Marvel Studios has their post-Avengers moviegoer fanbase focused squarely on Iron Man 3 which hits theaters in six weeks, and around the same time Robert Downey Jr. helps launch Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: The Winter Soldier will begin principal photography, directed by franchise newcomers Anthony and Joe Russo.
The sequel to The First Avenger sees Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders return as their respective super soldier and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents from The Avengers, joined by Anthony Mackie and Emily VanCamp who are being introduced as Falcon and Agent Sharon Carter, respectively. But there are even more Agents from the organization bolstering the cast, and one of them will surprise you.
For years star Samuel L. Jackson and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige have name-dropped a potential S.H.I.E.L.D. movie, and we've always stood by the idea that such a story would better serve the franchise instead of investing in individual solo films for characters like Nick Fury and Black Widow. Their origin stories could be told together and that's exactly what's happening in The Winter Soldier, a film which sees Sebastian Stan return as a brainwashed Soviet assassin who shares a romantic history with Black Widow.
According to Deadline, joining the top secret Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division is Maximiliano Hernández, who had a tiny role in Thor as Agent Jasper Sitwell, and a key part in the Marvel One-Shots The Consultant and Item 47. Bringing back Sitwell helps strengthen the threads between the original content found on the home video releases of each Marvel Studios production, the core feature film franchise and the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series on ABC which you can expect Sitwell to show up as well.
Today however, Deadline also reported that Robert Redford is in negotiations with the studio to join Captain America: The Winter Soldier as well. Yes, the man behind the Sundance Film Festival and the promotion of independent filmmakers may have not only a role to play as a "senior S.H.I.E.L.D. agent" in the Captain America sequel, but may appear in other Marvel films as well. With there being two leaders in Nick Fury (Jackson) and Agent Maria Hill (Smulders), it's very intriguing that the studio is bringing in veteran talent like Redford in a similar position, especially considering THR's report that their sources compare the role to Ralph Fiennes in Skyfall where he (spoiler!) became the new leader, M.
Redford, an Oscar-winning director, took five years away from acting after Lions of Lambs in 2007 but returned recently in front of cameras for The Company You Keep - which he also directed - and All Is Lost, currently in post-production.
Fittingly, Hernández said the following online in confirming his own role, before removing the Tweets (likely at the request of the studio):
"So it's a much bigger role in a much darker Cap Story. Lots of twists and turns. And lots secrets about the MCU revealed! I can't say much more or the Marvel cops will revoke my SHIELD clearance! Trust me u will all freak out in the theatre when all is revealed!"
Don't expect to figure it out from reading The Winter Soldier story arc by Ed Brubaker, who revived the character in Marvel Comics back in 2004, as Hernández revealed (again, before deleting the tweets) that the "twists" in Captain America: The Winter Soldier are "new" and not from comic canon.
So, is the studio holding back on initiating any plans for Hill to become the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. after Fury or is Redford going to play someone unexpected, perhaps even with a villainous twist? Stay tuned for more as we look towards confirmation of Redford's involvement.
One of the big questions we have is how Agent Coulson's (Clark Gregg) returns from death, since we know that Joss Whedon's S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series - which takes place in the same universe as the films - takes place after The Avengers. For Iron Man 3, Tony Stark doesn't know that Coulson is still alive, but with Captain America 2 focused on the top secretive organization Coulson is a part of, how could they not?
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, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on November 6, 2015 and Doctor Strange sometime after that.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes and let me know if you're excited of The Winter Soldier!