Total Film

Olsen/Bet­tany talk telly.

It’s the twist no one saw com­ing – turn­ing the MCU into a sit­com and ask­ing Dick Van Dyke to help tell Marvel’s most am­bi­tious story to date. The cast and crew of Wan­daVi­sion tell us what to ex­pect from Phase 4’s new chap­ter…

- WORDS PAUL BRAD­SHAW

Wan­daVi­sion is not an easy show to ex­plain – even for the peo­ple who made it. We know it picks up right where Avengers: Endgame left off, and we know it’s about Wanda Max­i­moff and Vi­sion liv­ing out a life to­gether in the sub­urbs, but we also know it’s styled as a clas­sic sit­com, and that whop­ping big bits of the MCU oc­ca­sion­ally crash into each episode. We also know, of course, that Vi­sion is dead…

“You have to un­der­stand, I thought I was get­ting fired!” laughs Paul Bet­tany. “I can’t re­mem­ber the pitch be­cause the mo­ment I re­alised I wasn’t get­ting fired they were telling me this story and I kind of switched off, think­ing, ‘I can keep the kids in school!’”

Writ­ten as a com­edy love let­ter to the his­tory of tele­vi­sion and a bold new en­try into the Phase 4 time­line, Wan­daVi­sion marks Marvel Stu­dios’ first TV se­ries as well as their bravest and most am­bi­tious ven­ture to date.

“I think it will make every­body look at the Marvel Cine­matic Uni­verse in a whole new way,” says Bet­tany. “Marvel has al­ways taken big swings… But we’re a re­ally big swing. There are more VFX shots in Wan­daVi­sion than we had in Endgame. That’s a big ask.”

Shar­ing a Zoom call with co-star El­iz­a­beth Olsen, Bet­tany seems giddy with ex­cite­ment to talk about the show, even if he is strug­gling to ex­plain what’s ac­tu­ally go­ing on (partly be­cause he’s not al­lowed to, partly be­cause it re­ally is as odd as it sounds). Speak­ing to To­tal Film af­ter the first cryptic trailer stirred the fan­base into a frenzy, the pair ad­mit that the idea of mov­ing the MCU to TV didn’t al­ways sit quite so com­fort­ably.

“We’ve been the emo­tional through­lines in the films,” ad­mits Olsen. “So there’s a lit­tle bit of nerves about how you bring that to tele­vi­sion. But I also feel like this is the first time you re­ally get to see Wanda in a three-di­men­sional way. I feel like it’s only made these char­ac­ters deeper and more in­ter­est­ing.”

Cre­ated by Jac Scha­ef­fer (writer of Cap­tain Marvel and Black Widow) and based on an idea that Kevin Feige had for fill­ing the gaps be­tween Phases 3 and 4, Wan­daVi­sion puts Max­i­moff in a new re­al­ity drawn from clas­sic sit­coms like

I Love Lucy, Be­witched and The Dick Van Dyke Show. As the se­ries pro­gresses, so does the his­tory of TV com­edy, mov­ing the story through the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s into the Mod­ern Fam­ily and Of­fice era. Re­cruit­ing for­mer sit­com star and cur­rent sit­com di­rec­tor Matt Shak­man to helm the se­ries, Marvel put its most valu­able prop­erty in the hands of the guy best known for mak­ing 47 episodes of It’s Al­ways Sunny In Philadel­phia…

“My mind ex­ploded!” laughs Shak­man, re­mem­ber­ing the mo­ment he found out ex­actly what he’d signed up for. Know­ing that a large part of the show was go­ing to pull in­flu­ences from vin­tage TV, and want­ing to pay homage to his­tory with­out slip­ping into par­ody, Shak­man’s first move was to set up an in­ter­view with sit­com leg­end Dick Van Dyke.

“We had lunch at Dis­ney­land, which is ex­actly where you want to have lunch with Dick Van Dyke,” he laughs. “His rule was, if it didn’t hap­pen in real life, it couldn’t hap­pen on The Dick Van Dyke Show. The stakes were real, so he could play with the com­edy around it – and I wanted the same thing for Wan­daVi­sion. It had to al­ways feel true and grounded.”

Film­ing on the same back­lot that once housed The Par­tridge Fam­ily, Be­witched and I Dream Of Jean­nie, Shak­man needed Wan­daVi­sion to feel as au­then­tic as pos­si­ble. “We used vin­tage lenses and light­ing for each decade,” he ex­plains. “Ev­ery cos­tume was hand­crafted, of­ten with vin­tage fab­rics, and the crew all wore pe­riod out­fits on set. We even put the ac­tors through a sit­com bootcamp for a cou­ple of weeks.”

“‘Bootcamp’ makes it sound a lot harder than it ac­tu­ally was,” says Bet­tany. “We ba­si­cally just sat in a room and watched a load of TV…”

They’re still gig­gling about their favourite dress-up mo­ments (Olsen be­ing “re­ally preg­gers” in her ’70s out­fits; Bet­tany over-egging a Brady Bunch-style open­ing mon­tage), but the stand­out mo­ment for ev­ery­one came early on when Shak­man de­cided to film the pi­lot episode in front of a live stu­dio au­di­ence. This in­cluded live line-read­ings, live ef­fects, and live re­ac­tions from a bewil­dered crowd who watched Scar­let Witch and Vi­sion do­ing com­edy as a ’50s sub­ur­ban mar­ried cou­ple.

“We were very lucky be­cause the au­di­ence was a big bunch of Marvel fans,” says Olsen. “Any­thing we were go­ing to do they were go­ing to get a kick out of! Also, ev­ery­thing we did for ev­ery decade was hon­est to that decade’s abil­i­ties, in­clud­ing the spe­cial ef­fects, so it was just such a joy to have ev­ery­thing on a string in­stead of it be­ing CGI. I think the au­di­ence got a real kick out of all the lo-fi stuff.”

Told to amp up their act­ing, Bet­tany and Olsen threw them­selves into the com­edy as hard as pos­si­ble, ham­ming up ev­ery line, play­ing to the gallery and maybe even at­tempt­ing a few cheeky nods to Only Fools And Horses (“I’m not go­ing to give them away, but there are a cou­ple of peo­ple that I clearly robbed blind!” smiles Bet­tany).

It’s al­most as if they didn’t just fin­ish fight­ing a multi-bil­lion-dol­lar block­buster bat­tle to save half the pop­u­la­tion of the uni­verse… As much as Wanda Vi­sion plays like a sit­com, it’s also a triple-A ac­tion story about two Avengers deal­ing with the af­ter­math of Endgame, ev­ery­thing that came be­fore, and ev­ery­thing that’s start­ing to build back up again for Phase 4.

“Law & Or­der this is not,” laughs Shak­man. “This was not six months of shoot­ing peo­ple walk­ing down the same hall­way. Kevin was re­ally clear from the be­gin­ning that this show would be very dif­fer­ent but it would also be as Marvel as any­thing else they’d ever made – in­clud­ing some of the big­gest set pieces they’ve ever done.”

Edg­ing closer to the big-screen re­al­ity that we’re more fa­mil­iar with as the se­ries con­tin­ues, Wanda Vi­sion will even­tu­ally fit com­fort­ably along­side the other Marvel movies once the full puz­zle box has been opened.

“You’re never told to rein any­thing in at Marvel!” says Scha­ef­fer, who serves as showrun­ner and head writer. “I came from in­de­pen­dent cin­ema where you had to jus­tify hav­ing a box of donuts in the shot… On Wanda Vi­sion, it’s not en­tirely ‘the sky’s the limit’, it all needs to be earned, but I was al­ways pushed to have it be as imag­i­na­tive and amaz­ing as pos­si­ble.”

Key to un­der­stand­ing the show’s big­ger con­nec­tion to the MCU is the char­ac­ter of Wanda her­self. The se­ries bor­rows from comic sto­ry­lines in­clud­ing The Vi­sion (2015), Witches’ Road (Scar­let Witch Vol 2 #3, 2016) and House Of M (2005), but they’re re­drawn to take her into a wholly un­ex­pected new direc­tion.

“It was ex­tremely im­por­tant to me that we not do the lazy thing of hav­ing a su­per­pow­ered lady who can’t han­dle her pow­ers and goes crazy,” says Scha­ef­fer. “It was all about be­ing as au­then­tic as we could with her.”

Adds Shak­man, “We’re telling the story of Wanda be­com­ing the comic­book char­ac­ter that most of us have heard about. One of the things that makes her such an in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter is that she’s suf­fered more than any­one else. She’s lost her par­ents, she’s lost her brother and she’s lost Vi­sion. This story ex­plores grief, and how we heal.”

For the show’s two stars, Wanda Vi­sion was also an op­por­tu­nity to develop the char­ac­ters they’d been liv­ing with over six years and five films. Un­til now, they were un­able to step com­pletely out of the shad­ows of the other Avengers. “Lizzie and I found our own lane in those movies,” says Bet­tany. “But those movies have so many char­ac­ters that every­body only has a small amount of screen time to tell their story. Our story was the emo­tional bleed­ing heart of it all, and I love that, but it’s been won­der­ful to have time to re­ally re­lax into it. This whole show is about us – and that does feel dif­fer­ent. Ev­ery episode, the fans will be able to peel back more layers.”

Ex­actly what’s go­ing to be left once those layers have been peeled is any­one’s guess, es­pe­cially when we’re talk­ing about the end of a block­buster com­edy sit­com su­per­hero se­ries that spans decades, al­ters re­al­ity and weaves its main threads back into movies that haven’t even been made yet. Will we get more Wanda Vi­sion? Is Scar­let Witch be­ing teed up to take a big­ger role in the MCU? Is Vi­sion com­ing back?

“You never know,” smiles Bet­tany, with a shrug. “The truth is, life is curly. You think you’re gonna get fired and then they give you a great big TV show in­stead.”

WANDA VI­SION STREAMS ON DIS­NEY+ FROM 15 JAN­UARY 2021.

‘I WAS AL­WAYS PUSHED TO HAVE IT BE AS IMAG­I­NA­TIVE AND AMAZ­ING AS POS­SI­BLE’ JAC SCHA­EF­FER

 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? BE­WITCHED
Of course, house­work’s al­ways eas­ier with su­per­pow­ers… (above).
BE­WITCHED Of course, house­work’s al­ways eas­ier with su­per­pow­ers… (above).
 ??  ?? HOUSE & HOME
Matt Shak­man di­rects El­iz­a­beth Olsen and Paul Bet­tany on set (left).
HOUSE & HOME Matt Shak­man di­rects El­iz­a­beth Olsen and Paul Bet­tany on set (left).
 ??  ?? HOWDIE!
Kathryn Hahn plays neigh­bour Agnes. (top).
HOWDIE! Kathryn Hahn plays neigh­bour Agnes. (top).
 ??  ?? READY SET COOK
Ev­ery ’50s wife needs her recipe cards (be­low).
READY SET COOK Ev­ery ’50s wife needs her recipe cards (be­low).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia