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[This story contains spoilers for Moon Knight.]
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films paved the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has not forgotten his roots.
Feige, who helped produce the Spider-Man trilogy for then-Marvel head Avi Arad, not only hired Raimi to direct the newly-released Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but he also brought on Raimi’s long-time producer Grant Curtis to bring Moon Knight to life. With May 3 being the 20th anniversary of Spider-Man, Curtis welcomed the opportunity to reminisce about the movie that brought all three creatives to this point.
“It was the Unity Day Parade sequence, and I had the honor of meeting Stan Lee out in the parking lot and ushering him onto his first Spider-Man set. The look on his face was a pure smile and pure wonderment. It was something that I’ll honestly never forget,” Curtis tells The Hollywood Reporter at the press day for Moon Knight’s finale.
Curtis is also looking back at the critically acclaimed fifth episode of the Disney+ series Moon Knight, which had the makings of something special from its earliest draft in the writers’ room. “Once I saw Oscar on set during that [street] scene, there was a lump in my throat that has not disappeared to this moment because he brought it to that degree,” Curtis says.
In that recent conversation with THR, Curtis also discussed the benefits of having virtually no connections to the MCU, as well as his recent attendance at Marvel Studios’ creative retreat, which aimed to plan out the next 10 years of storytelling.
So did you attend Marvel Studios’ creative retreat that Kevin Feige mentioned at CinemaCon?
I was at the retreat, yes. It was fascinating and illuminating, and there are a lot of other words for it. There were pure geniuses there, and I was not one of them. There’s a lot of talent at Marvel Studios with Kevin leading the charge with Lou [D’Esposito] and Victoria [Alonso]. But it was pretty humbling to be a fly on the wall.
You worked on Sam Raimi’s films for at least 15 years, which is probably where you first met Kevin. Is it just a coincidence that you and Raimi both joined the MCU at the same time?
It is, and it’s a wonderful coincidence. I was lucky and blessed enough to join the Marvel Studios team, and obviously, Sam joined as the director of Doctor Strange 2. I just love the guy. So I can’t wait to see what he’s brought to the table with Doctor Strange, but I know it’s amazing. So it’s all very cool.
So I know that Marvel Studios has moved away from long-term deals with actors, which partially explains why Oscar isn’t committed to anything beyond Moon Knight. But can we expect him to reprise these roles at some point?
As you can imagine, I can’t speak to the business affairs of it all, but I can say that Oscar gives such a compelling performance as Marc Spector, Steven Grant and Jake Lockley. The audience becomes so emotionally engaged in the journey that Oscar takes us on, and I hope that journey extends. It’s a great question for Kevin about where this character may or may not land, but the way we leave Moon Knight at the end of this series, the character has the potential to flow nicely into many corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And if Oscar wouldn’t have committed to the degree that he did and create such an engaging, organic performance, we probably wouldn’t be saying that. We’d say, “Yes, maybe,” you know? But no, we’re saying, “I can’t wait to see if it happens,” and that is a testament to an actor working at the top of their craft.
There were hints of Jake Lockley’s presence throughout the season, and you finally revealed him in a post-credit scene. What was the conversation around that choice?
Our head writer, the incredible Jeremy Slater, was leading that charge of how to walk away from this series, and what I mean by that is just how we end this series. So it was one of the things that Jeremy mapped out very early on, and once we heard, it was like, “Oh, that’s amazing.” A lot of the real questions were how do we sprinkle Jake Lockley from the beginning, but not tip our hand and expose the character to the audience to too great of a degree. But Jeremy mapped it out masterfully, and it was a great way to end the series.
Layla has certainly come into her own as the MCU’s first Egyptian superhero. How did that character evolve throughout the process?
In the writers’ room, that female character was a great protagonist from day one. She was always part Egyptian and, forgive me, I forgot her other nationality early on in the writers’ room. But once we got the great May Calamawy and Mohamed Diab, an Egyptian, onboard, that character became the Layla El-Faouly character that you see on screen to this day, and she obviously became the Scarlet Scarab. When the rock slab falls in episode six and out steps the MCU’s first Egyptian superhero, I cheered, and that’s because May is such a great actress and Mohamed is such an incredible director.
I liked that there were no major MCU connections, crossovers or cameos, but I also know that most of the MCU audience craves those things. Did you and your team ever worry about not scratching that itch that the audience has?
Well, if you look closely, there are some connective threads. In episode three, Madripoor is mentioned, and there’s other little Easter eggs here and there. Because Kevin, Lou and Victoria have created such an incredible universe here with such incredible characters and locations and storylines, the instinct is to play with all of those toys and to try to grab whatever you can and bring that into Moon Knight. But this universe was built upon character first, and these are all character explorations first and foremost. And once we got in the writers’ room with Jeremy, and we started mapping this out with the other incredible writers, we realized that to give Marc Spector, Steven Grant and Jake Lockley the best, most engaging journey, all of those other connectivity points that we thought we needed and wanted started to fade away. And once you throw in Arthur Harrow, played by the great Ethan Hawke, and the previously mentioned Layla El-Faouly, played by May, we realized that the other connectivity points were not necessary.
So if you hadn’t seen any other Marvel Cinematic Universe offering and this was your first deep dive, it’s actually pretty groovy to be telling a story where you’re just as emotionally invested from frame one as the person who has seen everything else because there is that lack of 100 percent connectivity. Although we didn’t plan it from the beginning, it ended up being a plus that makes the journey of Moon Knight that much richer.
Did you recognize pretty early on that you had something special in episode five?
I did. Oscar Isaac is not only the star of our show, but he’s also one of the executive producers, so he always planted his finger on episode five and said, “This is the one that we have to nail. This is the one we have to get right. This is one where emotionally, everything comes to fruition.” So when I was watching dailies and I saw that scene where Marc Spector steps out of his childhood home and kneels on the ground and is rocking back and forth in tears as he’s thinking about his childhood and what’s led him to that particular juncture in his life, that’s when I knew. But I also knew we had something special once I saw that on the page. Becky Kirsch and Matt Orton wrote episode five, so I knew that we were cooking with gas. And once I saw Oscar on set during that scene, there was a lump in my throat that has not disappeared to this moment because he brought it to that degree.
The 20th anniversary of Spider-Man was earlier this week, and you were a co-producer on that film. Is there a random memory that comes to mind?
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s not so random. Spider-Man one, we were out at Downey. It was the Unity Day Parade sequence, and I had the honor of meeting Stan Lee out in the parking lot and ushering him onto his first Spider-Man set. The look on his face was a pure smile and pure wonderment. It was something that I’ll honestly never forget.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Moon Knight is now available on Disney+.
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