DARE­DEVIL

The Man With­out Fear is com­ing to a Net­flix near you soon.

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

For­get leap­ing from tall build­ings and pum­melling cigar­chomp­ing crim­i­nals. Char­lie Cox got a taste of just how danger­ous it can be to play a vig­i­lante su­per­hero dur­ing film­ing of an epic scrap on Marvel’s new Dare­devil TV show.

“I al­most broke my fin­ger!” the ac­tor laughs, chat­ting ami­ably to SFX in a cosy Lon­don ho­tel that’s roughly 3,500 miles away from New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. “I went to punch this guy and I smacked the pole right in front of him. I was too em­bar­rassed to tell any­one!”

Okay, so it’s not Bat­man’s Bane back-crack, but you can un­der­stand Cox want­ing to keep his in­jury on the down low given he’s the new Man With­out Fear. Shoul­der­ing the un­en­vi­able re­spon­si­bil­ity of re­boot­ing Dare­devil af­ter Ben Af­fleck’s di­vi­sive 2003 movie, Cox is also first out of the stalls as Marvel TV un­leashes a su­per- team’s worth of new he­roes on Net­flix. The on- de­mand ser­vice struck a deal in 2013 to pro­duce four 13- episode shows – in­di­vid­u­ally head­lined by ground- level he­roes Dare­devil, Jes­sica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist – that will even­tu­ally cli­max with the quar­tet bump­ing fists for minis­eries The De­fend­ers.

It’s a cross- me­dia mu­ta­tion of Marvel’s tried and true Avengers for­mula, this time putting the stu­dio’s more real- world- y he­roes up front and cen­tre, with a pro­jected team- up planned for some time in the near fu­ture. “That’s the plan,” Cox con­firms. “I re­mem­ber [ Marvel TV boss] Jeph Loeb telling me about when he was at the Avengers pre­miere in New York. As he was walk­ing in, he thought, ‘ Ten blocks from here, that’s where the De­fend­ers would be right now. Just hang­ing out. Street- level crime… That would be cool.’”

But we’re get­ting ahead of our­selves. While De­fend­ers will hap­pen even­tu­ally (“I can’t wait! I hope it’s sooner rather than later,” Cox en­thuses), all eyes are cur­rently on Dare­devil. Oveseen by An­gel, Smal­lville and Spar­ta­cus pro­ducer Steven S DeKnight, it’s be­ing touted as a grit­tier take on the Marvel uni­verse that cleaves to the sto­ries of comic greats Frank Miller and Brian Michael Bendis.

“It’s cer­tainly geared to­wards a slightly older au­di­ence,” Cox nods, bright- eyed on this in­ap­pro­pri­ately sunny March morn­ing, and clearly hav­ing the time of his life aboard the Marvel train. “Dare­devil seems to be more com­pelling when it’s got slightly more adult themes. When I think about the show, there’s some­thing very lonely about it; all of the char­ac­ters are lonely, ashamed or scared.”

If that sounds adult, it’s prob­a­bly be­cause it is. Early Dare­devil footage has pitched it as Marvel meets The Wire, which should please fans of Miller’s bru­tal, crime- saga ’ 80s comics, and there’s not a su­per­power in sight ( aside from our hero’s “radar” vi­sion). Orig­i­nally mas­ter­minded by Cabin In The

Woods direc­tor Drew God­dard, the show ret­cons Af­fleck’s out­ing and rein­tro­duces blind lawyer Matt Mur­dock as he goes up against real- life bad­dies in Hell’s Kitchen, New York – rather than, say, horny gods with du­bi­ous in­va­sion tac­tics. Though God­dard even­tu­ally de­parted Dare­devil to work on the up­com­ing new Spi­der- Man movie ( re­main­ing at­tached as the show’s con­sult­ing pro­ducer, with DeKnight now showrun­ner), his vi­sion for the se­ries stands. Think bru­tal. Think bloody. Think Alex Maleev pan­els brought to pitch- black life. “When I read the first few scripts, I thought, ‘ Th­ese are cool. It’s un­like any­thing I’ve seen Marvel do be­fore,’” Cox re­veals.

First au­di­tion­ing in March 2014, the 32- year- old ac­tor ad­mits he’s “not an ob­vi­ous choice for some­thing like Dare­devil”. Chatty and easy- go­ing, and still best- known for 2007 fan­tasy Star­dust and Board­walk Em­pire, he’s your typ­i­cal unas­sum­ing Brit. Be­neath his che­quered shirt, though, there’s a rip­ple of mus­cle that hints at the hard labour he en­dured to bring Dare­devil back to life.

LIM­BER­ING UP

Land­ing the role in May 2014, Cox had just one month to hit the gym and “read, read, read” be­fore cam­eras rolled in New York. On the comics front, he name- checks Miller’s cel­e­brated ’ 80s and ’ 90s runs – in­clud­ing The

Man With­out Fear – be­fore re­veal­ing: “I re­ally kind of set­tled in the 1998 era on­wards, the Bendis/ Maleev era. I felt like that suited the show I’d read. I read the scripts and I looked at those comics and thought, ‘ They seem to fit in nicely with each other.’”

Per­haps the big­gest sign that Cox was per­fect for the role of Dare­devil? He was un­afraid of sit­ting through the Af­fleck movie. “I’d heard so many dif­fer­ent things about it,” he says. “I hap­pen to think Ben Af­fleck did a won­der­ful job; he was a great Dare­devil. But it was very ev­i­dent as soon as I put it on that we were do­ing some­thing very, very dif­fer­ent.”

That couldn’t be more true. With 13 hours’ worth of TV to play with, the DeKnight/ Cox

Dare­devil is an at­mo­spheric slow- burner that cher­ryp­icks choice mo­ments from the comics while adding its own dark wrin­kles. Gone is the quippy devil of Karl Ke­sel and Joe Kelly’s guard ( even be­fore them, Dare­devil’s ’ 60s ad­ven­tures landed him the moniker “the sight­less swash­buck­ler”). This new

Dare­devil is a brood­ing saga that jour­neys with Mur­dock through the dark heart of Hell’s Kitchen as he es­tab­lishes him­self as both a lawyer and a hero. “This first se­ries is re­ally the evo­lu­tion of Matt to Dare­devil,” Cox re­veals. “It’s a much longer build and that’s one of the benefits we have of hav­ing all this time – and hope­fully fu­ture se­ries.”

Like all ori­gin sto­ries, it’s a rough ride, not least on the phys­i­cal side of things. While the comics have seen Dare­devil best­ing both Wolver­ine and the Pun­isher in battle, the show finds him em­broiled in even scuzzier scraps, in­clud­ing tack­ling a kid­nap­per’s den in breath­tak­ing Oldboy style for that scene in which Cox in­jured his fin­ger. “I love that stuff,” Cox says, shrug­ging off the in­jury. “For me, any of the phys­i­cal stuff they’ll let me do, I’ll do. The great thing about Dare­devil is, be­cause he doesn’t have any su­per- pow­ers, I was able to do quite a lot of it.”

Things are tougher still on the emo­tional side. Mur­dock makes plenty of mis­takes (“He takes things too far at times, and other times he makes the wrong de­ci­sion,” Cox says), and as he’s dragged fur­ther into the dark un­der­belly of Hell’s Kitchen, his only an­chors to the real world are co- work­ers Foggy ( Elden Hen­son) and Karen ( Deb­o­rah Ann Woll). “You can’t make a Dare­devil show with­out ei­ther of them,” Cox ac­knowl­edges, but if you think you know where those char­ac­ters are headed, think again. “The show is not a fore­gone con­clu­sion,” the ac­tor teases, “and I’m re­ally ex­cited for that.”

Fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing Mur­dock’s life is crime boss Wil­son Fisk, aka King­pin. In­tro­duced in Miller’s comics as Dare­devil’s arch en­emy ( though he orig­i­nally turned up in early

Spi­der- Man sto­ries), Vin­cent D’Onofrio plays him with cold- eyed men­ace in the se­ries, some­how chan­nelling both Tony So­prano and Han­ni­bal Lecter. And while his game plan re­mains murky at best, it’s rea­son­able to as­sume he’s go­ing to be a con­sid­er­able thorn in Dare­devil’s side.

“It wasn’t dif­fi­cult to be in­tim­i­dated by him!” Cox laughs. “There’s a few char­ac­ters in cinema his­tory who have re­ally ter­ri­fied me: Sir Ben Kings­ley in Sexy Beast or Beg­bie in

Trainspot­ting. I think King­pin may be added to that list when you see the show.”

DRESSED TO THRILL

Which brings us per­haps the most im­por­tant part of the se­ries: Dare­devil’s iconic suit. In early episodes, Mur­dock wears the black get- up comic fans will recog­nise from Miller’s Man With­out Fear. While Cox is keep­ing sh­tum about what the fi­nal

Dare­devil cos­tume looks like, he does re­veal that the show took in­spi­ra­tion from Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight tril­ogy when it came to un­pack­ing just why a regular guy de­cides to dress up to fight crime.

“There’s a prac­ti­cal el­e­ment to it, there’s a rea­son for it,” Cox says. “He gets hurt and he has to get ex­tra pad­ding and all that kind of stuff. They found a bal­ance be­tween pay­ing rev­er­ence to the suit, and hav­ing the iconic suit that you need, but also tack­ling the func­tion­al­ity and the rea­son be­hind it. Why it looks the way it does, why it’s made the way it is. And the rea­son some­one chooses to wear a su­per­hero suit, what is that rea­son? We dis­cussed that. It’s very rarely dis­cussed, and it’s great.”

It’s clear that DeKnight and Cox have great am­bi­tions for their Dare­devil. And with the horned one back in the Marvel fold af­ter Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Fox’s rights to the char­ac­ter ex­pired back in Oc­to­ber 2012, there’s also the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­pand­ing be­yond the small screen. Be­cause, yes, this Dare­devil is 100% com­pat­i­ble with the Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse.

“Marvel are in­cred­i­bly par­tic­u­lar about that,” Cox says. “There’s a guy on set whose job is to be the eyes and ears of Marvel. The fans love this in­ter­wo­ven uni­verse. There are comics where Dare­devil and Spi­der- Man are mates, or Dare­devil gets with the De­fend­ers – and then there are comics that are just about Dare­devil, which is closer to what our show is for now. But there are Easter Eggs, and that’s ex­cit­ing!” Cue scenes in which

Dare­devil’s an­tag­o­nists dis­cuss cap­i­tal­is­ing on the de­struc­tion wrought on the Big Ap­ple in

Avengers As­sem­ble. “What a great idea!” Cox en­thuses. “No­body ever thinks about that. That’s a very so­phis­ti­cated thought to have.”

So while an­other sea­son for the horned avenger won’t be con­sid­ered un­til Net­flix cranks the num­bers on the first, there’s al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity of Dare­devil even­tu­ally join­ing the Avengers on the big screen. “I would love that!” Cox grins. “No one has had any con­ver­sa­tion with me about that, so I’d hate to pre­sume, but that would be a great priv­i­lege and joy. I mean, it’d be fuck­ing cool!”

Ex­pect the se­ries to start off in the man­ner of a gritty crime drama.

Char­lie Cox stars as the blind lawyer with the lively brief.

You don’t be­come a crime­fight­ing su­per­hero with­out a bit of train­ing…

Rosario Daw­son co- stars as Claire Tem­ple, a char­ac­ter from ’ 70s Luke Cage comics.

Dare­devil is on Net­flix from 10 April.

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