How Ian McKellen Inspired One Of The MCU's Most Beloved Characters

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has produced some unforgettable heroes in their shows and movies. However, they haven't always had the same success with their villains. For every Erik Killmonger, you had a Whiplash. When there's a Baron Zemo, there's also a Malekith the Accursed. And even though we got the Kingpin in "Daredevil," we also got the Kingpin in "Hawkeye." The House of Ideas is certainly aware of this problem and they have been doing their best to remedy it with varying degrees of success. But when it came to crafting the trickster god Loki for his jump from the pages of Marvel Comics to become the primary antagonist in "Thor" and "The Avengers," Marvel Studios told screenwriter Zack Stentz to look to one of the greatest actors of all time for some inspiration.

Glorious Purpose

During his appearance on The Fanboy Podcast, Stentz revealed that the studio brass were adamant that they needed Loki to be the biggest Big Bad that they could make him. And that's not to say that he just needed to be incredibly evil, but he had to be a complex and interesting character. That's why the team looked to the "X-Men" movies for probably the best example.

"It's a complicated issue because we had a very clear mandate when we were writing Thor. They already knew that they were building towards The Avengers and they already had the notion that Loki was going to be the villain. They knew that their villains thus far in the MCU had been a bit underwhelming, and they said — one of the executives literally said, 'Look, if you fail at everything else, give us a villain as good as Magneto in Loki.' We need someone at that level because that's going to be our villain for The Avengers.

We always put a lot of effort into our villains, but in this case we really worked hard giving Loki an interesting story and making him sympathetic at the same time as he's doing these terrible things."

I'd say that writers Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, and Don Payne, along with director Kenneth Branagh and the god himself Tom Hiddleston, succeeded in creating a memorable villain for "Thor" and beyond. They certainly understood the assignment.

Magneto Set the Bar

And obviously no disrespect to Alfred Molina or Willem Dafoe (who both not only shined in their original stints as Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, but in "Spider-Man: No Way Home" as well), but Ian McKellan's performance as Magneto set the bar for villains in comic book movie adaptations. Hell, Magneto is one of the best villains in all of storytelling, so it's not surprising that Marvel Studios would want someone like that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And in being inspired by Magneto, they elevated Loki to a level of fandom that not many could have predicted back in 2011.

Of course, now that Disney own Fox, the actual Magneto can make his MCU debut somewhere down the line. And thanks to the multiverse, maybe even Sir Ian himself will don the red cape and helmet once again. Then if that happens, what if we get to see him come face to face with Hiddleston's mischievous self-loving, time-traveling scamp? I'm not trying to get anyone's hopes up or anything like that, but could you just imagine that? Heart eyes emoji. Either way, we can thank Ian McKellan for making yet another amazing contribution to the world of entertainment (albeit a passive one this time around).