Avengers: Endgame has finally hit theaters, and it is as huge as expected. It’s easily one of the biggest events in movie history. The North Park Theatre is having a very special event for the occasion. Buffalo’s own Christopher Markus, who also happened to co-write the film along with the Captain America movies, Thor: The Dark World, and more, will be coming home to give a Q&A at North Park before and after the screening of the movie. As stated in my previous article, this special event will be Friday, May 3rd at 8:00 PM.
Before Chris’s homecoming to Buffalo, I was able to have the honor of speaking with him about screenwriting, Marvel, and what it’s like coming home after his success.
Why did you choose screenwriting as a career?
I’ve always been good at, and drawn to, writing. It’s something I enjoyed doing in school and I went to graduate school for creative writing. My writing partner, Stephen McFeely, and I started off with writing short stories. However, writing can be a difficult way to make money. Screenwriting seemed to be the best business for writing. Most people enter Hollywood to make movies, but we wanted to write and create stories.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was your start to screenwriting. That’s a particularly huge movie to start with. How did you get that opportunity?
The Chronicles of Narnia was only our start to big budget filmmaking. We started out with a few scripts that didn’t make it to screen. We wrote The Life and Death of Peter Sellers for HBO, which was successful due in part to how we portrayed Sellers’ character. Narnia originally had a different screenwriter attached to it, but the director, Andrew Adamson, wanted the characters to feel more real. He liked our work and wanted us to help with the character work.
Your long time writing partner is Stephen McFeely. Is it safe to assume the two of you are good friends outside of work?
Yes, we are. However, we are almost always at work and don’t get a lot of time outside of it. We do have a great relationship, though.
How did this partnership with Stephen McFeely start?
We met in grad school. There weren’t a lot of people in the program at the time, so we knew each other. We were both somewhat concerned about what would happen once we finished school and how we would use writing to make a living. Stephen’s uncle gave him a book on screenwriting, and that was the first time we had considered that an option. Both of our first time screenwriting was together, and we kept it that way since.
Would you ever consider writing a solo project?
If circumstances led to it, sure. That being said, we’ve successfully made a name for ourselves as a team. We are more marketable as a team because studios might not want to risk splitting us up and only getting half of what they know works. It’s also something I’m not going out of my way to seek since we work together so well.
As someone who is part of the creative side of Hollywood, have you ever faced any issues with the business side of it? Has there ever been an instance when you were asked to change something or take something out of a script that you wanted to keep in?
Constantly. However, that’s part of the reality of filmmaking. Making a film is a collaboration between many different roles. Even when there are disagreements between those different roles, we try out suggestions to see what works best. Over time, that’s something that becomes a fluid process down to the final edit.
Is directing something that you would ever want to give a try?
It’s something we have considered, but only because we wrote something we want to really protect. We might want to try it someday, but it’s not the next necessary step to take.
After the script is written, do you have any other part in the production of a movie?
Yes, we’re on set every day, and in the editing room. Marvel is a collaborative company, and it takes a lot of us working together to get these movies made. We’re always there to consult the project and rewriting scenes depending on the scenario.
Do you usually know who will be playing a character before you write their lines? Does this affect the writing process at all?
It depends. With the Marvel movies, a lot of the characters are already there. They’re already being played by someone. With other scripts where we don’t know who the actor will be, we sometimes think of an actor in particular to keep in mind as we write so we know what voice to use. It certainly affects the writing process because when we know which actors we’re working with, we know everyone’s strengths and can work with that. Robert Downey, Jr. loves to talk, so we know we can give him a lot of lengthy lines.
Is there anything you’ve written, whether it be a scene, a script, or a single line, that you wish you wrote differently?
No, I can’t think of anything really torturing me. I’m usually open to changes when they need to be made.
My personal dream job is to become a screenwriter. What is the best way to start? Do you have any advice for people who have similar goals?
Start writing. There are also useful books on screenwriting that can teach you structure. It’ll be a tough road if you don’t live in LA, but it can happen. A lot of movies aren’t filmed in LA anymore, but the people looking to hire are there. Keep in mind, when you do interact with them, you’re not selling a script, you’re selling you. Writing to have a writing sample to showcase your skills is better to have at first than trying to sell your brilliant script early.
Your movie Avengers: Infinity War is one of the most successful movies of all time, and Avengers: Endgame is expected to meet that or do even better. Is that something that you ever imagined yourself being a part of?
Not even in the slightest. I’ve never thought of myself as someone who thought in the mainstream. I always considered myself and my writing to be more weird. The Marvel movies lend themselves to being something this big because of their source material. Stephen and I are happy to have wound up where we have.
How does it feel to write stories based on such iconic characters like Captain America and Thor?
It’s an honor. They’ve been in people’s minds for decades. People grew up with them. When reading those comics, no one ever thought these movies could exist because of the effects that would need to be involved or the amount of time needed to develop the characters. It’s cool to be a part of it. It’s exciting to get to play with these toys that I grew up with.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe certainly has a lot of characters in it now. Are there any other characters from the comics who haven’t appeared in the movies yet that you would like to see do so?
There aren’t many who haven’t been attempted in some form like TV, or cartoons, or some other media. If I were to pick one I’d want to see, it’d be Moon Knight. I’d like to see how they’d pull him off. No one can be ruled out as long as long as they’re taken seriously.
Are there any storylines from the Marvel comic books that haven’t been featured in the movies that you would want to write into a script?
I can’t really think of any right now. What we write about isn’t an exact replica of what’s in the comics. Our version of Civil War w as almost completely different than the comic, but we kept the same feel and the same themes. We just use the seeds that the comics plant for us. I think the comic storylines they could use for movies are limitless.
Were Marvel comic books something you were passionate about before writing Marvel movies?
When I was a kid, yes. I phased out of them as I got older, but I’m happy to be experiencing these stories and characters again through these movies. Comic books are the modern Greek myths, so they are something that I’ll always find exciting.
You’re a Buffalo native. How does it feel returning to Buffalo after all the success you’ve had?
I love it! This North Park Theatre event makes me giddy because it was a big part of my past. Plus, the atmosphere of the area is very different from when I was there before, so it’ll be interesting to see how things have changed.
While you’re back in Buffalo, what is the one thing you need to do before you leave?
Hang out with my mom. I’m unfortunately not here long enough to do everything I’d want to do. I’m watching what I eat, but I wish I could experience the food there more.
A viewing of Avengers: Endgame, along with a Q&A with the film’s screenwriter is an ideal way to celebrate a 22-movie saga being capped off. It’s even more exciting that the screenwriter is a native to our great city of Buffalo. Be sure to help give him a warm Buffalo homecoming by taking part in this rare experience at the North Park Theatre May 3rd at 8:00 PM.