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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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  • The cast of 'Avengers' before they were superheroes

    Five years in the making, “The Avengers” assembles a live-action collection of Marvel’s top-tier comic book superheroes on the big screen for the first time ever. Featuring Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, the Hulk, Nick Fury, Black Widow, and Captain America, “The Avengers” is poised to become THE blockbuster of the summer.

    Blame a lot of the buzz on the cast, featuring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johansson, to name just a few. Our friends at dug deep into the past of the entire “Avengers” cast and gives you a unique glimpse at their humble (human) beginnings.

    Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library, Walt Disney Pictures

    THEN: Scarlett Johansson, Senior Year at the Professional Children’s School, NYC in 2002

    Scarlett Johansson started acting at age nine and worked steadily until she got singled out for her role in the film “The Horse Whisperer” (1998). After that, her career really took off and she transitioned into more adult roles in “Ghost World,” “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” and “Lost in Translation.”

    NOW: Scarlett Johansson as Agent Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

    Scarlett Johansson first appeared as super spy Natasha Romanoff in “Iron Man 2” and she reprises that role in “The Avengers” as a full member of S.H.I.E.L.D. tasked with bringing Bruce Banner into the organization’s fold.

    Smack in the middle of the film’s battles, the actress told the press that she doesn’t have much in common with Black Widow. “We both have a lot of conviction; other than that I can’t think that we’re at all similar. It’s funny because since making the film I have a very inflated idea of my badassness. I keep thinking I could actually take my costars down in real life. But actually I’m not at all badass.”

    See all 11 “Avengers” stars before they had super powers at

    Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library, Walt Disney Pictures

    THEN: Robert Downey Jr., Junior Year at Santa Monica High School in 1982

    Even at 17, Robert Downey Jr. had that smart-ass smirk. Not long after this picture, Robert dropped out of high school and moved back to New York City to pursue acting professionally. He acted off Broadway until he became a cast member of “Saturday Night Live” in 1985.

    He was fired soon after but then costarred in films like “Less Than Zero” and “The Pick-up Artist,” becoming a satellite member of the Brat Pack.

    NOW: Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

    Robert Downey Jr.’s hugely successful comeback performance as billionaire genius Tony Stark in “Iron Man” was the catalyst for “The Avengers” ever happening. Robert helped put the Marvel character on the mainstream movie map and worked closely first with Jon Favreau and now Joss Whedon to help craft Tony’s character arc and persona in the films.

    See the entire gallery of “Avengers” stars before the fame at

    Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library, Walt Disney Pictures

    THEN: Mark Ruffalo, Senior Year at First Colonial High School, Virginia Beach in 1986

    A longtime theater actor and co-founder of the Orpheus Theatre Company, Mark Ruffalo transitioned into film in the late ’90s and gained huge accolades for the indie “You Can Count on Me” (2000). Ruffalo’s been busy ever since doing indies and more mainstream films from “The Kids Are All Right” to “13 Going on 30.”

    NOW: Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk

    The third actor to give the character of Bruce Banner/The Hulk a try, Mark Ruffalo was handpicked by director Joss Whedon to inhabit the gamma ray infected doctor who isn’t very nice when he gets angry. Asked if he has a lot of his own rage, Ruffalo recently told the press that he channeled his youthful anger issues. “You should have seen me in my 20s, man. I was the poster definition of an angry young man with a persecution complex.”

    See all 11 “Avengers” stars, including Chris Evans and Gwyneth Paltrow, before the fame, at

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