Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, indeed. When it comes to movies, 2012 has proven that it’s the Avengers’ world, and we just live in it.
Marvels’ The Avengers has raked in more than $606 million in the U.S., and $1.45 billion worldwide. Each of those marks place Avengers as the third-highest grossing movie of all time, trailing only Avatar and Titanic.
One man along for the ride has been Jeremy Latcham, senior vice president of production and development at Marvel Studios. Latcham was also an executive producer on Avengers, and as inevitable discussion about Avengers sequels and spinoffs bubble up, he took time to chat with Newsarama to discuss the future…and living in a post-Avengers world.Newsarama: Jeremy, how tough was it just doing Avengers from a scheduling standpoint? You've got Robert Downey Jr. in three Iron Man flicks, and he does Sherlock Holmes and God-knows-what-else, to say nothing of the rest of a large cast. Was scheduling talent into Avengers tough? Surprisingly easy? What?
Jeremy Latcham: Well, the schedule was tough. But Lars Winther, who was our first assistant director, did an amazing job of trying to board the movie in such a way that made it easy as you can make it for the actors. Now on Avengers, we had the added complication that Thor was opening on day five of Avengers production. So [Thor actor] Chris Hemsworth was going to be busy going around the world on a press tour, and had to fly back to L.A. for the premiere. So, since that movie was opening on day five of production for the new movie, there’s just no way you can use him until after that.
And Chris Evans’ movie, Captain America, was slated to open right in the middle of production in July. So we had to block out about a month for him to go around the world on a press tour. And then…you have to schedule everyone else around those events, and invariably, you can only schedule this actor on this day and that actor on that day for whatever other commitments might exist. So yeah, you start to look at the schedule and say, “We never have anybody when we need them to actually make a movie!”
And you really have to schedule a movie in a such a way that allows the director, in this case Joss Whedon, to build the performances and work up to the key, pivotal moments. I mean, you don’t want to shoot the first scene and the last scene together just because everyone happens to be in them. You need time to allow that build-up, for all the real, very human, parties involved.
So it’s complicated, and a big, moving mess of madness. But a good A.D., which we had in Lars, can usually sort out the traffic.
Nrama: It usually is the first A.D. who’s the unsung hero of any flick, isn’t it?
Latcham: It really is. It’s one of the hardest jobs on any movie. You have to keep the energy high and keep everyone motivated for what turned out to be 92 days of first-unit photography. You have to keep the set running, and make sure you have the actors there for what you need and make sure every department has what it needs. It’s really a Herculean task. And those guys usually do not get recognition like they deserve.
The scheduling was tough. There were days where Lars would come into my office and shut the door and say, “I don’t know what we’re going to do. I’m gonna sit down and figure it out…but right now, I’m worried.” And sooner or later, he sorted it all out.
You know, the hardest part was the shawarma scene! We actually shot that after the movie was done. We shot that the day after the premiere, eight weeks out from the end of shooting. We were in the editing room and Joss said, “I have this idea for a scene. It would be so funny if they were all just sitting around eating shawarma after the movie. Just sitting there quietly, not saying anything—just eating shawarma.” And we laughed and said, “Joss, that’s amazing. We have to do that!” But it was impossible. The cast will never be together again. And we thought, well…they will be together at the premiere. Maybe we can shoot it the day after.
And that was crazy, convincing all the actors that it would be totally worthwhile after doing days of premiere press to get back into makeup and shoot one more scene. But at the end of the day, they all did it and they all loved it.
Nrama: Now in addition to your “solo movie guys” such as Thor, Iron Man or Cap, you have a couple of pretty big stars playing Black Widow [Scarlett Johansson] and Nick Fury [Samuel L. Jackson] and a rising one as Hawkeye [Jeremy Renner]. Can you handicap the odds of seeing solo features for these actors or characters?
Latcham: In the near, near future…we kind of know the movies we’re going to make, and it’s not those characters on the radar. But we love those characters, and we’re all deeply, deeply interested in doing that one day. Again, a lot is time and place, and other circumstances. Is it solo movies, or is there a pairing? How would you play it? Obviously, Joss did an amazing job of giving a lot of really meaningful backstory to Widow and Hawkeye in the Avengers film. I mean, I want to know what happened in Budapest! I want to know why one of them thinks it’s “just like what happened in Budapest,” and the other has no idea what she’s talking about. I want to see Hawkeye making that different call. I think that would be cool. So in terms of the stories, there’s no doubt there are stories to tell. It’s just a matter of when and where, and how it fits into the bigger picture.
Nrama: Speaking of the bigger picture, has Avengers now changed your dynamic? In that, I mean it was the solo films that seeded it, but now, given the response, it's the brand name. Will Avengers sequels spawn new solo films? Has your template been flipped 180 degrees?Latcham: Well, the idea was always that you have these big special events that happen, which is where you have this Avengers movie, and then the characters spin back into their own solo movies. Iron Man 3 is now being shot in North Carolina with Thor 2 shooting soon in the U.K., so the idea is that these characters are always having their solo adventures, but when there’s an event that’s big enough to have to bring them all together, that it would happen in an Avengers film. And that’s still very much the idea. In the middle, these characters’ lives will change and evolve, and it will be interesting to see what the changes are and how these guys’ lives are different next time we bring them together for a big event.
Nrama: That’s a good segue. There’s a bit of a comic book reader necessity, something that readers just accept out of decades of precedent that allows them to dismiss the idea of “Well, if there’s a problem too big for Iron Man to handle, why doesn’t he just call on Thor to beat it into submission with his hammer?” Comic readers accept that can’t always happen, or you wouldn’t have that comic. But in a general sense, how do you coach a screenwriter or craft a story that can’t be easily solved by just assembling the Avengers at any drop of a hat?
Latcham: Well, I think it all comes down to the approach of what’s happening in the story. Without getting into what’s happening in Iron Man 3, Thor 2 or Captain America2 , making the story happen on a timeline where maybe it’s not possible to get everyone together is a possibility. Or maybe having it in a place that everyone can’t get to might be germane.
But really, creating solo stories where that solo character gets to shine is really the mandate. That’s the way we have to approach it. You don’t want the audience to be sitting there saying, “Just call the Hulk!” because…well, it’s a Thor 2 movie! So it’s a lot of craft, in trying to come up with that story that’s uniquely “Thor,” you know, and doing it in a manner that’s every bit as suspenseful and every bit as exhilarating as the big team adventure. If you make it exciting, and character-based on that character, people won’t be wondering where “the other guys” are ’cause they’ll be just wrapped up in it, having too much of a good time.
Nrama: One of the keys on the publishing side right now in Avengers, which has led to Avengers, New Avengers, Secret Avengers and so on, is the inclusion of Spider-Man and Wolverine on the team. Without going too much into the intricacies of studio rights, do comic fans have any hope of ever seen a big-screen Spider-Man or Wolverine in an Avengers movie?Latcham: I don’t know. I really don’t have a good answer to that one. In this moment, right at this moment…not really. Not much of a chance. But with the success of Avengers, and fingers crossed, maybe great response to the new Amazing Spider-Man, well…maybe people start getting excited about that idea. So who knows? But right now, my gut says it’s not really possible.
Nrama: You have Iron Man 3 shooting in North Carolina right now. How long can Iron Man "run?" Three is kind of a magic number for movie sequels. Will this end? Or is it James Bond?
Latcham: We like to think that these characters can live forever. I mean, they’ve lived in publishing for 60 years and are still going strong, with thousands upon thousand of stories told. I think in the same way, these characters can live in film for a long, long time. Right now, we’re just the stewards of these characters in film, which is a great, great job, but I really feel that someday, another generation will be able to take them to play with and plan out that next generation of stories. I think these characters can go on for a really, really long time.
Nrama: Are you a big nedrlinger? You have a personal fave, a close-to-the-heart, perhaps obscure character you'd love to do. Woodgod? Fin Fang Foom? Ka-Zar? Anyone?
Latcham: You know, there’s not a particularly obscure character I’d like to make a movie out of, because I think there are still a lot of the more well-known characters we can do that we haven’t got to yet. I’d really like to do a Dr. Strange movie. I’d really like to make a movie out of Luke Cage. There are a bunch of characters who, to me, are on that “bigger” roster I’d still like to do. I’m not thinking, “Yeah, I’d really like to make a movie out of The Hood or Hit-Monkey” or something.
But, you know what the strangest one maybe is? You might laugh, and it might look like I have a really soft sensibility—and I do—but I’d really like to do a Power Pack movie. I’d really love to do that someday. I just love the characters, and I think it could be so much fun. But I really don’t think it will happen. The world’s not calling out for a Power Pack movie right at this moment, but I love them. I really just like the idea of making a movie about kids, and I think we could capture that same sense of wonder that was in those old Amblin movies, you know? To get to that same sense of fun…I think Power Pack could be that Goonies movie, you know? I’m a huge, huge Goonies fan! And it totally holds up! I just showed it to my nephew, who was 13 at the time, and I had no idea if he was going to like it. And he was enraptured. It still holds up. It’s the best!
Nrama: Now you mentioned Dr. Strange and Luke Cage. In a publishing sense, those are Avengers characters. Could we see Dr. Strange or Luke Cage in Avengers sequels, perhaps even with the hope of spinning them into their own solo flicks?
Latcham: Well, anything’s possible with the characters we have the rights to, and that’s the fun part. So I feel like it’s going to come down to what serves the story. So when we sit down and start going through “what’s the next Avengers adventure?” if there’s an opportunity for one of those characters to serve that adventure, and we have the rights to that character, they’re in.
I mean, Maria Hill, right? There’s a character that’s not an obvious choice to have in Avengers, but we felt like we needed her there, and she became an integral part of the experience, the ride. She was a great foil to Fury, and really accomplished a lot of things that we wanted to accomplish from a story standpoint. It was really fun to bring in this character that people know, not just “generic S.H.I.E.L.D. agent number 27.” It’s fun to bring in Maria Hill, and keep her true to the character she is in the books.
So if there’s a character that comes up who could serve the narrative in a big way, yeah. There’s no corporate mandate of “We have to introduce these three characters in the next movie.” We just want to tell the best story, and it comes down to what characters will serve the story in the best way. We want to be careful to never say, “We need to jam these five characters into a movie, Mr. Director and Mr. Screenwriter, and you just figure it out.” We just want to figure out what makes the story good, and hopefully get agreement on that. So if there’s an opportunity to introduce someone new in an Avengers movie and it works, we’re totally open to that.
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