Easter Eggs, Surprise Cameos And A Punisher Hint: Our Interview With Marvel Studios' Drew Pearce

Like just about everything else that Marvel Studios has been doing for the last six years, from features to television, the series of short films known as Marvel One Shots have really been growing. The first one, titled The Consultant and released with Kenneth Branagh’s Thor on Blu-ray, was simply a conversation between S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández) cut together with footage from Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, but now the studio is making nearly 15-minute pieces complete with action sequences and known actors. And the latest, All Hail The King, is the biggest Marvel One Shot yet.

Both written and directed by Drew Pearce, who co-wrote Iron Man 3 with Shane Black, the new short film catches up with Trevor Slattery (Sir Ben Kingsley), the drug addicted British actor who pretended to be the terrorist leader known as The Mandarin. While he has found himself in prison due to his criminal dealings, he is living life as a celebrity inmate and has even attracted the attention of a young documentarian (Scoot McNairy) who wants to make a film about Trevor and get to know the man behind the mask. Just like the events in the last Iron Man sequel, however, things are not always as they seem.

I recently had the chance to talk with Pearce over the phone about all the work he has been doing for Marvel over the last few years, and with All Hail The King arriving with Thor: The Dark World on Blu-ray today, there’s no better time than the present. What other One Shots were being considered before Trevor’s story got the green light? How does the short change the Marvel Cinematic Universe? What’s the story behind the surprise end credits sequence? Read on to find out!

WARNING: While the first three entries in this list are spoiler free, the last two have some details you may not want to know before seeing All Hail The King for yourself. There will be another warning on the page before the spoilers start.

Crossbones Jessica Jones

There were ideas for Crossbones and Jessica Jones One Shots before All Hail The King came together

One of the reasons why it’s so hard to predict the next move by Marvel Studios is because the studio has so many heroes, villains story options to choose from – and that goes for Marvel One Shots in addition to the feature films. In the past few years we’ve seen shorts based around Agent Coulson, a pair of small-time criminals taking advantage of Chitauri technology, Agent Carter and now Sir Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery, but at one point Marvel was also considering stories about two major characters from the comics.

While figuring out what he wanted to do for his entry in the Marvel One Shot series and sending pitches to producers Louis D’Esposito and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, Pearce tried to get projects rolling on multiple characters, including Captain America villain Crossbones and superhero-turned-private eye Jessica Jones. Unfortunately, none of these ideas really managed to stick. "It’s often easier with the One Shots to, just on a practical level, take a character who’s already appeared in the universe and visualize what the short is going to be with them," the writer/director explained in our interview. "I guess I would agree, it’s a slightly less risky proposition too."

Marvel not moving forward with those pitches has delayed Crossbones and Jessica Jones’ opportunities in live-action, but the studio does have some very big upcoming plans for them. The former will be played by Frank Grillo in Joe and Anthony Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which will be out on April 4th, and the latter will be getting her own series on Netflix that will eventually see her teaming with Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist as part of The Defenders.

All Hail The King Easter Eggs

Take a close look at the names on the prison cells at the beginning

From the Wakanda reference in Iron Man 2 to the android Human Torch in Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel Studios has always been big on including little Easter Eggs in their projects, and All Hail The King is no different. As we’ve discussed previously, the new One Shot is set in the same prison where Luke Cage undergoes medical treatments to become a superhero, but there’s a lot more to find if you know where to look.

During our interview, I asked Pearce if he could point me in the direction of any cool hidden material in All Hail The King that fans might miss their first time watching the short, and while the filmmaker was a bit cryptic in his response I did find two things he hinted at. Pearce not only recommended that viewers look closely at the various prisoners we see in Seagate, but also to pay particular attention to the names featured on top of the prison cells (click the images to see them in high-res):

Maggia All Hail The King

Maggia All Hail The King

While the hint is a bit esoteric and required a bit of digging, I discovered that Guido Carboni and Luis Allegre are both members of the infamous Maggia crime syndicate in the Marvel Universe. Carboni is tough mob boss, but Allegre is an interesting addition as he is a member of the Costa Family – the same crime family that killed Frank Castle’s family and turned him into The Punisher.

Drew Pearce

Shane Black and Drew Pearce underestimated the Iron Man 3 twist reaction

When Iron Man 3 was released last May it created a divide in the Marvel fanbase due to the film’s massive twist. Some movie-goers, like myself, absolutely loved the unexpected reveal that "The Mandarin" was just a drugged up British actor named Trevor Slattery, but others were upset that the movie’s version of the character wasn’t exactly what had been in the comics. It was an interesting controversy that presented an interesting subject for debate – do comic book movies have to be exactly like the comics they’re based on? – but perhaps the weirdest thing about the whole situation is that co-writers Pearce and Shane Black didn’t anticipate it at all.

"I think both Shane and I were a bit naive about how people would react to the Mandarin," Pearce told me when I asked about his reaction to the controversy now that the dust has settled. "We were more worried about whether creatively we could pull that twist off on screen than we were about the reaction of people obsessed with the authenticity of a character in regards to the cannon. When that happened I was surprised, but I was also really pleased with and proud of the fact that the Trevor reveal was playing really hard in theaters. We got around and saw audiences embracing it, but also that it was the vessel through which we smuggled a little political satire."

By continuing Trevor’s arc in All Hail The King we learn more about the character’s back-story and it adds a very interesting layer to everything we’ve seen in the Iron Man movies thus far. But don’t start thinking that the short is some kind of creative back peddling.


Drew Pearce 2

All Hail The King isn’t apologizing for the Iron Man 3 twist in any way

By the end of All Hail The King we have learned that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe there is a real terrorist leader known as The Mandarin who has been working covertly with the Ten Rings to commit violent acts all around the world. While this reveal does rewrite some readings of the events in Iron Man 3, you can be sure that it’s not being done because some reactions to the twist were negative. Instead, this bigger idea was always what was going on in Pearce and Black’s minds when writing the second sequel in the Iron Man series.

Working things out logically, the filmmakers understood that assuming Aldrich Killian was behind the Ten Rings acts in Iron Man and Iron Man 2 were a bit of a stretch, so they always held the idea that there was a real Mandarin hiding somewhere in the shadows. "It was always the case that Killian had co-opted the iconography of an existing religion/terrorist group," Pearce explained. "Ultimately one that he, I suspect, thought was dormant, but obviously it turns out that maybe that’s not the case.

"We always felt that existed and this was just a way of continuing that story," he continued. "I think it’d be a waste not to have them, but what I also want to make sure is that, in the nicest possible terms, people know that I’m not in any way apologizing for the twists in Iron Man 3, because I think it made a strong point in and of itself."

Justin Hammer All Hail The King

Bringing Justin Hammer back was a "fucking nightmare"

Cool as the movie’s Easter Eggs are, they don’t hold a candle to the film’s biggest surprise: the return of Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer, who hasn’t appeared since Iron Man 2. The character comes back in the end credits of All Hail The King, and is evidently still quite pissed about how Pepper Potts got him arrested and sent to prison. It’s a perfect little moment that caps the One Shot off perfectly – but according to Pearce it was a "fucking nightmare" to work out all of the logistics.

While having Justin Hammer appear in the short was something that Pearce had hoped to include from the very early stages of the project, he didn’t get the greenlight on the idea until the project was in post-production and the higher-ups at Marvel liked what they saw. Given a small amount of extra money to work with, the director got in contact with Rockwell, but ran into a bit of a crisis. The actor was totally game to participate, but was right in the middle of shooting the Poltergeist remake, which has him in just about every scene. The only option Pearce had was to fly up to Toronto where Rockwell was shooting and film for an hour during a lunch break.

"All I could afford was a facilities house in downtown Toronto, with a wall of their cupboards painted the same colors as the prison that we filmed in in Los Angeles," Pearce said. "I flew up on a red eye with a bunch of new jokes I’d written in the airport, in my hand, and walked straight up and Sam came along and it was just that day and it was just genius. The guy is a machine, and it ended up with me sitting off camera just throwing stuff to him and him running with it. It was brilliant. It was everything you’d hope for in that experience. Then I got on a plane, came back home and dropped it. That’s why there are essentially two tags, because I just thought, ‘If I’m not going to sleep for essentially 36 hours, I’m going to make it worth it. I’m going to shoot the shit out of a brilliant actor like Sam Rockwell.’ That’s how it happened. Nothing is ever easy if it’s worthwhile."

All Hail The King is a special feature on the Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray, which is in stores now

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.