In a recent interview with HuffPost, “Captain Marvel” visual effects supervisor Chris Townsend took us behind the scenes to shed some light on the mysteries of how Marvel brought the ’90s era, Brie Larson-led superhero film to life.
From the daunting task of de-aging Samuel L. Jackson to how Goose the alien cat/Flerken became so purrfect, Townsend told us the stories behind the stories of one of the MCU’s latest blockbusters.
A “time lens” scene was cut.
After Jackson made some comments earlier this year that Captain Marvel could time travel, it was theorized that this latest Marvel offering would reveal how the heroes could go back in time to reverse the events of “Avengers: Infinity War.”
That didn’t happen. It turns out Jackson was just Flerken around, and “Captain Marvel” didn’t feature any of Carol Danvers’ time-traveling abilities. But there was an interesting cut scene from when the Skrulls look through Danvers’ memories that could have stoked the theory flames even more.
“One of the scenes in the early draft of the script was the idea of a ‘time lens,’” Townsend explained. “When she was going back and looking through her memories, or the Skrulls were peering through her memories searching, you would have sort of this time lens ... where you would have moments where Carol would appear in modern day and back in her past all in the same way.”
He added, “I remember reading it for the first time in an early draft and thinking, ‘Whoa, that’s really hard. I have no idea how to do that, and that could be so cool.’”
The time lens ultimately disappeared from the script, and Townsend told us he’s not sure what it would’ve looked like.
“When I read the script, I have almost no idea about how I’m going to do almost all of it, and you sort of have to make it up as you go and figure it out as you go, and hopefully work with amazing people to bring it all to the screen.”
The effect doesn’t sound like actual time travel, but it would’ve been interesting to see if it caused further speculation about Captain Marvel.
De-aging Samuel L. Jackson requires watching a lot of Samuel L. Jackson movies.
As far as the heavy lifting for de-aging Jackson’s Nick Fury to look like he would have in the ’90s, Townsend gives credit to Lola Visual Effects, as well as additional visual effects supervisor Janelle Croshaw for overseeing the day-to-day.
“It was a matter of painstakingly meticulously going through the work and slimming him down and cleaning his skin and reshaping his jaw and his hairline, a bit of a nip and a tuck around the neck.”
Also on the agenda: Watching a lot of ’90s Sam Jackson films.
“We chose ‘The Negotiator’ as sort of one of our main movies, as well as ‘Sphere’ and ‘Die Hard: With a Vengeance.’ And we studied those films, studied the look and the expressions, and the way the light moved across the skin.”
He added, “There’s no magic bullet here. There’s no secret sauce. It’s artists sitting and very carefully resculpting a face and making sure the face looks as natural as possible and making sure you don’t step on the performance, the charisma that Sam brings to the screen. It was a huge undertaking.”
The Flerken could’ve been a cat-astrophe without a CGI team.
Townsend was nothing but complimentary about the cats and the animal trainers working on “Captain Marvel” to help create Goose. Though he said, frankly, “There are certain things the cats obviously can’t do.”
“There are also things that the cat didn’t want to do,” he continued. “Sometimes they’d be in the cockpit of the plane, and Ben Mendelsohn’s character would be sitting there in a big leather coat. The leather would creak and the cat would freak out on Sam Jackson’s lap. So there was an awful lot of replacement of the cat throughout the film.”
Effects company Trixter was brought in to work on the computer-generated imagery version of Goose, and the cat looked so realistic the directors didn’t even recognize it was computer trickery, according to Townsend.
“It was one of those great moments where you really feel like, ’Oh, this is going to be great. This is going to be really easy to do to pull this off,′ and then once again it proved [to be] a lot harder.”
The visual effects supervisor said the CGI cat was used in most of the Goose scenes in the film.
“There are about over 100 shots of the cat in the film, 70 or 80 of them are CG,” he added, “including the shots, obviously, where the tentacles come out of the face.”
It also didn’t help that star Brie Larson is allergic to cats.
“Whenever Brie’s holding a cat, almost always it’s a CG cat, and a lot of the times when the cat is on Nick Fury’s lap or is wandering around, it’s CG as well. There’s a lot of stuff that I would look at as a viewer and think, ‘Well, surely they could’ve got a cat to do that.’ In reality, no, we couldn’t get the cat to perform correctly in the same takes we got the actors to perform.”
“You can’t really tell Sam Jackson, ‘Sorry, could you go again? Because the cat didn’t do it right.’”
No, that shooting star wasn’t Peter Quill ... or was it?
While going through Carol’s memories in the movie, you see a moment when she’s with her friend Maria Rambeau’s daughter, Monica, looking up at a shooting star.
It didn’t take long for fans to speculate on Reddit that the shooting star is actually a ship in which Peter Quill is being taken from Earth by Yondu back in 1988.
The timelines may match up, and though Townsend couldn’t confirm it, he also couldn’t deny his admiration for the theory.
“I’ve never heard that about Peter Quill, but I love it,” he said. “I love the fan side of what we do. I love the reactions. I love how much thought [goes into everything]. Obviously, there’s a huge amount of thought that goes into it from everyone on our end making the films, but there’s an amazing sort of reading into things, like the shooting star.”
He added, “To be honest, this is my fifth Marvel movie. When I went to see ‘Infinity War,’ there were so many things in there, little pieces were tied up, which I thought were amazing in ways I’ve never perceived.”