We saw him in The Avengers and we heard him speak in Guardians of the Galaxy - Thanos is the "emperor" of the villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date, and he's played by Josh Brolin. Despite two appearances in Marvel Studios productions over a three-year period we still know very little about the Mad Titan from Marvel Comics.
Other characters fear him, describe him as powerful, but that's not something we've seen on screen yet. We've only seen Thanos on his throne, demanding that others do his work for him... and continually fail. What we do know is that Thanos is after the six Infinity Stones and that there are at least three (maybe four) that he doesn't have.
We also know from his first appearance in the post-credits button of The Avengers that he smiles at the sound of the word "death" and that's not because he's fearless of it or enjoys a high-stakes challenge. It's because Death is a personified being in the Marvel Comics, a character Thanos is obsessed with and aims to please. It's part of that unique, and universe-altering relationship that had Brolin was attracted to the character.
"His relationship with Death, who is actually the woman, I love that. You can take Sin City [in which Brolin plays a man obsessed with a dark-hearted woman] and pump it full of steroids, and then you have Thanos. I like that he's motivated by that -- not just motivated by destruction or death or this or that. He's motivated by a very identifiable, human trait."
We knew Brolin was playing the character in Guardians of the Galaxy months ago but it wasn't until San Diego Comic-Con in July where Marvel Studios made it official by bringing the star on stage. Brolin trotted out, toy Infinity Gauntlet (the glove that will eventually house all six Infinity Stones) in hand, and played a little skit with Robert Downey Jr. which saw him take... and then eat a pink rose. Thanos has no mercy.
Brolin, who's no stranger to comic book films having starred in the failed Jonah Hex and turned down certain other roles, is weary about studios and directors in this genre but loves how Marvel and their filmmakers have a clear idea and vision for what they're trying to do. As a longtime friend of Marvel co-president Louis D'Esposito (a producer and director of a few Marvel One-Shots), it was easy for Brolin to get excited about what D'Esposito and eventually producer Jeremy Latcham and Marvel boss Kevin Feige, had to say about their plans for Thanos in the MCU.
"But there's something about them that's so insular and so geeky and so real. I loved it -- because I've turned down a lot of those types of movies. Not Marvel, but I've turned down a lot of those types of movies. When they started telling me the story about them getting together in Palm Springs, nine of them flipping burgers and talking about what Thanos was going to do and going, 'What do you think?' like, 'Captain America's going to show up here!' Then, 'Oh my God, what if the Hulk came in at that point?' and all that -- I love that shit. I love it, because those guys are absolutely saturated with that world, and they love story. Another thing that I really loved is, they said that they didn't use directors that did music videos and all that in the past. They would always look for people who had done stories. If you look at James Gunn's oeuvre, he's done even web series, but they're all stories."
The first time everything clicked for Brolin, as he describes, was when he took the stage as the surprise guest during Marvel's Hall H panel at Comic-Con a few weeks ago. Him, Robert Downey Jr. and Feige had an idea in mind for what they could do and it became improv. He understood what this was really all about now and is embracing the character, and this back-and-forth with franchise poster boy Robert Downey Jr.
Brolin also spoke with IGN about his future with Marvel since nearly all actors are required to sign multi-picture deals. He wasn't specific, but did say that he knows what his next appearance will be and has a rough idea of one or two after that. Expect a return in another space-based adventure (Guardians of the Galaxy 2 already has a release date) and his introduction to Earth in The Avengers 3. If you've read the books, Thanos isn't a character that goes away so he could be around for the long haul, even if the heroes we've met so far are able to defeat him.
Guardians of the Galaxy is directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, with John C. Reilly, Glenn Close as Nova Prime Rael and Benicio Del Toro as The Collector.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, Captain America 3 on May 6 2016, and unannounced films for July 8 2016 and May 5 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on July 28 2017, November 3 2017, May 4 2018, July 6 2018, November 2 2018 and May 3 2019.
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