The S.H.I.E.L.D. organization noticeably absent in the story of Iron Man 3 is making a return in a big way, both this fall in Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. live-action TV series, picked up for a full season by ABC, and next year in Captain America: The Winter Soldier where S.H.I.E.L.D. will take center stage.

The group, headed up by Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), will expand to see many new faces over the next two years. As we learned this weekend, it may get a few more is the most unexpected of places: Oscar-nominated actor and funnyman John C. Reilly has been offered a role in Guardians of the Galaxy as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.

HitFix has the scoop which not only details the potential new casting addition, but many of the possible story and character elements of the film that writer and director James Gunn’s screenplay may draw from. They also have word that Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are being brought in to help polish the script.

Markus and McFeely have solidified their roles in the Marvel family and not unlike overseer and Avengers 2 writer/director Joss Whedon, have a large part in shaping Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They got their start with Marvel having co-written Captain America: The First Avenger and have since helped co-write Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Guardians of the Galaxy is their fourth Marvel film.

By utilizing the same family of writers Feige forming a team of sorts, using Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for multiple films, all overseen by Joss Whedon. Drew Pearce who wrote the now-canned Runaways for Marvel Studios was brought in to help write Iron Man 3, and almost had a gig helping polish the Guardians of the Galaxy screenplay as well. Don’t be surprised to see his name attached to one of the Phase Three Marvel films.

As for the new details on Guardians of the Galaxy, HitFix’s source claims that John C. Reilly – a Disney favorite for starring in Wreck-It Ralph – is in talks for the role of Rhomann Dey. Marvel Comics readers may know Dey as the alien leader of Nova Corps who passed on his power and role to the human Richard Rider – the most popular Nova and previous leader of the Corps, but after seeing Iron Man 3, we know better than to assume Marvel Studios is going closely follow character and story arcs from the books. The film version of Rhomann Dey will (as the report indicates) be human, serving as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, a handler of sorts for the Guardians.

Knowing that the film will take place “95% in space” according to James Gunn and Marvel Studios Pres Kevin Feige, the role may be limited, but it’ll be recurring as a long-term contract for multiple pictures. HitFix describes Dey as the Agent Coulson of the Guardians, but he’s not the only key human character. He may have a partner also liaising for the Guardians of the Galaxy and the names of interest include Hugh Laurie, Alan Rickman and Ken Watanabe. All four actors would be welcome additions to the Marvel franchise.

As for the characters officially revealed to star in Guardians of the Galaxy, a few more details about them have emerged as well:

  • Rocket Raccoon will be joined by fellow intelligent animal from the planet Halfworld, Wal Russ (pictured above), when he first appears in the movie. The two are guards of The Keystone Quadrant, a sectioned off star system for the criminally insane where animals were genetically engineered with bipedal walking abilities and human-level intelligence to serve as caretakers. Moviegoers may be in for some wacky characters (see: Cosmo the space dog).
  • The other key piece of info is yet another villain rumor, joining the list that already includes The Collector, The Controller and most recently, Ronan the Accuser. Thanos will be involved in the film, much like he will for The Avengers 2, but he won’t be the main antagonist, instead serving as the big baddie behind the scenes. HitFix claims that Michael Rooker’s Yondu Udonta is the main bad guy (described as a “space pirate”), a major deviation from the comics where Yondu is actually one of the original Guardians and a good guy.
  • Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) may not be playing the main villain either as previously reported, as his character may start as a threat but “switch sides” during the film. We don’t know who he’s playing yet but he may be being set up for a future spinoff film of his own, hinting that he could be playing someone like Captain Mar-Vell (who has connections with Ronan the Accuser and the Kree alien empire) or Adam Warlock (a crucial character involved with the Infinity Gauntlet Thanos is after – as seen in Thor). The other, less likely possibility is that he’s playing Black Bolt, leader of The Inhumans which may be a Phase Three Marvel film.

At this stage, fans who followed the development of all the post-Iron Man films know how out of control rumors and speculation can become. Knowing that Marvel Studios is not restricted to remaining faithful to the comics means that any character can be altered, dropped or merged with others, so predicting how James Gunn’s “twisted” story will play out is impossible. The film hasn’t even begun shooting, let alone finished casting, and we already have four different rumored villain possibilities not including Thanos.

Who would you like Lee Pace to play and what villain should serve as the primary antagonist in Guardians of the Galaxy?

Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on November 6, 2015, and Doctor Strange sometime after that.

Let me know on Twitter @rob_keyes if you’re excited for Marvel going cosmic!

Source: HitFix