The Marvel Cinematic Universe is widely regarded as having a villain problem, with nearly every entry in the franchise featuring a villain who is thwarted and never returns. The first exception to that rule was Loki, who debuted in Thor and became a prominent threat in Marvel's The Avengers, appearing in subsequent adventures since. That first team-up film also gave audiences our first look at Thanos, who earned small cameos in follow-up films until he made his official debut in Avengers: Infinity War. The character proved to be such a complex villain that some fans even agreed with his plan to kill half of the living universe. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige credits actor Josh Brolin with making the villain such an effective character.
"The answer to why Thanos worked is Josh Brolin," Feige shared in Avengers: Endgame - The Official Movie Special when discussing why Thanos was a hit. "The reason Thanos is now this iconic movie villain is because they understand where he was coming from is because of Josh Brolin. People put 'villain' in quotes when they’re talking about Thanos."
He continued, "We introduced Thanos for the first time at the end of the very first Avengers film. Joss Whedon wrote in the very end of his draft this little tag where a character turns around and smiles. We didn’t say the name, but fans recognized that purple profile. That was the beginning of planting a flag saying, 'We could be going here; we could be building towards Thanos.' People who read the comic books knew that meant building towards The Infinity Gauntlet."
The Infinity Gauntlet storyline brought together heroes from all corners of the galaxy, an idea which seemed incredibly ambitious back in 2012. A key component in eventually paying off that storyline was introducing the Guardians of the Galaxy, which changed the entire scope of the franchise.
"But even after the first Avengers, people thought, 'That’s too ambitious, you can’t do The Infinity Gauntlet as a movie,'” Feige admitted. "We weren’t sure about it either at that point. We were just working on Phase Two, and one of the biggest films of Phase Two was Guardians of the Galaxy. We were intentionally bringing in new characters, setting the stage again, and going to a place where even many hardcore comic book fans had no knowledge about these characters. Within that, we found an opportunity late in the process to include Thanos. The character of Gamora and the character of Nebula were tied in to the comic history of Thanos, so it seemed appropriate to add him there."
In that first Avengers, Thanos was played by Damion Poitier. It wasn't until Guardians that Brolin debuted as the character.
"It was an idea that came about pretty late in development, and I decided we needed an actor," Feige confessed. "It was a very small scene, wouldn’t require much time for an actor, but we needed somebody quickly. I thought that face and that presence of Josh Brolin would be incredible, not just for the little bit we wanted in Guardians, but should we ever proceed into the future, you want an amazing actor. But there wasn’t much time, and we required a simple yes. Often times there’s a lot of negotiating, a lot of convincing. Josh said yes right away. I don’t think he even understood quite what he was in for at that time, because he came to us soon afterwards saying, 'You know, a lot of people know Thanos. I’ve done a lot of movies in my career, but never have people been so interested about something I haven’t done yet,' after it had been announced or it had leaked that he was playing the part of Thanos."
Fans can check out Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, in theaters now.
What do you think of Feige's remarks? Let us know in the comments below!
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