It’s been a thrill watching Marvel push the boundaries of what exactly constitutes a comic book movie. Guardians of the Galaxy was described as a space opera, Captain America 2 a political thriller and the forthcoming Ant-Man a heist pic. But there’s one thing Marvel won’t do to make themselves edgier and that’s decapitate one of its characters in front of entire audiences. One Marvel mainstay in Guardians was originally supposed to meet this fate, but that’s when James Gunn and his team realized that just might not be the right move. It’s certainly not the Disney way.
The character in question is Mr. Stan "The Man" Lee, who made a cameo appearance. We see him in Guardians of the Galaxy as an interstellar Hugh Hefner, mackin’ on all the lovely space ladies when Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon gets him in his sights. Speaking with the podcast The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith, Gunn revealed a much more different and dark plan for the father of Marvel heroes.
Lee was originally going to be unveiled in one of The Collector’s glass chambers when Star-Lord and the Guardians first bring the Infinity Stone to him in Nowhere. It was there that Gunn had planned to detonate his box, presumably in the blast from the stone. As he told the podcast:
Kevin thought it was a little bit too jokey. And then also we very clearly saw Stan Lee’s box exploding, when the thing explodes. And I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if Stan Lee’s…these are the kind of ideas that I would come up with and Marvel would say I think that’s super James Gunn…but Stan Lee’s head is rolling into frame.’ And anyway, so we didn’t do that.
Unfortunately, the 91-year-old was unable to fly to London to film the cameo, so they ended up scrapping that treatment anyway. But if the team had stuck to the original plan, we would’ve seen the head of Stan Lee rolling towards us. Can you imagine what that would’ve looked like in 3D? Four months ago, Gunn posted a snapshot of the Stan Lee stand-in on Instagram pre-decapitation.
Gunn also revealed to the podcast:
We actually did two different versions. We did one where Stan Lee was just sitting there, and one where he looked at Groot and just gave him the finger. But it wasn’t really Stan Lee, because we were in England, and Stan’s an older gentleman, and he couldn’t make the trip. So we did it with a double. And then we were going to digitally replace his head with Stan’s head, which we were going to shoot later.
It’s probably for the best, I’m sure. Lee has appeared in nearly all his films. A recent exception, however, was X-Men: Days of Future Past; the production schedule conflicted with his appearance at the Toronto-based Fan Expo. However, he even made an appearance in the Disney animated movie version of Big Hero 6.
Much like Guardians, Lee didn’t contribute to the creation of those characters, but no Marvel movie of any sort is complete without "The Man" himself.