With the recent casting of Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, Marvel Studios not only cast its first Asian actor in a leading role, but also its first Canadian. However, Simu Liu is not the first Canadian to be cast in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Several Canadians have been cast in roles that vary in significance, such as Rachel McAdams in Doctor Strange and Emily VanCamp in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with Evangeline Lily landing the most prominent role of any as Hope Van Dyne in the Ant-Man films. The case could even be made that Lily is actually the first Canadian to earn a lead role in an MCU film given that the second Ant-Man instalment is called Ant-Man and the Wasp, though I would argue that it was still Paul Rudd who nabbed top billing.
One thing that can’t be argued, though, is that Cobie Smulders, of How I Met Your Mother fame, was the first Canadian to be cast in an MCU film. Smulders, who plays S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill, made her in first appearance in the 2012 superhero milestone that was The Avengers. Although she is by no means a leading star of the franchise, Smulders has nonetheless found a comfortable landing pad post-How I Met Your Mother with her interspersed appearances, which is a lot more than can be said for that actor who played Ted, i.e. the guy who meets the mother. Since her appearance in The Avengers Smulders has gone on to feature in 5 more MCU films, never far from the hip of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, with Spider-Man: Far From Home being the most recent of them. However, in light of some recent developments, Smulders may have one superhero franchise less to appear in.
The internet erupted on Tuesday when news outlets reported that negotiations between Disney, who run the MCU, and Sony, who own the film rights to Spider-Man, broke down due to disagreement over profit shares, leading to the announcement that the iconic Marvel character would no longer be a part of the MCU.
The agreement reached by both studios in 2015 was complicated, but what had essentially been agreed upon is that Disney would reboot Sony’s failing Spider-Man and integrate the character into the MCU. In return, Marvel would get 5% of the first dollar gross on any Spider-Man feature, while retaining their 100% stake in merchandising, which they acquired from Sony in 2011.
5% does seem like a relatively low stake in a major character that was, frankly, in need of a boost from the MCU, and given the overwhelming success of Far From Home, which has grossed over a billion dollars while also beating Skyfall as Sony’s most commercially successful film, it’s hardly surprising that Disney felt the need to renegotiate their terms. Though this is where problems arose, as Disney requested a whopping 50% of the profits, while also offering to split production costs right down the middle with Sony in future films.
Sony were having none of this. They said in their explosive announcement that they were ‘disappointed’ by Disney’s decision, essentially laying the blame on the behemoth’s reluctance to keep things as they were. Furthermore, Disney wished to reduce MCU creator and producer Kevin’s Feige’s role to co-producer, though despite his brilliance I am sure this was hardly a deal-breaker when compared to Disney’s proposal for 50% of the profits.
Simu Liu’s response on Twitter may very well sum up the feelings of millions of disgruntled fans in as little words as possible: “Wut.” However, Sony has extended an olive branch of hope by stating that in regards to Feige’s role in future films they “hope this might change in the future,” while still acknowledging that “the many new responsibilities that Disney have given him…do not allow time for him to work on IP they do not own.” Regardless, should the studios fail to ever agree on how they share profits, Sony has vowed to continue the story of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man with or without the assistance of Feige and Disney.
In spite of all this, there will surely be further talks and attempts at renegotiation. It also bears mentioning that if Disney can take back James Gunn to finish his Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy when all seemed lost, then surely there is a chance that the web-head can weather this storm and both parties can come to an agreement.