SPOILERS for Avengers: Infinity War ahead.
Avengers: Infinity War's Red Skull actor Ross Marquand has discussed his top-secret casting in the film and the possibility that he will return in next year's Avengers 4. Of all the surprises in Infinity War (and there are several), Red Skull's return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe might be one of the best. The Hydra agent (aka. Johann Shmidt) hadn't been since he touched the Tesseract in 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger, in the process sending him... somewhere.
It turns out "somewhere" was Vormir, the planet that houses the Soul Stone. The character has been guarding the final Infinity Stone for more than 70 years by the time that Infinity War picks up. Those years had taken their toll on him, with the once boldly vicious Nazi henchman now but a shadow of his former self. Red Skull's ghostly appearance in the film (complete with eery black shroud) has been further interpreted by many comic book readers as an homage of sorts to Lady Death, a key figure in Thanos' backstory and motivation from the Marvel comics.
Infinity War's Red Skull is also played by Marquand instead of Hugo Weaving, who brought the character to life in The First Avenger. Marvel recast Red Skull in the MCU for reasons that have nothing to do with the changes the character has gone through over the years (short version: Weaving didn't really want to come back). During an interview on EW's Morning Live radio show, Marquand further emphasized that Marvel didn't want him to reinvent the villain so much as give him a fresh twist, while honoring what Weaving did before him:
The biggest thing that Marvel wanted to do was come as close to the iconic role that Hugo Weaving did seven years ago and pay homage to it while also giving it a new flavor. Because Red Skull, once he touched the Tesseract, he goes into this intergalactic astral plane for 70 years. And as the Russo brothers pointed out to me - because I was trying to do a straight voice match to Hugo’s performance - and then they said, “You know, he’s been by himself essentially in this intergalactic prison of his own making for 70 years. He’s going to sound a little different. So we want him to have this kind of ethereal almost ghost-like quality to his voice, so if you can do that.” I think the reference they might have given is Yoda-esque. His ambition has brought him this great pain, but also this great wisdom, and I think that’s what I tried to imbue that performance with.
I just loved playing this part because I genuinely used to draw Red Skull and Omega Red and all these other villains as a kid, and it was just such a geeky pleasure to play this part. I just absolutely love it.
Marquand went on to discuss the NDA he had to sign after joining the Infinity War cast. It turns out the actor wasn't even able to tell his Walking Dead TV show costar Danai Gurira - who plays Okoye in the MCU - that he was portraying Red Skull ahead of the film's premiere. However, the actor was less secretive when asked about his possible return in Avengers 4 or a future MCU film - because he has no idea himself (or so he says):
I don’t know. I can’t speak to that, and I think that I would obviously love to replay that role again anytime. It’s such a rich character, especially now that he’s gone to this intergalactic hellscape and he’s found his own prison there - not to quote Creed. That was a Creed song, right?
But he’s a changed man, and I don’t even know if he is a man anymore. He’s almost like this ghostlike deity, and he’s at the service of the Soul Stone now, and his sole purpose is to essentially guide people to this, but you have to wonder: Is there still a part of him that does have ambition? I don’t know. It would be really cool to see where that character goes. But that’s really a question for all the folks at Marvel and the Russo brothers and the writers. I certainly couldn’t speak to that.
Infinity War didn't hint at Red Skull's return in Avengers 4 and there doesn't seem to be much reason for him to come back, from a story perspective. Now that the Soul Stone has been found, there's not much reason for Thanos or the MCU's heroes to pay another visit to Vormir, either. It also seems unlikely that Red Skull will be able to do anything to help the MCU's mightiest heroes as they set out to repair the damage that Thanos caused by (literally) wiping out half of the universe's population at the end of Infinity War.
Still, Red Skull's return in Infinity War was a nice surprise for longtime MCU fans especially. It further allowed the franchise to finally tie off a plot thread that has been left dangling since The First Avenger in a clever and meaningful way to the MCU's over-arching narrative. The Red Skull may yet have more to do in either Avengers 4 or perhaps even a Phase 4 MCU movie but if not, at least hardcore fans have gotten some closure about what even happened to him in the first place.
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019