For over a year, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige searched for the right director to helm Captain Marvel, the studio’s first stand-alone superheroine film. Rumors flew about whom Feige had met with for the gig and director short lists were bandied about for months in the trades, but in the end, Feige went with a pick no one saw coming, signing Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to helm the studio’s next blockbuster.
That selection surprised industry onlookers, not simply because the directorial duo had been left off the leaked short lists, but because Boden and Fleck have a filmography that doesn’t immediately suggest big-screen superheroics. After breaking through with the Ryan Gosling drama Half Nelson, they’ve worked solely on small-scale films like Sugar, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and Mississippi Grind, in addition to directing episodes of Looking and The Affair. What was it about them, I recently asked Feige, that piqued Marvel’s interest enough to set up a first meeting?
“We cast a pretty wide net,” said Feige. “It’s always based on people who’ve done things that we thought were interesting, at any level. We haven’t hired anybody who’ve never done a feature before, but what gets you in the room is doing interesting work in television and interesting work in features, both of which they’ve done. And then it’s about the conversation and the vision that we see.”
Once Boden and Fleck aced their first meeting, Feige kept calling them back until they landed the gig. “For us, what Anna and Ryan have done so spectacularly well in all of their movies, albeit on a much smaller scale than they’re about to do, is create a singular character journey,” he said. “The stories they’ve told have been so diverse, but regardless of the subject matter, they can dive into it and hone in on that character’s journey.”
That’s especially vital when it comes to Captain Marvel, who’ll be played by Brie Larson. Feige recently told Vulture that Captain Marvel will be, by far, the most powerful superhero in Marvel’s cinematic universe. But when you have an incredibly strong character who can fly, shoot energy bursts, and bat away Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk like they were nothing, how do you find the right stakes to make her journey a compelling one?
“That’s a big part of the story line we’re putting together, and it’s certainly been a big part of the development conversation,” Feige admitted. It’s also where Boden and Fleck can really make their mark: Ultimately, the real stakes of the film have to do with who Captain Marvel is — a human pilot named Carol Danvers, granted superhuman abilities — rather than what she can do.
“Particularly for Captain Marvel, which is going to have a lot of spectacle, it ultimately needs to be about the three-dimensional, multilayered Carol Danvers character,” said Feige. “You have to be able to track her and follow her and relate to her at all points of the movie, regardless of how many visual effects and spaceships and bad guys are filling the frame. That’s what’s important.”