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Drew Pearce On Making Marvel One-Shot All Hail The King
The Iron Man 3 co-writer talks Trevor Slattery's return

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As the Blu-ray of Thor: The Dark World is now out, die-hard Marvel one-shot enthusiasts will no doubt have already enjoyed the latest short from the superhero stable. Written and directed by Drew Pearce – one of the two writers (alongside Shane Black) behind Iron Man 3 – All Hail The King reveals what happened to The Mandarin Trevor Slattery (Sir Ben Kingsley) after he was busted. With so much going on in the short, Empire spoke to Pearce in spoiler-filled detail about how it all happened, from that Sean Connery impression to the cameo you never saw coming.

Drew Pearce On Making Marvel One-Shot All Hail The King

Was the Sean Connery impression something you requested or just something that just happened?
The line was in the script, and Sir Ben busted the impression out on the first take. It's an interesting thing, as a British person, because everyone else on set (including myself) thought it was hilarious, but there is that weird thing that every British person can do a Sean Connery impression, and it felt very The Trip, very Coogan and Brydon, so there was a part of me that thought... can we get away with it?

So when I watched it back in the edit, I thought that if I didn't put that in there, it's a disservice to the British tradition of Sean Connery impressions, as well as Sir Ben's superb take on it.

And the "chill hand", was that another Ben Kingsley addition?
What's great is that you've picked two purely Sir Ben moments. One of the things I wanted in the short was give the sense that Trevor is tiny compared to everyone else in the prison. But Sir Ben is actually a man of normal height, so every time we did a set-up where he's nose-to-nose with someone, not only had I cast someone ginormous, but I also stuck them up on two boxes as well.

When we started to shoot that, Sir Ben is so brilliant with other actors that not only was he there to coach them through it, but he also encouraged them to have fun. He end up saying to White Power Dave: "You really have to come at me to be in my face." And that, basically, let Sir Ben handle it like Trevor.

"Kiss my rings, bitch" was scripted though?
Oh yes. One of the things I wanted to give Trevor was - and this sounds grandiose, I know - as many truly iconic, Trevor-ish lines as possible. And "Kiss my rings, bitch" is probably the least intelligent but most succinct summation of the entire Trevor Slattery experience.

"Wanking" - is that a Marvel first?
(Laughs) What can I say? I think of myself as a cinematic pioneer. And, to be fair, Joss Whedon opened Pandora's box by using one of the most disgusting Elizabethan swear words ever in The Avengers with the word "quim", so I feel like I'm just continuing a new Marvel tradition.

What about "the birds" and Trevor's general boorishness - was there feedback from Marvel execs about how far you could take that?
That's one of the great things about Kevin Feige and Marvel in general, and one of the reasons the movies are so good: they're the producer and the studio. So if Kevin likes something you're doing - and you've passed a couple of checks and balances - then he'll pretty much defend it and it'll go through. Make Kevin laugh the first time he reads a script and basically, the joke's in.

There are a couple of jokes in the short that I didn't think we'd get away with. There were a few I was willing to take out, and everyone was like, "You can't lose that!"

Drew Pearce On Making Marvel One-Shot All Hail The King

Like the monkey drinking vodka?
That's a really interesting one! In my first or second draft of All Hail The King, I thought that two people in a room for ten pages might get a bit boring or, at least, feel a bit samey. I thought it might need a palate cleanser halfway through that can come full-screen and really refresh the mood in the room. I also thought would work as a meridian tipping point where one tone falls into a different tone.

So I wrote a three-line thing: "We see a clip of Caged Heat. Car driving away from camera. Cut to Trevor firing a gun on a Los Angeles rooftop." Kevin looked through it and said, "Well, you can do more with that." I said, "Yeah, but we don't have much more budget, and to make the thing feel as cinematic as possible, it's going to be really tricky." He says, "I'll back you - go crazy."

With "Go crazy" ringing in my ears, I typed the words "A monkey drinks a vodka shot in a Russian Cossack hat" and decided to put that one in last, so it could be the one that's cut back. But in classic Kevin Feige style, he read it and said, "Whatever happens, we have to shoot the monkey and the vodka." At which point I thought, "Oh shit, how do I shoot a monkey drinking vodka?" (Laughs)

Is it the same monkey from The Hangover Part II?
Yes, it is Crystal the capuchin monkey from The Hangover. She's truly legendary. When Crystal came on set in Los Angeles, half the crew knew her, so they all went up and said hello. She's a starlet. She comes into a room and all her fans walk up and say, "Hey Crystal, remember me?" She'll nod in a "Of course I remember you!" way, fully in a well-rehearsed starlet mode. Of course she doesn't remember them, but she needs to make them feel good about themselves, and that's what makes her a star.

Sometimes she can be a bit feisty, and sometimes you have to take her off set to cool down if she doesn't like what's going on around her, but like any actor, if you give Crystal the space and the right encouragement, you can get an incredible performance from her, including... drinking vodka.

Where did the idea of a Rockwell cameo come from?
I floated it to Marvel, wrote a tag, got his people on board. Then it looked like he wasn't going to be able to do it, as he was in Canada shooting the Poltergeist remake and then, while he was in post-production, he read it and I got a phone call saying that Sam would like to speak to me. So I got on the phone with Rockwell, and he said that if we could shoot it in an hour, on a Sunday lunchtime, here in Toronto, then I am in.

I took the red-eye that Saturday night, painted the cupboard in a facilities house to match the shot from the shoot in Los Angeles, then Rockwell came in and just nailed it. The guy is a legend. I'd written two more pages for him over a Canadian Molson in the Air Canada lounge the night before, so he learns them, he sits down, he riffs over what I'd done for about an hour, then took me to the pub. An hour later, I was on another flight. Truly a legend.

If only you'd snuck in a Rockwell dance...
I know! If only the painted section of the background was actually wide enough to have anyone standing up. If you could see what's just beyond frame in the tag, it's hilarious. It's genuinely like a fish tank and some old ladders against a wall. The glamour!

Drew Pearce On Making Marvel One-Shot All Hail The King

It looks like The Mandarin is still out there. Is this a way of appeasing the fans that hated the way you treated The Mandarin in Iron Man 3, or just continuing your Trevor mythos?
This is the thing about it: I feel this is entirely in line with everything I talked about in the spoiler podcast. Obviously, The Ten Rings are in the first Iron Man, everyone knows that. And in Iron Man 3, in the press for it we say it's a war mantle that's been out there, and in a lot of exposition that was cut at the last minute we reiterate that there's a precedent for The Mandarin and there's a connection with The Ten Rings.

So I feel like I am continuing in that tradition. Obviously, it makes for a dramatic payoff and also, more importantly, it also gives it some genuine stakes and drama. And if this was going to be just a skit, it would be entertaining too, but we want to push the Marvel Cinematic Universe forward as well. As far as I'm concerned, we're just playing in the same information pool that we had before, so hopefully fans will enjoy that and feel that the whole short is a tribute to Trevor, rather than any kind of apology.

In the nicest possible way, I don't mind if die-hard comic fans who did not like Iron Man 3's take on The Mandarin don't use this short to re-evaluate and reappraise the film. But I guess, in the words of Florence And The Machine, this one-shot is a "kiss with a fist".

The way the short ends with a cliffhanger, and the way it's set in Seagate Prison, it's easy to see it as something that might connect with the planned Daredevil / Hell's Kitchen Netflix series Marvel are planning.
How could I add anything to that? There are sometimes machinations at Marvel, there are sometimes just fun ideas that we throw in to see where they go. I am a very happy but temporary passenger on the good ship MCU and I don't know what happens next at any moment, so... there is every chance Seagate reappears in MCU, whether it's on TV or in the movies, and every chance the Slattery and Ten Rings story will continue, but in what form, or whether it actually happens, I honestly couldn't tell you.

How about an online webseries?
Ha, maybe! I hope the odyssey of Trevor Slattery - the ballad of Trevor Slattery, maybe? - has no end.

Did you keep any mementos from the set?
I have a King Lear poster. In fact, Ben Kingsley's wrap gift was the poster of King Lear at Fairfield Halls - a real venue in Croydon, by the way - with the three and a half stars at the bottom. The key to that, and a little nudge at the old comic-book version of The Mandarin, was that the review said, "Almost magical". In the same way that The Mandarin's rings are allegedly a kind of space-based magic.

But yes, I am very proud of that poster, and our brilliant production designer Shepherd Frankel was equally proud of it and definitely has one up in his house as well.

What other background Easter Eggs might we not have spotted?
There are a tonne of them. I can't tell you all of them, but what I will say is that Caged Heat, the failed '80s TV pilot that Trevor's in, was something I wanted to make as realistic as possible. This is why Mike Post - the genius behind the TV themes of so many '80s and '90s TV shows, from Hawaii Five-O to Hill Street Blues - is the credit on there.

But, again, what's great about Marvel is that I put that in there as a joke, but Kevin Feige said, "We should try to get Mike to do it, to write the music." I thought there was no chance, but I tried, and in the end, it's actually Mike Post who does the music to that section of the film. I went to his house, and he is the most talented and ridiculously rich person in the entire world, all from writing about a third of the themes of American TV in the '80s and '90s.

I remember phoning him up and saying, "I know you probably can't write anything original for us, so might there be anything in the archives you might be able to give us? Anything that sounds Russian?" He laughed and said, "Drew, first of all, I don't have anything Russian. Secondly, I don't have an archive - I've sold every single piece of music I've thought of over the past 35 years." Fair enough. Then he said, "I will write something new for you." At which point, I almost fell over with happiness. But that's the Marvel way! Pushing every detail until it's the very best and the most exciting it can be. So he really is the composer of 'Caged Heat '85'. The Easter Egg I have for you is the one that's entirely real and authentic.

Thor: The Dark World is out on Blu-ray and DVD on February 24

Interview by Ali Plumb

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