SPOILER ALERT for anyone who doesn’t already know who’s playing Star Lord’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
When it comes to knowing exactly who owns the film rights to which Marvel comic book characters, we all know the big details: Sony has Spider-Man, Fox has the X-Men and Fantastic Four and Marvel Studios has everyone else. It’s the little details which are unclear, i.e., who owns the rights to all of the obscure supporting players who don’t so neatly fall into (for example) “he/she is clearly a Spider-Man character.” James Gunn almost found this out the hard way because as it turns out Marvel didn’t actually own the character rights to Star Lord’s father. That character, hilariously named Ego the Living Planet, will be played by Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, meaning they obviously worked everything out. However, if it not for Deadpool stumbling into a similar situation of its own who knows what would have happened.
As reported by THR, Deadpool‘s co-screenwriter Paul Wernick recently attended a special screening of the film where he told the audience the story behind how Negasonic Teenage Warhead ended up in the movie:
“We were looking down the list of the 400 characters that Fox owns, and NTW jumped out and we were like, ‘Yes. I don’t care what her powers are. She’s gonna be in the movie,'”
That’s actually the short version of the story. Ryan Reynolds told Empire NTW represented the bottom of the budget conscious barrel for them:
We went through such hell developing the script and which X-Men we could keep and which we couldn’t and it just turned into a nightmare. The studio would just say, ‘too expensive, too expensive, too expensive’ to everyone. So finally we were like well, “What about Negasonic Teenage Warhead” and they said, “Negasonic, what?”
Either way, NTW was definitely picked because all involved loved her name, but they also knew nothing about her comic book history. So, they just created a completely new character with that awesome name, completely ignoring the telepath of the comics whose primary claim to fame was dying horribly and thus helping to send Emma Frost, her teacher, off the deep end. However, Fox can’t just make massive changes like that to its X-Men characters without Marvel’s approval, and considering the extent of the changes they were proposing to make to NTW Marvel asked for something in return, which Wernick summarized:
“Kurt Russell[‘s Ego the Living Planet] in the new Guardians movie was the character that Fox swapped with Marvel to [change] Negasonic Teenage Warhead powers.”
After Wernick’s revelation from the screening leaked out, James Gunn took to Facebook, as he so often does, to add his side of the story:
“When I first pitched Ego as [Star Lord]’s father, I THOUGHT we owned the character. After I had worked out a very elaborate story with Ego the Living Planet as a very important part of the Marvel cosmic universe, I learned that we actually didn’t own the character. I had no backup plan, and it would be nearly impossible to just drop another character in. Thank God Fox came to us and wanted to make a trade…”
So, it was a real “you scratch my back, I scratch your living planet” situation. Hold on. That sounded oddly dirty. Regardless, it’s a rare glimpse into the behind the scenes dealings which are likely constantly taking place between Marvel and the other companies currently leasing some of their characters. The reason Fox had the rights to Ego is likely because Ego was a recurring Silver Surfer character in the 80s, but Ego originally debuted in The Mighty Thor in the 1960s. You can see how Gunn thought Marvel owned the character, but now they actually do, all thanks to Negasonic Teenage Warhead.