One of the numerous special features attached to the Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD release of Thor: The Dark World, is the latest Marvel short film, Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King. Last night, I headed down to the Arclight Hollywood for a screening of this short, which features Ben Kingsley reprising his Iron Man 3 role as Trevor Slattery, the British actor who tricked the world into thinking he was a dangerous terrorist known as The Mandarin. These shorts have become big hits with the fans, but All Hail the King is by far the biggest one yet, that you surely won't want to miss.
The 15-minute short opens with Jackson Norris (Scoot McNairy) a documentary filmmaker who arrives at Seagate Prison for his final interview with Trevor Slattery, as he tries to figure out who, exactly, this mysterious man really is. However, before the interview itself, we see how playing the Mandarin truly has become this failed actor's "big break." He is the closest thing to an A-list celebrity among the inmates, with his own bodyguard/doting assistant Herman (Lester Speight) and a growing legion of fans.
While I don't want to spoil a lot else, I'll just say that we also see footage of Trevor's failed CBS pilot Caged Heat (where Trevor plays a Russian cop in the U.S.), and learn about his family history. And finally, make sure you stay until the end for a very special surprise that I doubt anyone will see coming. It's also worth noting that Iron Man 3 composer Brian Tyler crafted another wonderful score for this short, but, for the Caged Vice scenes, they actually brought on 1980s TV music icon Mike Post to create a real a real score for a fake show.
After the screening, Ben Kingsley, producer and Marvel architect Kevin Feige and Drew Pearce, who co-wrote Iron Man 3 with Shane Black and wrote and directed All Hail the King, sat down for a Q&A session moderated by Entertainment Weekly's Anthony Breznican, who expanded on the creative process of crafting the story for this short, how they were able to get Ben Kingsley to come back, Marvel's overall approach to their One-Shot shorts, and a shitload more.
"This one started because Shane Black, myself, Kevin and (executive producer) Louis D'Esposito, we were all at lunch on the very first day with Sir Ben, in North Carolina shooting Iron Man 3. We were just talking over lunch, and Kevin and I turned to each other and said, 'We should definitely try to do a Trevor Slattery One-Shot.' Trevor is an interesting character. He's like a cockroach in the apocalypse. He can survive drafts of scripts, re-shoots, the Mandarin. Originally, it was going to be a prequel, and there was a lot of stuff that came up when we were filming. We wanted to keep Trevor Slattery around in this universe for longer, so this is a great way of tapping into that."
In Iron Man 3, we only got to see the true Trevor Slattery for a brief amount of time, but this short gives us more insight into this bizarre thespian's "process," showing the voice exercises he does even before a simple on-camera interview. When asked if there were any colleagues of his that inspired the quirky nature of "the toast of Croydon," Ben Kingsley said there were a few real-life influences, although he wouldn't name any specific names.
"Well, he was so brilliantly conceived by Kevin and Drew, but he's not actually as two-dimensional as one might suspect. You can dig and dig and dig into a character that's so well-written. He's a great survivor, and his arrogance and narcissism, the bubble that he lives in, is part of his survival, as an actor who could have had a mediocre career, ends up having a spectacular but odd career. He's an amalgam of actors that I worked with all over North England, in the Royal Shakespeare Company, actors who I drank with at the pub afterwards, who would go on and on and on about where they were going to go, playing King Lear in Croydon, so it's a salute to the struggling actor, who is given an enormous break. He's propelled into infamy, but he's rooted in reality."
This is the fifth straight One-Shot short that has been featured on the Blu-ray/DVD releases of Marvel movies, following Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant, Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer, Marvel One-Shot: Item 47 and Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter, but, according to Kevin Feige, Marvel does not have a mandate that each feature demands a One-Shot be attached to it.
"No, not necessarily. We do them as they come up, frankly, fun ideas that are worthy of coming out on a weeknight and seeing on a big screen. It's really about what's the idea. It's not about, 'Oh, we've got to add another feature onto a Blu-ray.' It's an added bonus when you have a good idea, you have someone like Drew, and you have someone like Sir Ben Kingsley to appear in your short. That doesn't happen all the time."
Ben Kingsley also admitted that this was the first time he has ever appeared in a short film in a career that has spanned nearly 40 years, while praising the efforts of the crew.
"The crew was as thorough and as on the ball as there would be if we were making a 90-minute feature. It was an amazing crew, the level of focus and concentration was immaculate. It was a big piece. It lasts 15 minutes, but it was a big piece."
While Drew Pearce admitted he was both "proud and ashamed of" the fact that this was Ben Kingsley's first short film, he also added that none of those crew members were on board until the actor signed on.
"Oddly, none of the crew was on board until Sir Ben Kingsley came on, strangely enough. It is quite weird to have followed up the biggest movie of all time with a small, studio film, but obviously an honor as well."
Part of this shoot involved shooting scenes for Trevor's failed CBS pilot entitled Caged Heat, a Miami Vice-esque cop drama where Trevor played a cop who was born in Russia before moving to the U.S., fighting crime in a cherry-red Ferrari, with he help of a tequila-swigging monkey, played of course by Crystal the Monkey from The Hangover trilogy and NBC's Community. While it all sounds rather over-the-top for just a few seconds worth of footage in the short, Kevin Feige said he wanted Drew Pearce to go as far as he could.
"No, we wanted to go off. The whole purpose of Trevor is to go off the rails. I think it was in the script that you just see a screenshot of it, or something. We said, 'You have three days. Do a full title sequence.'"
As I mentioned before, Mike Post, who composed the themes for hit 1980s shows such as The A-Team, Magnum P.I., Hill Street Blues, Hunter and Quantum Leap, created an original theme for Caged Heat that worked so incredibly well. Drew Pearce shared how they ended up bringing him on board.
"We called him up, because we thought, if he has something authentic in the vaults, then we'll ask him if he's got it. I got to speak to him and I said, 'So what we're after, if you could just look in your vaults and find something like a Russian Magnum P.I. theme, one of those?' He said, 'Two things. First of all, no, I don't have a Russian Magnum theme. Secondly, I don't have any vaults, because I sold every single piece of music I've ever written in my life.' So, he said, 'What if I just make it for you?' And that was absolutely amazing. He got all of his old 80s equipment out of the storage unit, and it was amazing."
As the Q&A was winding down, Kevin Feige was asked if he could say anything about Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The bad news was, he didn't say anything about the sequel. The good news was, he had a surprise in store for the fans, the first 10 minutes of the movie, which you can read about in detail if you CLICK HERE.