Jeff Loveness was born to write for Marvel. As a kid, his brother and friends would quiz each other on Marvel trivia on the way to school. Later, he wrote and directed the viral fan film Wes Anderson’s Spider-Man, which caught the eye of Jimmy Kimmel Live! There, he wrote a new Star Wars trilogy starring Harrison Ford (watch here, here and here!).
That eventually led to him meeting the Marvel Bullpen and a job writing comics starring Groot, Spider-Man, Venom, the Avengers, and more. Now he leads us into the Quantum Realm as writer of Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. And as was recently revealed, he’s currently writing Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. We caught up with Jeff Loveness to discuss his first feature film for Marvel Studios.
Now that the movie’s come out, you’ve done the publicity and everything, I know what a massive Marvel fan you are. What in the whole process did you consider the High Point? Where did you take a step back and say, “Wow! I can’t believe this is happening!”
Jeff Loveness: I think for me there’s like two fronts. On the dramatic front, just actually seeing Jonathan Majors embody Kang the Conqueror and not doing like a half ass-job, not do a meta-or a undercutting version. He actually fully embodied the essence of that comic book character which is pretty tough to translate, you know? And he’s a full-on super villain and to still give him gravitas and vulnerability and humanity.
I’m not even kidding, like every day, every scene with that guy was a thrill to watch. And as a writer, you know, you’re always vulnerable and then you feel insecure about your writing or you don’t know if it’s gonna pay off or not. I felt such a trust and such an excitement and I was never worried about Jonathan and I’m like, “He can pull off those lines and like he makes them sound so cool.”
So that to me was the high point. And the dumb comedy guy in me, man, I cannot believe that I got to do MODOK in that way! I got to do a comedic, fun, stupid version of MODOK and even if it divides people or whatever, I will go to the mat for MODOK. I will bleed out for MODOK! (see photos on Jeff’s Twitter!)
I love that I got to do that version of him and to make him that stupid and like that tragic and pathetic and like to give them a little bit of a redemptive arc and to die in such a dark funny way. Those are the two highlights that that I hold onto.
There’s gotta be some part of you that enjoys watching the fans online hate on MODOK and then love him and then battle it out.
Loveness: You’re kind of used to it as a comic book fan. It’s like arguing about politics or sports or something. But in this case I will weigh in and say that guys who hate it are wrong! He’s delightful! And they can throw me out of Marvel if they want but MODOK lives in cinema now and I think now Scorsese’s wrong. I think now it’s been decided because if we saw some bare MODOK ass on screen, I think marvel movies are cinema.
You’ve hit a cinematic High Point there.
Loveness: Yeah yeah yeah. Now it’s decided.
So the Marvel process – when you came on board did they say, “We want you to do X,Y and Z” or did you have a blank piece of paper to propose what to do?
Loveness: I came in when they were kind of in a little bit of development. It’s like they had a few ideas like, you know, Kang the Conqueror was on the table. Possibly MODOK. And they wanted to do a big tonal shift and they wanted to do a Quantum Realm adventure. That’s about it. So it’s like, “Here are the action figures. Here’s the world. What do you want to do?”
And so the rest was kind of up to me to pitch an engaging kind of story through that or what’s going on. But yeah, I think it depends project to project. You know, if you have a Captain America movie probably Captain America’s gonna show up. Blade, some vampires might show up. Maybe there’ll be be a rave or something. They do the things you expect.
What was interesting about this was it was one of the few Marvel movies that has a multi-generational family all on an adventure together. Was that a conscious decision?
Loveness: It seemed like a big opportunity. And it seemed to me a chance to kind of like a throwback movie and the ones I loved growing up. Like “Jurassic Park” or even like “Men in Black” or “Jumanji” or “Hook” or something like that. It’s still a very serious movie with a serious villain, but it gives you the opportunity to hit a couple different levels of humor. You can have witty remarks, a little banter between the adults, but you also get to have a bit of just goofy humor and guys with holes.
It’s been really a joy to see the audience laugh at different things in the movie at different ages and stuff and see what hits for some people. And that to me was the thrill you can only do that in Ant-Man movie because they are a family unit. So that was that I thought seems like something to really lean into and make this movie unique in this way.
I know you’re a massive Bill Murray fan. What was it like having him come on board and working with him?
Loveness: Oh man! You know what? My mom, my family… I guess our family movie is “What About Bob?” That’s a movie we watch almost every year and we don’t really watch a ton of movies together in a way that everyone enjoys. And in being there at the premiere with my mom watching the scene very reminiscent of the “What About Bob?” dinner, kind of by intention, and to hear my mom laugh at that meant the world to me.
I like to have an old Pro come in and just kinda do what he does best. He comes in, jumps out, doesn’t overstay his welcome. It feels almost like a Bob Hope cameo or something. It just feels like an effortless kind of thing. I still haven’t quite processed that ’cause like so many good things happened in this movie. It’s almost like a weird dream. I’m not sure it happened!
Did you get to play golf with Bill Murray?
Loveness: I got to putt in his trailer. Kathryn Newton‘s the golfer. She’s pretty cool. She’s really good at golf. I was on the high school golf team and I was so s****y and I was on the team because they needed one more person or else there couldn’t be a team. I couldn’t play baseball. I couldn’t play basketball. I was in theater. I almost joined the golf team just to impress my Dad to make him not pity me so much.
I don’t know. But I was so bad at it, clearly so bad, that it would drag the whole team down. Anyways, years later I’m putting with Bill Murray in his trailer. I nail three putts in a row. And I was like, “Wow! OK!” High school golf?! I haven’t played in 15 years and suddenly it came in handy 15 years later.
You’ve got to say, “Dad was right.“
Loveness: Turns out he was. And I actually called him and told him that and he was pretty thrilled.
Good. I got that on record then. Were there any deleted scenes? Was there anything cut that we can look forward to seeing later? Or was completely thrown by the wayside?
Loveness: Yeah, tons of them. Lots of stuff. One in particular, there’s a little more Kang backstory that I think is probably better served for “Avengers.” Where he’s going, where he’s been, all that kind of stuff. My favorite Deleted Scene is the one with me! I got killed by MODOK. It was my debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe! I played one of his Quantum, kind of like stormtrooper guys in a bowl, in a red shirt kind of henchman guys and MODOK gives me an order and I finally just like snap at him.
“I don’t work for you! Stop telling me what to do!” It was another like gut punch to MODOK. There were many scenes. There’s one with Michelle Pfeiffer just berating him. There’s a lot of just like him being broken up along the course of the movie that leads to his redemption later. But some of that got cut out. But yeah, I back-talked to MODOK and he blows me up with his little crystal head laser. That’s the scene I want at the front of the movie. I want that on the poster.
I know you can’t talk about Avengers, but do you want to put a fake rumor out there to kind of stir the fans up and muddy the waters.
Loveness: Yeah. I’m playing Gambit and Cyclops. It’s a dual role. Kind of a “Klumps” situation. The accent changes wildly from scene to scene.
Loveness: Let’s get that going. Yeah. I don’t know. The movie’s going well. We’re just in the middle of it and diving forward. Yeah, make me Gambit. That’s all I want to be. That’s all I ever wanted to be.
Well you established MODOK’s an Avenger now. Any chance a variant could come back and join the team?
Loveness: (laughs) Uh… if I say yes, I promise you he will be even stupider. I refuse to listen to the fans on this. I will not make MODOK serious. As long as I’m alive, they’re not gonna get that serious adaptation that those four fans want. He’ll be a big dumb head. That’s all.
So who were your favorite Marvel characters growing up?
Loveness: Oh Cyclops. He’s the one I always go for ’cause he never gets enough love. And I think he’s such a human character and I legitimately think it’s like one of the top five Marvel characters and he hasn’t gotten his due yet because the more you grow up, the more you relate to Cyclops. You realize, “Man, I’m just doing my best and I am trying to keep this together and this cool guy over here is always trying to steal my girlfriend. Nobody likes me.”
He feels like he’s the weekend manager at Blockbuster or Hometown Buffet. He is just trying to keep his family together and everyone is a horny little freak on that team. And even on a serious note, his power is incredible… the metaphor. He has a broken power. He has a broken father-son relationship with Xavier. He’s trying to be a good son. I think he’s an incredible character. He’s always my vote for my favorite.
Be sure to visit Jeff Loveness on Twitter to view more behind-the-scenes photos and for updates on his upcoming projects!