A film empire is not built on good will and great films alone. Since their merger, Marvel and Disney have tried to make it seem like everything behind the scenes is wonderful; but there’s too much money, too much power, and too much at stake for creative tempers not to flare. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the leading standard for the modern, big-budget studio film.
Hollywood is a notoriously dramatic business and bringing these iconic characters and stories to life is difficult when they come with so much baggage. Inevitably, it can be hard to keep egos in check.
Now that Disney has purchased Fox, the media dynasty will reach newly troubling and monopolistic proportions. It’s more important than ever to remember the dark skeletons that they've kept hidden in the past. Here’s hoping Disney runs as tight a ship as ever, continuing to bring great content to the masses.
Here are the 15 Behind the Scenes MCU Secrets Disney Doesn’t Want You to Know
15 Gwyneth Paltrow may become Rescue
A long running thread through the MCU has been Gwyneth Paltrow’s portrayal of Pepper Potts. Since the very first Iron Man movie in 2008, she has held her role as Tony Stark’s assistant and love interest. Paltrow is next scheduled to reprise her role in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, and audiences may have gotten at least a hint of even more of the heroics she has planned.
Recently, she put up an Instagram post that showed her being fitted for a motion capture suit. The picture was taken down the next day, but not before fans remembered that Pepper Potts adopts an Iron Man suit of her own in the comics. The story goes that Pepper Potts names the suit Rescue and fights under that alias. Hopefully, this is a sign of Paltrow’s increased role in the highly anticipated movie.
14 Marvel/Universal's Hulk Dispute
Ever since Mark Ruffalo's Hulk debuted in the Marvel universe, fans have been asking when they’ll get to see more of his backstory. It’s a strange question considering that there have been two very different, very expensive attempts at giving the big green guy his own movie. Despite fans' wishes, Ruffalo himself says it’s unlikely to happen.
Universal Studios still retains the license to create stand-alone Hulk movies. The studio has chosen to pout and lock up the property rights to the Hulk, a deploring example of capitalism gone awry. Marvel owns the production rights to Hulk, but does not have the proper distribution rights. This means that the studio can include the character in other Marvel movies like The Avengers, but a solo Hulk movie would still need to be distributed by Universal.
This stand-off means that a Hulk movie won't be happening unless Marvel can acquire the distribution rights for the big green guy.
13 Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 Likely to Include Gwen Stacy
Spider-Man: Homecoming came out in 2017 to a burst of excitement for its fresh take on the character. Whether it’s just the timelessness of the web crawler, or his great introduction in Captain America: Civil War, audiences enjoyed the younger, more classic take on Peter Parker.
This time portrayed by Tom Holland, the next movie is already scheduled for a 2019 release date, so it’s the perfect time to speculate what the next story will be about. Rumors have already begun to surface about the appearance of Gwen Stacy, who was played by Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Several reports of audition footage for the role, requisitioned by Marvel Studios, have fans hoping they’ll see Peter Parker interact with another love interest in the upcoming sequel.
12 Patty Jenkins Quit Thor: The Dark World
In the pre-production stages of 2012’s Thor: The Dark World, Patty Jenkins was originally slated to direct the movie. Before she made her debut in the comic book universe with Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins wasn't known as a blockbuster film director. Her biggest credit beforehand was the critically acclaimed Monster, starring Charlize Theron.
After Kenneth Branagh put his unique twist on the genre in 2009’s Thor, audiences were excited when another exciting director signed on for the follow-up. However, Jenkins was involved with the project for less than six months, citing creative differences before ultimately moving on. Her later statements on the topic reiterate the disconnect between franchise demands and the directors' vision, which seems to be an emerging trend in the MCU.
11 Terrence Howard’s Exit
In 2008’s Iron Man, a film that deserves much of the credit for legitimizing the idea of the MCU, the character of James “Rhodey” Rhodes was played by the great Terrence Howard. Don Cheadle then replaced Howard in the sequels and has gone on to be a really great War Machine. However, fans who enjoyed Howard’s performance are right to wonder about the story behind the continuity switch.
After the unexpected success of Iron Man, everyone’s contracts were renegotiated to encompass a much larger franchise deal. The details of the story are still unclear, but when Howard and the studio couldn’t come to an agreement on compensation going forward, the studio decided it wouldn’t be a problem to simply replace him.
This kind of thing happens, but after the stunning critical and box office success of Iron Man, it’s enough to make a fan raise an eyebrow or two. Notably, neither of the two sequels have captured the balance of that first film.
10 Thanos Creator Hates Thanos in the MCU
The central villain of the MCU, the big baddie that all three phases have been leading up to is Thanos, the Mad Titan. Before he was brought to life by Josh Brolin, Thanos was imagined by Jim Starlin back in 1973.
Starlin has been particularly vocal about Thanos' involvement in the recent films, stating his disappointment with how little Marvel Studios is including him in the process. In the most unfavorable comment, Starlin revealed that he was paid more by Warner Bros. for their use of another one of his characters, the KGBeast, who played a small role in Batman v. Superman. Starlin has recently withdrawn his writing services from Marvel Comics, possibly because he wasn’t allowed to write the current Thanos comic series, but there are probably multiple reasons for his departure.
9 The Keaton Jones Social Media Sensation
Late in 2017, a small corner of Hollywood was swept up in social media sensation Keaton Jones, the young man from Tennessee who made an emphatic plea for an end to his bullying. Mark Ruffalo and Chris Evans were among the celebrities to come to Jones' aid, attempting to iron out an important wrinkle in our social fabric and demonstrate the positive potential of social media.
Soon after Keaton Jones was met with Twitter shout-outs and words of encouragement from celebrities of all demographics, a little more digging was done into the pages connected to the original post. On her private Facebook page, Jones’ mother exuberantly makes racially insensitive arguments, promoting the Confederate flag and suppressing police protest.
8 Renner and Evans' Gross Comments About Black Widow
More progressive fans have always struggled with how the MCU has characterized Black Widow and, by extension, Scarlett Johansson. Her character in recent movies has been depressingly reduced to a romantic role, as seen with her relationship with Bruce Banner.
This concern was given creedence by a 2015 interview with both Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner, Captain America and Hawkeye, respectively. The two were promoting Age of Ultron when, responding to a question about Black Widow’s romance with Bruce Banner, they made some misogynistic comments.
A hurried apology was issued by both actors the next day, as they dismissed the comments as a joke. However, fans who are concerned about a systemic pattern of gender discrimination in places of power can’t view this as just another isolated incident out of the MCU.
7 The Incredible Hulk's Original Opening Scene Was Cut
Before Mark Ruffalo united the Bruce Banner and Hulk characters to great avail, Marvel tried to inject the character into the MCU once before through his own stand-alone movie. This was 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, which starred Edward Norton and took a much darker approach to the character than past adaptations, as had been previously explored in the comics.
The movie even contained a sequence that never made the final cut, where the Hulk, in his depressed rage immediately after his transformation, attempts to end his life.
While the conflict made by juxtaposing Bruce Banner’s decaying mental state against the Hulk’s invincible body is an interesting idea, audiences were probably best spared the graphic scene in an already garish movie.
6 Joss Whedon Pushed Out Of MCU
In 2012, The Avengers assembled on the big screen for the first time, and the movie cemented the MCU franchise as a box office powerhouse. Joss Whedon wrote and directed the movie, which was his first official footprint on the MCU despite other unofficial writing jobs and post-credit scenes.
Whedon returned to the MCU in 2015, as the official writer/director of the sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron. Unfortunately, this time that same magic and balance wasn’t there. The story felt rushed, the villain was weak, and the characters felt a little bit swept away.
Since Whedon’s departure from the MCU, he’s repeatedly discussed the many compromises he had to make with the studio, ultimately resulting in unwanted interference. Give Whedon kudos for this classy description of being micromanaged.
5 Mickey Rourke Complains about Cutting Whiplash Scenes
Mickey Rourke, after a decades long career of equal parts acting and boxing, joined the MCU by playing the villain Whiplash in Iron Man 2. Rourke brought Ivan Vanko to life in his portrayal of the Russian scientist, but said he wasn’t completely happy with how his character came off in the final version of the movie.
After interviewing Russian prisoners in preparation for the role, Rourke felt like there was a lot of depth and nuance to the villain. Unfortunately, most of these scenes were left on the cutting room floor.
This makes the sequel lack the depth given to the first movie’s treacherous Obadiah Stane, played by Jeff Bridges. Judging by the approaches to antagonists by MCU in subsequent movies, Mickey Rourke may have a point.
4 Alan Taylor Pushed Out Of MCU
The production of Thor: The Dark World, directed by Alan Taylor, apparently also suffered from a "too many cooks in the kitchen" management style. The finished product showed us an early blueprint of the structure and story tissues that would go on to further infect MCU movies. Coming off the cohesive flow of Branagh’s first movie, the sequel was jarring in its attempt to develop characters, while rushing along a story that tries to do too much.
Taylor himself didn’t reflect fondly on the experience. In several interviews, he’s alluded to the hyper-collaborative process of making an MCU movie. Taylor joins multiple other directors in feeling like their work is less about creative vision and fitting the proper MCU mold. He's reportedly said that he doesn’t wish directing a Marvel movie on anyone. Hopefully, that’s no longer the case.
3 Edgar Wright's Exit from Ant-Man
Before Peyton Reed finally brought Ant-Man to the screen in 2015, Edgar Wright was hired to direct the film. Wright, whose notable works include Baby Driver, Hot Fuzz, and Shaun of the Dead, retains a writing credit on the film, but the director left the project after working on it for almost a decade.
Neither party has revealed too many specifics, except for Wright’s statement on Variety’s Playback Podcast, where he stated "I wanted to make a Marvel movie but I don’t think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie."
Wright has a habit of coming into genres and turning them upside down with reinterpretations of why we love those kinds of movies. If only he'd had a chance to do that with superhero movies.
2 Power Struggles at the top
At the top of the MCU pyramid, outranking any one director, is the network of studio executives that control the properties at every level. When thinking about the long term health of these characters and franchises, Isaac Perlmutter was the CEO of Marvel Studios until 2015. Perlmutter worked with Marvel before Disney bought the company in 2009, and ultimately managed the Disney sized budgets assigned to each of these properties.
In 2015, Disney decided it would be a good idea for Kevin Feige, the President of Marvel Studios, to report directly to Disney. This essentially cut Perlmutter out of the chain of command. Accountability begins and ends with the CEO of any company and although it’s impossible for this list to assign blame for any of the MCU missteps to a single individual, everything happens for a reason.
1 Marvel Almost Refused to Cast Robert Downey Jr.
Jon Favreau directed 2007’s Iron Man, but perhaps his greatest contribution to the MCU is the casting of Robert Downey Jr. in the titular role. Downey’s performance was one of the first examples for deep, compelling acting through superhero characters.
Robert Downey Jr.’s real life struggle between keeping a shiny exterior while dealing with a crumbling interior made him the perfect choice to show the nuance capable of being showcased in the MCU heroes.
Unfortunately, it was that adversity in Downey’s past, including struggles with substance abuse and the law, that made Marvel think twice about making him the face of their franchise. Thanks to Favreau pushing the right choice over the safe choice, Iron Man paved the way for more than a dozen more and an entire universe of connected characters.
Did we miss any behind-the-scenes secrets Disney doesn't want you to know about the MCU?