‘Captain Marvel’ Directors on Influences from ‘RoboCop’ to ‘The Conversation’

     January 14, 2019

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Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck already have a lengthy line-up of films on their resumes including SugarMississippi Grind, and quite a few episodes of television too, but we all well know a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie is a completely different ball game in a number of respects. Boden and Fleck know that too, but ultimately, they’re still telling a story with Captain Marvel. It’s a story that’s part of one of the biggest film franchises out there and connects to 20 films worth of big screen lore, but it’s still storytelling – and in their case, it’s yet another opportunity to tell a story about a character they really love.

While visiting the set of Captain Marvel in the summer of 2018, I joined a group of journalists for a roundtable interview with Boden and Fleck where they spoke about the MCU pitching process, some of their key influences for Captain Marvel, what it was that really struck them about this character, and more. You can read about all of that in the interview below:

captain-marvel-poster-brie-larsonWhat has the adjustment been for you guys moving from films like Half Nelson, Mississippi Grind to a movie of this scale?

RYAN FLECK: It’s the same, really. That was a joke. [Laughs] It’s not the same. They’re totally different. I mean, at the end of the day we’re still telling stories and so we’re just trying to stay focused on characters that we love and we’ve loved characters in all of our movies. We love the characters in this movie and we’re just trying to tell that story as best as we can.

ANNA BODEN: But learning a lot with a lot of new elements in this movie. It seems crazy moving from making little movies to making movies with Marvel, which are like the biggest movies that they make, but it’s actually probably the easiest transition into making movies like this just because we’re working with so many people who are so good at their jobs and collaborating with people who are literally the best at what they do and so we kind of feel very well supported, and with creative people at Marvel who are also just really into being storytellers at the end of the day.

What’s the process of pitching to get a gig like this? Do you go in there with your own spin?

BODEN: It’s an interesting question.

FLECK: It is a good question. I mean, we had to dig into all the comics, the history. There’s a lot this character has gone through, a whole bunch of different changes over the years and so we just kind of locked into the character that we liked from the Kelly Sue DeConnick run. We were like, ‘This is the Captain Marvel we love,’ … everyone else loves that version of the character too, so that was great to be on kind of the same mind with the Marvel people on the Captain Marvel story we wanted to tell.

In terms of the pitching, I mean, we came in – I know that our movies don’t look like we’re like big action nerds, but we are fans of action movies so we just put together these clips of like a lot of our favorite movies and cut them together to music and they were like, ‘That’s cool!’ We were like, ‘Isn’t it cool? Let’s make a movie!’ So, we had to do that like five times.

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Image via Disney

Jonathan Schwartz called this a 90s action movie. What were some of your touchstones for that pitch?

BODEN: The list of movies that Captain Marvel is a love letter to is very expansive and strange. Everything from like – what? No? I shouldn’t anything?

FLECK: Yeah, you can say the big ones. Sorry, I’m not gonna tell you what you can and can’t say. [Laughs] That’s the theme of this movie! Say whatever you want Anna. This is your movie!

BODEN: I was gonna say Robocop is one of our big ones.

FLECK: There’s some Terminator 2 in there, French Connection is not so 90s but there’s a big homage to French Connection in here.

BODEN: There certainly is. We even slipped a little Conversation into this movie.

FLECK: Yes, not an action film but you have to look for it. There are little moments, homages to shots from our favorite movies.

This is the second time we’ve heard of RoboCop. It is a 90s action movie, but it’s one of the darkest visions of the future and most satirical visions of the future. Are we gonna see some of that humor in this?

BODEN: There will be humor. It is not a dark movie in that way like RoboCop. I think that what is exciting to us about RoboCop was this idea of a character who’s finding himself and finding his past, and even though it’s a dark movie, it’s also like extremely emotional in that way. If you remember that scene of him walking into his own home, you know? And remembering those moments from his past life and remembering who he was, I mean, that’s big. And that was one of the first things that we talked to Marvel about in terms of this character, was the idea that self discovery and reconnecting and rediscovering your humanity and who you were and it’s a huge part of this film.

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Image via Disney

What were the advantages of having Kelly Sue part of the process and getting her input?

BODEN: First of all, we got to meet her. And I mean, she’s amazing and it was so cool meeting her for the first time, having read all of her comics and her whole Captain Marvel run, and really falling in love with Captain Marvel through her comics. So many of our references and our ideas of who this person was and the things that we had pitched in a room to the Marvel folks, to Kevin Feige, about what we thought this character was, were similar to her references and her touchstones, and it just goes to show what an amazing writer she is that she was able to, I don’t know, like express so much of that musically even through the comics and that it felt like, I don’t know, we really connected with her and she’s so articulate and so smart and just a fun person.

I was wondering about the team directing thing. I have a directing background and I’m pretty much a tyrant when I’m directing, so the idea of team directing has always fascinated me. Where does one begin and the other take over?

FLECK: I just do what Anna says. [Laughs]

BODEN: We are not tyrants on set, and we kind of come at it very much as collaborators and not just with each other but, you know, everybody and particularly the actors and we’re just so blessed to have so many amazing actors on this movie who are telling the story with us and they’re storytellers, and to be able to collaborate with them on set, and hear their input and feel – you write something, you imagine a character, you imagine the words in their mouths and then somebody’s living that and somebody’s saying that and they come on set and they have those words and they’re changing them, and they’re bringing something new to them, and they’re bringing life to them and a spontaneity to them and that’s part of the discovery that we love so much of making a movie. So that had nothing to do with your question. I’m really sorry. I just went off on a complete tangent, but that’s to say that, you know, I think working as a team kind of comes naturally to us just because we’re collaborative by nature.

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