Avengers: Endgame Producer Explains Thanos’ Surprise Decapitation

Thanos in Endgame

Avengers: Endgame's run in theaters was legendary, managing to beat out James Cameron's Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time. And the money is going to keep rolling in for Disney, as the rabid Marvel fanbase prepares to get their own copy when the massive blockbuster becomes available for home purchase. As such, plenty of new information about Endgame is arriving, including the creative process that lead Thanos to being decapitated early in the film's runtime.

The Russo Brothers brought plenty of unexpected plot twits to Avengers: Endgame, and Thanos' original death is one of them. No one expected Josh Brolin purple villain to bite the dust in the first ten minutes, and the movie's commentary revealed that it was producer Trinh Tran's idea. And now she's explained how it came about, saying:

I remember sitting in that conference room and we have spent weeks on end trying to figure out where his character goes in this movie. We were just struggling and struggling and just kept circling back and couldn't quite figure out Thanos's journey. It's like, ‘He defeated the Avengers in Infinity War. Where does he go from there? How do we continue a story where audiences are going to go, 'Oh, this is new, this is different,' rather than just tell the same story again?’ We wanted our heroes to be able to go back in time, like that's the fun of it, right? So I just went, ‘Okay, this is a crazy idea. They're probably going to think I'm nuts for saying it, but let's talk about it.’ I just blurted it out and it's like, ‘Okay, what happens if we do kill him?’

Crafting the narrative of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame was a complicated task, with a ton of characters in play. How to use each of these chess pieces was key to the duo of blockbuster's success. That includes Thanos, who needed some time offscreen before the 2014 version popped up during the Time Heist.

Related: How The Avengers: Endgame Writers Figured Out How To Deal With Thanos

It looks like Avengers: Endgame's second act was always going to revolve around time travel, although how to get the characters set up for that adventure was a challenge. Certain characters had to be written out, like Captain Marvel and Thanos. The latter provided a particular challenge, and killing off the present-day version of the mad titan allowed the heroes to sit in their failure.

Later in her same conversation with Comic Book, Trinh Tran further expanded what the creative process of decapitating Thanos was like. As she put it:

I remember they all looked at me like, ‘That's crazy. How are we going to …’ but it started a conversation and I think that was key to it was that we were able to take that and whether or not we ended up with that, I wanted that conversation to go, ‘What if this can happen? What if this crazy idea can happen and what happens with the Avengers if we do that’ And that actually kind of just took a role of its own and we made that happen. I'm like, 'Oh my God, we're going to kill him off in the beginning. Now, how are we going to fix this all?’ So, it led to a lot of fun conversations that we had about, ‘Well, then, how are they going to get all the stones back if he's destroyed and he's killed?’ And, and so the movie and that moment ended up being in there.

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While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a pretty well-oiled machine, it's still just made of people being creative and adapting the story from the page to the screen. The opening sequence in Avengers: Endgame revealed the true devastation of Thanos' snap, as he used the Stones to destroy them and make his mass extinction event permanent. Things were hopeless, and helped to bring realism to the five-year time jump.

Killing off Thanos threw moviegoing audiences for a loop, although the Mad Titan still had a meaty role in Avengers: Endgame's second and third act. Rather than the version we knew and loved, it was a 2014 version of the character who brought destruction to the surviving heroes. It took all of the shared universe's forces to fend him off in the final battle, with Tony ultimately sacrificing himself to snap Thanos out of existence forever.

Overall, the handling of Thanos is a fascinating aspect of the MCU. The character was teased for years before finally appearing in a full capacity for Avengers: Infinity War. The cameos and conversation around the Mad Titan really put on the pressure, but The Russo Brothers delivered with the character's first major appearance. Thanos was arguably the main character of Infinity War, and audiences followed along as the character attempted to accrue the Infinity Stones-- by any means necessary.

Thanos' ideology was terrifying and steadfast, and Josh Brolin's character maintained that he was inevitable throughout both Avengers movies. But rather than being present throughout all of Endgame's action, he was used more deliberately. And when 2014 came calling, we saw how powerful the Mad Titan was without the use of the Infinity Stones.

Thanos traveled through time to ensure that his vision for the galaxy was not reversed, despite the character's death during Endgame's first act. Seeing how the Avengers were determined to reverse the effects of The Snap was insulting, and he concocted a plan. He'd destroy all of life in the galaxy, and start fresh with the powers of The Stones. Luckily, the full force of The Avengers was there to meet his attack.

It should be interesting to see what other tidbits come from the Avengers: Endgame cast and crew, as the DVD and Blu-ray will have plenty of additional features and content to enjoy. After all, the crafting of such a massive and complicated story wasn't a simple process.

Avengers: Endgame is available digitally now, and will arrive on DVD and Blu-ray on August 13th. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.