The Marvel Cinematic Universe sits at the head of the table when it comes to superhero movies… or movies of any kind, really. Nothing in Hollywood right now guarantees box office success like Marvel Comics movies. However, with the immense success of the franchise, the films have not come without controversy — especially when it comes to behind-the-scenes battles. Whether it is the infamous creative differences, feuds between actors or even stars lashing out against the Marvel and Disney conglomerate, some of the stories stretch all the way back to the first movie in the MCU, Iron Man.
Fans only see the final product on the screen, with costumed heroes and evil villains battling across the galaxy, but many battles also rage between the people who bring us the stories we love on sound stages, in boardrooms and on backstage lots. Many of the feuds only come to light when one or more of the participants decide to speak out in interviews, while others become obvious when talent leaves a movie surprisingly. Whether it involves battles between two individuals or someone raging against the machine itself, here is a look at 15 fierce MCU behind-the-scenes feuds.
15. EDWARD NORTON VS. MARVEL
The first public behind-the-scenes feud in the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes as no surprise to anyone who knows Edward Norton. The actor who initially portrayed Bruce Banner had a reputation as a difficult person to work with. His most infamous moment was taking the American History X movie away from Tony Kaye, driving that director out of Hollywood for almost a decade.
Norton tried to do the same thing with The Incredible Hulk. Reports from the set indicate that Norton took a hands-on approach to the movie, personally re-writing the script daily as filming rolled on. While Marvel agreed to let Norton re-write the script when it hired him, they cut his work out of the film in editing, and he wasn’t happy. The two sides came to blows, with Norton and director Louis Leterrier wanting one thing and Marvel choosing another. The final result was Marvel moving on and replacing Norton for The Hulk’s future Marvel appearances.
14. TERRENCE HOWARD VS. ROBERT DOWNEY JR.
Arguably, the most personal feud in the Marvel Cinematic Universe came in the Iron Man franchise. Before Marvel, Terrence Howard and Robert Downey Jr. were close friends. When it came time to find an actor to play Tony Stark, Howard put in a good word for his friend and claims that he helped Downey get the role despite past legal problems. Downey ended up as Tony Stark, and Howard portrayed James Rhodes.
When it came time for Iron Man 2, Downey received a substantial raise. Howard also asked for more money, and Marvel responded by recasting the role, bringing in Don Cheadle to play Rhodes. When asked about Marvel in an interview, Howard went off on Downey and said his friend took the raise and pushed him out. Howard said he even reached out to Downey for the same help he offered him for the first movie but never heard back, ending their friendship.
13. MICKEY ROURKE VS. MARVEL
The situation between Mickey Rourke and Marvel in Iron Man 2 was the opposite of the Terrence Howard situation. Howard loved playing James Rhodes and wanted to return only to have Marvel re-cast the role to save money. On the other hand, Rourke will tell anyone who listens how much he hated working with Marvel and how the studio destroyed his character.
Marvel cast the Oscar-winning Rourke for the villainous role of Whiplash in Iron Man 2. Rourke believed Whiplash was a layered, nuanced character; a man wronged in the past who sought vengeance for both himself and his father. Instead, Rourke said Marvel trashed all the character work he gave them and edited his role into that of a generic supervillain. Rourke has since said he is not a fan of the “mindless comic book movies” Marvel puts out.
12. JOSS WHEDON VS. MARVEL
When it comes to Marvel, it remains very hands-on in the filmmaking process, even battling with the directors who made it billions of dollars. Joss Whedon, who had previously enjoyed a critically acclaimed career as a television showrunner, joined Marvel and directed The Avengers, the team-up movie that tied their previous films together. That 2012 film resulted in a $623.3 million domestic take and $1.518 billion worldwide, one of the highest grossing films of all-time.
Despite the success, Whedon still had to fight Marvel tooth-and-nail for his cut of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Marvel demanded that Whedon drop in Easter eggs, against his wishes, and even said it would cut one of his favorite scenes – Hawkeye at the farm with his family – if he didn’t follow the directives. The movie still made $1.405 billion, but Whedon quit Marvel shortly after that, saying he was “beaten down” while making the film.
11. IKE PERLMUTTER VS. KEVIN FEIGE
Not all battles behind-the-scenes at Marvel took place on a film set. When it comes to the feud between Kevin Feige and Ike Perlmutter, the fighting took place in the boardroom. Perlmutter is the CEO of Marvel Comics and ran the show when it came to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Kevin Feige is the President of Marvel Studios and sought to escape from under the thumb of Perlmutter.
Reports indicated that Perlmutter had some interesting ideas when it came to the MCU, including the belief that Marvel should not feature a lead female superhero in a solo movie. Perlmutter also wanted to pull money from the MCU, making the movies cheaper, while Feige wanted to spend more to make more money. Feige almost quit Marvel, but Disney CEO Bob Iger reorganized the movie division, giving Feige his freedom from Perlmutter and complete control over the MCU.
10. MARVEL VS. FOX
In the ‘90s, Marvel Comics was losing money and filed bankruptcy midway through the decade. While the comic book industry was struggling, Marvel found a way to make some money by licensing out the rights to most of its heroes to movie studios. Fox, Universal, Sony and more grabbed up heroes and Fox ended up the most successful of them all. With the X-Men franchise, Fox found the property it could make money with.
When the MCU formed, Marvel wanted control of its characters returned. The company got some, including Captain America and Thor, but couldn’t get the X-Men or Fantastic Four from Fox. As a result, Marvel ended up fighting Fox for characters and the two companies went head-to-head when it came to Quicksilver, who ended up in both an X-Men and Avengers movie around the same time. Things remain ugly between the two studios.
9. PATTY JENKINS VS. MARVEL
When Patty Jenkins directed Wonder Woman, the director had to feel vindicated. Jenkins became the highest-grossing female director of a live-action movie while answering to Warner Bros. and DC Comics but she initially worked for Marvel. Jenkins signed on to direct Thor: The Dark World, but it was not meant to be in the end. That remains a disappointment because Jenkins missed out on becoming Marvel’s first female director.
However, the departure of Jenkins was – in her words – a choice she had to make. Marvel, especially at that time, was very controlling over its directors. With a successful franchise underway, Marvel had a distinctive view on how its movies should look. However, Jenkins admitted in interviews later that she knew she couldn’t make a great film out of the script they handed her. Jenkins said if she made a bad movie for Marvel, it would set female directors back years, so she left the project.
8. ALAN TAYLOR VS. MARVEL
When Alan Taylor took over Thor: The Dark World from Patty Jenkins, he had solid credits in his background, including work on Game of Thrones. The fact that Thor’s first movie took place in the Shakespearian world of Kenneth Branagh and dealt with Norse Gods made Taylor seem like a perfect fit. However, the final result was one of Marvel’s most disappointing movies based on critical reception, and Taylor left the project with a bad taste in his mouth.
Taylor, who directed Terminator: Genisys after Thor: The Dark World, said he loved the experience in the Terminator franchise more than his work with Marvel. The director said he had freedom when shooting the Thor movie but Marvel changed everything in post-production. Taylor admitted that he never wanted to make another MCU film again.
7. EDGAR WRIGHT VS. CREATIVE DIFFERENCES
The case of Edgar Wright is heartbreaking and caused a lot of angst among fans. When Jon Favreau directed Iron Man, no one knew how massive the MCU would grow to be. However, almost from the start, Wright was on board with the intentions of making an Ant-Man movie for Marvel. The director had developed a massive fanbase with previous films Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, and he clearly had a distinctive style.
The problem is that the MCU grew very successful, very fast, and Wright’s distinctive style fell out of favor with some at the top of the Marvel chain-of-command. Soon, Wright figured out that he wouldn’t be able to make the Ant-Man movie he had planned. When Marvel said it wanted someone else to write a script for Wright to direct, he left the project and departed Marvel entirely. After eight years, creative differences broke up Wright and the MCU.
6. MARVEL VS. UNIVERSAL
After Marvel kickstarted its MCU with Iron Man, it followed up with a very popular character and made The Incredible Hulk. However, since this was at the genesis of the new Marvel venture, Disney did not own all the rights to the characters it planned to use. The Incredible Hulk was a joint venture between Marvel and Universal and that relationship soured. The real story is one tied up in legalities.
As Marvel showed, it can use Hulk well, as it did in both Avengers movies as well as Thor: Ragnarok, which adapted part of Planet Hulk in that film. However, Marvel is not making another solo-Hulk movie, and actor Mark Ruffalo said it is Universal’s fault because the studio doesn’t play nice with others. While Marvel has rights to the Hulk character, Universal holds the distribution rights to a Hulk movie and doesn’t appear to want to work with Marvel again.
5. JON FAVREAU VS. MARVEL
The MCU started with Iron Man, and Robert Downey Jr. became the face of the new Marvel movie world. As Tony Stark, Downey revitalized his career and led Marvel as arguably the most popular name in the ever-growing cast. However, as shocking as it may sound, the casting of Downey almost didn’t happen, and it was a huge behind-the-scenes fight for director Jon Favreau to cast his leading man.
In a radio interview in 2014, Favreau revealed that he wanted to cast Downey, but Marvel shot it down multiple times. Favreau said that the reason Marvel didn’t want the actor was the same reason he wanted to cast him. Downey had a very long public struggle with substance abuse problems and fought to regain his life – similar to the fictional struggles of Tony Stark. Favreau said he fought hard to cast Downey and delivered Marvel its biggest star.
4. MARVEL MOVIES VS. MARVEL TV
The battle between Kevin Feige and Ike Perlmutter started out in the world of Marvel movies, but once Disney drew a line in the sand and awarded Feige complete control of the MCU, a new war raged between the two. This battle concerns the Marvel television universe and its connection with the MCU. While Marvel television has referenced the movies, with mentions on the Netflix shows as well as occasional appearances by characters like Sif on ABC, Marvel movies seem to ignore everything about TV.
However, the battle between the two sides is not one-sided. Feige disrupted Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. by passing down demands on the show after Captain America: The Winter Soldier while Perlmutter’s insistence on Inhumans ended up causing Feige to cancel the movie and ABC took it on as a TV series instead. With two leaders who can’t work together, Marvel TV and the MCU may connect in theory, but it seems very far apart in execution.
3. MARVEL COMICS VS. FANTASTIC FOUR AND X-MEN
Marvel wanted to corral in all its characters once it realized the MCU was a huge moneymaker. Names like Thor and Captain America returned to the fold, and over time Daredevil, Ghost Rider, The Punisher and more came back home as well. Even Spider-Man, while still controlled by Sony, returned to Marvel for inclusion in the MCU. However, two franchises that remain out of reach for the company are the Fantastic Four and X-Men.
Fox holds control of both properties and Marvel is not happy. After a legal battle in 2001 over Mutant X and a massive fight in 2013 over the rights to Quicksilver, it was clear the two sides were waging war against each other. In 2014, the powers that be took it one step further, canceling the Fantastic Four comics and trying to turn Inhumans into the archetype of characters the X-Men represented. This war has no end in sight.
2. IDRIS ELBA VS. MARVEL
Not all behind-the-scenes battles are as bad as the press make them out to be. One of the wars that took place in the media concerned a comment by an actor taken out of context. Idris Elba stars in the MCU as Heimdall, the guardian of the Bifrost. While starring in Thor: The Dark World, he was called back in for reshoots, something he called “torture.”
Elba just filmed the award-nominated movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and said making that film and then returning to shoot scenes against a green screen was something he didn’t want to do. The actor said the reshoots ripped his heart out. Later, he said his comments were blown out of proportion. Elba had a considerable role in Thor: Ragnarok and said that movie was the first time he had fun working for Marvel. The actor also said he hoped for a more significant role down the line.
1. NATALIE PORTMAN VS. MARVEL
Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman took on the role of Jane Foster in the Thor franchise. However, after Thor: The Dark World, Portman’s character has been missing-in-action. This may not be a problem for many fans who considered Jane Foster a weak point in the Thor movies, but it was the result of a behind-the-scenes feud between Portman and the MCU.
Portman was a significant proponent of Marvel hiring Patty Jenkins to direct Thor: The Dark World. After Marvel shot down Jenkins’ idea for a Romeo and Juliet styled movie surrounding the relationship between Thor and Jane Foster, she left the project after reading the new script. Portman expressed her displeasure and reports indicated that Portman was “furious” when Marvel pushed Jenkins out. That film was the last time Marvel fans saw Jane Foster in an MCU movie.
Can you think of any other BTS MCU feuds? Let us know in the comments!
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