In the interconnected world of the MCU, a well-cast actor is one that has strong chemistry not just with their current co-stars but also the stars of whole other movies. When Chris Pratt was brought on to star in Guardians of the Galaxy, for example, it seems that the team was already thinking ahead to his role in Avengers: Infinity War.
In the new book Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years, producer Kevin Feige reflects on the ridiculously profitable franchise that he’s spent the last decade building, explaining how the studio’s strategic long game even extends to their casting decisions:
“We always cast for the movie we’re making, but we also have an eye on the future. So when we were casting Chris Pratt, we needed the best Star-Lord, but at the same time, we said, ‘We need somebody who one day might go toe to toe with Robert Downey Jr.’ On the very first day of Avengers: Infinity War there was Robert, Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, and it was pretty amazing! There have been a handful of times in our ten years here at Marvel Studios where we have had to just stop for a second and pinch ourselves. That was one of those moments.”
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Back in 2014, when Guardians hit theaters, most of us had no idea that we’d one day be seeing Iron Man and Star-Lord sharing a scene, but perhaps it’s the studio’s patience in letting all these multi-movie plans unfold that’s allowed them to succeed where competitors like the relatively rushed DCEU have floundered.
That being said, one of the issues with planning so far in advance is that you never know when something unexpected will come along that sends ripples through years’ worth of elaborately devised storytelling, such is the case with the dismissal of James Gunn from the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Though the third Guardians was initially intended to play an important role in bringing audiences further into the cosmic side of the MCU, the heavy delay faced by the project could have a significant effect on fellow Marvel Phase 4 entries like The Eternals, or even next year’s Avengers 4.
But while such intricately planned world-building is certainly vulnerable to the odd in spanner-in-the-works, the popularity of Infinity War make it all too clear that this long game is still working.