It's another 'This Week in Marvel' podcast and this time the fine folks over at Marvel are speaking to the Avengers Executive Producer, Jeremy Latcham. In the 30+ minute chat, we journey from the very start of Marvel Studios all the way to filming the shawarma scene at the New York premier of The Avengers. Some truly insightful discussion going back and forth between Latcham and Marvel Digital Media Group Executive Editorial Director Ryan "Agent M" Penagos and Assistant Editor Marc Strom. I've transcribed a bit of the dialogue from Latcham but there was honestly just too much to cover in one sitting. I fully recommend that you listen all the way through to see just how the Marvel Cinematic Universe came to be and who are the people behind the scenes making it go.
On his start at Marvel:
Jeremy Latcham: I've been at Marvel, it seems like a really long time. I got to Marvel in 2004 and when I got to Marvel there were about 7 people on the West Coast and I was an assistant to a gentleman named David Maisel, who at the time was the President of Marvel [Studios]. He had a really ambitious idea about film financing, the idea was that if you took a slate of films and got them financed, it would be less risky than making one picture at a time and since Marvel had such great characters we should have someone finance a whole slate of Marvel character films. ...Sony's had success making Marvel films, Fox was having success making Marvel films, New Line had success making the Blade films so wouldn't it be interesting. I'm 23 at the time and just started at Marvel and I'm just answering David's phones and picking up lunch and just happy to be there. I had no idea that my destiny would be wrapped up with actually making these films.
One of the first tasks was really figuring out what characters Marvel had the rights to make movie out of. We started all the lists together and we look at the lineup and it starts to resemble something like The Avengers. [We said]"Well, that's kind of neat but let's not get ahead of ourselves." Kevin Feige was kind of enough to look at this 23 yr old kid that was picking up lunch for David Maisel everyday and say 'Oh, you want to work in movies, you went to film school, well come over let's have fun.' Somehow that turned into me being the Story Editor at Marvel Studios and my job as Story Editor entailed making packets of comic books [to give to actors and writers] and reading lots of comic books, which sounds like a pretty good deal....[my job responsibilities] eventually [expanded to] looking for writers for Iron Man and then eventually meeting with directors for Iron Man. This whole time, I'm pinching myself saying 'I get to be involved in all of this?' And Kevin, [was] awesome enough to say 'Well that's how I learned, they put me on a movie and I figured it out, so you're on Iron Man, you're the Associate Producer, you seem like you know what you're doing, let's see what happens."
Recalls being there for Robert Downey Jr.'s first screen test:
Latcham: It was amazing. To put in context, I don't think Robert Downey will ever screen test for anything ever again, for the rest of his life. That was the last audition that Robert Downey Jr will ever have to go to. We were lucky enough that he was willing to screen test for this....I think when Robert's name first came up, people were....surprised. So Robert agreed to come in for a screen test.....and everything changed. He did the scene from Iron Man, the scene outside of Caesar's Palace with Leslie Bibb, they did that scene as part of the read and the intensity and way that he delivered the lines was stunning. He did the first take and the entire crew burst into applause. It was like, 'Well alright, I guess that's Tony Stark.'
On the early days of Marvel Studios presenting at San Diego Comic-Con:
Latcham: We'd gone to Comic-Con with Jon Favreau, Louis Leterrier and Edgar Wright. We did the panel [that year] not in Hall H, not even in Room 20, it was like one of the smaller ballrooms[laughs] . It was this really small room upstairs, I remember [as] we were[traveling] down, we had this whole Comic-Con plan and Adi Granov had done a beautiful illustration of the Iron Man armor and it said 'Assembling in theaters May 2008' or something. We had Jon Favreau who was doing Iron Man, Louis Leterrier who was doing The Incredible Hulk and Edgar Wright who was going to do Ant-Man right way [laughs]. Obviously Ant-Man has not happened yet, we're still talking to Edgar, we're going to make that movie soon I hope. I remember downloading music on my jump drive, we downloaded the Iron Man song, we downloaded the Lonely Man theme from The Incredible Hulk tv series and we downloaded Flight of the Bumblebees' [laughs] because we couldn't figured out what to play for Edgar Wright, we decided on Flight of the Bumblebees for some reason. It was so early [in the development process of Marvel Studios]...but people were so excited and that room was packed....Stephen Broussard who's now Executive Producing Iron Man 3 actually ran up on stage and flipped the posters around, one of the easels fell over and it was so early. I remember on the way down there, we stopped at one of the cities on the 405 between LA and San Diego, we were so excited about Comic-Con, we were so excited to do our thing and we pick up the LA Times and it says 'Marvel roles out B-list characters' or something like that. We were like 'Oh man, hopefully we're going to show'em, we're going to show'em all'. The next year we came back and we were ready. We totally revamped how we did Comic-Con, we had the armor and we had Legacy Effects build a big crate for it, we had planned a whole unveiling of the crate and we were ready to take everything we'd learned [the previous year] and say we have a movie now and check this out. And that Comic-Con was just magic.
When was the first time they used the term Marvel Cinematic Universe:
Latcham: Probably some time during Iron Man 2 [or maybe] right after Iron Man 2 going into Thor and Cap. That's my guess. ...We were certainly noticing it was a separate continuity and coming up with the phrasing of what to call it, I think we called it 'the movie continuity' for a little while. We knew it was a different universe, it wasn't straight up 616, it was kind of a different place, different rules, it had some stuff from Ultimates and some stuff from the classic comics. It was a real cherry-picking kind of philosophy of 'How do we take the best of what's worked in any medium, be it a video game or comic book or Hulk television show; whatever it is, how do we take the best elements from a story standpoint and character standpoint and bring those into a movie '
The idea that S.H.I.E.L.D. was going to be a thing was one of the first indicators that we were going to create [the Marvel Cinematic Universe]. Jon wanted Clark to do the movie and we didn't even read him, he didn't audition, Jon was just like 'I feel like Clark is the guy for this.' It was Clark and one other actor Jon was friend with and Jon was like 'I think it's Clark, I think Clark's the guy.' Clark's part in the original Iron Man one script was really small and it was like 'Oh, what if we keep making this part bigger.' And that became the first precursor to the idea that there's more to it than just this. There's a Marvel Cinematic Universe and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s a presence.
After Iron Man, what was Latcham's envelopment:
Latcham: I think one of the things we've done a lot that's been really cool is that we've had these creative retreats and that's where the creative team ---the first couple of retreats it was just Kevin [Feige], Stephen [Broussard] and Craig Kyle and myself went out to Palm Springs we rented a house and sat around and talked about comic books and movies and what we wanted the movies to be and we watched old movies and I think one year as reference for The Avengers, this was our movie that we watched, we watched Revenge of the Nerds. That was our Avengers reference because we were like there's something about those guys all getting along and teaming up and whatever. I think we watched Ghostbusters and Revenge of the Nerds and it was fun, something about [those movies] were really cool. We would go and plan the broad strokes but the whole key is we have to have enough of a plan to make it cohesive but we have to have enough flexibility to allow the filmmakers to really make the movie. Because at the end of the day we're not directors, we're not making the movies, we're producing the films. We have to have enough flexibility and enough open that a filmmaker can come in and make whatever movie he wants to make and make the right movie and make the right choice and make the hard decision. Our big fear the whole time was that if people get so caught up in the minutia and they lose track of the story then it's just a failed experiment. We spent a lot of time talking to everybody about the broad strokes but making sure it was flexible and open-ended.
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The Avengers is an American superhero film produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name. It is the sixth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is written and directed by Joss Whedon and features an ensemble cast, which includes Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson. In The Avengers, Nick Fury, director of the peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D., recruits Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America to save the world from destruction.
Development of The Avengers began when Marvel Studios received a grant from Merrill Lynch in April 2005. After the success of the film Iron Man in May 2008, Marvel announced that The Avengers would be released in July 2011. With the signing of Scarlett Johansson in March 2009, the film was pushed back for a 2012 release. Whedon was brought on board in April 2010 and rewrote the screenplay that was originally written by Zak Penn. Production began in April 2011 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before moving to Cleveland, Ohio in August 2011 and New York City in September 2011. The film was converted to 3D in post-production.
The Avengers was released in the United States on May 4, 2012 in 2D and 3D.
Running Time: 2 hrs 23minutes
Release Date: May 4 2012 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG 13 for for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, and language
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Cobie Smulders, Jeremy Renner, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgård, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson and Lou Ferrigno The Incredible Hulk (voice) .
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Written by: Zak Penn (initial screenplay), Joss Whedon (revised screenplay)