Comic-Con 2013: Marvel Debuts Haley Atwell in Agent Carter One-Shot
A panel report by Shaun Manning
Marvel Studios' "One-Shot" short films are designed to flesh out the Marvel Cinematic Universe in five to 15-minute bursts of bonus material included on the DVD and Blu-ray releases of each major film. Last year, Marvel debuted Item 47 during Comic-Con International before fans worldwide experienced it on the Avengers home release, and this year the tradition continued with Agent Carter, starring Hayley Atwell's character from Captain America: The First Avenger. The short will be included on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray and DVD, coming September 24.
The event began with a screening of the film, which starts with Captain America's plane going down as seen in the hero's movie. One year later, Agent Peggy Carter finds herself pushing papers rather than getting her hands dirty in the field, much to her own disappointment. "The war's over; we'll handle the rough stuff," her boss, Agent Flynn, tells her dismissively. But Carter happens to pick up a top secret tip on the location of a mysterious item called the Zodiac, and she answers the call in spectacular style. Dominic Cooper's Howard Stark and Neal McDonough's Dum Dum Dugan also made memorable cameos.
After the screening, writer Eric Pearson, executive producer Brad Winderbaum, director and Co-Head of Marvel Studios Louis D'Esposito, and Agent Carter herself, Hayley Atwell, sat at the front of the theatre for a discussion of the film.
Atwell said that she did not expect an opportunity to return to the role of Peggy Carter, given that Captain America: Winter Soldier will jump to the present day, leaving her World War II-era spy behind. After Captain America was finished, she said, "I went straight back to London to do a play. I thought that was the end of it."
Asked about the possibility of further appearances, perhaps on Agents of SHIELD, Winderbaum said, "we can't just freeze everybody," referring to Cap and Bucky's method of time displacement. But D'Esposito added, "We should have frozen her."
As to why the producers chose to tell this particular story, D'Esposito said "the time was right" for Agent Carter, with the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray and DVD release preceding Winter Soldier. He added that the main purpose of the shorts, for the fans and especially the creators, is "to be fun." "We're working so hard on the films," he said. "Those are fun, too," but the shorts offer a bit of creative release.
"When we first wanted to do the Blu-ray shorts, we had to prove it was worth it," Winderbaum added. The first Coulson shorts "were the right scale" to accomplish this, and were followed by the "slightly bigger" Item 47 and then Agent Carter, slightly bigger again.
While Marvel Studios has considerably greater resources than many companies making short films, the budgets are much more limited than what would be the case for a similar amount of content on a feature film, especially for the earlier installments. Pearson described some of his grand ideas for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer, but was told "the budget we have left is for two people talking."
Atwell said she enjoyed playing Agent Carter as a female role model, noting that she manages to break out of a system of entrenched gender roles. Plus, in the Agent Carter short, she "got to kick butt, which she didn't have much chance to do in Captain America."
The actor also said it was a challenge to learn how to commit to choreography in order to look like a trained agent -- though she did make some awkward mistakes. "I made my own sound effects," she said, vocalizing the sounds she thought her punches and kicks would make in an action film. "They told me, 'You don't have to do that -- that'll happen, actually.'"
Among the Easter eggs in the short, D'Esposito said Iron Man 3 director Shane Black played the Mysterious Voice who tips off Agent Carter to the Zodiac's location, and Tony Stark's robe from Iron Man 2 appears on Tony's father, Howard.
The "kicker" scene after the credits, featuring Stark and Dum Dum Dugan, was ad-libbed because the planned situation wouldn't work for very practical reasons. It was meant to take place in a pool, but "Neal McDonough isn't as big as Dum Dum; he wears a muscle suit," D'Esposito said, so obviously he couldn't go into the water. The scene that resulted instead takes place poolside, with Stark and Dugan bantering. "I think everybody got a kick out of that."
A fan asked whether the nature of the Zodiac would ever be revealed, to which D'Esposito responded, "It's the McGuffin." But Winderbaum added, "It will probably show up somewhere."
Another fan suggested a Ms. Marvel short as the next "One-Shot," to some applause. D'Esposito's reply: "It should be a feature, right?"
A question came up as to how Agent Carter felt compared to other shorts in which Atwell has performed. She said that films like Love Hate and Tomato Soup "did not have the production values of this." In this way, she said, it was "more like Captain America."
Agent Carter is included on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray and DVD, arriving September 24.