By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com December 9, 2011 at 8:54PM
As essentially a self-financing entity, Marvel has, perhaps understandably, been careful to look after the bottom line on their self-produced movies since "Iron Man." The movies have, without exception, cost north of $100 million, but the studio has been careful to keep the money on the screen, signing relative unknowns like Chris Hemsworth, character actors like Mark Ruffalo, or rising stars like Jeremy Renner. People who won't break the bank, exactly. And those actors are kept to restrictive multiple film contracts, to the extent that Chris Evans nearly backed out of "Captain America: The First Avenger."
But their thrifty practice seems to have reached its zenith with the choice of director for "Thor 2." The original was the most successful of the four superhero movies this year, grossing nearly half-a-billion dollars worldwide, but the studio has courted virtually unknown, presumably super-cheap TV directors for the job once Kenneth Branagh bowed out. "Game of Thrones" helmer Brian Kirk was the first to be approached, while Patty Jenkins, who's worked principally on the small screen since her debut feature "Monster," landed the gig only to drop out earlier this week due to creative differences, although it seems she may work with Marvel again in the future.
The studio hasn't wasted time in looking for successors, but neither have they upped their hiring budget, continuing the pattern of turning to TV helmers with at least one feature under their belt with The Hollywood Reporter's news that Alan Taylor and Daniel Minahan are the current contenders for the director's chair on the sequel. Taylor is perhaps best known for the Vincent Gallo/Frances McDormand indie "Palookaville" (with two other features under his belt, the Ian Holm Napoleon drama "The Emperor's New Clothes" and David Krumholtz starrer "Kill The Poor"), but he's made bigger waves on the small screen, having helmed the pilot for "Mad Men" and worked on virtually every other acclaimed TV drama, including "Homicide: Life on the Street," "Sex and the City," "The Sopranos," "The West Wing," "Deadwood," "Boardwalk Empire" and "Game of Thrones."
Minahan's also a "Game of Thrones" vet (there seems to be a recurring theme here...), along with credits on "Grey's Anatomy," "True Blood" and "The Good Wife" among many others. But he also has big screen form, co-writing Mary Harron's "I Shot Andy Warhol" and directing reality TV satire "Series 7: The Contenders." Clearly, Marvel is after someone who'll bring the sequel in cheap and fast and who won't rock the boat, and we imagine the decision could be made by flipping a coin at this point.
More interesting are the writers being considered to rework Don Payne's original draft for the follow-up. While "Up in the Air" co-scribe Sheldon Turner was being considered, the shortlist seems to have come down to three: John Collee ("Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World"), Robert Rodat ("Saving Private Ryan"), and Roger Avary, co-writer of "Pulp Fiction" as well as the writer of video-game adaptation "Silent Hill" and Robert Zemeckis' "Beowulf." Again, it's hard to surmise anything from the choices, other than that Marvel is clearly after someone who can bring an epic feel without breaking the bank.
It might seem a little panicked, but in reality, Marvel has plenty of time; the film isn't due in theaters for slightly under two years, so even if a new writer takes six months to get the script right, they'll have more time than your average blockbuster. Having said that, Marvel, if you're listening, we'll do it over the weekend for a crate of beer and $800 cash-in-hand. We'll see if they're able to prove as mildly and surprisingly entertaining as the original when "Thor 2" hits theaters on November 15, 2013.