From 2011 to 2014, MCU fans who bought Blu-rays or digital copies got a special treat: an additional short film known as a Marvel One-Shot. The five installments, spearheaded by Marvel exec Louis D’Esposito and co-producer Brad Winderbaum, told tangential — but, as always, connected — stories that highlighted various corners of the comic-book universe. Here, D’Esposito reveals how the shorts came to be.
The Consultant (2011, with Thor) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer (2011, with Captain America: The First Avenger)
The first pair, clocking in under five minutes each, centered on S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson simply to give Clark Gregg’s popular character a chance to shine. “We knew Coulson was going to play a big part in the universe,” D’Esposito explains. “It was nice to bolster him.”
Item 47 (2012, with Marvel’s The Avengers)
After the Coulson shorts helped video sales, D’Esposito wanted to make longer films — and he got his wish when Winderbaum and writer Eric Pearson (who scripted the first four shorts) pitched a Bonnie and Clyde-esque tale of a couple who use a discarded Chitauri weapon to rob banks and go on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. “I was reading through a lot of pitches,” D’Esposito says, adding that scrapped ideas include shorts about a young Nick Fury and Maria Hill. “I gravitated toward this one immediately.” Disney CEO Bob Iger did too; after watching Item 47, he greenlit a series about the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agent Carter (2013, with Iron Man 3)
D’Esposito went into the fourth short knowing it would feature Hayley Atwell’s breakout character. (Peggy Carter, after all, could only be seen in old age or in flashbacks after the first Captain America, and D’Esposito wanted to give her more screen time.) “Cap was frozen, and Bucky Barnes had experiments done on him, so we had to get Peggy,” he says. Iger again greenlit a small-screen incarnation, but this one lasted only (a far too short) two seasons on ABC.
All Hail the King (2014, with Thor: The Dark World)
The final short followed the incarcerated thespian-turned-fake Mandarin Trevor Slattery from Iron Man 3. But persuading Ben Kingsley to reprise his role wasn’t the biggest challenge; instead, D’Esposito says, “the most difficult thing was finding a time to do it.” In fact, there hasn’t been a One-Shot since because the studio has increased its annual film output. “We’re just so busy,” D’Esposito admits. “Disney wants us to do it, we want to do it, and I keep telling them, ‘I’ll do it on the next film,’ but I keep breaking my promise.”