In July 2018 the heavily anticipated Marvel film ‘Captain Marvel’ was on the tail end of filming in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, one of the many on-location settings for the movie, The film stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, an air force pilot who acquires superhuman powers after an accidental alien encounter. The story takes place in the 90s as Danvers strives to make the world a better place while coming to terms with the powers within her.
From directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, ‘Captain Marvel’ is filled with a roster of A-list talents including Gemma Chan, Ben Mendelsohn, Samuel L. Jackson, Lee Pace, Jude Law, Mckenna Grace, Annette Bening, Djimon Hounsou, Clark Gregg, Colin Ford, Lashana Lynch, and Akira Akbar. During filming Blackfilm.com got the opportunity to sit down and speak with the directors and few members of the star studded cast to discuss their experience being apart of the colossal project. Read below for our conversation with Boden and Fleck about the pressure behind making a Marvel film, working with the cast, and Stan Lee’s day on set.
So, tell us how the tandem directing works, because we know the Russo brothers did their thing, and we had the Wachowskis. How did the two of you attack this movie together?
Ryan Fleck: I don’t know!
Anna Boden: At least we take turns. We take turns. When somebody gets too tired, we switch. Yeah, I think particularly on this movie, I’ve found it so helpful to have a partner. I’ve talked to a lot of directors who direct solo like most directors. And they’re always like, “Oh, man I wish I had somebody I could direct with because it’s a lot of work.” And also, particularly on a movie like this where there are a lot of voices and a lot of opinions and a lot of strong presences, I think it’s really nice to have somebody who you can come together with and remember what’s important, what’s the heart of the story, what’s the heart of this movie. And just somebody who you can touch base with so that it doesn’t get overwhelming.
Anna Boden: And Ryan’s that person for me, so-
Ryan Fleck: I have a different person. Ain’t as cool as everyone else.
Can you talk about suggestions you received?
Anna Boden: Yeah. We really appreciated them. First of all, it was a very fresh part of the script when we brought Lashauna on. We were really working with our other screenwriters to just make sure. Sometimes you focus so much on the lead character in a movie that the supporting characters just feel like supporting characters, and it was really important to us for all of these supporting characters, all of the really strong supporting characters. And particularly Maria [Lashana’s character] to have a voice and a life of her own, and to really sense it, especially since the heart of the move takes place here in her house with her family.
And as we were working to build that out, she came on very early on in that process, and we were still finding the voice of Maria and her voice. And it was really nice to have somebody who’s just open and loving and appreciated everything that was in the story and what the story was trying to do, and just trying to elevate it and make it specific and make it work for that character.
And it was important to us that she felt like the words coming out of her mouth, like with all of our characters, were … And the relationship and the words coming out of her daughter’s mouth felt like something that was lived in and real and true.
And if you know any of our other movies, we’ve in the past explored a lot of different kinds of people and situations, and not all of them were characters who were familiar to us or lives that we’ve lived through. We can always connect with all of our characters on a human level, but a lot of them took a lot of observation and exploration and talking with people. And we absolutely embrace our actors’ perspectives on all that.
What was it about Lashana that you were drawn to? Because she told us a little bit about her casting process.
Ryan Fleck: She was great. She came in and just killed it. It was obvious when she read the scene that she auditioned with, that I was literally … I’m not a super emotional person, we make fun of me a lot for this, but I was crying and I was trying to hide it. She was like, “Are you crying?” I was like, “No.”
Anna Boden: Usually when he starts to feel emotions like that, he just starts bashing-
Ryan Fleck: I start hitting things. No, she was just great. She just made us feel something from the moment she walked in the room, and she’s a really great person. Really giving and honest and a great actor.
So, to have a strong one here who is equally as powerful and entertaining as the main characters. Is that something that you guys are consciously thinking about?
Anna Boden: I feel like we got a bunch of them in this movie who I find very watchable. And it’s definitely Captain Marvel. And it’s definitely about this very strong, powerful, dynamic female character. And she is almost in every single scene in the movie, which she really leads us throughout the story, and it’s really from her perspective that we see this story.
But between Lashana, and Sam, and Ben Mendelsohn, and Jude Law, and Annette Bening-
Ryan Fleck: They all bring something super special and unique
Yeah, we just spoke to Ben in full ‘Skrull’, and It’s really entertaining. What was it like just working with that?
Ryan Fleck: We love Ben. We did our last movie with Ben, so we knew what he brings every day to set. This unique charisma like no other actor we’ve ever worked with, and he’s just a loving, wonderful person. And we just like having him around, so when it came time to do this movie, we were like, “How do we get Ben on this set?” And the Marvel people were like, “Yeah, love it. Great.”
You guys have worked in the South a lot. So, when it comes to shooting in the South, how much does this location enhance the quality of the direction of the story that you guys want to tell?
Ryan Fleck: Yeah, it’s huge. In the comics, the character of Monica Rambeau, New Orleans is a big part of her upbringing, so when we decided to bring her mom into the movie, we were like, “Oh, she has to be in Louisiana.”
So, luckily the Marvel people were on board. And I think it just enhances. We’re in New Orleans spaceships, we’re in space, we’re on air force bases, we are in cities, downtown Las Angeles, and then here we are in the deep South. And I think it just really gives a unique look to this film and makes it feel real.
Anna Boden: We’re also in mountains and desert. And this movie, to us, really part of it is about Brie’s character. She really discovers her humanity and discovers what’s beautiful about being human in this movie, and that’s an important part. And part of that is friendship, and a big part of that is her friendship with Lashana’s character.
And it was important to us to explore real locations on Earth because that’s part of the beauty of what it is to be human and what it is to be on Earth. And not shoot everything on the stage, even though it’s a little bit uncomfortable for actors. We thank them for bearing with us through the heat, and with the mosquitoes at night, and all that stuff.
But we think it brings a certain kind of energy to the movie that you just can’t get otherwise, and you just can’t fake it.
What kind of pressure are you guys feeling, though? Marvel has put out four films this year already, all of them great and amazing, huge films. And you guys are in the midst of shooting as these are coming out, so are you watching those and going, “Holy shit”? “We’ve got to make sure we bring it”?
Anna Boden: Pretty much.
Ryan Fleck: No, what are you talking about? [laughs] I think we’re so tired right now, at the end … We have four days left on the shoot. We’re just so focused on finishing the movie, and then when we start putting it together, the closer that release date comes, we’ll start feeling more of that pressure.
How did you guys get onto this film? Because was it a process for you guys, too? How does it go for directors?
Ryan Fleck: We just fooled them. And no, look, we’re fans of the movies, and we just came in. Big fans of Carol Danvers, and we just had a take on what we loved about this character, and what we wanted to do with the movie. And I guess, the other people they asked weren’t available, so-
How much do you listen to [fans]? Because on social media, they’re super active
Anna Boden: And opinionated. [I’m] not on Twitter and not on Instagram.
Ryan Fleck: Anna blocks it out. I think you would go crazy if you looked too closely at that.
What was the Stan Lee day like?
Ryan Fleck: It was great. It was cool to meet Stan Lee.
Anna Boden: Yeah, it’s really cool. It was so cool to meet him, and so we got a little excited to get his picture next to Brie. And it was really fun.
Talk about Brie, why she’s such a great Captain Marvel?
Ryan Fleck: She worked out for how many months prior to even shooting?
Anna Boden: Six months.
Ryan Fleck: Six months before we even rolled film. Just putting on the weight. And she’s one of the strongest, physically, people that I know. Men or women. Guys in the gym would eye her and be like, “Oh, we’ll try to psyche her out.” And then she would lift more than them, so it’s nuts how strong she is.
Anna Boden: It’s about being dedicated and determined and not letting anything get in her way. And also just being a natural leader like Captain Marvel on and off the screen, as well as-
Ryan Fleck: You want to follow her into battle, for sure.
As a woman [Anna] your vision, obviously, here is so important. How much do influence do you think you have over this story, as a woman and a female director? Because oftentimes representation is so important on screen, but behind the scenes and everything, it’s just as important.
Anna Boden: I’d like to think that I have a pretty big influences on it as one of the writers. And somebody who’s been passionate about telling a story that’s just not about a powerful woman, but that’s about a woman who maybe is asked by the world to question the things that are naturally part of who she is. And is told that she’s less than, even as an air force pilot in 1989, which is what we’re saying, is Carol Danvers’ history in this movie at a time when, in the air force, there literally were no women allowed to fly.
And exploring that character and discovering and embracing that part of herself. And it’s super important to me, and it feels like something that I talked a lot about with Brie when we were making the movie, a lot about the other writers, and with Ryan, and the men who were involved in the movie. And just it feels like hope. Our goal is to bring those themes and that character, and that real character, real human being, who’s also a superhero, and is also flawed, and also needs to embrace herself, flaws and all, onto the screen.
We had a chance to hang out with Sam Jackson for 45 minutes. He was kicking for 45 minutes. And I felt like we just got so much from him, just in that short amount of time. So, even as experienced … Obviously, he’s done so much work. What have you guys learned from him, and what’s something that you value from working with Sam Jackson in the future?
Ryan Fleck: Sam’s a legend, so we came in super excited to work with Sam. And we learned from him.
Anna Boden: What I learned from him is … I probably learned a lot of things from him, but one of the things I learned from him is that when he reads a script, he creates the movie in his head that he’s imagining. And so much of directing … And he used that term when he was describing it to me, and I never really thought of it in that way before, because as the directors, and as people who have always written our own script, we feel like we’re the ones who make the movie in our head.
But it’s true. Everybody who reads the script creates the movie in their head, and then it’s about coming to the table together and discussing that, and taking the little parts of everybody’s movie, the best little parts of everybody’s movie that they’ve created in their head, and weaving it together into something even better than you could have imagined.
And I feel like that’s really what we’ve had an opportunity to do with not just our actors, but also our DP and al the other crew on the movie who have been so fantastic, and just thinking about it in that way has been a gift of Sam Jackson’s.
That’s special. How excited are you guys to contribute to The Avengers story as a whole? Because we obviously know that this plays a vital part in the story, in the next generation of the MCU. And you guys have really they key to open a door, or just the opportunity to twist and open that door.
Ryan Fleck: Yeah, it’s super cool. When we were in prep, we went to visit The Avengers Four set, because as you know, not a spoiler, Brie’s going to be in that movie, so when she first put on that uniform, the Captain Marvel uniform, it was on that set. And we got to go see that happen, which was really cool.
Kevin Feige was in the studio, seeing it on her for the first time. And he was like, “I’ve made 22 of these movies and I’ve never been so excited to see one of our characters in their uniform before.” So, that was really special.
And just to see the reaction to Infinity War, and how huge it is, and how people care so deeply for these characters.
Anna Boden: Which, as it turns out, is basically just a really expensive trailer for Avengers. Just being set before all those movies and most all … I guess there was the first Avenger. Captain America. But the other movies before all that took place, it’s both a blessing and a curse, in a way. The blessing is that we get to have fun with all of the references, and trying to find ways to tie in our story, and to have it seed what came after. And that also ties us into certain things that we’re like, “Well, we wish we could just change that, but there have been 23 or whatever movies based on that thing, so we better find a way to make it work in ours.”
How was it writing with that piece of information? With “Okay, well, these are things that are definitely happening,” and create?
Anna Boden: It’s a little bit like an episode of Chopped Kitchen. It’s like, “Here are your ingredients. You have 30 minutes. Make an amazing meal.” And you’re like, “What do I do with the frog’s legs?”
Captain Marvel hits theaters nationwide March 8