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The fictional clandestine organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. plays a massive role in the plot of Joe and Anthony Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and as a result just about all of the major players get a time to shine. Both Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow play important supporting characters in the story, Cobie Smulder’s Maria Hill makes her first big appearance since The Avengers, and the movie introduces important people like Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) and Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp). But while walking out of the theater I was bugged by a lingering question: where was Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye?
As audiences know thanks to appearances in both Thor and The Avengers, Hawkeye, a.k.a. Clint Barton, is a talented, high-level field agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., so it was a bit strange that he was nowhere to be found in the S.H.I.E.L.D.-centric Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Luckily, one of the best parts of my job is that I get to talk with filmmakers and get these kinds of questions answered. So that’s exactly what I did while interviewing screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley.
To start, the writers admitted that when they were first working on the script there were some big conversations about including Hawkeye in the film. Ultimately, it was decided that they wouldn’t be able to give the arrow-flinging hero a proper amount of screen-time because they were introducing and building on so many other characters who really deserved attention.
"We knew we wanted Falcon there, we knew we wanted [Black Widow]," McFeeley told me. "You’re introducing Winter Soldier. Fury’s got a bigger part in this one. It just started to seem like he was going to kind of get a crappy part."
"If we were going to use him, we really wanted to use him well," Markus added.
It was decided that having a good script was more important than shoe-horning Hawkeye into the plot – a totally reasonable, smart verdict – but still I wondered if they actually knew what was going on with the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while the plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was unfolding. Markus explained that they were at one point experimenting with including a line about what Hawkeye was doing, but by the end it wasn’t included in the final cut of the film.
"We toyed around with, and maybe even shot a line or at least in a draft there’s a line where we explained he's off somewhere doing something else," McFeeley said, vaguely explaining the agent’s whereabouts.
Markus said that one nice thing about the way the plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier unfolds is that it all happens on a very short timeline, which actively prevents outside reinforcements from arriving on the scene. "That is the benefit of a short time period," he said. "The movie only takes place in about three days. So, that helps you not call in Iron Man and you know, all your other friends."
So what was the "something else" - presumably a mission - that Hawkeye was doing that prevented him from helping both Captain America and Black Widow? I guess we’ll just have to wait until Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron to find out.