Marvel producer Jeremy Latcham says the Avengers movies could go on indefinitely, telling Yahoo Movies: “We could stay here forever. It’s fun. Why would you leave?”
Latcham may not be as big a name to Marvel fans as Kevin Feige, but he’s just as important. The filmmaker holds the lofty title of Senior Vice-President of Production Development and he’s played an instrumental part in ushering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starting back in 2008 with Iron Man. He’s since had a hand in all of the studio’s output, most recently as executive producer on Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is where we caught up with him last year on the film’s set in Shepperton, London.
Latcham says they’ve mapped out their release plan up to 2020, but doesn’t see any sign that they’ll ever stop. Here’s what else the super-producer told us about Avengers: Age of Ultron and the future of the Marvel movies.
What does Age of Ultron bring new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
I think the biggest new element in the film is Ultron. What’s exciting to me about Ultron is the genesis of thing that comes out of The Avengers. He doesn’t show up as an external threat — he’s something that comes from inside, from the darkness living within us. It’s kind of fun to see that manifest itself into being something that they have to face off with. He can just manifest in a lot of different places and cause a lot of havoc and danger. Just one consciousness is enough to spread and cause a wreck everywhere.
What else is new?
The Avengers are now left without a superstructure [S.H.I.E.L.D.] to press down on them, and now the kids have to make up the rules and figure out what time to go to bed, what they should have for dinner… they’re not living inside this big S.H.I.E.L.D. superstructure anymore, so Tony is bankrolling everything. He’s the money behind the operation — clearly because he’s got plenty of it — but he doesn’t want to be the operational lead of it, because that’s not what he does. So Captain America, Steve Rogers, is very much in charge, and there’s a really cool dynamic between them now as they’re sussing out the whole thing, putting this roster together.
How do Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch fit into the story? Friends or foes?
They will evolve over the course of the story. As we saw at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in that tag scene with Baron Von Strucker, they have come out of a dark place. We’ll learn the reasoning for that over the course of the movie. We’ll learn where that comes from, what their backstory is, and as with all things, their backstory is really connected to the bigger story and the Avengers.
We forget often that Tony Stark has a past. He’s been a hero, he’s been on top of the world for so long, but right before that happened, he was off selling bombs to the highest bidder, regardless of where they came from. It’s a past that he’s gotten away from, that I think he’s kind of forgotten about. But if you were someone who grew up in a war-torn region — in Eastern Europe somewhere — and your life was affected by something that Tony Stark did, you probably didn’t forget, despite the fact that he’s Iron Man now. In fact, that probably made you harbor resentment for years towards him, because of what he did. So I think there’s a cool dynamic there to be explored.
How is Joss Whedon upping the ante this time around?
With this film, we’ve said we want to capture that big epic, sprawling, see-the-world kinda vibe. Which means going to much bigger locations. We shot in South Africa. We shot in South Korea. We shot in Italy. We’re building a massive exterior set here in London that’s also going to be playing as part of Eastern Europe.
So hopefully it’s going to be a real opportunity to travel the world and see a lot more. When we sit around talking about it, we say: How is that the Bond films can go to all these different places? How can they show such great scenery? How can they be in so many cool locations? And we wanted to tap into a little bit of that. It’s fun to go to these other big locations. We shot a sequence in Johannesburg, a big fight scene, right in the middle of downtown Johannesburg, and you feel it when you watch the dailies. You can see it wasn’t on a back lot, that wasn’t on a soundstage, the extras are better and it all feels more real.
How do the other new characters fit in?
The Avengers exists as its own thing, but all the characters in it come from these other franchises – from Captain America, from Iron Man, from Thor – so part of the fun is seeing people pop up from the other movies. That doesn’t mean that Antony Mackie [Falcon] is an Avenger, or that Don Cheadle [War Machine] is an Avenger, but they’re a part of the world.
We have this very fortunate position at Marvel to be able to pick up the phone and say “Hey, you were in our movie, we love you, do you want to do a cameo, and pop in and be a part of this thing?” You don’t want to put in a cameo for cameo’s sake, because we want to make our movies as accessible to as many people as possible. You don’t have to have seen all the Marvel films to walk into Avengers 2 and have a good time. That’s super important to us — that you can just walk into Avengers 2 and have a blast, regardless of whether you’ve seen the other ones.
But if you’ve been playing along now for 11 movies, we want it to matter. We want the work that you’ve done, the time you’ve spent watching them, the investment you’ve made in the characters and the world, to matter. Which is why we pepper stuff in – to make it matter.
Was there a temptation to give the Hulk bigger role this time around?
One of the things about an Avengers film is that certain characters don’t have their own franchises, so you wont have seen Hawkeye since The Avengers, [and] you won’t have seen Bruce Banner since The Avengers, so as we’re developing the script we want to tell that story to give audiences time to catch up with them.
So it’s not like we want more Hulk because he stole the show in the first film; it’s more that we haven’t told as many Hulk stories since the last movie. Iron Man had his own movie, Cap had his own movie, Thor had his own movie, Widow was in the Cap movie, as was Fury, so a lot of story pieces have moved forward since The Avengers, but Hawkeye and Hulk really haven’t. So this is our opportunity to show Hawkeye and Hulk again, so they definitely have big parts in the film because we don’t know as much about them. So it’s fun to experience something you haven’t seen recently.
What are the stand-out scenes for you?
I think the final battle is going to be really, really awesome and unexpected. I think things are going to happen in it that no-one’s going to see coming and people are going to be like: “Whaaaaa? Oh my God!” I really think it’s going to be surprising just the amount of stuff that happen in the final battle.
The other thing is, and this is super-important for us, a lot of it is about saving people. There have been a lot of movies in recent cinema where there’s been mad wide-scale terrible destruction, and you look at it and think, “Oh, a million people died”. And now there’s a hero or heroes standing in the middle of it going “We did it!” To us, that’s really frustrating, because you didn’t do it because there’s a lot of death and we don’t want a lot of death, we want to save people. We’re a team of heroes, so I think one of the things we’ve really gone after in this film is making sure that our heroes are acting heroically and they’re acting altruistically, and evacuating people, and saving people and getting people to safety is as much of a goal as stopping the threat.
So will the end of the film shake things up in the MCU like Winter Solider did?
Yes. There will be some things that happen at the end of the film that definitely impact Phase 3 in a big way, just about revelations that the characters learn about the world or the universe and how big it is and how scary it is potentially. I think that will be fun revelations for them to trek through, which will be cool. Thanos is definitely never far away in our hearts. We keep him very close in the darkness of our hearts.
As a producer, how difficult is it to get a cast like this back together?
The hardest part of making these movies – yeah, getting the script right is really hard, getting the right sets is really hard, keeping the budget down is really hard – but the hardest part is getting the schedules right with the cast. Because it’s so many people and you look at the wall – I have a wall in my office of all the cast [member’s] headshots – you look at it and go “movie star, movie star, movie star.. Oh my god, I’ve heard of every single one of these actors. These are all my favorite actors all in one spot!” Which is a little terrifying at times.
What strikes me as an outsider, is how well everyone works together, there are no rampant egos running wild.
To play in our world, you have to be committed to it. There are certain overarching ground rules of “this is how we do things” and luckily everyone who has wanted to be a part of it, has played along. If they don’t play along, they don’t come back. Because we want to have people who want to be here and that want to be part of this magical thing we’re making. We’re building this whole cinematic universe and it’s the first time it’s ever been done, so it’s not like there’s a rulebook to look at.
We all just have to trust our guts and that’s where Kevin Feige tremendous leadership comes in. He has a great sense of the whole thing and he’s really able to coral this whole experience over three or four pictures at once, and make it all happen. It’s really fun to be part of this big massive exciting movie experiment that we call “the world’s biggest miniseries” because it’s just this massive thing that’s happening, with different writing teams, different directing teams, with a lot of similar cast, and it’s all telling this grand story.
Who decides the impact the film will have on the wider MCU?
We all do. Part of the fun is we all sit around a table and really hash it out. The main key, above everything, is telling a good story every single time. So you cannot be a slave to something you want to do in two movies time from now. You can’t be slave to an idea that may or may not ever happen so you always have to tell the best story now. Even going back to Iron Man, I remember we had a gag or two, and were like “we need to save that for the sequel” and Kevin said “Guys, there’s no sequel if you don’t put all the good stuff in the first movie.
That’s our philosophy here: You can’t save anything. We’re always trying to make the best stories. To tell the best movie possible now, but because this thing is ongoing we’re looking at our options and making sure we’re not closing doors unnecessarily. So you look at it and you say, “Okay, we think that we have this overarching story that we want to tell down the line, with the next Avengers film and then Phase 3 of the Marvel universe will be about X. So let’s leave as many doors open as possible so we can get to Phase 3 and make it happen, if we’re so lucky – knock on wood – to continue making these movies.”
How far ahead do you plan?
We’re always planning ahead. I wouldn’t say we were planned up to 2028 realistically, with anything that’s actually solid, but we’re up to 2018 with ideas that we like. I’ve been at Marvel for 10 years, basically since I was straight out of college. I ended up at Marvel and I’ve been making movies here for 10 years now. It’s so weird to think that, yeah, there could be another 10 years of making these movies, who knows? We could stay here forever, it’s fun, why would you leave? That’s a crazy thing to think.
Are you already thinking of where to go with Avengers 3? There’s talk of new solo characters being introduced.
Absolutely. Part of our philosophy of introducing all the new characters is to help populate this world, and to keep this world going, to keep continuing to differentiate. So all the new characters that we’re introducing are with a purpose and they’re all building towards the big idea we have for what eventually could be the next film. There’s definitely been a lot of talk about Avengers 3… you’re making me nervous now because I need to go back and think a bit more, but yeah, we’re definitely thinking about it a lot.
Is there a possibility that it might not be Avengers 3, that it might be more of an event movie, bringing everything in together, including the Netflix TV shows?
I don’t know. The TV shows are harder to work in because it’s happening 22 weeks a year and it’s a lot more stuff to watch, so it’s really hard to work it in. But I do think that the plan is to keep making it bigger and crazier as we go.