Following his death in 2018, Marvel has been cautious about continuing the tradition outside of material already filmed. However, fans now know how James Gunn originally planned to utilize the Marvel Comics icon prior to his passing.
James Gunn's Plan for Stan Lee's Vol. 3 Cameo
In the director's commentary for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, James Gunn revealed that he "wrote Lambshank, the character that I played, for Stan Lee:"
"But I originally wrote Lambshank, the character that I played, for Stan Lee because I wrote the movie before Stan passed on."
Even though Vol. 3 is a 2023 release, Gunn turned in his first draft of the threequel way back in June 2018.
He was then fired by Disney for a time the following month and Stan Lee passed away in November of that same year.
As for Lambshank, he was the High Evolutionary experiment that Mantis reacted to in the film's third act, saying, "I was screaming at something scary behind you, not you. You look really cool..."
As for why Gunn chose this character for a Stan Lee cameo, the director explained that he knew travel would've been difficult for Lee, and so he "did a character that I could just animate and then have him do the voice:"
"And I knew he was also getting much older and it'd be harder to bring him to Atlanta to shoot, so I did a character that I could just animate and then have him do the voice and have a little Stan Lee-like face on that character. But unfortunately, Stan passed, who I really enjoyed working with and directing so many times through these movies."
Will Stan Lee Cameos Make an MCU Comeback?
While James Gunn had to forgo his Stan Lee Vol. 3 plans, a new agreement between Marvel Studios and Stan Lee Universe may change things for the future.
According to the 20-year deal, Marvel Studios is allowed to use Lee's likeness through various mediums, including movies, TV, and theme parks, but only if "done with taste and class, and respectful of who he was..."
Just how this will work without the man himself remains to be seen. However, leading up to the deal, other MCU films have found subtle ways to reference Stan Lee and continue the tradition.
It will be interesting to see if any upcoming MCU films include a Stan Lee reference or a type of cameo and how that will be received.
But for now, it's great to hear first-hand from Gunn how Marvel filmmakers once planned for Lee's iconic cameos and to gain an idea of what could've been.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is now available for digital purchase.