“He had just done the first Iron Man when we first worked together,” Law explains. “So I’ve sort of followed his journey and relationship with Marvel throughout, really.”
Law and Downey starred together in the 2009 Sherlock Holmes and its 2011 sequel, and they’re set to return for a 2020 follow-up. The longtime friends saw each other shortly before Law began filming Captain Marvel, and Downey gave him a little insight into what to expect from his foray into the MCU.
“I don’t know that he ever gave me any advice, but he obviously had a great time making these,” Law says. “He talked a little bit about how [making a Marvel movie is like] fitting this one piece into a bigger picture that someone else has got their eyes on, and giving yourself over to that. It’s not about trying to understand everything. Just do your piece.”
And Law is a key piece of Captain Marvel. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s superhero epic centers on Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), a human pilot with alien Kree DNA. When the film begins, Carol is living on the Kree planet of Hala, and she’s a part of the specialized military team known as Starforce — essentially the Seal Team Six of space.
Its members include Carol, Djimon Hounsou’s Korath (returning from Guardians of the Galaxy), and Gemma Chan’s sniper Minn-Erva. Law’s character is the leader of the group (the filmmakers declined to reveal his name), and he’s Kree to the core.
“He is driven by a belief in the divine leadership of the Kree people,” Law says. “So he’s almost a devout warrior — unquestioning, conservative, but inspirational.”
Audiences have met the Kree before in Guardians of the Galaxy, but Captain Marvel is a deeper dive into Kree society. They’re an advanced alien race that value community over individuality and they’re at war with their most hated enemy: the Skrulls. Two of the MCU’s most well-known Kree will be returning for Captain Marvel — Lee Pace’s Ronan and Hounsou’s Korath — but at this point in time, neither has splintered off to become the outcast terrorists they are in Guardians of the Galaxy. Ronan is still a respected figure on Hala, and Korath is a valued member of Starforce.
But of all the Starforce members, Law’s character is particularly close to Carol, whom he views as a mentee and pet project. “These extraordinary powers she has, he sees them as something of a blessing and something that she has to learn how to control,” Law says. “That’s a motif throughout the piece, the element of learning to control one’s emotions and to use your powers wisely.”
“There’s a lot and back and forth that comes with the two of them, which kind of creates a little bit of tension with the rest of Starforce,” Larson adds. “Like, ‘Why do they have a special relationship, and why isn’t it me?’”
Law has played crime-solving doctors and young popes and — very soon — a certain Hogwarts headmaster, but Captain Marvel is his first superhero movie. And according to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, it’s been a long time coming.
“He’s somebody we have admired for a long time and have wanted to find a role for in our movies, and as fate works in your favor, his part in this is extraordinary,” Feige tells EW. “He really came to play.”
For Law, Captain Marvel presented a chance to join a franchise he’s long admired — particularly in recent years, as the studio has made an effort to hire independent directors with distinct voices.
“It just seemed like an interesting party to join in with at an interesting time in their ascendancy,” he says. “That to me is an interesting playground to work in because suddenly you’ve got filmmakers who are looking at humor and script work and character, within an infrastructure that is obviously capable of creating enormous universes and worlds and special effects — while also not bogging down the creativity of the director.”
For more on Captain Marvel, check out EW’s cover story on the film — on stands Friday.