Jonathan Schwartz

You probably don’t know Jonathan Schwartz, and while walking the set of a Marvel movie, you might not even notice the smart guy with glasses in the corner. But he’s one of the architects of the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Just as Marvel Studios mastermind Kevin Feige started as the assistant to X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner, Schwartz began his career as the assistant to Feige on Iron Man 2. He quickly proved himself valuable and worked his way up the ladder to the producer of Guardians of the Galaxy, executive producer of the sequel, and now Captain Marvel is his baby. Talking with Schwartz, it’s quickly obvious that he’s the smartest guy in the room and he has inherited a bit of Feige’s playful tease.

While visiting the set of Captain Marvel, we talked with Schwartz for almost 50 minutes, and our conversation touches on just about everything. If you’re looking to learn a bunch about the making of Captain Marvel, this is the interview to read.

Note: This interview was conducted in a roundtable format with other assembled journalists.

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Schwartz: This movie is different structurally from our other origin stories, which is something we were consciously trying to execute. The movie starts with the Captain Marvel character already in outer space, already having superpowers and already fighting on the side of the Kree in the Kree Skrull war. You get a glimpse of her squad there, star force, led by the Jude Law character. Very quickly along this journey they get dispatched on a mission to an alien planet to fight the skrulls and over the course of that mission, Brie Larson’s character is captured by the Skrulls and then over the course of that adventure she finds herself on Earth, crashing through the roof of a Blockbuster video because it’s the ’90s. And that puts her in contact with the younger, two eyed version of Agent Fury and the two of them together have to stop the skrull plot on Earth. And at the same time get to the root of Carol’s past. So that’s the bones of the movie. I’m sure you have a lot of questions

Question: What’s the difference between the green and red costumes?

Schwartz: It’s not a spoiler to tell you the blue, gold and red costume is going to be in the movie. The green costume is more of the kree colors, kree star force colors, but over the course of the movie that costume will go through at bit of an evolution.

Question: Is there a plot reason?

Schwartz: There definitely will be.

Question: What can we expect as far whats set in space versus Earth?

Schwartz: In terms of Earth versus Space. It’s more or less 50 50. The movie starts in space gets to Earth relatively quickly and it goes back to space for kind of some of the third act. So it’s kind of space Earth space. There is a big Earth plot that ends up tying into a lot of our more cosmic goings on.

Question: Are the scenes at the air force base before she gets into space?

Schwartz: Yes. So that’s kind of Carol’s past as an Air Force pilot which takes place before she starts fighting for the Kree and before she gets into outer space.

Question: But that’s act two of the movie?

Schwartz: Yeah I mean it comes after the space stuff. You know one of the challenges with subverting that Origin structure is you’ve still got to find a way to let the audience understand who that character is and there are some creative ways over the course of this movie where we’re able to get that part of Carol’s story across.

Question: Is it linear?

Schwartz: It is and it isn’t. I don’t want to get into that too much because there are a few cool surprises along the way. But yes and no. Sorry.

Question: Obviously setting in the 90s answers the question where she’s been the whole time. When did that decision get made and how did the decision get made of setting the movie before Iron Man 1.

Schwartz: Funny, really honest, I don’t know exactly when. Very early in the development process I think we kind of seized on the idea of setting in the 90s as a way to kind of let the character carve out her own space in the cinematic universe and give her a lot of thematic weight and significance to the universe. It’s more or less this adventure that’s going to inspire a lot of what we see in MCU and kind of being able to see those things in this movie that blossom in other movies and already have blossomed in other movies is one of the big excitements. And then also just the idea of the 90s as a period which is something I don’t think we’ve been able to explore a lot of, it’s far enough in the rearview mirror that it was ‘Oh yeah, the 90s. I have memories of that era.’ But I haven’t seen it represented a lot on film. So being able to play in that sandbox is exciting and do things like recreate a blockbuster which was super fun to walk through and made me miss physical media in a way I didn’t expect.

Question: Will the questions surrounding the beeper at the end of Infinity War, like why did Nick Fury use it then, where has she been, etc, be answered here or later?

Schwartz: I think it’s a combination of things. I think we will. Understand over the course of these movies why Fury makes the decisions that he does. He’s always a mysterious guy and he always has his own reasons but hopefully, we can clarify some of that for the audience.

Question: Was there anything in the comic source material that was essential to this movie?

Schwartz: Yeah you know there’s a run of comics by Kelly Sue DeConnick that really gets to the core of the character in a way that we thought really made us want to translate it to the screen. She really understood Carol and really made her modern and vibrant and cool in a way that she wasn’t always written as. Sorry. That wasn’t the great quote of all time. And a lot of great artists working with Kelly at that time. Dexter Soy is great and Jamie McKelvie was amazing and it just sort of represented a vision of the character that we thought would translate to screen really easily. And Kelly’s actually been working with us on the movie and has been very helpful and consulted with us and shot a cameo the other day which hopefully you guys can all pick out. But she kind of had a vision for Caroll that leaned into her Air Force roots in a really cool way and leaned into the power of a character in the inspirational nature kind of at the core of Carol that we thought was super cool.

Question: Are there specific issues we should look at?

Schwartz: Everything Kelly Sue did was great. Some of that’s based on Earth some of that’s based in space. It’s all amazing. I’d say it’s much more useful as a reference for the character than for plot specifics which isn’t uncommon in these movies. Sometimes We go and say we’re going to make a movie about Civil War even though that’s a little bit of an adaptation of that storyline as well. Sometimes it’s this group of characters called the Guardians of Galaxy seems cool let’s put them on their adventure and sometimes it’s this is what’s cool about this character, there’s this issue this issue this issue and that all kind of becomes the grist for the mill filmmaking.

Question: What percentage of this is a Nick Fury origin story?

Schwartz: There’s a Nick Fury origin story in there. The movie is definitely called Captain Marvel. It becomes a two-hander for parts of it. So. We sort of wanted to give the audience that kind of young Nick Fury origin story as you put it and it’s all there. Hopefully in a way that compliments Carol’s adventure too.

Question: Can you talk about her specific powers as compared to what we saw in the comics.

Schwartz: Yes. By The end of this movie we’ll have seen the full run of power’s out of Carol. So that’s flight and strength and photon blasts. You know I think part of what made us excited about the character was that she was such a powerful character in the comic books and one of the most if not the most powerful character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and seeing all that brought to bear is one of the big pleasures of the movie.

Question: Will we see the binary part of Carol.

Schwartz: Yes. For sure. And also one of the things we love from the comics was that mohawk look that pops up in that run a little bit.

Question: Marvel loves to make their stories different genres. What genre is this besides a period film?

Schwartz: It feels weird calling it a genre but the genres is a 90s action movie. Like if you think about movies like Robocop or Total Recall or Terminator 2 or Independence Day I think there are common action movie threads you can tease through those movies which are what we’re trying to pick up on in this movie.

Question: You mention blockbusters, are there more 90s nostalgia things?

Schwartz: I’m hoping we can find some 90s music to pepper in [I saw a NIN shirt] Yeah the Nine Inch Nails shirt was a cool one. I don’t know if you guys saw the Rock the Vote posters but they’re up there. Part of the fun of the movie is finding those little touches that we can tickle the nostalgia bone with.

Question: Will it have more of a soundtrack than a score?

Schwartz: I think it’s going to be a mix of both. I don’t think it’s going to be an awesome mix CD number one but I think it will be fun to try to find those moments where the 90s music sets off. [I have a request for Janet Jacket] Yep if anyone has requests. This page just has spin doctors all the way down.

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