If you're fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel Comics, then you'll want to check out the All Hail The King Marvel One-Shot, the headlining special feature attached to the Blu-ray release of Thor: The Dark World. The Thor sequel hits retail this week but its bonus original content is all about adding more to the story of Iron Man 3 - arguably the most contentious release by Marvel Studios to date.
The thing with Iron Man 3, that despite its monumental success in cinemas around the world, it couldn't shake the negative buzz from fans of the books who hoped to finally meet The Mandarin - the archenemy of Tony Stark in Marvel Comics who was long overdue for a big screen introduction. What the film delivered instead was a twist of sorts, where a certain organization (A.I.M.) used The Mandarin persona, hired an actor named Trevor Slattery to play him, and took advantage of the history of the mysterious Ten Rings terrorist group as a distraction for their own nefarious purposes.
All Hail The King brings viewers back to the life of Trevor Slattery, played by Sir Ben Kingsley, after he's incarcerated for his actions working with Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) in Iron Man 3. Slattery finally has the fame he's always wanted and is living it up as a celebrity of sorts in Seagate Prison, but not all is at it seems... Drew Pearce wrote and directed the short, and for fans still hoping for more on The Ten Rings, or simply want to see more Easter Eggs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is a must-watch.
We spoke with Iron Man 3 co-writer Drew Pearce (who took the time while battling a cold) who worked with director Shane Black on the story of Marvel's second biggest film to date, the fifth biggest film of all-time at the worldwide box office, and we asked how that came to be and how fan reactions may have shaped the next short film from the studio. We also talk about the status of Marvel's Runaways, the first script he wrote for the studio, and talk about what other project he's love to work on with Marvel.
Rob Keyes: You guys hit a home run at the box office with Iron Man 3 but of course there were some fans who were not down with the Mandarin/Trevor Slattery twist -
Drew Pearce: Were thereeee?
I've seen your tweets.
So my question is, when you came aboard Iron Man 3 with Shane did you know how the Mandarin story was going to play out and what input did you have on that?
Shane and I basically came up with it in his gigantic mansion in LA where we sat for ten hours a day for three months hammering out what we actually wanted the movie to be thematically, and we quickly latched on to the idea for Tony of false faces and the idea of the dual personality of Tony as an out superhero who is basically using his self-definition through the false face of Iron Man. We wanted something that would reflect that, not as an exact mirror but thematically in the bad guy characters. And at one time I came back from the bathroom and said, "Shane what if the Mandarin is an actor?" and it escalated from there. Now, I did not come back from the bathroom and pitch an alcoholic, British lovie with a pair of hookers in his bed and an incredibly detailed history in local British theater but that is weirdly what it turned out to be.
For the last two Marvel One-Shots, Item 47 and Agent Carter, I spoke with Louis D'Esposito who directed those and he said he had a ton of ideas, half a dozen ideas for future One-Shots he wanted to do, but he said there was a specific plan in place for what the next two were going to be - When was it decided that Trevor Slattery was going to be the focus for this one?
We originally ruffled it up on the set of Iron Man 3 in North Carolina - in fact the very first day Sir Ben [Kingsley] did Trevor Slattery. But as is with the nature of all the Marvel One-Shots it kind of came in and out of vogue and then we were sitting down last year with Louis [D'Esposito], Kevin [Feige] and Joss [Whedon] and a couple of the brilliant creative execs there - the producers like Jeremy Latcham and Stephen Broussard - and it was Joss who said, "if we really can get to Sir Ben Kingsley for one of these shorts that is absolutely the short you should be doing." And so I rewrote what I had and I kept in touch with Sir Ben over the time after the shoot and so I sent it to him and he said yes. And suddenly it was all go. The real thing of nothing happens with a One-shot and then BAM suddenly you're doing it.
Did the reaction to Iron Man 3 and how the Mandarin story played out help dictate what the short was about?
It's weird because that was kind of the last thing that was on our minds, certainly my mind. It was really the interest, purely and simply, of getting to play with Sir Ben and Trevor Slattery again. Obviously some of the reaction plays into the dialogue in it but as far as the storyline goes - obviously avoiding spoilers though everyone has illegally downloaded the short by now anyway, so "what spoilers?" -
I actually just felt like it was in the lineage of the information we already dolled out in the movies. In the first movie there was the Ten Rings and in the second movie there was a deleted scene where the rings appear again, and in the third movie we were quite clear in the movie and in the press that there was a mantel that had been co-opted by Killian - partly because if we hadn't said that it would have completely invalidated a huge part of the first movie which is Raza works for The Ten Rings. So for me I was just joining dots to be honest and using that to give the short some drama and some form of momentum. I didn't want the short to feel like just a skit. I felt like it had to earn its place in the MCU so that was really the driving force behind it.
Well speaking of spoilers since all the information is kind of out there already -
There are some pretty important things for Marvel Comics fans in All Hail The King. Seeing more of the Mandarin story is one thing but there's also the Seagate Prison location and we get to see some familiar names like Jackson Norris [Norriss in Marvel Comics] - even Fletcher Heggs [Who goes by 'Knight' in Marvel Comics]. Can you tell us about your motivation behind putting those pieces into this short?
Well historically I love an Easter egg more than most and so I love ramming the stuff that I do as a writer, director or showrunner on No Heroics - There is so much Easter egging that it’s not even susceptible to the human eye. For example, Fletcher has a tattoo on his face of a Chess piece. Fletcher isn't on screen for very long so I don’t get to feature it so you don’t get to see it. He has a little Chess pawn on the side of his face. So there’s a ton of stuff in there that’s all meant [to be]. There’s a very fine line between what I ruffle up as I sit here in my underwear writing a short and what is what other Machiavellian ten-year plan of the committee and often those two things symbiotic. Oddly symbiotic. To a degree I think the fun thing to do is stuff it full of MCU and some of it sticks and some of it remains just a kind of charming nod.
Of course the big reveal is that the Ten Rings is still out there and there’s a mysterious, seemingly darker Mandarin still out there behind the scenes. We have to ask - is that something that pops up down the road in the films?
Well that really is a question above my pay grade unfortunately. I think the short is ambiguous enough about what or who the Mandarin is and that could take a lot of different forms. Whether that’s a form that’s depicted in future Iron Mans or Avengers or TV properties I have genuinely no idea at this second in time. I definitely wouldn't know that.
The Ten Rings in particular feel like a very powerful part of the MCU because they are there from the very first movie. I guess that halted the first movie but they’re seeded deep and when I turned in a draft of All Hail The King one of things - can't stand to list the things that were exciting for Kevin - but like still on that list was the idea that this is actually the first time we see someone genuinely vicious by a figure in the Ten Rings. That’s why it’s important that that action in the short felt very real and brutal, otherwise it felt quite comedic up until that point. Plus it serves the short itself. Trevor is at his funniest when everything around him is incredibly serious and real and life threatening because what makes him so ridiculously brilliant and unique as a character is that he does not respond to anything the same way any other right minded human being in the world. And that’s what heightens the comedy - him as a comedic anomaly is what makes this comedy funnier I think. It all fitted with pushing the reality of the dark reality of Seagate [Prison] and putting him in it.
I was going to ask you if you had the power to convince Robert Downey to do Iron Man 4 but I think you just answered that for me.
I have literally zero power. If you take the concept of power I can barely stand near the description of the concept of power. I have no power whatsoever. Would I love him to do it? Yea, if there's another story. The whole thing about Robert and Tony is that they are so symbiotically linked at this stage that unless it's a story that’s going to genuinely excite Downey there’d be no way that movie happens.
Speaking of films we want is there any update on the Runaways film that brought you into Marvel?
Oh I wish there was an update! No, as it stands at the moment it’s still a script that Kevin, I believe, feels very fondly about. Whether it has a place on the runway of Phase 3 I genuinely don’t know. I wish I could say something more concrete. It's definitely on a pile, where in the pile it is top to bottom I genuinely don’t know, but it’s a movie that’d I love to see come to fruition. It would be an extremely fresh and original point of view through which to explore the MCU. I really hope someday it happens.
I've been following that since Brian K. Vaughan put it out; does it have any chance of it maybe coming to TV or showing up in another Marvel One-Shot?
Who knows maybe, I think it’s very tricky to do a One-Shot of it because the toughest part of making Runaways is casting the under-twenties and getting it right, and that’s going to take some time and you'd never have the resources to do that for a One-Shot.
They've been talking for TV but my worry about it for TV, and again this is probably above my pay grade too, is that the fact that they are kids predicates a kiddier tone for the show. And I've said it a couple of times before but in a ridiculous and grandiose way my model for the tone of the Runaways was always the Godfather rather than a family show. This is about a crime syndicate, truly powerful from the get-go, a deadly crime syndicate, and the realization of a bunch of kids that their parents not only are fallible but are borderline or truly evil. And the idea of being drawn into that is of course integral to the first arch of the Runaway story which [Brian K Vaughan] so brilliantly mapped out. So that was always weirdly my touchstone. I think it would be very hard - I don’t know because I don't know the people who work at ABC Family or whatever - but I think it would be tough to walk in there and go "I want to make the Godfather."
Netflix it man! Netflix it!
Yea maybe. But again, it's that weird thing, and maybe it's the reason why the Runaways is a tough thing to make it’s very easy to see and very exciting to see how you go "This is Daredevil, this is a Netflix show." It's very hard to go "this is a show with a poster with 6 kids on it who are [affiliated with] Marvel but this is a show essentially for grownups." So I think that’s the trick of Runaways and I think the key is if you do it as a movie you somehow manage to tap into all those things simultaneously. The great thing about casting it would be though is you’d probably be going slightly more unknown with the teenagers. I love the idea that you just cast the shit out the parents in it. You know, the Denzel Washington Runaways would be a truly magnificent way to approach the property.
Ya, I know. It's good, right! As you could tell I remain truly jazzed about the Runaways to this day but unfortunately my jazzedness has no bearing on whether it gets made.
With Runaways, Iron Man 3, and now taking charge of All Hail The King it feels like you’re part of that tight-knit Marvel family. Is there anything else you’re working on for the studio or putting it another way, if you could pick any Marvel character or property to do a full-length feature film on - outside of Runaways - who or what would that be?
The answer to that is - I think actually before the other Drew [Goddard], or as I think of him, the better Drew, took on Daredevil it might actually have been Daredevil, but right now - and my obsession for years - has always been Damage Control. I think there’s an amazing Phase 3 movie to be made about Damage Control which looks at the MCU through the prism of both the kind of blue collar superherodom and also the repercussions of in many ways like the superhero epoch on the rest of the world. I think you also need it to be a brilliant and exciting story but as a group of people, almost as a movie about firemen or public servants in the MCU, I think you can create some genuinely exciting that looks back over 10 years and three phases of MCU - tied it together - but also told an entirely different perspective of the superhero epoch that we’re all living in at the moment.
The [Damage Control] comics themselves were brilliant but ridiculous and patchy but I think the idea of it goes well beyond the meta comedy of that stuff and actually does a thing that Marvel movies do a lot but that you could go further with which is the real life implication of some of these events without forgetting that what defines the MCU is its simultaneous ability to tap into a realistic, real life feeling which often comes through the reality of the characters rather than a slavish, super dark world where it sat in. So I love the idea that Damage Control would incorporate both that kind of reality with the sense of humor and some of the lessons that Runaways has for example, and also in a strange way, the One-Shots exemplify as well - the ability to color in the corners of the MCU. That was a very long answer. (laughs)
I appreciate it though, thanks for your time. I hope you feel better soon!
Aw, thank you very much. Thank you for taking time to talk to me! Thanks man!
All Hail The King ships with Thor: The Dark World on 3D Combo Pack (3D Blu-ray, 2D Blu-ray, Digital Copy), Single-Disc Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand and is available now.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie news!
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