Why Marvel Studios Avoids Hiring Writers Who Love Marvel Comics | Popgen Tech
A new interview with Marvel Studios executive Nate Moore has revealed that the MCU team is shying away from hiring writers who love Marvel Comics to work on their projects.
Marvel Studios and the MCU have enjoyed more than 14 years of box office success, with filmmakers from Chloe Zhao to Kenneth Branagh stepping up to take on a Marvel project at one point or another.
These creatives were obviously well-versed in the Marvel world (or at least their particular lead hero) by the time their movies came out, but the knowledge wasn’t always there from the start. Sure, there are the Ryan Cooglers of the world “huge comic book fan,” but that is not the case at all.
And according to Marvel exec Nate Moore, the studio actually shuns writers who are fans of the comics.
Marvel Studios Is Avoiding Comic Book Fans
In an interview with The Ringer’s The Town with Matt Belloni podcast, Marvel Studios VP of Production & Development Nate Moore revealed that the MCU studio is avoiding writers who love Marvel Comics.
Then host Matt Belloni asked if there was “boot camp” for Marvel directors and writers, or if an inherent knowledge of the source material is even a requirement of joining an MCU project, Moore said “Not really, really:”
Matt Belloni: “It’s funny when these movies come out and they go through the press cycle, every filmmaker is suddenly a Marvel comic superfan, and they’re playing with the comics when they’re six years old, and they have all the action figures, and know they’re the little things to know about Marvel Comics. that’s nonsense. I mean, we know that most of these filmmakers aren’t comics superfans and they get a call from their agent saying, ‘Hey, this is an open assignment, are you interested in doing a Marvel movie?’ And then they come to your world. So is there some sort of Marvel bootcamp or something that you do with these filmmakers to get them into this world and learn all the things they need to know?”
Nate Moore: “Not really, actually.”
Belloni: “Or just an oversight? You’re always there.”
Moore: “We’re there, we’re there. I was that kid, and I mean, I’m still that guy who has long boxes in his garage that my wife wants me to remove, so I know a lot of things. And the things I didn’t know, I definitely know now. I think they probably have more fans than you give them credit for but certainly not in the same dept they describe. Joe [Russo] collects comics, so does Ryan Coogler, actually.”
Moore noted that the writers who already love Marvel are “always a red flag” for him. On the other side of the equation, Moore looks to Captain America trilogy writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely along with Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi as examples of creatives who have approached their projects in their own unique way:
Belloni: “Exactly. And some of these filmmakers, it’s a stretch. But maybe that’s what works.”
Moore: “Well, no, and I think it’s true. And you talk about the process, to me, something that I think is interesting, and specifically for writers, I would say, a lot of times, we’re pitched writers who love Marvel. And to me, that’s always a red flag. Because I say, ‘Oh, I don’t want you to have a preconceived idea of what this is, because you grow up with Issue 15 and that’s you want to recreate…’ I want someone who’s hard on the material, who’s going, ‘What is this? I think there’s a movie here, but maybe we should look at it this way.’
And I think, again, the best example of that for me is Markus and McFeely, who are not comic guys coming up, but like, ‘Wait, Captain America, this seems weird. How about we look at this?’ And they weren’t married to anything, nothing, you know, nothing sacrosanct. And I think that’s important to go, ‘Look, the source material is great, and I like it, and the comics work in the medium they’re developed in, but that’s not a direct, one-to-one translation to best movie version.’ And sometimes it takes someone outside of this culture to go, ‘Hey, I know you think it’s supposed to be this, but it could be something else.’
I mean, Taika is also a good example of that, right? ‘Hey, I know Thor is traditionally a bit tough, a bit Shakespearean. How about tweaking it? What if you tweaked the tone completely?’ … I mean the tone of Ragnarok is all Taika, because she’s not married to Thor on the page… I haven’t read every Thor book, I’ve read a lot, I can’t tell you a Thor run is anything like Ragnarok. It’s like that movie just sat there by itself, because of the filmmaker.”
Then addressing what Marvel Studios actually looks for in its filmmakers, the longtime executive said there are two criteria they look for. First, “did they show excellence” in the past? And secondly, “Are they as passionate about filmmaking as we are? [Marvel] you want to do:”
Belloni: “We talked about the writing process, and I wanted to ask a little bit about the process of getting the filmmaker, because you had an unprecedented run with filmmakers who are not the usual choices for these films , going back to Jon Favreau with the original Iron Man, going to someone like Taika Waititi for Thor, and James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy, people not thought of making major blockbuster movies, Fleck and Boden for Captain Marvel. What is it about– I think a lot of agents want to know– what is it about specific filmmakers for specific material that leads you to say, ‘Have you seen that little movie this in New Zealand? This year could be good for ‘Thor: [Ragnarok]’?’”
Moore: “I think the things we’re looking for, there’s two things, I think, and in my experience it’s true. We’re looking for filmmakers who have at least once done something different, right? Because making a movie is hard and sometimes a movie that someone is really invested in doesn’t come together for a lot of reasons that are in their control or out of their control. But, did they show excellence? And are they passionate about making the film we want to make?”
Moore says that passion has to be at least part of an MCU creative because “Filmmaking is hard and we filmmakers are hard:”
Moore: “Filmmaking is hard and we filmmakers are hard, because we’re always trying to make the film the best we can. And the filmmakers who aspire to make the film are the ones who tend to have the stamina to get through that kind of ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ moment where everything goes wrong, or everything goes over budget, or what we want to do is not. Not working out, and they’re always ready to punch, because they want to make the movie.”
The Secret Sauce of MCU Filmmaking
Looking at these quotes from Nate Moore, it’s easy to see the tightrope Marvel Studios has to walk when choosing who will lead any number of MCU projects.
While the natural passion for the source material can be a turn off as Moore describes, it can also be the thing that drives a filmmaker to do the best they can. The marvel exec said it himself, sometimes these creatives need to “go with the punches,” whatever they are, and enthusiasm for the heroes one works with can be just the thing to help get things done when the going gets tough.
But that fandom can also be a hindrance as Moore explains. This can be the thing that puts a writer or director in a box, as they seek to emulate their favorite moment from a particular comic, instead of telling the best story that makes sense for the screen.
It’s a delicate balance, which Marvel Studios has had to play since 2008, and has done so with resounding success (for the most part), helping names like James Gunn, the Russo brothers, and Taika Waititi rise to prominence because in their franchise work.