It's almost time for Avengers: Endgame! To celebrate this momentous occasion, we decided to hunt down every interesting backstage anecdote we could find on the Marvel films, then collate them in a numbered list so long it had to be split into multiple parts. Hmm, that sounds like a familiar business model. Let's get started!
Considering the importance of Iron Man to the MCU, it stands to reason that the film's production was the most polished affair imaginable, with nothing left to chance. Well, reason can go suck an egg, because it turns out the making of the first movie in this culture-defining smorgasbord was comparable to that of an amateur production.
No really, we're not being bitchy. That's how Jeff Bridges described it:
"They had no script, man. They had an outline. We would show up for big scenes every day and we wouldn't know what we were going to say. We would have to go into our trailer and work on this scene and call up writers on the phone, 'You got any ideas?' Meanwhile the crew is tapping their foot on the stage waiting for us to come on."
Being a consummate professional, turning up to set each day without an idea of his lines freaked Bridges the hell out ... that is, until he reimagined the project as "a $200 million student film" in which everyone was "just fuckin' around!"
When it was time to film a scene for which no script existed, Robert Downey Jr., Bridges, and director Jon Favreau would spend a few minutes improvising dialogue beforehand. If you want an example, how about the last (and best) moment of the movie, when Tony Stark impulsively reveals that he's Iron Man to a room full of journalists. That was pure improv on RDJ's part, and fortunately, Marvel Studios bigwig Kevin Feige wound up liking it on the basis that "it was something very much in keeping with the comics character and what he could have done."
It's impossible to imagine any other actors portraying the Asgardian power couple Thor and Loki. There's an alternate universe out there, however, where Chris Hemsworth lost the job to Tom Hiddleston ... which, come to think of it, is the most Loki thing that he could have pulled off.
According to Hiddleston, he was asked to audition for the role by Thor director Kenneth Branagh, who figured that with his theatrical training, height, and blond locks, Hiddleston was perfect for the "classical" Thor he planned to portray. But despite putting on over 20 pounds of muscle, he lost out to Hemsworth, which led to him landing a sympathy audition for Loki.
The best part of this story, however? There's incredible footage of Hiddleston's audition. He might not be nailing Thor as we think of him today, but if anyone ever sets out to do a new spin on the character where he's exactly the same except just a touch more weaselly, we've got our leading man.
If the production of Iron Man was an aloof rave where someone occasionally rolled a camera, the production of Captain America was -- quite fittingly for the character -- a deeply considered process on the part of star Chris Evans. How so? Well, immediately after accepting the role, he enrolled in therapy to deal with the anxiety issues that had kept him from accepting it several times beforehand.
"I said no the first few times because I think that I was just scared of it, and the more that I spoke to my friends and family about it, the more that they were saying 'Chris, you can't make a decision based on fear. You'll regret that more than anything else' ... Had I not done the movie I don't think that I would've gone to therapy. When I agreed to do the movie and went and sat down with someone he said, 'Well, what's the problem?' I'm normally not good at press. I'm normally not good in public when I get recognized. For some reason, I get very uncomfortable. My face gets red. I sweat. For some reason, in public situations like red carpets, talk shows I just crumble."
Actually, Captain America But With Crippling Anxiety is a rather spot-on modern interpretation.
As you probably remember, The Avengers has a post-credits scene which shows the team recovering from their epic battle by chowing down on some shawarma.
You'd think that this would be the easiest scene to shoot, right? Wrong. Kevin Feige and Joss Whedon only nailed down the joke after filming had wrapped, meaning that if they wanted to shoot it, they'd have to wait until the next time that the cast was all together. Which in this case was the movie's world premiere (only 18 days before it was released in theaters).
This wasn't the biggest problem they faced, though. In the time between wrapping Avengers and filming this scene, Chris Evans was starring in Snowpiercer, which called for him to grow a beard. And because beards are apparently the only thing that billion-dollar sci-fi movies can't CGI, Evans was forced to film the scene while wearing a prosthetic chin and holding his hand over his face.
Walt Disney Studios
As you'd expect, the cast treated Evans with dignity and respect during this tim-
We're starting to understand Evans' anxiety.
In one interview, Chris Hemsworth confessed that he'd lifted not one, not two, but five prop hammers, one of which sits in a bathroom as a makeshift toilet paper holder -- or in really dire situations, the cosmos' most mystical plunger.
It's not just Hemsworth, either. Chadwick Boseman has admitted to stealing a pair of the high-tech beads that T'Challa wears in Black Panther, while Karen Gillan / Nebula and Sebastian Stan / Bucky both copped to stealing vast quantities of lube, but only because they need the stuff to "help them fit their metal arms before filming commences," which might be the weirdest euphemism we've ever heard. Chris Pratt, meanwhile, confessed that after filming on the first Guardians Of The Galaxy wrapped, he absconded with Star-Lord's red jacket and a few other accessories ... but only because he wanted to wear the stuff while visiting sick kids in hospital.
The prize for the most audacious theft, however, goes to RDJ, who maybe kinda accidentally stole the gigantic A that sits on the side of Stark Tower after filming Age Of Ultron. As he tells it:
"On the last Avengers, there's this scene where there's this 'A' which is probably 30 feet tall and I'm looking at it, and we're shooting in England, and I go, 'I need that in my office in Venice' ... About two weeks ago, a wheeler showed up, I'm like, 'What the heck is this doing here?!' And they go, 'This is the 'A' you asked for.' And I go, 'They brought it?!' So now we have a massive Avengers 'A' that will be prominently placed."
Whenever a photo from the set of an MCU movie drops, it's almost guaranteed to go viral. Back in 2008, however, Marvel (and then-distributor Paramount) wasn't too down on the practice and launched a crusade against Ronnie Adams, a photographer who snapped one of the first photos of the Iron Man armor. Of course, their efforts backfired so badly that they wound up apologizing and giving Adams full press credentials, which included a set visit and the opportunity to interview the cast.
In his infinite wisdom, Jon Favreau then decided to poke fun at the controversy by using Adams' photo in Iron Man underneath the headline "WHO IS THE IRON MAN?" because that's pretty funny.
Adams didn't think so, and subsequently launched a lawsuit against Marvel and Paramount for illegally using his copyrighted material. This ended with Marvel apologizing again and cutting the scene from future releases.
If you don't know who Anthony and Joe Russo are, they're the reason The Winter Soldier, Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame look so damn good. How did they get this once-in-a-lifetime gig, you might be wondering? Well, it was all down to the TV show Community -- specifically, their work on the paintball episodes.
According to Joe Russo, their work on these episodes made them immediate prospects in the eyes of Kevin Feige -- which unintentionally later led to Arrested Development being inducted into the MCU.
When Guardians Of The Galaxy was first announced, it's fair to say that most people (including die-hard fans) were a little nervous that Rocket Raccoon was going to be a CGI laughingstock. And then the first trailer was released, which put to bed most of the nay-saying (you'll never get it all).
It turns out that, surprise, Marvel actually cares about its movies! So when it came time to figure out Rocket, they lined up Bradley Cooper to do the voice, Sean Gunn to do the mo-cap, and for those finer details, one Mr. Oreo Raccoon to act as a reference for the animators.
Oreo loved every moment of the experience, and alongside the usual perks of fame (being able to tour the set, eating Dave Bautista's garbage), he was even invited to the movie's premiere in London in 2014, where he spent the evening riding James Gunn around the red carpet like a fleshy Groot. Sadly, Oreo passed away earlier this year, so feel free to pour one out while watching Endgame and ignore the protests of any nearby theater employees. They'll never understand your grief.
One of the weirdest moments in Ant-Man comes at the end, when the big confrontation between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket finds them atop a Thomas the Tank Engine toy, which ends with the toy growing to true train size and crushing a police car. Because TtTE is all about smashing the state, man.
After Marvel figured that it'd be funnier if the climactic battle took place on top of a childhood icon rather than a generic train set, they contacted the owners of Thomas The Tank Engine to hash out a deal. Ant-Man director Peyton Reed describes what happened next:
"We had to do this whole thing where we did this presentation for the people who own the rights to Thomas. Thank God they agreed and found it funny, but there were definite stipulations. For example, nobody could be tied to the tracks and run over by Thomas. Thomas couldn't be doing anything that could be perceived by children as evil Thomas. Thomas had to stay neutral in the battle, which was always our intention."
Did you know that we almost got a version of Thor: The Dark World where the villain was Hela? You know, the Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, one of the best MCU movies?
Similarly, remember the climax of Age Of Ultron, which sees the Avengers battling a thousand-strong army of robots? In the original draft, the plan was for all these robots to meld together and form MEGA-ULTRON. (An idea which was scrapped because it "didn't make tactical sense over an overwhelming swarm of bots.")
Rebecca Hall, who played Maya Hansen in Iron Man 3, was originally meant to be the secret true villain behind the Mandarin, but ultimately found herself being downgraded because Marvel didn't think that a female villain would sell any toys. This was a justification as confusing as it is sexist, considering how, as io9 pointed out, they didn't even end up making action figures of the male villain they went with instead.
And the original draft of Doctor Strange didn't have the Sorcerer Supreme facing off against Dormammu, but instead chose to pit him against Nightmare -- who in the comics rules the dream dimension (duh). In a rather reasonable decision, Feige stepped in to remind everyone that this movie was going to be confusing enough without introducing a second weird dimension, and so persuaded them to go with Dormammu instead.
When it was announced that Black Panther would be making his MCU debut, the internet immediately started speculating about what his suit would look like, not realizing that by that time, Marvel had already commissioned -- and quickly discarded -- the worst possible iteration.
These original concepts for the character were released by artist Jerad S. Marantz a few years back. While it's entirely possible that this wouldn't have looked that bad onscreen, it's also very possible that people would've spent the entire movie staring aghast at his weird veiny butt. On the other hand, people spent most of last year thirsting over Killmonger's weird bumpy chest, so what do we know?
TUNE IN TOMORROW FOR PART 2: ENDGAME
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