Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe officially kicks off today as Captain America: Civil War began rolling out in movie theaters across the United States. Leading up to the film’s release, Joe & Anthony Russo, as well as Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige have been making the press rounds to discuss the film, as well the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – most notably Avengers: Infinity War, which goes into production later this year and will be directed by the Russo brothers. However, as great as it is to hear about the exciting plans in store for Avengers: Infinity War, we’re still a long way from those two films – which will soon be re-titled – making their way to the big screen. So when the folks over at Deadline were able to chat with Feige about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they made sure to do so by kicking off the conversation regarding the film that is set to follow Captain America: Civil War – November’s Doctor Strange.
In recent weeks, the conversation surrounding Doctor Strange has proven to be rather heated. While the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One was already controversial when it was revealed last year, it was ultimately screenwriter C. Robert Cargill‘s recent comments that led to a larger discussion. During a podcast interview, Cargill, who came on to Doctor Strange late in the game to work on the script with director Scott Derrickson, claimed that part of the reason they’d decided to cast Swinton in the role was due to box office worries/marketing the film in China. Those comments, along with a few others, led to angry responses from fans, and ultimately forced Marvel to release a statement regarding Swinton’s casting in the upcoming film. Unfortunately, that statement was far from what many had hoped to hear from the studio, although Derrickson later took to Twitter to prove he was in fact listening to those angry by Swinton’s casting and was learning – proving that he understood where the fans were coming from and wasn’t just writing off their concerns. While speaking with Deadline, Feige tackled this subject as well, noting Derrickson’s tweet (which you can read below) and how the studio was in fact listening to the fans.
DEADLINE: It feels like the only real question with Captain America: Civil War is, how high? But there have been questions on Doctor Strange and the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, the mentor to the title character played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Fanboys noted the character was Tibetan in the comics, and The New York Times reported the suspicion of an ulterior motive to not offend China. Can you clear this up?
FEIGE: We make all of our decisions on all of our films, and certainly on Doctor Strange, for creative reasons and not political reasons. That’s just always been the case. I’ve always believed that it is the films themselves that will cross all borders and really get people to identify with these heroes, and that always comes down to creative and not political reasons. The casting of The Ancient One was a major topic of conversation in the development and the creative process of the story. We didn’t want to play into any of the stereotypes found in the comic books, some of which go back as far as 50 years or more. We felt the idea of gender swapping the role of The Ancient One was exciting. It opened up possibilities, it was a fresh way into this old and very typical story line. Why not make the wisest bestower of knowledge in the universe to our heroes in the particular film a woman instead of a man? We made changes to some of the other key character in the comic for similar reasons. Specifically, casting Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo and there’s a character named Wong, who is a very big part of comics, and we cast this amazing Asian actor [Benedict Wong] and modernized that role and his talents people will begin to see as materials on the film begin to come out.
Raw anger/hurt from Asian-Americans over Hollywood whitewashing, stereotyping & erasure of Asians in cInema.
I am listening and learning.
— Scott Derrickson (@scottderrickson)
For Feige, it was important that they avoid portraying stereotypes in the film. It was this decision, among others, that ultimately led to them changing both the race and the gender of the character for the film. He also indicates that they’ve made sure not to make the same mistake going forward, and that fans will be happier with announcements for upcoming projects.
DEADLINE: As an Irishman myself, having the smartest person in the world be Irish seems okay.
FEIGE: The truth is, the conversation that’s taking place around this is super-important. It’s something we are incredibly mindful of. We cast Tilda out of a desire to subvert stereotypes, not feed into them. I don’t know if you saw [Doctor Strange director] Scott Derrickson’s tweet the other day. He said we’re listening and we’re learning, every day. That really is true. As long as we’re starting on this topic, it means so much to us that people know that. We also know that people expect actions and not words in a Q&A, and I’m hopeful that some of our upcoming announcements are going to show that we’ve been listening.
DEADLINE: It sounds like you deny any suggestion that Marvel or Disney didn’t want to offend China?
FEIGE: That story was completely erroneous.
Along with Doctor Strange, one of the other topics Feige touched on in the interview was a potential Black Widow movie. Over the past few months, there’s been a lot of conversation surrounding the character and the possibility of her finally getting her own film. Most notably, the Russo brothers called it a “no-brainer” after having expressed interest in a Black Widow film previously. Of course, as interesting as their comments were, the possibility of a Black Widow movie finally coming to fruition seemed low. But those – such as myself – eager to see the character lead her own film? Feige told Deadline that Marvel Studios is in fact committing to making a Black Widow movie.
DEADLINE: You’ve got a bunch of characters in this movie from Falcon and War Machine and Black Widow and Hawkeye, who have so far guest starred in movies with another characters title above the fold. Is there one destined to get a solo movie down the line?
FEIGE: We’ve announced the next nine movies, ten counting Civil War, through the end of 2019. Where we go beyond that are ongoing discussions that we’ll focus on in the next few years because we have a lot to do before then. Of the characters that you’ve just mentioned I would say certainly the one creatively and emotionally that we are most committing to doing is black widow.
FEIGE: We think she’s an amazing character. We think Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of her is amazing. She’s a lead Avenger and has amazing stories in her own right to tell that we think would be fun to turn into a standalone franchise.
Finally, Feige also addressed the possibility of the Hulk getting another standalone film, this time with Mark Ruffalo in the starring role. Unfortunately, however, Feige confirmed that it’s a matter of contracts preventing Ruffalo from leading his own solo film.
DEADLINE: Mark Ruffalo brightens up the Avengers. What has to happen for us to get a standalone, Mark Ruffalo Hulk film?
FEIGE: Well, those are contractual things that I’m not entirely attuned to. Disney and Universal would need to come to an agreement to allow Marvel to do a standalone Hulk film for Disney. What’s so great, and as you just said, Ruffalo lights up any room he’s in, any Twitter feed he’s engaged in and any movie that he’s in. It’s just a great pleasure to have him in The Avengers films and as you know his next appearance will be in Thor: Ragnarok, which is a whole other type of fun Hulk adventure for him that we can’t wait to get started on.
Captain America: Civil War is in theaters now, and Doctor Strange will hit movie theaters on November 4th!