Writing Avengers: Endgame – SDCC 2019

The first panel on Friday featured the writers of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame (among other Marvel movies), Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. They talked the crowd through the various scenes and changes that films went through, as well as the writing process.

The process of writing these films was a monumental task for them. In fact, the code names for them during production were Mary Lou 1 and 2, after Olympic gymnast, Mary Lou Retton, because they felt they had to stick the landing since these films would be the culmination of the past 22 Marvel movies and would be the end for some of its characters. There were so many possibilities for the movie; the photo below shows their whiteboard which listed all the possible locations of the Infinity Stones. This was between their first two drafts for the film and directly after SDCC 2016. At the time, they didn’t even know the tesseract would be a part of Captain Marvel.

And like all writers, Markus and McFeely went through some hard times while writing the films.

“Facing the blank page has no glory.”

Christopher Markus

They recalled one of their darkest moments in the writing process: in 2016 no one liked what anybody had written for the movies, so Markus and McFeely flew from Atlanta to Burbank to meet with Kevin Feige and other producers to try and fix the story. In the panic, they found that Thor’s storyline in Infinity War wasn’t working out and it resulted in them bringing Eitri into the story.

They gave the writers in an audience a great piece of advice: “You can’t push the whole thing forward all at once. You can’t allow what you haven’t written yet to hold you back.”

Markus and McFeely worked and reworked scenes and deleted some to make the movie work.

For example, the scene with Black Widow and Hawkeye on Vormir that was in the film was the second or third version of the scene. And while that scene could’ve gone differently, there was one thing that they knew for certain: the Red Skull was going to be the stonekeeper. Markus and McFeely knew this would be his fate early on as they had written a “manifesto” of possibilities for the character.

One scene that was cut from Infinity War was one Markus and McFeely nicknamed “Doctor Strange’s Magical Mystery Tour”. The scene, which takes place during the battle on Titan, Doctor Strange sends Thanos through the mindscape, where he is presented with his previous crimes and then ultimately dumped in front of the Living Tribunal. The writers described it as an LSD trip in the middle of a battle, which is why it was ultimately cut from the film. They also revealed that Professor Hulk was to be introduced in the third act of the film, but the process of Bruce Banner and the Hulk was removed altogether, and the reveal of Professor Hulk was moved to Endgame.

As for Endgame, Markus and McFeely revealed that there was a scene between Rocket and Jane Foster on Asgard when he and Thor travel back in time to the events of Thor: The Dark World. Rocket explains to her what was happening, and she allows him to retrieve for the Reality Stone/Aether. As for how he got it out of her, they gave no explanation. They revealed another shocking scene – Thanos, after finding out the plans the Avengers have to retrieve all the Infinity Stones, travels back in time himself to 2012 and kill the Avengers, before travelling to 2023 and throwing the decapitated head of Steve Rogers down at the feet of the Avengers in a power move. Yikes. Obviously, due to the gory and violent nature of the scene, it had to be cut.

Markus and McFeely also talked about their decision to kill Thanos in the first twenty minutes of Endgame. To them, him dying helped his character; despite dying, his mission was already over – Thanos did exactly what he set out to do. They also felt that the scene between Thor and his mother Frigga was absolutely necessary; Thor was falling apart after his failure in Infinity War and she was the only one who could put him back together.

They also shared a photo of their outline for the third act of Endgame. The baseball cards around the board represented the characters that were available to use in the movie. If you look towards the bottom right, there’s a bullet point that reads “TONY DIES.” Markus and McFeely had given Tony lines to deliver before snapping and ultimately decimating Thanos and his army. However, sometimes the challenge of writing is that the actor knows what’s best for the character; Robert Downey Jr. knew it would be more impactful in the moment for Tony not to speak rather than go with the script.

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