Captain America: New World Order Director Confirms Marvel Movie's Villain (Exclusive)

At D23 Expo this weekend in Anaheim, Marvel fans got a lot of fresh updates about many of Marvel Studios' upcoming projects, including the eagerly anticipated Captain America: New World Order. During the Marvel presentation on Saturday, the film's cast was announced, including Anthony Mackie returning as Sam Wilson/Captain America, Carl Lumbly as Isaiah Bradly, and Danny Ramirez who will take on the role of Falcon. It was also announced that Shira Haas would be making her MCU debut as Israeli superhero Sabra, but the biggest surprise may have been the announcement that Tim Blake Nelson will return as The Leader. Now, the film's director Julius Onah confirms to Phase Zero host Brandon Davis for ComicBook.com that The Leader is indeed the film's villain — and he will present a real challenge for the new Captain America.

"Let's just say one of the things that really drew me to this project is The Leader is a man who operates from intellect, and so it's great to have an adversary who is working with this incredible intellect to really, you know, put Sam through the wringer in this story,' Onah said. "And again, as a paranoid thriller, is this grounded adventure where I think that everything that happens in this film feels so real and intense, because of who this adversary is. So, back to that other question of yours, what he's going to have to go through in this film is because he's got an adversary who is so terrifyingly intelligent."

The last time Marvel fans saw Nelson, the character was still simply Samuel Sterns in The Incredible Hulk more than 14 years ago, when he was attacked by the Abomination and, in the process, some of Bruce Banner's blood gets into a cut on Sterns' forehead, beginning his transformation into The Leader. While it will be interesting to find out what has gone on with that character in the years since his last MCU appearance, it sounds like it will also be just part of a lot of things coming to the table in New World Order.

"There's a lot we're going to bring to the table," Onah said. "And this is a new set of challenges and a new set of adversaries. I love classic paranoid thrillers and that's a big part of the inspiration of this film. We want to find an action that is grounded and tactile and give him new things to do that we haven't seen in those other films, and I don't want to spoil too much, but let's just say we are planning some really, really exciting things.

Captain America: New World Order follows Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) after he finally took up the star-spangled mantle in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Together with Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), along with U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell), and Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), they were able to defeat the Flag Smashers. However, the status of a couple of key characters remains up in the air. For example, U.S. Agent was recruited by Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and Sharon Carter's role as the Power Broker was revealed. Sharon now works for the United States government, giving her access to privileged information.

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Captain America: New World Order opens in theaters on May 3, 2024.