[This story contains spoilers through episode five of Hawkeye.]
When Marvel Studios made its first foray into streaming with WandaVision earlier this year, its creators touted the opportunity to explore characters in ways not possible in the runtime of a film. With Hawkeye episode five, that proved particularly true thanks to a ten-minute scene in which Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) got to know one another over mac and cheese (with ample hot sauce).
Filmmakers Bert and Bertie (Amber Templemore-Finlayson and Katie Ellwood) relished those types of moments, in particular the creative decisions that emerged on set.
“The hot sauce came out on the day,” Bertie tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We wanted Kate to throw something. Anything … The hot sauce was right there. Then Florence was, ‘Well this now needs to go on the mac and cheese.’”
After joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Bert and Bertie were treated to a top-secret, early screening of Black Widow to inform their work with Yelena, who figures prominently both in Hawkeye and that film. They were also privy to detail explored in Spider-Man: No Way Home — the fact that the Statue of Liberty is getting a makeover with a Captain America shield.
“There’s a need to know basis. Things like that, there may have been a slightly larger reference to it in the original scripts,” says Bertie of the No Way Home reference in episode five. “We love knowing that stuff. “
The directors also helmed episodes three and four, and have been praised for their character-based action sequences and humor. The duo raised the stakes throughout their time on the show, all leading to Wednesday’s finale that will include fan-favorite villain Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’onofrio), the “Big Guy” referenced throughout the series. (Jonathan Rhys, who directed episodes one and two, returns for the finale.)
In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Bert and Bertie dive into their Marvel journey and reflect on the “sociopathic, evilness” of Wilson Fisk.
In episode five, we see what it is like to come back from the Blip. How did you develop that?
Bert: That was something we hadn’t seen before. What is it like to have a second pass and actually five years have passed? What does that mean to the world around them? How do we put the audience in the position of the character? We love doing things practically. We did build those two different bathrooms. We did change the whole world. It wasn’t a CGI world.
The wall changed slowly. Is that Yelena’s mind catching up to her new reality?
Bertie: In conceiving it and actually shooting it, it was going to be much more from her perspective in the way that she wouldn’t actually see the traces of grainy-ness. She wouldn’t see the world-changing, because she was just experiencing this slight blackout. Then in the edit and in post, it didn’t feel enough. It was making the viewer ask too many questions. We added a little bit of grainy-ness coming back into it, and then the layer of the wallpaper changing. Artistically there is a merging of her state into reality.
When working on this episode, had you seen Black Widow dailies? Were you reading the script?
Bert: We were very lucky early on in our prep process to see Black Widow. Don’t tell anyone. We had to, because her storyline was a major part of our three episodes. We were very lucky and we watched it under very high security.
Bertie: We can’t just see the tag. That’s not enough. We need the whole experience.
Writers and directors of Disney+ Marvel shows talk about doing things you can’t do in the movies. A ten-minute macaroni and cheese scene really proves that. What was the secret to getting that right?
Bertie: There were two secrets to making the ten-minute scene interesting. One of them is Hailee Steinfeld and the other one is Florence Pugh.
Bert: It’s such a gift in these action series to have two incredible characters sit down and have a conversation. The audience needs it in terms of the flow of the episode. But as directors, to have those days where you’ve got a whole day to do this brilliantly written scene. It’s one of those gifts you are given and you take care of it and wrap it up carefully.
Bertie: And put hot sauce all over it!
How much mac and cheese was consumed during this time? I always worry for actors on days like that.
Bertie: We do too. The hot sauce came out on the day. We wanted Kate to throw something. Anything — the first thing that she could find that was a bit ridiculous. The hot sauce was right there. Then Florence was, “Well this now needs to go on the mac and cheese.” We were like, “Oh gosh, really? For this many takes?” She goes, “I love hot sauce.” We go, “That’s a big, punchy, bold decision to make.” She did not complain once. We’ve also been in situations where an actor has made a choice like that and can’t quite go through with it. Florence committed to the hot sauce.
Do you like to direct actor performances, or do you depend on them to bring in interesting character decisions in a scene like this?
Bert: In a scene like that, you are definitely the guide, and you are there to explore certain things, but they come in as characters. For Florence, we had two choices of costume. We chose one and she came in and said, “No. Yelena would wear this. This is where she comes from. She’s got platforms. She needs flairs and she needs a fur coat.” She knew who she was. You listen to that, because otherwise, I think you lose a lot.
In Black Widow Florence was in a family meal scene as well. Black Widow writer Eric Pearson used rehearsal with the actors inform his writing of that. What about with you? Did you tweak things on the day?
Bertie: There were a couple of different versions in the script, but then we found so much on the day. The script was definitely the foundation. The tone of those ten minutes takes you through comedy and also real danger and then some very deep emotion and stakes. It’s a beautifully written scene. Then to find it with the actors and find extra, little flourishes. Yelena going to the kitchen and going, “There’s only one fork” [and Kate saying] “I’m only one person.” That was all just kind of finding in that kitchen set there was only one fork.
It was quite moving to see Clint Barton looking at the plaque commemorating the Battle of New York. It brought me back to what I was doing nearly ten years ago seeing Avengers for the first time. You accomplished a lot by just focusing a camera on Jeremy Renner’s face.
Bert: It does do a lot. It’s a very important scene. You understand what he’s carrying with him. Not only the loss of Natasha [Scarlett Johansson], but [he’s thinking], “I don’t want to let you down, this gift you gave me.” That means being with his family. That was shot early on in New York and Jeremy is an extraordinary actor, and Clint Barton has been on this journey. And he had to go back to that moment. And he did and he took us all with him.
At the end of the scene, we learn he’s going to do something that is a little bad, and then we get him with the Ronin outfit. What was it like getting the fight scene right?
Bert: It was so important that there is a merging of the Clint Barton and the Ronin that he believes he’s left behind. At the end of the [plaque] scene, it was important for us to have him lift that black hoody up, which is a hint to where we are going . It’s Clint facing his dark past and putting on his dark past. He wants to put that behind him, but the fact of the matter is, if this doesn’t go down the way he wants it to go down, he’s willing to do anything to save and protect his family. So you do see the darkness, but you the Clint Barton of him wanting rather than to stab [Maya Lopez], to actually take the mask off, be brave, confront who he is, and plead to her humanity and the connection they have, in that they are tools for other people.
Similar to Jeremy Renner, Alaqua Cox can accomplish quite a bit with just a camera closeup on her face. What are your reflections on helping the audience discover this new actor?
Bert: She is a real-life superhero in everything she’s achieving in her life. For us, just turning a camera on her and seeing these emotions she brings to the character … it’s all below the surface. She keeps so much of it in, because she’s such a classic, gracious woman.
Episode five references the “new” Statue of Liberty. This statue, with a Captain America shield, figures into Spider-Man: No Way Home. Given how Marvel silos information, did you know what this new statue was? Or did you just think it was a cool reference in the script?
Bertie: We did. There’s a need to know basis. Things like that, there may have been a slightly larger reference to it in the original scripts. We love knowing that stuff. “Oh! That’s so cool.” Just how things weave together. That’s one we were aware of.
People have been bugging you in interviews about Vincent D’Onofrio, who is finally confirmed to be arriving in the finale. Did you work with him? Or was that photograph at the end of episode five captured elsewhere?
Bert: We were lucky enough to work with him and to share time and space with him. He is the most remarkable actor, the way he holds space. That was a treat. That was one of our favorite days on set.
On Netflix he was the fan-favorite villain. So that’s a treat to have him back I imagine.
Bertie: It means so much. not just logistically for the world. But just the level of intense sociopathic, evilness. (Laughs.) Which is the real stake. There have been stakes building throughout Hawkeye. It starts off very fun and games and the Tracksuits and the introduction of Maya Lopez and there’s Yelena and it just keeps getting more intense. It’s wonderful being part of this show that starts as one thing and it just escalates until these tones merge, so we can go from laughing your heart out to gripping the edge of your seat.
Many directors and writers that work with Marvel tend to want to come back. Have you given thought to that?
Bertie: I mean, OK! Write that in your article. Put it out there into the universe.
Bert: To be serious for a moment, they work in a way where it’s not fear-based. When we come in as directors and we are about to direct a 15-minute action and car chase sequence at no time was there ever any resistance to anything. As in, “Oh, you haven’t done action before. You can’t do that.” That doesn’t come into it. It’s like, “Oh, you want to put a camera rotating in a car? Cool! We’ll get back to you.” And then you have all these amazing technicians and artists who go off and the discussion starts.
What’s some of the advice you got from Marvel executives Trinh Tran or Kevin Feige on your episodes?
Bert: Their notes are always good because they are based in story and character. It serves the greater story.
Bertie: Trinh was good at being the person to remind us how this fits into the greater cinematic universe. I remember in the rooftop fight in 104, going, “The most important piece of this will be the moment Kate goes off the edge and there’s this calling back.” The calling back was so important. That made us go back to Endgame and watch shot-for-shot that sequence play out and replicate as much as possible, those shots. The size of the shots, the wide profile shot looking down at her, looking up at him. His hand reaching down. She was very good at reminding us of the motion and how the jigsaw of the MCU works and Kevin was just like, “More Christmas.” (Laughs.)
The Hawkeye finale streams Wednesday on Disney_
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