It’s a typical warm and sunny April morning in Los Angeles. Amid the hustle and bustle, Hollywood Boulevard is closed off, with final preparations underway for what will be the biggest premiere yet for Marvel Studios—Avengers: Infinity War. The culmination of a story that spans 19 films over the first 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Infinity War will prove to be massive, and the premiere event—held across three theaters and featuring a block-long, museum-quality display of MCU artifacts—reflects that. The grandeur of the premiere aside, for most people this is just another unremarkable Monday in Hollywood, but some are creating remarkable things.
Across town, I roll up to Sony Studios in Culver City, my group passes quickly through security and onto the lot. John M. Pisani, longtime unit publicist who has been with Marvel since 2008’s Iron Man, is there to greet us. “I believe you’re the first group from outside the production to see any of this,” he says as he leads the way. While the signs on the production vehicles say “Open World,” we’re actually on the set of the 21st film in the growing MCU—Captain Marvel.
Production has only been underway for a few weeks, and many sets are still under construction. In fact, it is just under a month since Marvel officially announced the start of production and released the first authorized Captain Marvel photo—a behind-the-scenes shot of Academy Award-winner Brie Larson (Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel) standing atop a fighter jet at Nellis Air Force Base with Brigadier General Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander, at her side. It is fitting that she should research the role of a fighter pilot by flying higher, further, faster in real life.
Inside one of several soundstages used for filming, we slip into the darkness behind the writing/directing team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, along with executive producer Jonathan Schwartz as they prep to film a scene involving Carol Danvers and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in the cockpit of a vaguely familiar vehicle. Maybe it’s a Quinjet, maybe it’s not. What’s certain is that we saw pieces of it before, but not exactly in this same form. After all, Captain Marvel is a film that takes place in the 1990s, more than a decade before most of the MCU thus far. I’m digging the functional ramp at the back of the ship. Goose the cat is here, too.
“A lot of this stuff is modular, and it gets used again and again,” Fleck says. “Marvel is great about saving things that can be repurposed later. Pieces of this jet have been seen in a couple of different films. We’re using a front from one and a rear from another.”
Larson jogs onto set with a smile. She’s wearing a S.H.I.E.L.D ball cap, a leather jacket, and a vintage-style Nine Inch Nails (NIN) T-shirt, all now a famous part of her look thanks to early marketing for the film.
“We actually had to ask Trent’s permission for her to wear that,” Fleck says, with Boden noting that all was well once Reznor, the enigmatic NIN mastermind, knew what they were up to. Whether an intentional connection or not, it’s worth noting that NIN’s 1999 single “We’re In This Together” plays in the first trailer for 2012’s The Avengers. Fury delivers his famous speech about “an idea to bring together an extraordinary group of people” on top of it.
As Boden and Fleck run through the scene with the cast, Schwartz hangs back, joking as I nudge about the possibility of a “Secret Invasion” storyline, while sharing a few more details about set construction, makeup, and costuming.
Moments later, I find myself standing next to Jackson—Fury himself—his face covered in tiny white tracking dots that they will later use to de-age him by more than two decades—the same technology that gave us a young Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) in Ant-Man and a youthful Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Captain America: Civil War.
Hours later, many of us will sit together inside the Dolby Theatre to experience Infinity War for the first time. At the end, in stunned silence, we all witness the first official signal that Captain Marvel is coming—a signal sent on a mysterious (and dated) device just as Fury is reduced to dust.
Following Ant-Man & The Wasp, it’s Captain Marvel that provides the final connecting thread to this year’s Avengers: Endgame, as a necessary prequel to the current events of the MCU and a setup for what will become known as “Phase Four” of the MCU. Captain Marvel is a mighty hero brought to Earth as part of a war between the Skrulls and the Kree, and one whose recent absence we hope this movie explains.
A shorter version of this article was originally published in the Pop Insider’s Winter 2019 Issue No. 2, click here to read more!
Pictured Top: Filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Reggie the Cat (Goose), and executive producer Jonathan Schwartz along with the media crew on the set of Captain Marvel. All photos courtesy Marvel Studios.