- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
In August 2017, Matt Shakman received a fortuitous call from Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige regarding a general meeting. The request was just a few days after Shakman’s directorial debut on Game of Thrones blew away viewers across the world (as well as the Lannister army). From there, Shakman met with Feige and eventually pitched his take on WandaVision, which, at the time, was slated to be the studio’s second series on Disney+. Now, four-and-a-half years later, Shakman is finally able to reflect on the road to WandaVision’s closing credits and the secrets he’s been closely guarding.
After a tragic farewell between Wanda and Vision in Avengers: Infinity War, Shakman was eager to give the two characters a goodbye scene on their own terms. It may have led to another sad parting, but the star-crossed lovers’ final exchange still had a hint of hope and optimism.
“We filmed it relatively early on in the process, actually. It was something that we did in the first third of shooting,” Shakman tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Paul (Bettany) and Lizzie (Olsen) have such chemistry together, and they do so well in every single genre and tone imaginable. We ask them to do all those things, but man, they sparkle when they are just together and connecting. Of course, it’s a heartbreaking scene, and it was a tough one, emotionally. We gave ourselves a lot of extra time for it because it was a tricky one to pull off.”
Since 2008, Marvel Studios has developed the most successful cinematic universe to date, and one of the key ingredients in that achievement has been the synergy between their numerous films in development and production. With the studio’s expansion into television and WandaVision being the first of thirteen (and counting) Disney+ streaming series to come, Shakman ensured continuity by working directly with the creatives behind Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Captain Marvel 2.
“The Captain Marvel 2 producer is the WandaVision producer Mary Livanos, and the writer of Captain Marvel 2, Megan McDonnell, is one of the writers of WandaVision,” Shakman explains. “So there’s a lot of direct connection there, and we were in contact with the team on Doctor Strange 2 as well. Michael Waldron, who’s writing it, also wrote Loki. So we spent a lot of time with him in Atlanta as we were overlapping production on WandaVision and Loki, and before he went off to work on Doctor Strange 2, we talked a lot about where Wanda was at. And then I talked to Sam Raimi a couple of times as we prepared to pass off the baton.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Shakman also discusses the creative environment at Marvel, shooting Paul Bettany’s philosophical duel and how time functioned inside Wanda’s hex.
As the fan theories piled up each and every week, were you a bundle of nerves, or did you remain relatively zen about it all?
That’s an interesting question. I have to say that I was pretty zen. I was so impressed by the level of interaction and the passionate theories that people were creating. We put so much of our hearts into making this show that it was great to see people receive it with so much passion and heart. Some of the memes were hilarious; the Tik-Tok videos were fantastic. I was taken with it; I really was.
Like I told Jac Schaeffer, even though I love The Devil’s Advocate, I’m glad that the show remained faithful to its essence, which is grief.
Absolutely. I like The Devil’s Advocate too, but I think we had enough of a big bad in grief that we didn’t need Mephisto.
Whenever a director is hired by Marvel, or any franchise for that matter, there are some cynical voices out there that’ll say, “Oh, they’re making a Marvel movie and not an [insert-name-of-director] movie.” But from what I can tell, you had as much autonomy as you’d have anywhere else. Was that indeed the case?
Marvel is a great place to work as a filmmaker. They are hugely supportive. I don’t know how Kevin Feige does it with all the many projects that he has going, but he makes you feel like your project is the only one he’s working on. It is absolutely a place where you can be creative and think outside the box. And I think WandaVision is a testament to that. They are not afraid of taking risks, they are behind you 100 percent when you propose crazy, wacky ideas like shooting in front of a live audience. Instead of saying, “No way, we’re the most secretive place in town,” they say, “Yes, let’s figure out how to do it.” And it’s been that way since we started.
You had lunch with Dick Van Dyke at Club 33, and you picked his brain for insight into The Dick Van Dyke Show’s process way back when. Was this the same meeting where you asked for his approval to use footage from his show?
No, we didn’t. We asked about that later on. This one was merely about telling him how much we admired his career in general. Who doesn’t? He’s a legend. And it was also about how much we admired that show. We wanted to know what the secret sauce was. What was the magic behind what made it work? We wanted to see if we could borrow any of that magic for ourselves and figure out how to approach balancing what I think is a timeless show, the way Dick Van Dyke is. You really feel for that couple; you believe in Rob [Dick Van Dyke] and Laura [Mary Tyler Moore]. And yet, there’s room for it to be incredibly wacky — like tripping over ottomans or having a whole show about aliens and walnuts, the one that we referenced. It was about how do you create room for both of those things because we wanted that for Wanda and Vision. This was a love story that people were rooting for, but also had room for a lot of wackiness.
You’ve talked about Senor Scratchy’s demonic moment that was cut. There was also a CSI episode idea that was kicked around in the early days. Were there any other roads not traveled that remain appealing?
There were a lot of different thoughts. When you’re working on something as meta as this, there’s really no bad idea. So many things are discussed and so many ideas are tossed around. But ultimately, I’m really happy with what we ended up landing on. It still has meta commentary; it’s a stand-in for the audience. Jimmy (Randall Park) and Darcy (Kat Dennings) were watching the show as closely as so many people were in the real world and asking many of the same questions. But to make it an exercise in genre, too, felt like a bit of a hat on a hat, ultimately. Especially because there is another genre that we’re playing in there, which is more of the traditional MCU universe.
The new Scarlet Witch costume is already one of my favorite superhero costumes ever, but what made the reveal even more effective was that Wanda transitioned to it from her sad sweats. The contrast between the two looks created that extra oomph. Was this effect sheer happenstance since the depression stage of grief came right before the finale?
Not at all. We wanted the idea of this suburban mom fighting this witch. This is very much Wanda’s reality. It’s who she wants to be, and it’s what she’s chosen for herself. And the fight has come to her, but it doesn’t change what she looks like. There were versions that we played around with where she transforms into her Avengers: Endgame look, the Scarlet Witch look that we saw when she came out in episode five, with the drone, and let Hayward [Josh Stamberg] know what she thought of him. We talked about maybe having her transform into that for a few moments, but then we decided, ultimately, that it was far more satisfying to have her be in her look as a mom, a wife and a resident of this little suburban town.
When Wanda and Vision were saying goodbye, it was dark outside, but as the magic wall barreled through the town at the same time, the businesses and homes were transformed into daylight. Did time function differently inside the hex?
It did. There are episodes that you don’t get to see, or see clips of, when Darcy and Jimmy are looking at some of the screens in the SWORD base. There are elements of what’s happening on Wanda’s show that you don’t see. It’s always 70 degrees and blue skies inside the hex, whereas outside, it’s muddy, rainy and miserable. We wanted that contrast to be there. And sometimes, it’s daytime inside, nighttime outside and vice versa, because time does work differently. It’s working off of a sitcom clock inside, as opposed to the real-world clock outside. So Wanda has made her hex into nighttime in order to tuck her kiddos into bed, say goodbye to them for the last time, and say goodbye to Vision. But then, when the hex comes over, it’s revealed that you’ve really just been in one long day, the whole day.
“We have said goodbye before, so it stands to reason… we’ll say hello again.” Was the filming of Wanda and Vision’s goodbye scene rather emotional for you and the actors?
We filmed it relatively early on in the process, actually. It was something that we did in the first third of shooting. Paul and Lizzie have such chemistry together, and they do so well in every single genre and tone imaginable. We ask them to do all those things, but man, they sparkle when they are just together and connecting. You see it in the Avenger headquarters in episode eight, when they’re on the bed together. That was the scene that launched a thousand memes, and you see it in that final scene together. It evokes their scene at Edinburgh in Infinity War, and their Civil War scene where they make paprikash. Their connection is so strong and it’s wonderful to see them together. Of course, it’s a heartbreaking scene, and it was a tough one, emotionally. We gave ourselves a lot of extra time for it because it was a tricky one to pull off.
Like all Marvel Studios projects, there was synergy between WandaVision and the other films or shows in development and production. Did the post-credit scenes require the most amount of dialogue between your inner circle and the Doctor Strange 2 and Captain Marvel 2 creatives?
Yeah, we’ve been in dialogue with them throughout, and there’s natural overlap. The Captain Marvel 2 producer is the WandaVision producer Mary Livanos, and the writer of Captain Marvel 2, Megan McDonnell, is one of the writers of WandaVision. So there’s a lot of direct connection there, and we were in contact with the team on Doctor Strange 2 as well. Michael Waldron, who’s writing it, also wrote Loki. So we spent a lot of time with him in Atlanta as we were overlapping production on WandaVision and Loki, and before he went off to work on Doctor Strange 2, we talked a lot about where Wanda was at. And then I talked to Sam Raimi a couple of times as we prepared to pass off the baton.
So just to be clear, the aerospace engineer reference was added late in the game to clarify Monica’s (Teyonah Parris) plan to re-enter the hex?
Yeah, we did reshoot some of that dialogue just to clarify what her plan was. She was getting from Darcy just how difficult the job was going to be, and that gave her the idea of who she could call and how she could get in. And that idea was a rover because Monica is an astronaut, and that’s how you would handle a similar situation in an otherworld environment, which is what SWORD is mostly dealing with. So, yeah, that’s what that was.
I love the Ship of Theseus scene between Vision and White Vision. Was that philosophical duel especially complicated to film since Paul was playing both roles?
It was complicated. Paul has an amazing stunt double, Adam [Lytle], and he went above and beyond the call of duty on that one. Normally, he’s just asked to do difficult stunts, the physical ones. But in this case, we were asking him to perform the scene with Paul and to know both the Red Vision and the White Vision’s sides as well as Paul did. That way, they could alternate, and Adam could take on the role that Paul wasn’t playing on that day. He did a brilliant job and really was a wonderful scene partner for Paul.
WandaVision was originally meant to be the fourth release in phase four of the MCU, but Covid bumped it up to first position. Is there anything you would’ve done differently had you known you’d be leading off this new phase?
No, we were always telling a relatively simple story. It’s a story about this amazing character who was learning to cope with grief, accept loss and move beyond that. So that story didn’t change regardless of when we came out. It did change in terms of the resonance of the story. When we were building it, we never could have predicted that it would come out during a pandemic, and this meditation on grief and loss has extra resonance because of that. But, no, in terms of the overall Marvel mythology, or as the MCU is rolling out, there’s nothing we would have done differently.
What was the final piece that you worked on before handing off the finale?
Gosh, I can’t even remember now. I think it was something SWORD base-related at the very end. It was a scene with Hayward, maybe.
WandaVision is now available on Disney+.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day