The news of Edgar Wright dropping out of Marvel’s Ant-Man adaptation due to "creative differences" took many people by surprise this afternoon, but if you've been paying attention over the past five years, none of this should come as a shock. Marvel has a history of clashing with directors and actors dating back to the very first Iron Man in 2008. This is a highly successful studio built on franchising and synergy, so it can’t allow directors or actors to go off brand and make decisions that are autonomous from the mother ship.
This way of thinking has brought in billions of dollars and (mostly) critical acclaim over the years, but it has also caused actors and directors to quit, get fired, and vocally protest the studio. This type of conflict will likely keep happening as long as the studio’s current model is in place, and, honestly, the movies have been too successful to change now. Here is a rundown of other people who've left Marvel on bad terms over the years:
Terrence Howard’s time in the Marvel Universe was brief. He was cast as James Rhodes in the first Iron Man, and it was heavily hinted at in the movie that he would move on to bigger and better things in the sequels. However, the relationship between the two sides soon soured over money, and Howard was replaced on Iron Man 2 by Don Cheadle.
Marvel allegedly wanted Howard to take a huge pay cut from his contract for Iron Man 2 because the studio felt the movie would be a major success either way. Howard balked and walked away from negotiations, leaving the door open for a replacement to be cast. Howard has hinted that his extra money went to Robert Downey Jr. To add to the drama, Howard also claims that he helped Downey get the Iron Man job in the first place.
Marvel fans had been waiting for Edward Norton to be cast as the Hulk ever since Fight Club hit theaters, and they finally got their wish with 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. Unfortunately, the production didn’t go well, with Marvel leaving many of the more dramatic scenes on the cutting room floor in order to speed up the pace and distance itself from Ang Lee’s more psychological 2003 version of the character. The problem is many of these scenes were written by Norton himself, who was trying to add depth to a pretty flimsy script.
In response to the broad edits made by Marvel, Norton allegedly refused to do publicity for the film, leaving that job to director Louis Leterrier and Tim Roth, who played the movie’s villain. Not surprisingly, the Hulk’s trademark purple pants were filled by Mark Ruffalo when it came time for the character to show up in The Avengers.
Let’s get this out of the way: Mickey Rourke hates Marvel. And if you’ve seen Iron Man 2, you’ll understand why. Rourke was cast in the movie as Whiplash, the Russian sociopath with—you guessed it—killer whips attached to his arms. For the role, Rourke did a ton of research into Russian culture while perfecting his accent in order to make Whiplash on par with some of the best comic book villains ever.
Unforatunely, as Rourke explains it, Marvel cut a majority of his scenes in order to make him a less complicated, one-dimensional villain. Instead of a fully fleshed-out baddie, Whiplash was a forgotten supporting character with an enthusiasm for birds. Seriously.
After the first Thor landed with a decided thud in theaters, Marvel actually made a bold move by initially hiring Patty Jenkins (Monster, 2003) to helm the follow-up. Not only would Jenkins have been the first female director to work for Marvel, she also would've provided a refreshing change of style from the studio’s previous hires.
Of course this didn’t last long, as Jenkins soon moved off the project, citing “creative differences.” Granted, Jenkins’ style might not have meshed well with a Thor movie, but there's also a chance that someone with her tastes could have done big things with the film. At the very least, it couldn't have been any worse than the Thor sequel we actually got.
So if you didn’t like Thor: The Dark World, you’re not alone. The film's director, Alan Taylor, has gone on record as being critical of the movie, especially the amount of exposition in the story. Taylor has said that he had no control over the final cut of the movie, and when asked about the amount of exposition in the final version that was ordered by Marvel, Taylor told The Huffington Post: “I think my impulse is always to sort of trust the audience and to not feed it too directly. But, obviously, there's a very successful model for these things that seems to work very well. So, who am I to quibble?”
The worst offense of the film? The mid-credit scene, which wasn’t even directed by Taylor. Instead, it was directed by James Gunn, who is helming Guardians of the Galaxy. On that, Taylor said, “I am very happy to say I did not do the sequence in the middle of the credits. I'm more than happy to pass that honor on to someone else.” Needless to say, Taylor won't be back for Thor 3.
There have also been rumblings that Jon Favreau (Iron Man), Kenneth Branagh (Thor), and Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger) all also walked away from Marvel, rather than returning for more. It shouldn’t come as a shock that the productions with no real “creative differences” are also the studio’s best: Iron Man, The Avengers, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
What’s the difference? Joss Whedon always had the clout to get his vision on screen, while Jon Favreau (at the time) and the Russo Brothers were likely just so eager to work on a blockbuster that they made the Marvel formula work for them. We’ll just have to accept the fact that Wright’s Ant-Man is now only the product of our imaginations, just like Darren Aronofsky’s The Wolverine and J.J. Abrams’ Superman.
Jason Serafino is a contributing writer who's pissed off about Edgar Wright's departure. He tweets here.
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