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“Captain America” writers reveal the movie’s deleted characters and the real story behind Arnim Zola

“Captain America” writers reveal the movie’s deleted characters and the real story behind Arnim Zola (photo)

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“Captain America: The First Avenger” arrives on shelves this week, offering fans the opportunity to add Chris Evans’ debut as solder-turned-superhero Steve Rogers to their DVD and Blu-ray libraries.

IFC spoke with “The First Avenger” writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely last week to get an update on the status of their “Captain America” sequel and their thoughts on seeing Evans join the rest of Marvel’s movie-verse heroes in the first trailer for “The Avengers.” Of course, we also spent some time talking “Captain America” with the duo, who had quite a bit to say about their experience scripting Steve Rogers’ big-screen origin story, and told us about some of the elements that didn’t make the film’s final cut.

“I think by virtue of it being a period piece, it was going to stand out – for better or worse – in the Marvel movie canon,” said Markus of the film’s unique place in the lineup of Marvel movies leading up to “The Avengers.” “It was not going to be a jazzy, high-tech ‘Iron Man.’ It was going to have its own tone.”

“In a weird way, I think it’s a triumph of sincerity,” he laughed. “I think the movie is genuine to itself and to the character. This is not a guy who is rabidly wisecracking his way through this adventure. He actually cares, and I think that translates to the movie as a whole. It doesn’t undercut itself.”

For McFeely, what set “Captain America” apart from its peers also included the unique architecture of the story, given the character’s history as a World War II hero who eventually finds himself in the modern-day world.

“We knew he had to go down in the Arctic at the end of the movie, so if you start with a premise that your main character is essentially going to die at the end, there’s a certain noble sacrifice you’re leading to the whole time,” he explained. “Not all movies get to do that.”

“Usually if you spend all this money, you’re going to have to have a sequel and you can’t really kill him at the end,” he continued. “So we had a structure, even though we don’t technically kill him, and we knew that was going to happen. You’re creating this noble sacrifice in the third act that I think tugs at people. I hope it does.”

Asked which scenes from the film best encapsulated their vision for the character brought to life on the screen, the pair called out two very different moments from “The First Avenger.”

“I like the whole U.S.O. sequence, in that it’s the kind of thing that could’ve easily been cut – not on a storytelling level, but more like ‘Do we really want to have this deliberately cheesy song and dance number in the middle of the superhero movie?'” said Markus. “But I think it kind of gets to the heart of where the character comes from and the time he exists in… and explains the costume in a nice, easy way.”

“I would say the end of the World War II story – the whole plane scene,” said McFeely. “The radio conversation is basically word-for-word form the first outline, let alone the first draft. Even if the outline took a few changes early on, it always got back to there, and everyone felt like that scene was going to kill if we got it right.”

Still, not everything that was in the early drafts of the film ended up in the final cut. While almost everything that was shot found its way to theaters, Markus hinted that some of the elements that were eventually excised from the film could become fodder for the sequel.

“There wasn’t a sequence with Master Man (one of Captain America’s classic villains) that ended up on the cutting room floor or anything,” laughed Markus. “But there was an endless array of scenes we could’ve drawn from, and may draw from in the future. I’m not being cryptic when I say that, either – I’m just being a comic book geek. For example, some day, whether it be in an ‘Iron Man’ movie or a ‘Captain America’ movie or any other Marvel movie, I want to see M.O.D.O.K. float down the hall.”

For those who aren’t familiar with Captain America’s rogues gallery, M.O.D.O.K. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing) is a recurring villain whose appearance is that of a gigantic head encased in a cybernetic suit with miniature arms and legs and rockets that propel it around. The character is a fan-favorite nemesis for Steve Rogers that debuted in a 1967 issue of Tales of Suspense and was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.

Asked whether M.O.D.O.K. really is the character they’re most looking forward to seeing on the big screen, the pair couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the giant, floating head facing off against the iconic supersoldier.

“Yeah, I’m voting M.O.D.O.K.,” laughed Markus.

“You know what? ‘Vote M.O.D.O.K.’ is a t-shirt I would wear,” agreed McFeely.

However, while M.O.D.O.K. was never actually included in their original “Captain America” script, there were a few classic villains that were planned for the first film, only to be removed in subsequent drafts. The pair previously revealed that evil despot Baron Zemo was in an early draft, but he wasn’t the only sinister side character in those versions of the script.

“Baron Strucker was in there for a while, but he wasn’t doing enough to justify wasting him in the film,” said McFeely. “We certainly tried things, and ended up settling on the more useful Red Skull and Arnim Zola.”

“But they’re all still on the table,” he teased.

Finally, the pair offered up some insight regarding one particular character who did make the cut, and was introduced in a nice tip of the hat to his incarnation in the comics world.

In the comics world, Captain America villain Arnim Zola often appears as a large, humanoid robot with a large monitor in his chest that depicts Zola’s face. In the film, actor Toby Jones plays Arnim Zola, who is first seen in the film staring through a large lens – a nice nod to his comics counterpart.

“That was in the first draft, too,” said McFeely of the comics-friendly angle to Zola’s introduction. “As soon as we knew it was going to be Zola, we wanted to make sure his intro was on a screen like that.”

“We wanted to tip our hat to his later incarnation without including it in the film, because when you have a guy with a red skull for a head who’s supposed to be the most horrifying thing in the story, you can’t have a robot man walking around,” laughed Markus. “So yeah, Zola had to be a person in this movie.”

“Captain America: The First Avenger” arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray this Tuesday, October 25.

What do you think of the “Captain America” writers’ comments regarding the characters that did or didn’t make the cut? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…