Two weeks ago we brought you part of our interview with rising screenwriter and director Drew Pearce, focusing mainly on his next film: Mission: Impossible 5. But now with Thor: The Dark World a day away from Blu-ray and DVD (February 25, to be precise), fans everywhere are going to discover All Hail the King, the newest Marvel One Shot written and directed by Pearce.
All Hail the King continues the controversial story of the Mandarin from Iron Man 3, and is sure to be a bit of a hot topic amongst fans of Marvel. We won't spoil why (you'll have to check out the short for yourself to see), but it brings back Sir Ben Kingsley for further exploration of his character and the mystery that surrounds him.
When we chatted with Pearce on the phone, he gave us quite a few insights into what it's like writing for Marvel, so if you're a fan of everything it's doing, you'll get a peek into how the whole system works.
Movies.com: Are you part of the Marvel brain trust now?
Drew Pearce: I wish Marvel needed me as part of their brain trust. They've already got way too many people who are way cleverer than me who form the core of Marvel themselves. I am occasionally invited into the inner sanctum, though I'm not allowed to touch anything in there. And when you're specifically work on a project, you have an awareness of what's going on in the rest of the universe. Plus, you get to know a lot of the other filmmakers. I know the Russos, so I saw a lot of early stuff on Cap 2, which, by the way, without wishing to contributing to the avalanche of prehype, is absolutely as good as everyone says. It's just a fantastic movie. But ultimately, no, I have no swing or say or power, I just have a very quiet, occasional opinion.
Movies.com: Have the Marvel filmmakers formed their own unofficial Masters of Superheroes group that get together for dinner and drinks and talk about everything?
Pearce: Again, I also wish there was a brilliant fight club based entirely on my superhero-filmmaking contemporaries, but as far as I know, if it exists, I have not been invited. What is true, though, is there a bunch of simpatico filmmakers, some of whom you met along the way in passing outside edit bays, or bars, and often you'll have something in common with them or you'll be going through the same s**t they are, and you'll end up talking. I'm lucky that there's a group of people I've met in my time working on films here, which has only been a few years, some of whom I'd count as mentors and friends who I'd go to for advice; Shane Black being the prime example of that, among the greatest screenwriters of his generation.
And Jon Favreau as well, who I think is brilliant and has a strong sense of story and tone and is someone whose counsel I occasionally seek. And then a bunch of people who ostensibly do what I do, from Drew Goddard to [Christopher] Marcus and [Stephen] McFeely. It's not like we all go to a big house together, watching cartoons the whole time, but we do occasionally chat and help each other out. What's nice is, and maybe this is naïveté on my part, but there's no backstabbing or sense of horrendous competition. Everyone just feels lucky to be working and as helpful to one another when they can be.
It's definitely not some kind of smug thing, us sitting around smoking pipes and planning the next plot twists that will screw with fandom. It's far more like me crying because I can't think of something to do in the second act and bumping into someone in a coffee shop who says, "Oh, sorry, I get that too." That's pretty much it. That's the support network.
Movies.com: Who specifically created Trevor Slattery?
Pearce: It was Shane and I together. We did two months, in his house, as we got to know each other. Just working through what we wanted to do with the movie, what we thought would be entertaining and thematically interesting and a new thing to do with Tony Stark, and the Mandarin came quite organically out of that. We always had this idea we wanted Tony's journey to be about the fact Tony was losing his sense of self because his public persona was now more Iron Man than Tony Stark. And that kind of led to the Mandarin that we put in the movie, the demon we put out there and who is behind it.
Movies.com: How much were your choices for the Mandarin, and some of the things further elaborated on in All Hail the King, an effort from the people at Marvel to change up the game in terms of fan expectation, and how much is driven by you and Shane saying, "Let's just pitch and see what they say"?
Pearce: It's 100% the latter. Everything I've ever been involved with at Marvel has been driven by creative decisions. And certainly with our Mandarin twist, that was something Shane and I cooked up and pitched to Marvel and couldn't really believe they backed. All testament to them and their commitment to what we were trying to do with the movie. And they backed us all the way through publicity in order to deliver what was a real surprise to a lot of people.
And the thing with this short, my biggest worry was not that I would appease fans, but that maybe it would affect how many people would want to see it because there was a level of animosity toward Trevor. But I love Trevor and I love Sir Ben, and it was too good a story not to tell, so I said f**k it, let's tell this story.
Movies.com: Will we see some aftermath of this short at some point, either in the cinematic universe or Netflix or any of the other crazy things Marvel is cooking up?
Pearce: Honestly, it's a question above my pay grade. One of the things when you're a writer or director in the Marvel universe is you come in, you leave some tasty morsels dangling at the end, and maybe you're the one who comes in and picks them up again next time, or maybe it's someone else, or maybe they just hang there awhile and that's fine too. Despite any cliffhanger-ness to the short, I also don't feel like it's unsatisfying. That's all you can really hope to do. Unless you're Joss [Whedon] and you're making Avengers 2 and 3, and then you have a pretty good idea if you're making the next one or not.
Movies.com: All Hail the King takes place in Seagate Prison. Are there any references in the short that we're missing out on?
Pearce: You can't really see them in it, but there's a shot in the walk in at the short, and no one has really picked this up yet because I have a feeling they're invisible to the human eye, but we did this originally on set. There's a tracking shot that pans down a bunch of the cells and you see the prisoners shouting. Above each of the prisoner's cells there's the name of a different henchman from the Marvel universe, and I haven't actually told anyone that yet, so that's an exclusive, however I think it may be a pointless exclusive because I'm not even sure you can read them.
Read the rest of our interview with Drew Pearce here. And see All Hail the King as either a digital download with Thor: The Dark World or on the Blu-ray and DVD.
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