lack of jurisdiction. Howard claimed he had been trying to take his daughter to the bathroom.
Then, in 2001, the actor was arrested for punching estranged wife Lori McCommas « twice with a closed fist in the left side of her face. » According to the police report, the couple fought over the phone and the actor threatened, « Don’t disrespect me by hanging up on me or I’ll come over and hurt you. » McCommas called 911, but Howard broke down the door to her house and attacked her. He was charged with simple assault, terroristic threats, harassment, and stalking. All charges were dropped when he plead guilty to disorderly conduct.
In 2005, he took his anger out on strangers, punching a woman in the chest and a man in the face because they were in front of him at a Philadelphia diner and were seated first. Philadelphia Magazine reports he was arrested and charged with simple assault and harassment, but again, charges were dropped when he plead guilty to disorderly conduct. Howard claimed self-defence.
Robert Downey Jr. spiraled out of control
Before Robert Downey Jr. decided to get sober and turn his life around, he was spiraling out of control. Iron Man himself was first arrested in 1996 when cops pulled him over for speeding on the Pacific Coast Highway and found cocaine, heroin, and an « unloaded but concealed .357-caliber Magnum revolver » in his car. He was released on $10,000 bail and later sentenced to probation and 100 hours of community service, CNN confirmed.
Two weeks later, Downey Jr. was arrested for breaking into a neighbor’s house and passing out in one of the bedrooms while high. He was arrested for « trespassing and being under the influence of a controlled substance, » according to the Chicago Tribune. He was sentenced to three years’ probation and rehab.
Downey wasn’t ready to get clean, however, and after repeatedly skipping out on treatment and missing a court-ordered drug test, he was sentenced to 113 days behind bars at the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail in 1997. In 1999, his probation violations landed him three years in a California state prison. He was released in 2000, but the arrests kept coming until 2001. Downey eventually got sober in 2003 and these days, he talks openly about his past. That is, as long as it’s on his own terms, like in 2019, when he admitted he was once arrested at Disneyland for « smoking pot in a gondola. »
However, try to ambush him with questions about his « dark periods, » as one promptly-destroyed interviewer attempted to do in 2015, and Downey Jr. will shut you down faster than the snap even could.
Mickey Rourke was Vespa-ing under the influence
Mickey Rourke is known for being a supervillain in the Marvel universe, but when he was arrested in November 2007, the circumstances were anything but badass.
The boxer-turned-actor was taken into custody for driving under the influence on a motor scooter. According to Reuters, Rourke was seen « weaving from lane to lane » on his Vespa in Miami Beach. It was around 4 a.m. and he had « bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred speech and a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage. » The Iron Man star failed a sobriety test, but the police report (via TMZ) noted him asking, « What the f*** did I do?! » before proclaiming in a slurred voice, « I’m not drunk, I didn’t even drink that much. » Rourke was taken into custody and transported to the Miami-Dade Pre-trial Detention Center, where he was held on a $1,000 bond.
Drunken scootering was hardly the first time Rourke found himself on the wrong side of the law. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Sin City star was charged in 1994 with « spousal battery for allegedly slapping his 25-year-old wife [Carré Otis], knocking her down and kicking her. » Otis later dropped the charge, per The New York Times, however that same year, Rourke was also cuffed for « resisting arrest during a fight outside [a] South Beach nightclub. » It might not be a bad idea for Rourke to just avoid Miami altogether.
Wesley Snipes keeps being hunted by the IRS
In 2008, Forbes dubbed Wesley Snipes « the highest-profile criminal tax target in years » after he was sentenced to three years behind bars for owing $2.7 million in back taxes. The Blade megastar, who did not submit his taxes in 1999, 2000, and 2001, was charged with three misdemeanor counts of failing to file tax returns. He filed an appeal, which was denied, and was ordered to start serving his prison term in 2010, CNN reported. Snipes had a lot to be thankful for, as he was acquitted of five other (much more serious) charges, including felony tax fraud and conspiracy charges.
The actor was released from prison in 2013 and placed under house arrest to complete the last four months of his sentence. The saga wasn’t over, however, as the IRS discovered he had actually failed to pay taxes between 2001 and 2006 and owed $23.5 million. Snipes took the IRS to court in 2018 and offered to pay $842,061 (just 4% of that sum) to wipe out the multi-million-dollar debt. Even after the settlement was lowered to $9.5 million, Snipes stuck to his meager offer, which was a mistake. As Bloomberg reported, he suffered a major blow when the U.S. Tax Court ruled against his « economic hardship » claim, concluding that the IRS was entitled to its full $23.5 million.
Mollie Fitzgerald was charged with murder
You may not recognize her name, but actress Mollie Fitzgerald, who had a small role in Captain America: The First Avenger, has the most shocking arrest story of all of the celebrities on our list.
On December 20, 2019, her mother, Patricia « Tee » Fitzgerald, was found dead with four stab wounds in her back and, on December 31, the actress was arrested, charged with second-degree murder, and held in jail on a $500,000 bond, according to CNN.
As Oxygen later reported, the Stark Girl claimed she acted in self-defense, saying her mother lunged at her with the knife. She confessed to hitting her mother with a vacuum cleaner attachment, to biting her, and to stabbing her because she had to. Findings from the autopsy report disputed her claims, however. According to the official report, Patricia’s body showed « defensive injuries, » including bruising around her neck that suggested strangling. There was zero evidence that she had attacked anyone or ever held the knife in question. Fitzgerald told a judge in January 2020 that she would be acting as her own attorney.