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‘Moon Knight’ Directors and Cast Talk Adapting the Iconic Marvel Character to Disney+

Moon Knight‘s first episode is hitting Disney+ on Wednesday, and Awards Radar was lucky to have attended a press conference with directors Mohamed Diab, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, stars Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, and May Calamawy, and producer Grant Curtis representing Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios.

What enticed Benson and Moorhead to join the project stems from the fact that Marvel represents “the Great American Myth.”

JUSTIN BENSON: In the roughly 50 years of comic books this character is somewhat defined by being bold and being an outsider. And there was something attractive about telling a superhero story like that, but then also working with a bunch of people who were so clearly going to make it something personal to them and then finding what’s personal in this at such a large scale. And then especially these three, finding this deep humanity of humor and pain and everything else in what you might call the great mythology of our time.

Aaron Moorhead expanded on what Benson called “the great mythology of our time.”

AARON MOORHEAD: Our great, modern myths are Marvel movies right now. The Great American Myth right now comes from Marvel. And a lot of other places, but it is really cool to actually be a part of that and telling a story that’s actually about these ancient myths and things that we all grew up on. And also, just the fact that that tonally somehow dovetails with all of our independent work is really, really cool.

Mohamed Diab’s background is in independent films, as he is mostly known for the vastly underrated 678, and recalled a conversation with Oscar Isaac when he signed onto the project as director.

MOHAMED DIAB: I come from a background that is very independent, small films, usually from the Middle East. I remember the first call between me and Oscar, and he told me, “Mohamed, what the hell are you doing here?” I remember telling him something about making intimate stories not exclusive to budget. And I think Marvel was onto something. I had other offers before to make big-budget movies, but I never connected to anything like this, intimate stories that has some big stuff happening around them. So just imagine that line. You as a normal person discovering that you have another identity that is a superhero. I was drawn right away.

Diab was also attracted to the fact that the series explored Egyptian mythology in a thoughtful light and not in an oriental fashion.

MD: As an Egyptian, we always see us depicted or the Middle East depicted in a way that is – we call it orientalism, when you see us as exotic and dehumanized. Just showing us as a human, just normal human beings, through Layla’s character and seeing even Egypt as Egypt because 90% of the time, Egypt is not Egypt. Imagine Paris and you’re seeing Big Ben in the background. That’s how we see our country. So it’s funny, but it hurts. So that’s really what attracted me.

Oscar Isaac noted the differences in working with Marvel Studios, as opposed to other big franchise titles like Dune and the Star Wars sequel trilogy. This is not Isaac’s first foray into the Marvel Universe, as he starred as the main antagonist in X-Men: Apocalypse, but this is the first time that he worked with Marvel Studios.

OSCAR ISAAC: It just seemed like there was a real opportunity to do something completely different, particularly in the MCU, and to really focus on this internal struggle of this character, and to use Egyptian iconography and the superhero genre and this language to talk about this real internal struggle that this person is having. And also to create an indelible, unusual character, particularly with Steven Grant. So it felt like for me once I got a real take on how I wanted to play Steven and I brought that to everyone and they welcomed that with open arms, I also realized I had real, incredible collaborators and it was going to be a creative adventure.

Ethan Hawke is also making his first appearance in a superhero title in Moon Knight, by playing the main antagonist, Arthur Harrow, and stated that his character reversed the tropes of the “mentally ill” villain, because it’s the hero whose mind cannot be trusted.

ETHAN HAWKE: The history of movies are paved with storytellers using mental illness as a building block for the villain. I mean, there’s countless stories of mentally ill villains, and we have a mentally ill hero. And that’s fascinating because we’ve now inverted the whole process. And so now as the antagonist, I can’t be crazy because the hero’s crazy. So I have to kind of find a sane lunatic or a sane malevolent force. And that was an interesting riddle for me to figure out how to be in dynamics with what Oscar was doing. And Mohamed was really embracing his mental illness as a way to create an unreliable narrator. And once you’ve broken the prism of reality, everything that the audience is seeing is from a skewed point of view. I think that was our riddle, and we came up with somebody who was trying to save the world. And in his mind, he’s Saint Harrow, you know? He thinks he’s gonna be part of the great solution.

May Calamawy plays Layla El-Faouly, an archeologist and part of Spector’s past. We don’t know much about her character, since she was hidden from the film’s promotional material, but she explained what drew her to star in the series.

MAY CALAMAWY: I love how strong she is. But at the same time, I felt like I got to play the full gamut of a woman with her because she’s strong and she’s for the people and fights for what she believes, but she’s also really vulnerable and scared. So that was fun for me.

Calamawy also had strong praise on Oscar Isaac’s performance as Marc Spector/Moon Knight.

MC: He really understands it at such a cellular level. And when he would be each character, it was really two separate people, and I could feel the energy. I wouldn’t even have to ask who he was. With Marc, I would find myself more guarded around. With Steven, I’d feel more nurturing. And there was no intellect or thought process involved in it. It was just visceral, and it was so fun to work with you and experience that.

On bringing Moon Knight to the MCU, producer Grant Curtis explained that the character was on Kevin Feige’s radar since day one.

GRANT CURTIS: You look at his history, first appeared in “Werewolf by Night” in 1975. Then, he kind of bounced around in the Marvel Universe for the next five years, and he got his own offering in 1980. And when you look at years and decades of storytelling, as the great storytellers and artists on the “Moon Knight” pages have been doing, I think this was a natural progression, a merger into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And I think it was just like this was the perfect time. When you look at Disney+ and needing a broader canvas to tell this incredible story, March 30th, the audience will see it, and this was the perfect time to drop into the universe.

The first episode of Moon Knight releases on March 30th on Disney+, with subsequent episodes releasing weekly for a total of six.

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Written by Maxance Vincent

Maxance Vincent is a freelance film and TV critic, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. He is currently finishing a specialization in Video Game Studies, focusing on the psychological effects regarding the critical discourse on violent video games.

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