(This article contains spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.)
Marvel movies can take years to make, and that leaves plenty of time for rumors to circulate and scoops to leak. It’s all the more impressive, then, that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 managed to keep some of its biggest surprises and Easter eggs under wraps until the movie finally began screening this past month.
One of those surprises involved Sylvester Stallone, who’s been kept out of the film’s marketing but pops up in a handful of scenes in Vol. 2. He’s playing Stakar, a character from the original comic-book lineup of Guardians of the Galaxy. Truly plugged-in Marvel fans knew that Stallone had some sort of secret role, but even spoiler-hounds had no idea that, late into the movie, Stakar would be joined by other comic-book colleagues played by recognizable actors, including Charlie-27 (Ving Rhames) and Aleta Ogord (Michelle Yeoh), with a vocal cameo by Miley Cyrus as Mainframe. When I met up with Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige recently, I asked him how he and director James Gunn had managed to keep so many of those actors under wraps.
“We have a relatively tight lock on almost everything we do,” said Feige. “With those characters in particular, the actors shot for a very brief time and understood that part of the fun was the surprise factor.”
Feige said that, despite his scant screen time, Stallone didn’t take much convincing to join Vol. 2. “This is a man who’s bright and has achieved almost everything there is to achieve in Hollywood, and he’s talking about how excited he is to be a part of Marvel and see something new,” said Feige. “It’s surreal, and very cool of him to say.” But did they promise Stallone an appearance in more Marvel movies, or sign him to one of their famous multi-movie contracts? Not quite, said Feige.
“When we shot our very first tag with Sam Jackson in Iron Man, we didn’t have a deal with him for any other pictures,” he said. “It was just a fun thing we asked him to come to, with the thought of, Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do more down the line?” That was the general sentiment that lured Stallone, Rhames, Yeoh, and Cyrus to join the MCU, even though they technically have no contractual commitment to continue: “They all understood what we’re trying to do.”
Does their presence augur more films set in Marvel’s cosmic realm? “I think we definitely see, and James definitely sees, many other stories we can tell in that universe beyond a core Guardians film,” said Feige. “I think we’re very interested in that and can start to explore it in the future.”
Still, don’t expect Stakar and the gang to pop up in Avengers: Infinity War or in their own spinoff anytime soon. “Certainly, you wouldn’t see any of them before Guardians 3,” said Feige, “whenever that is.”