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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.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.