Indiewire’s Girl Talk column is a bi-weekly look at women in film — past, present and future.
Have we finally found our Captain Marvel? Variety reported last night that newly minted Oscar winner (and bonafide indie it girl) Brie Larson is currently in talks to play the Marvel superhero, bound for both her own standalone feature and inclusion in the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. With one Academy Award already under her belt, Larson would be the latest high-powered star to join the MCU (already packed with heavy hitters and award winners like Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson) and yet another name who got her start in the independent film world (like new “Black Panther” cast member Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson of “Thor: Ragnarok” and fellow Sundance darling Elizabeth Olsen).
Traditional thinking has long held that someone like Larson, a talented, well-regarded rising star with some serious hardware already in hand should stick to more high-minded films (like her next role, leading the big screen adaptation of the wrenching memoir “The Glass Castle”), rejecting any and all comic book franchise offers that are thrown her way. But should Larson actually go with Captain Marvel, she’ll be making the perfect choice, both for herself and for the character.
Like most Marvel characters, Captain Marvel (in her modern non-superhero form, Carol Danvers, though the Captain Marvel character has been played by other Marvel women over the years) has a long and storied history, but as our own Liz Shannon Miller notes, “what’s cool about the character is that she’s basically a badass soldier and military commander, with the bonus of powers.”
The current iteration of Captain Marvel, as first imagined by comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, plays that up to the hilt — and more. Look no further than the 2012 announcement of DeConnick’s Captain Marvel series, in which the writer explains how she sees Carol, whom she calls “the virtual definition of a Type A personality…a competitor and a control freak.” (She adds that the playlist for the series “is heavy on AC/DC, Heart and Pat Benatar.”)
When news first broke that the Marvel Cinematic Universe was launching not just the Captain Marvel character, but at least one standalone Captain Marvel film, the internet was predictably inundated with dream casting suggestions that played up the need for an actress that could capture Carol Danvers’ complex emotions and the kind of physicality required from a badass military commander. Names like Emily Blunt, Katee Sackhoff, Rebecca Ferguson, Gina Torres and Zoe Bell were quickly tossed in the ring (and sometimes tossed right back out).
Back in September, I asked Blunt about how her roles in films like “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Sicario” had seemingly instantly put her on every single short list for other “badass lady” roles — including Captain Marvel. She cited Jennifer Lawrence, Rebecca Ferguson, Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron as the other actresses whose names keep coming up for those parts. “The list is very short, because we don’t see women in these kind of roles,” she said. “I think that’s why the rumors happen, because they’re like, ‘Who else? Surely not another girl can wield a gun.'”
Incidentally, when I spoke to Larson also at TIFF, much of our conversation leaned towards the physical demands of her eventually Oscar-winning role in “Room.” “I gained 15 pounds of muscle, so my body looks the same, but the difference was I had muscle from doing track and doing push-ups in ‘Room’ all the time.” For Larson, adding in a physical component was just another demand of her job, and one she embraced. How much of a stretch would it be for her to do that as a superhero?
Carol Danvers is a badass, but she’s also got some major emotional ground to mine and a streak of darkness that runs through everything she does (got some time? give “Carol Danvers rape” a Google, and prepare to be horrified). Readymade for a leadership role — in the current run of Captain Marvel comics, Carol not only leads the Carol Corps, an all-female squadron of fighter pilots, but she’s also an intergalactic diplomat — Captain Marvel is the kind of “strong female character” that is demonstrably capable and empowered. She’s brains and brawn, action and emotion – the kind of role that any actress, especially Oscar-winning ones, would love to take.
This is not a one-dimensional superheroine stuffed into a leotard (not these days, at least); this is a complex character who also happens to be a superhero. For Larson, an actress who excels at humanizing painful stories, as she did in “Room” and “Short Term 12,” that part of the role would be a no-brainer. But she also has the comedic chops to fit in alongside the more light-hearted aspects of the MCU, having delivered stellar turns in studio productions like “Trainwreck” and “21 Jump Street.” She’s the kind of performer that the MCU embraces.
Back at TIFF, Larson said her relationship to bigger movies was in a state of evolution, noting a recent conversation she had with “Kong: Skull Island” director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. “Both of us were like, ‘Wait a second. What if I could still put the things that made “Short Term 12” or “Kings of Summer” powerful, but I could put it in a movie that’s seen by more people. Why would I say no to that?’ As we keep that sort of innocence in tact, it just couldn’t be better.” And with Larson as Captain Marvel, it really couldn’t.