‘The Marvels’ Filmmaker Nia DaCosta on Advice from James Gunn, Tessa Thompson

When Nia DaCosta was offered the job to direct The Marvels, she already had studio experience with 2021’s Candyman. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t ask her friends for advice before joining the big machine that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. DaCosta spoke to a large swath of directors from Marvel’s roster, including Black Panther‘s Ryan Coogler, Eternals‘ Chloé Zhao and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings‘ Destin Daniel Cretton.

“I talked to a lot of Marvel directors,” DaCosta tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s such a specific experience and they make movies in such a unique way, it was really cool to get some insider knowledge.” Of everyone she talked to, DaCosta says Guardians of the Galaxy‘s James Gunn was perhaps the most helpful.

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“He really contextualized what we were doing and how hard it was,” DaCosta says. “Sort of reframing the way you think about it.”

She also spoke with her friend and frequent collaborator Tessa Thompson, who stars in DaCosta’s Little Woods and upcoming Hedda, and plays Valkyrie in the MCU.

“[Tessa] was the first person I talked to. For Tessa … I wanted to know all the tea about Kevin Feige. I was like, ‘is he the worst? Like, is he gonna torture me for however long this movie is?’” DaCosta explains, “She was just like, he’s a really great guy, and he really cares, so that was very reassuring.”

With The Marvels, DaCosta had the challenge of filming fight sequences in which her three protagonists switch places with each other any time they all use their powers.

“One of my favorite sequences is the first big fight they have where they’re all switching and they don’t know what’s going on,” says DaCosta of the scene involving Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, Iman Vellani’s Ms. Marvel and Teyonah Parris’s Capt. Monica Rambeau. “I tried to be as specific as possible on the page with who’s going where, where are we when someone switches in or switches out.”

As for working with her three stars, DaCosta says the moment they all finally came together was one of the best on set. “Because their relationships individually are so specific, like Monica and Carol seeing each other for the first time is huge,” says DaCosta. “Kamala and Carol meeting is huge because Kamala idolizes her, and then the three of them together there’s so much happening…it’s pretty special.”

DaCosta also explains how Ms. Marvel star Vellani’s Marvel fandom was an asset to the film.

“She’s incredibly professional … she was ready to go, she’s smart, she’s creative, she has great ad libs and has great suggestions … at the same time when Sam Jackson came to set for the first time, she hid behind me,” recalls DaCosta. “I thought she was joking, but she genuinely was stressed out to meet him. It was really lovely to see that. That enthusiasm is so infectious and reminds us all why we’re here.”

The film, which opens this weekend, earned $6.6 million in Thursday previews.

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