We recently ran an article explaining why director Reed Morano, who just made her feature film debut with Meadowland, was worthy of being considered to direct Marvel’s first female led film – Captain Marvel. In the process of writing that article, we were able to speak with Morano (who is both incredibly nice & talented) through a series of e-mails to talk about the suggestion of both her & Wilde taking on a film like Captain Marvel, as well as her debut feature, Meadowland, which actually stars Wilde in what is quite possibly her best work to date. To see what Morano had to say about Meadowland, Captain Marvel, and her next feature, Lioness, which will star Ellen Page, check out the interview below!
MCU EXCHANGE: When you first came across the article suggesting you as the perfect director for Captain Marvel, how did you react? And was Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, a character you were familiar with prior to the Film School Rejects article?
REED: I know it was just a random suggestion, but it was definitely very intriguing to me. I just want to tell good stories with rich, complex characters. Carol Danvers’ story is the perfect example of that, with stories like her battle with alcoholism as she is loosing her powers and her struggle with the loss of her memories. It excites me to see her story told because she’s a female superhero that is completely three dimensional and compelling. She has flaws and she is struggling.
MCU EXCHANGE: From what I gather you’re not a big comic book geek, so what is it that attracts you to the superhero genre of film? What do you find most compelling about the Marvel films you’ve seen?
REED: I’m not a comic book geek – I only know what I know mainly from watching superhero movies all my life and what attracts me most about this genre is that the characters often have this self-destructive behavior, which goes against the grain of what you expect from a superhero. This is especially evident in Marvel films, such as Iron Man. They don’t have to be likeable, and that dichotomy exists of having all these otherworldly powers yet barely able to squash their own demons.
MCU EXCHANGE: What do you think you could bring to a film like Captain Marvel?
REED: To be honest, I only recently began to think about that when that cool suggestion came up on Twitter. There’ve been Marvel superheroes brought to the screen successfully in a way that retained their flaws and layers from the original comic but sometimes when these complex female characters get translated to the screen, they often become less interesting and layered than the way they were originally written – they sometimes become more about a being an image – a physical female ideal. As an audience member, I would love to watch a film with an intelligent, badass female superhero who is fucked up inside and has to work to overcome that – someone who has a dynamic character arc and who is going on a tumultuous journey. Humanizing superheroes and making the audience connect more to them emotionally has the power to result in a much more impactful cinematic experience. In Meadowland one of the things I explored, was trying to create as visceral an experience as possible for the viewer – to allow the audience to connect and empathize with that couple even though they were being unpredictable. I feel like Olivia and I have only just begun to scratch the surface of what we’re capable of together.
MCU EXCHANGE: One of the most exciting parts of the MCU is seeing all these different characters interact with each other. Leaving aside issues of continuity and obligations to other films, who is the Marvel character you’d most like to see Captain Marvel interact with?
REED: Maybe Kamala Khan because of her idolizing Carol Danvers and her taking on the Ms. Marvel name after Danvers drops it. There could be a scary, obsessive Single White Female or even Black Swan type vibe, which could make for a very dark relationship between the two of them, further complicating Danvers’ journey.
MCU EXCHANGE: In an interview you did with Variety, you made a comment about wanting your first feature to be something special – not exactly something that would be a guaranteed success. To me, you managed to do just that with Meadowland. You crafted a special film that perfectly captures two people struggling to come to terms with their grief in different ways. What was your initial reaction when reading the script?
REED: My initial read of the script left me with a gutted feeling and I didn’t know if I could go to such a dark place. But I could feel the depth of emotions I knew it could bring an audience to if done right. It’s a risky story because it’s so honest about darkness, and that’s why I wanted to tell it.
MCU EXCHANGE: While your work behind the camera is excellent, one of the best things about the film is Olivia Wilde’s performance as Sarah. This is a different kind of role for her, one that really managed to showcase her ability to command the screen, even in the moments when there wasn’t any dialogue. How soon did you know she was the right actress for the part?
REED: Olivia officially came on board about a year after my working on the script with the writer. I met with Olivia and our first meeting lasted 3 hours. That was a great foreshadowing of what our chemistry would be on set – in that same meeting, she offered to read for me. I had a gut feeling when she made that offer that she was going to be the one because I could feel her passion for the character and her hunger to get the role. I think in the reading, we both knew we wanted to work together – she always talks about how she was impressed by my adjustments and I was surprised (in the best way) by her choices.
MCU EXCHANGE: Ty Simpkins, who did an excellent job playing Adam in Meadowland, starred in Iron Man 3 alongside Robert Downey Jr. Did the two of you ever talk about his experience on that film? And what was it like working with him on Meadowland?
REED: Ty was the first actor I met for the role of Adam – I had seen him in Iron Man amongst other movies and I found him to be a very natural performer. He has a very effortless way of acting about him. And even faced with a daunting task of portraying a kid with Asperger’s, Ty was a total pro and drew from his experience with his best friend who actually has Asperger’s to find inspiration for his character. I like that even at a young age, Ty is seeking out characters that give him more meat to chew on as an actor.
MCU EXCHANGE: There was a part in your interview with Variety where you mentioned how you ultimately came to hire yourself as the D.P. on Meadowland because you were picky. Being that you had total control over the look of the film, what’s it like to see it all come together in the end?
REED: Doing both jobs was very fulfilling because I feel like the audience is getting the truest representation of the way I see this world. In addition to my collaboration on the script with the writer Chris Rossi, holding the camera on my shoulder, reacting off the actors and making every visual choice in the spur of the moment was a way for me to become another character in the scene.
MCU EXCHANGE: One of my favorite parts about Meadowland was that it didn’t shy away from showcasing the reality of grief. The film shows the ugliness of it and how it affects not just us, but also the people around us. I know you’ve stated that you wanted to make a film that moved people, but did you ever fear that maybe the story was too somber for an audience?
REED: The original script of Meadowland that came to me was actually a lot darker than what we actually shot. It concerned me a bit but it’s also the same quality that drew me to it. One of the things that Chris and I worked on together was finding these little rays of light in the darkness. For example, the end of the movie was not originally in the script. Now, I won’t spoil it here but I did feel that it was important to leave the audience with a shred of hope after being on such a fucked up journey. I love movies that are so honest they make me feel uncomfortable and take me to a place emotionally or mentally where I may not have gone before. Requiem for a Dream was a big inspiration for me in making Meadowland.
MCU EXCHANGE: Colin Trevorrow recently caused a stir by suggesting that the reason there are so few female directors making blockbuster movies is due to “high levels of creative and artistic integrity among female directors.” Do you think there’s any truth to his point, that women are less interested in working within the Hollywood system? Or is the lack of opportunities for women reflective of deeper issues within Hollywood?
REED: The lack of opportunities for women in many areas of film-making is all due to people’s assumption about what stories women want to tell and assuming what ALL women are capable of. That’s as ignorant as saying that because I’m a woman, I only want to watch romantic comedies. For the record, I have little desire to make or see a movie about a wedding – unless it’s the wedding in Kill Bill known as The Massacre at Two Pines. If I were making a love story, I would much rather have the opportunity to make something that defies expectations- for example, a modern day True Romance – something with intense love mixed with shocking violence. I’ve always wanted to make a movie about a hit man – in fact, make that a female hit man (One of my favorite films is The Professional).
MCU EXCHANGE: Your next feature, Lioness, is a war drama that stars Ellen Page. What else can you tell us about this project? What was it about the script that made you decide to pick it as your second feature?
REED: I was looking for a project that would surprise people and show the wider range of stories I want to tell. Lioness would give me a chance to delve deep into a familiar genre, a war film. It also fills a massive void in cinema, war through the eyes of a woman. There is a whole group of individuals who served in combat and were told they were never there and in this film we’re hearing those voices for the first time. Additionally, the enemy is not faceless and nameless – you get to know and become emotionally connected to both sides – it humanizes everyone; which, I also think is not often done successfully, so it’s a challenge I’m excited to undertake.
Be sure to check out Meadowland, Morano’s impressive debut film as a director, to see why we think she would be a great choice to helm the upcoming Captain Marvel film. Meadowland is now available via iTunes and other digital VOD services.