Picking up where the events of Captain America: The First Avenger left off, Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter features British operative Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) kicking some serious ass. Laying the foundations of the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization, she decides to take matters into her own hands when it becomes very clear that her sexist boss, Agent Flynn (Bradley Whitford), thinks women have no place in the secret agent business. Directed by Louis D’Esposito and written by Eric Pearson, the 15-minute short will be available on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray release, out on September 24th.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, Marvel Studios co-President Louis D’Esposito and executive producer Brad Winderbaum talked about how they’re always thinking about and planning possible ideas for future Marvel One-Shot short films, what it was like to get to explore a fan-favorite character like Peggy Carter, that they’ve already started discussions about telling more Peggy Carter stories, the serendipitous timing of having this short come out the same day (September 24th) that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres on ABC, their desire to show these shorts on the big screen, and what they’re most excited about, as Marvel heads into Phase 3. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
LOUIS D’ESPOSITO: Well, we’re always thinking about it. When we actually make the decision to do it, it’s the most important thing. Brad, being the producer, will say, “Well, we’re going to start shooting in two months, so we have to decide. And this is the post schedule because it has to be available for the Blu-ray, at this date.” So, we sit around as a group, like we do with all of our Marvel projects, and we throw around ideas. Some of them are very wacky and crazy. Maybe not so much for a feature, but for a short, we’ll be like, “A young Black Widow in Russia meets the Hulk.” I don’t know. I’m just trying to be funny. Eric Pearson, our writer, has been the writer on all four shorts, so he knows the Marvel universe. He knows what we like, and he knows what our fans like, so he roots us in reality, a lot of times, even though he’s game to do some of these wacky things. More so in the shorts than in our features, the reality of what we can afford and the time we have to do it is always looming. Sometimes it guides us to a great place because, if not, we would be trying to do these shorts that are unachievable. So, we have a file of them. I don’t know how many of them are in there right now, but some of our favorites are in there. As we get closer to the day, in talking with our actors, maybe something sparks. And now that they’re becoming more popular, more people want to do them, so you never know.
What was it like to work with a character that fans love, and what did you have to cut out due to those budget restrictions?
D’ESPOSITO: First of all, I adore Hayley [Atwell]. There was a lot of pressure on me because I wanted her to be proud of it. I take that burden of responsibility very seriously. She had seen Item 47 and liked it very much. She had read the script that we had developed, and she really loves the character, so she was on board. She also liked the fact that she got to show off some of her skill sets, that weren’t shown in the previous film. And we got to see her fight. I think everybody has a little bit of an action hero in them and wants to show it off. So, with that combination, she said yes. Once you start, you can’t be thinking about that, the whole time. You know you’re working with a great actor in Hayley, and a great actor in Bradley [Whitford]. We had two wonderful actors, so you want to bring you’re A-game to them and give them notes to inspire them to reach for a more aggressive or different choice than you normally would see. I try to create that kind of environment where it’s safe to try things.
We’re also limited by time, so we can only try a certain amount of things. We’re very planned out. We know every shot in the movie, or at least 95% of them, before we start. We know every visual effects shot that we’re going to do. We then have time to explore, when we’re doing a scene. You can try different variations and do this or that. In our features, and in my whole career, you read it, you hear it and you plan it, but once you hear the actors say it, it takes on another life of its own. With all of that planning, you adjust to that and you say, “Oh, that has more meaning to it than I originally thought.” The actors really bring the piece to life. It’s what we’re ultimately there for. They know more about the characters than anyone else does ‘cause they’re playing the character. It’s a seamless connection between who they really are, in real life, and who the character is. 10% who they really are and 90% character is the place you have to find. That’s the most fun for me.
The ending of this short is set up in a way that would definitely lead to another cool future short film, or even a movie. Have you guys discussed making a future feature film or another short, taking place after the ending of this one?
D’ESPOSITO: What we’ve discussed is that there are going to be more Peggy Carter stories that we need to tell. She is wildly popular. Hayley loves it, and we love it. What we’ll do and how we’ll do it has not been determined yet, but those discussions have started. It’s in our consciousness that we need to tell another Peggy Carter story, somehow. Yet to be figured out yet, though.
What great timing on this short, with the foundation for S.H.I.E.L.D. being laid and the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show debuting on the same day as the Blu-ray release (September 24th). Did somebody plan that out, on purpose?
WINDERBAUM: Sometimes there’s a little serendipity that goes along with it. The more you practice, the luckier you get.
D’ESPOSITO: Luck is the residue of design. There’s a lot of connectivity. There are a lot of things that happen that we plan. And then, there are a lot of things that happen where we go, “Wow, that was great that worked out that way.” We can’t take all the credit. It’s just the genius of Marvel.
While the shorts are a great way to help sell the home video release, fans would also love to see them on the big screen. Have you guys ever talked about trying to find a way to show them in movie theaters, either before a feature film or in some other way?
WINDERBAUM: Yeah, we have. The first thing we’ll have to do is determine the right length. At 15 minutes with credits, it’s a question of how much is too much, in front of a feature. Pixar does five to eight minutes long.
D’ESPOSITO: Maybe soon we’ll test one and see. Maybe we’ll even test Agent Carter. We can go to one movie theater and put it at the beginning and see how fans like it. These are things we’re thinking of, but it is a question of length and what people will sit for. I guess, if it’s great, they’ll sit through anything, right?
And this is definitely a kick-ass short.
D’ESPOSITO: And Hayley did most of it herself. When she first got here, there were wardrobe fittings and things like that, but she worked for three days with the stunt team. We had already pre-choreographed the fights and showed them to her, and she came in and started rehearsing. Brad and I would go at the end of every day to see her, and it just kept getting better and better and better.
WINDERBAUM: She was really impressive.
Marvel is about to open the door on Phase 3. What are you most excited for fans to see or learn about, down the road?
WINDERBAUM: Probably Ant-Man.
D’ESPOSITO: This is what happens. The new baby is being born, so it’s hard to dismiss that excitement. Brad is the co-producer on Ant-Man, so he wants to plug it. A lot of our excitement goes to the film coming out, like Guardians of the Galaxy, but our excitement and enthusiasm is spread over a lot of films right now. There’s a lot of pressure on us now, too, because we have to keep upping our game.
Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter will be available on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray on September 24th.