In lieu of an Avengers movie in the MCU's Phase 5, Marvel Studios will utilize a different kind of team-up movie by closing out the middle Phase of the Multiverse Saga with Thunderbolts. Studio president Kevin Feige even took the chance to confirm the team that would be featured in this movie at the 2022 D23 Fan Expo, which includes one of Marvel's longest-standing characters in the Winter Soldier, played by Sebastian Stan.
The Bucky Barnes star has been a part of the MCU since 2011's Captain America: The First Avengers, appearing in all three movies in that trilogy along with post-credits scenes from Ant-Man and Black Panther - not to mention the last two Avengers movies. Impressively, Stan has appeared at least once in every Phase of the MCU thus far, most recently co-starring with Anthony Mackie in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+ last year.
Now, Bucky joins a team of anti-heroes and former villains in Thunderbolts as he becomes arguably the closest thing to a pure hero in this unique group. And following his announcement as part of the movie at D23, the MCU veteran discussed his inclusion in the 2024 team-up movie for the first time.
Sebastian Stan Talks Marvel Studios' Thunderbolts
During and after Marvel Studios' panel at the 2022 D23 Fan Expo, MCU veteran Sebastian Stan addressed his surprise return as the Winter Soldier in 2024's Thunderbolts.
While on stage with the movie's cast and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, Stan described the team as "a good troubled bunch" while expressing his excitement to be back with the chance to "join a team of some sort:"
"Well, listen, you know, these are my kinds of people. They look like a good troubled bunch, and maybe I know a thing or two about that, and I’m just really glad to be back and, I guess, join a team of some sort."
Stan later joined co-stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Wyatt Russell for a chat with Extra to discuss the movie further.
When asked if any of them knew about their casting in the film, only Louis-Dreyfus indicated that she knew about it beforehand. Stan then joked about the plan that was in place, especially considering Marvel's penchant for keeping spoilers a secret:
Stan: "I don’t think any of us knew, maybe you did?"
Loius-Dreyfus: "I actually knew."
Russell: "Nice, nice! I didn’t know, I didn’t know."
Stan: "Which is good, because it sort of, kind of plays into the show that we had and, when you came in, there was a plan, so that so far, reality is matching well with…"
The trio was then asked whether the team consists of heroes or villains, to which Louis-Dreyfus referenced Feige using the word "ragtag" to describe the group. Stan then looked at how the movie will tackle that very question, loving the idea of fans being unsure about who are the protagonists and antagonists in the story:
Louis-Dreyfus: "Well, Kevin described us as ‘ragtag,’ so we’ll go with that."
Stan: Well, again, maybe that’s what the movie’s gonna answer, right? It’s always interesting when you as an audience member have to maybe decide whether we are villains or heroes. But I think it’ll be interesting, I think that’s what’s compelling, I guess, about the movie, is sort of that it’s very unconventional like that. It sort of starts out a little bit like ‘who’s really the protagonist or antagonist,’ I guess.
Stan Ready for Winter Soldier Return in 2024
For a long time after The Falcon and the Winter Soldier ended in April 2021, there were no signs pointing to when Sebastian Stan would come back as the Winter Soldier in the MCU.
Stan was hopeful to rejoin Sam Wilson's Captain America in the later-titled Captain America: New World Order, but now, fans are taking in the surprise announcement that he'll join something close to Marvel's version of the Suicide Squad. This will give him a unique opportunity to work with characters who toe the line of moral ambiguity, which will also allow him to revisit his often contentious relationship with Wyatt Russell's John Walker.
Looking at this cast of characters, Bucky Barnes is the only one who hasn't been a villain or anti-hero by choice, still recovering from what he endured during his time as the Winter Soldier for Hydra. Having been both a hero and villain in the MCU, this will give Bucky a unique perspective as he interacts with other characters who have made questionable decisions, including Ant-Man and the Wasp's Ghost and Black Widow's Yelena Belova and Red Guardian.
With no story details confirmed yet, this surprise return for Bucky will add a new layer of intrigue to his growing MCU legacy.
Thunderbolts will debut in theaters on July 26, 2024.