7 Things You Never Knew About the Marvel Cinematic Universe
With “Avengers: Endgame,” signifying the culmination of 10 years (and more than 20 movies) of Marvel Studios derring-do, it's time we looked back at how the movies were actually put together. Considering what an unproven idea this kind of massive, interwoven series really was, it's not much of a surprise that there were a few hiccups along the way. But there are just as many secrets of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that will fill you with joy and surprise. Excelsior!
Kevin Feige Has Been There from the Beginning
While even casual Marvel Studios fans know that Kevin Feige was the man with the grand vision of the interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe and, as both President of the Studios and a producer on all the films, the series' guiding creative principle, most might not know how far back his involvement goes. But as an assistant first for Lauren Schuler Donner, a producer of the “X-Men” films and then as the right hand man of Avi Arad, the once-head of Marvel Studios, he was there from the beginning. A particularly funny story from a recent issue of Vanity Fair noted how a young Feige demanded Hugh Jackman's hair be particularly comic book-y for the first “X-Men” movie.
Phase 2 Has a Giant 'Star Wars' Easter Egg
If it's one thing Kevin Feige loves, it's "Star Wars." And for the middle chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's initial phases layout, he snuck a reference to “Empire Strikes Back” into every single movie. What's the reference? Somebody gets their arm cut off in every Phase Two movie. Every single one, Feige < admitted to CinemaBlend. Think about it -- Guy Pearce in “Iron Man 3,” Thor in “Thor: The Dark World,” Bucky in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” Groot in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Andy Serkis in “Age of Ultron,” Yellowjacket in “Ant-Man” and Bucky (again) in “Captain America: Civil War.” That's a lot of amputations!
Edward Norton Was Notoriously Difficult to Work With …
While Marvel Studios hasn’t been totally immune to behind-the-scenes complications, largely does that friction involve the talent. But that wasn’t the case on “The Incredible Hulk,” a movie that saw star Edward Norton rewriting pages of the script almost every day. Eventually Norton told an audience at Comic Con that he was responsible for the film’s screenplay. It is credited solely to Zak Penn, who wrote an early and ultimately rejected version of “The Avengers” script too. Norton, it seems, was responsible in toning down the presence of SHIELD and removed an appearance from comic book character Rick Jones. In the end, most of what Norton had come up with, including a series of flashbacks that were condensed into an opening montage, was either removed or reconfigured to the point of being unrecognizable, leaving Norton angry to the point that he probably almost turned into a giant green rage monster. Apparently, the slight still stings. Earlier this year, at the Comedy Central roast of Bruce Willis, Norton brought up “The Incredible Hulk” (yes, really). "I tried to be like you," Norton said at the event."I did a big action movie called The Incredible Hulk. You know what went wrong? I wanted a better script." He also zinged: “"I thought we should try to make one Marvel movie that was as good as the worst Chris Nolan movie, but what the hell was I thinking." But, um, no hard feelings Ed?
… Which Ultimately Led to Him Not Returning
Apparently, Norton was unhappy that his contributions were left by the wayside, although from what was reported, much of his material had to do with backstory and psychological complexity, things that bogged down Ang Lee's previous version of the story. Marvel Studios wanted a snappier, more upbeat adventure -- and that's what they got. But Norton made his unhappiness known and threatened not to promote the movie (only the second proper Marvel Studios film at that point). Ultimately, this behavior led to Norton not being invited back for the team-up film “The Avengers.” Ironically, a subplot Norton had pushed for, involving Bruce's suicide attempt, made it into Joss Whedon's script for “The Avengers” (which was the introduction of Mark Ruffalo's Hulk). Leave no good idea behind.
So Many Missing Tattoos
For some reason the “Iron Man” sequels have a tendency to delete pesky tattoos. In “Iron Man 2” Mickey Rourke's Whiplash initially had a tattoo of big bad Loki amongst the tangle of prison tattoos already covering his body. (This was both a nod to the “Thor” movies and to his beloved pet Chihuahua, also named Loki.) But the studio was ultimately worried that the inclusion would confuse viewers, who might conjecture that the two villains were in cahoots. (They were not.) In the next film, the deeply brilliant “Iron Man 3,” Ben Kingsley's Mandarin was thought of as a kind of think-tank-developed bad guy; part of that ploy was using colorful, upbeat iconography and turning it into something much more sinister. And so, you can see in early trailers that on the back of the Mandarin's neck is a Captain America tattoo but instead of a star at the center, it's the anarchy “A.” It's unclear why it was removed or if there were more tattoos, but we love this bit of back-story.
Alternate International Versions
One of the better jokes in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and one supposedly held over from an “Avengers” draft by Joss Whedon, was Captain America's list of things he has to catch up on. What's interesting is that the list was altered depending on where you saw the movie -- South Korea, France, Great Britain, Latin America, or New Zealand/Australia. The specificity is really cool and also leaves Steve with a much longer list of things to catch up on! “Iron Man 3” was co-financed by Chinese money and, with that audience in mind, has an entirely different cut that is four minutes longer and includes an expanded role for a Chinese doctor, a new character (played by Asian superstar Fan Bingbing), and blatant product placement for Gu Li Duo, a popular Chinese milk drink. Supposedly the response to this version was, according to the Hollywood Reporter, “mixed.”
They Tried to Get David Cross
Here's a bonus bit of behind-the-scenes business: there’s a“Arrested Development” character in the superhero free-for-all “Avengers: Infinity War.” And while Disney wouldn’t confirm the identity of the actor, the Hollywood Reporter caught up with David Cross, who confirmed that a) that wasn't him in the Collector's glass box and b) the Russos really, really wanted him to be there. (It just couldn't happen because of scheduling.) Maybe most tellingly, Cross has no intention of even seeing his character in the gargantuan hit. Ouch!