Hey Marvel, Maybe We Should Tell Actors Everything About Their Characters in Certain Films?
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Cobie Smulders revealed that, no, she didn’t know Maria Hill was going to be a Skrull until about a week before Spider-Man: Far From Home premiered. The footage of Hill and Nick Fury driving, prior to transforming into Talos and his wife, was extra footage they had from shooting. Smulders was later asked in the interview about her performance in the film and how it differs from previous incarnations of Maria; Smulders says she was just playing around with certain elements of the character, but it made me think about how much richer the film and her work could be if she’d known the twist.
Marvel hiding twists from actors is not necessarily a new thing. Anthony Mackie found out that he was going to be getting the shield from Chris Evans, not the Russo brothers. Letitia Wright didn’t know that Shuri was snapped away until the posters for Avengers: Endgame dropped. Half the cast thought that Tony’s funeral was a wedding scene, including Tom Holland. There’s secrecy, and then there’s … this.
Marvel is spoilerphobic to a degree that is almost problematic on certain levels. I’m not talking about preserving the twists and turns for the audience members, but keeping potentially performance-impacting details away from actors to prevent accidental leaks. You can’t withhold information that directly impacts their performance and expect them to deliver the same quality product that they could have if they’d been made aware of all the necessary narrative choices.
Take the decision to reveal Maria Hill and Nick Fury to have been Skrulls in Far From Home, for instance. Neither Fury or Hill are technically themselves, which means that Hill’s entire character could have been played differently if Smulders had known what Marvel was up to. I don’t know if Samuel L. Jackson knew early on or not, because he had to be present for part of the scene, but that could have been filmed after Far From Home wrapped, so it’s possible Jackson also might not have known about the scene until after the film was completed.
Wright not knowing that Shuri was snapped up is also a bit ridiculous. Shuri didn’t have the largest role in Endgame, but she should have still been made aware that her character technically died. Also, the wedding vs. funeral thing is ridiculous. Marvel has NDAs wrapped in NDAs; I’m sure they can actually trust their actors to perform a scene and not immediately leak it. I know we joke about Mark Ruffalo and Tom Holland leaking everything everywhere, but they could have kept that a secret.
The problem is that Marvel is now valuing their secrecy over their actors’ work. It doesn’t matter if the twist is a surprise. If the actors can’t deliver an honest performance, the joy of Marvel’s brilliant casting will be dimmed because the actors can’t deliver the right performance. The actors should be aware of all the things they need to know about their characters, rather than playing one thing when something else is true.
Marvel, talk to your actors. I guarantee they’ll keep secrets, and your films will be better if the actors are aware of everything they need to know. Seriously. Trust them.
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