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Moon Knight Cinematographers Talk The Hulk-Like Way Khonshu Scenes Were Filmed, And How The Show Stands Out Visually Within The MCU

Just like in the comics, Oscar Isaac’s Marc Spector became Moon Knight when he was saved from death by the Egyptian god Khonshu, voiced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by F. Murray Abraham. Khonshu selected Marc to be his new avatar to wage war on injustice, and up until the episode “The Friendly Type” of the Moon Knight series (which can be watched with a Disney+ subscription), Marc was frequently visited by visions of the deity that only he could see. It goes without saying that Khonshu is realized in this series through CGI, but the process of shooting the character’s scenes during production was done in a similar manner to what’s done with Hulk, albeit certain steps also being taken that help Moon Knight stand out visually within the MCU.

During my interviews with Moon Knight cinematographers Andrew Droz Palermo and Gregory Middleton, I asked each of them what the logistics were like of shooting Khonshu’s scenes, particularly when it came to the character’s massive height. Palmero (who shot “Summon the Suit” and “The Tomb”) explained the process thusly:

So we had a deck that he could stand on, we had an actor on set who was in a full costume, and he had a big staff. He would stand on a platform that was whatever height Khonshu. So I think it was maybe a three-foot platform. So at least Oscar had something to look at, and I could also begin to frame. And we also had a really big Khonshu head, that was a big 3D-printed head of the bird, and it was on a pole. We’d set it on the ground and it’d be whatever height he was, I think he was seven-and-a-half feet or something. So certainly for close-ups of his head or space, that was really helpful because you have it in your mind a conception of where his face might be, but you don’t until he’s actually there, then you realize ‘Oh wow, he’s way up there’ or ‘Oh, I need to frame wider to include his beak.’ And those ultimately were references all for VFX later.

Even with Khonshu being a CGI creation, Oscar Isaac needed a frame of reference to work with while performing, and he certainly got plenty of that with the actor opposite him Khonshu head attached to the pole and standing on that large platform. Along with properly representing the character's height, having the Khonshu head also aided Andrew Droz Palermo, Gregory Middleton and the crew with accounting for how much space would be needed on the screen to show off his bony beak in Moon Knight, as opposed to if the Khonshu actor had just been wearing a standard green-screen outfit.

Speaking of the actor who portrayed Khonshu on-set, Gregory Middleton shed a little extra light on him in our conversation, as well gave his own account about why it was necessary to have someone standing in for the character rather than simply leave that space empty, necessitating the Moon Knight team to pull a page from Hulk’s book. In his words:

We had a fellow named Karim [El Hakim] who was a friend of Mohammed’s who played Khonshu on set. He’s a tall guy, and he was in a proper costume that Meghan [Kasperlik], our costume designer, would put on him, which is a good enough reference for Khonshu, which is good for VFX. And also, then he’s a character on the set, so we have someone that can act with Oscar, which is very helpful. And he would wear a pole with a little stick at the top which is where his eyes would be, the Hulk is done in a similar way. We’d do that, we’d block the scene with Karim, sometimes take him out for one pass to make sure we could use him as a reference, but it would allow the directors and everyone else and Oscar to figure out the scene with a real person there. Because if you’re gonna do a scene with an animated character and there’s no one there to act to, it’s difficult. You’re imagining what they’re gonna do, but you want to have that discussion with the actors and the directors; ‘You know, I think Khonshu’s gonna turn his back now.’ And then you can play the scene naturally. Ideally then when we replace him with a visual effect, it should still feel like a real performance and like a real character, because the scene has been worked out that way.

The MCU’s Khonshu shares his comic book counterpart’s mission of waging a war against injustice in the world, although in the MCU continuity, Ethan Hawke’s Arthur Harrow served as the god’s avatar prior to Marc Spector. However, his methods aren’t looked kindly upon by the other Egyptian deities, and after he turned back the night sky in “The Friendly Type” so that Marc and May Calamawy’s Layla El-Faouly could find Ammit’s tomb, Khonshu was imprisoned in an ushabti. Now Marc can no longer access his Moon Knight abilities (which come in handy with fighting giant jackal creatures), putting him at a severe disadvantage with trying to prevent Harrow from resurrecting Ammit. “The Tomb” and the “Asylum” heaped even more trouble on Marc’s proverbial plate, but you can watch those episodes for yourself to see what unfolded.

The Moon Knight finale (it remains to be seen whether it’s a season or series end) drops this Wednesday, May 3, and Oscar Isaac has already revealed where the final battle will take place. Keep checking in with CinemaBlend for continuing coverage on the series and other Marvel TV shows.

Adam Holmes
Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.