Making any movie is anything but easy, but that difficulty seems to ramp up ten-fold when working on something within the MCU. Not only are creatives faced with the immense pressure to deliver something worthy of the storied franchise, but - for the most part - they have to deal with the intervention of Marvel in furthering the greater story.
This has resulted in many amazing collaborative experiences amongst directors, writers, and Marvel Studios producers, but it does not always go so swimmingly. The biggest name in Hollywood has developed somewhat of a reputation for meddling with directors' visions on projects and being difficult to work with if a filmmaker does not see eye-to-eye with studio president Kevin Feige and co.
It's this rep that has yielded situations like Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man, Scott Derrickson parting ways on Multiverse of Madness, and rumors of troubled productions on projects like Eternals.
But is all this hate warranted? One of the MCU's biggest directors ever has come forward, explaining where the friction may originate.
Joe Russo on the MCU Dilemma
Speaking with Empire, MCU director Joe Russo of the Russo brothers broke down where some friction may come from between Marvel Studios and its creatives.
Russo said that he's seen some issues when a cut of any particular project is delivered to Marvel Studios and it is "not what they were expecting or it’s not working." This results in Marvel stepping in and taking over some control from its directors, working with them "in a much heavier way to develop fixes" before going into weeks and weeks of reshoots.
"Where I’ve seen issues is when a director’s cut gets delivered and it’s not what they were expecting or it’s not working, then Marvel turns it on and they come in and start to work with the filmmaker in a much heavier way to develop fixes for the movie and then go into extensive reshoots. "
The Marvel vet also brought up his experience working with Marvel Studios and the collaboration that it requires. He reminisced about Marvel exec Kevin Feige hanging around with Russo and his brother, "[pitching] on what you’re working on." It was this collaborative process with Marvel that helped the Russo Brothers and their teams in a "disciplined process of developing screenplays:"
“And so we had a fantastic time working with them because we had a great level of control. Again, we’re not afraid of collaboration so all Kevin ultimately cares about is, can he come in a room with you and hang out. He’s amazing at pitches… and like, pitch on what you’re working on. So you had us, and my brother, Markus, McFeely, and Kevin, and he would come in every two or three weeks and he’d just sit for the day… We’d talk about where we’re at, because we have a very disciplined process of developing screenplays… And we’d start with a three page outline and that would take months ’cause we’d all argue about what the story is and then Kevin would come in and he’d argue about it with us and we’d throw out ideas and Nate Moore, who was a huge collaborator and executive at Marvel. And then we’d go to a 10-20 page outline and we’d do the same thing…"
It is then after this outline is developed and filming actually starts that Russo said Marvel gets "very hands-off" until the director presents a first cut:
"And then when you go off to make the movie, they’re very hands-off. It’s your bed to make in a lot of ways. And Marvel really sort of, where those famous stories come from about people getting put on the sidelines or them coming in in post, it’s really about how you deliver your director’s cut… the director gets a cut, then a producer comes in and a producer comes a part of the process with you."
The Avengers: Endgame co-director made it clear though that their process did look a little different as they "reshoot while [they’re] shooting" so their director's cuts were "really comprehensive and really polished:"
"But part of our process, Anth and I, was that we tend to reshoot while we’re shooting. Because we will go into editorial at night, we’re exhausted, we’re sleeping three hours a night, but we’re watching what we’re shooting and we’re assessing it. And if there’s a problem, we’re fixing it the next day before we tear the set down. We go get a close-up or we rewrite the end of a scene with Markus and McFeely… Whatever it is, we address it so that our director’s cuts were really comprehensive and really polished. And that’s really the process at Marvel.”
Making Your Own Marvel Bed
Hearing how the sausage gets made by Joe Russo makes one see where some issues may arise with filmmakers, and where the difficult reputation may come from. For directors like the Russos who are coming to Marvel Studios with a polished director's cut after shooting, then there isn't going to be a lot of friction. Also, it seemed that Kevin Feige and other top Marvel brass seemed very involved early in their process.
This, of course, would change when a director goes off to film, making changes that Marvel has to approve, and then comes back with a product the studio was not expecting to receive. It is from this point that the reshoots would begin for Marvel Studios to salvage what they can and put it into a package they deem acceptable.
However, this is a fine line to walk. Some of the best things seen in the MCU have been because of the creative forces behind the project (i.e. Taika Waititi with Thor: Ragnarok). And even the most beloved filmmakers working within the franchise are not impervious to reshoots.
So, the studios must balance their interests with the creative vision of the people actually making the movies.