“How the MCU Was Made” is a series of deep-dive articles that delve into the ins and outs of the development history, production, and release of all the Marvel Studios movies
As Marvel Studios morphed from a young, scrappy, and hungry upstart to one of the most popular—and consistent—franchise-makers around, audiences began clamoring for different kinds of stories in the MCU. The dark fantasy of Thor: The Dark World was different from the gritty reality of Captain America: The Winter Soldier which itself was different from the comedic heist tone of Ant-Man, but all of these films were led by white, male superheroes. The MCU certainly had its share of interesting female characters—Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow chief among them—but a woman had yet to lead a superhero movie of her own.
That changed with Captain Marvel, which admittedly arrived rather late in the game (it was the 21st Marvel Studios movie released), but soared to immense box office heights nonetheless and helped pave the way for the future of the MCU post-Avengers: Endgame. This is the story of how Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie was made. While it took over a decade for Marvel to bring Captain Marvel to the screen, the studio had actually been considering an adaptation of this particular comic book for quite some time. A script was written in the Marvel writers program (which existed in the early days of Marvel Studios), alongside other long-gestating projects like Blade and a Nick Fury movie that failed to come to fruition. Joss Whedon tried to introduce the character in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Feige wouldn’t let him, saying that he wanted a chance to introduce audiences to Captain Marvel via the character’s origin story instead of bringing her into the MCU fully formed.
Marvel began publicly teasing a Captain Marvel movie in 2013 and 2014, and in this instance, the public conversation was actually driven by what was happening over at Warner Bros.’ DC Films. Indeed, it’s hard to talk about Captain Marvel without acknowledging Wonder Woman. DC beat Marvel to the punch on a female-led superhero film, spinning off Gal Gadot’s pivotal character from Batman v Superman into her own 2015 movie. That film was a global phenomenon, earning high critical acclaim and impressive box office, and the fact that DC got there before Marvel prompted many to ask Marvel Studios why, this many films in, they still had yet to introduce a female-led superhero movie.
The time finally came in October 2014, when Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced that the studio’s first female-led movie Captain Marvel would be released in theaters on July 6, 2018 as part of their Phase Three slate. Feige explained that the delay in getting Captain Marvel to the screen was figuring out how she would fit into the MCU given the cosmic nature of her powers:
This announcement came only two months after Guardians of the Galaxy hit theaters and was a global smash, which itself introduced the “Marvel Cosmic Universe” to audiences at large and whose success proved how deeply audiences would follow a super weird Marvel movie if done right. The announcement also came before Spider-Man entered the MCU, which explains why that release date was eventually pushed back to make room for Peter Parker—in February 2015, Marvel moved Captain Marvel to November 2018, and in October 2015 they pushed the film back to its final release date of March 8, 2019.
The film finally landed a creative team in April 2015, when Marvel announced that Inside Out co-writer Meg LeFauve and Guardians of the Galaxy co-writer Nicole Perlman were teaming up on scripting duties. Perlman had worked with Marvel before, albeit in a somewhat different manner—she originated the Guardians of the Galaxy project and screenplay, but James Gunn somewhat took over when he signed on to co-write and direct that film and the two were a tad contentious regarding who wrote what.
LeFauve and Perlman had separately pitched Marvel their takes on Captain Marvel, and Marvel Studios liked both so much that they decided to forge the two together as a writing team. Indeed, Marvel specifically looked towards female storytellers and filmmakers to assemble the Captain Marvel team, and approached Selma director Ava DuVernay about potentially tackling the female-led film or Black Panther. DuVernay sparked more to Black Panther, but eventually turned down the offer altogether.
Development continued, but as Marvel Studios also began plotting out Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, they needed to go ahead and cast Carol Danvers. In June 2016, Brie Larson’s name surfaced as the frontrunner for the role, and sure enough at San Diego Comic-Con the following month Larson took the stage to confirm her casting as the MCU superhero. The actress was fresh off a Best Actress Oscar win for Room and was offered the role outright, just as Marvel also offered the Black Panther role to Chadwick Boseman. No auditions or jockeying for the part here. Marvel knew exactly who they wanted, and she accepted. But not without hesitation, as Larson admitted it took her a while to say yes: