In her new Variety cover story, the award-winning comic force behind “Veep” discussed her immersion into the billion-dollar comic book world – and how far she’s willing to go in bringing the mysterious Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine to life.
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Louis-Dreyfus was briefly introduced in credits scenes and cameos over multiple Marvel films and series so far, including her debut in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” followed by Scarlett Johansson’s “Black Widow.” Known casually as Val, the Contessa is a powerful woman with ominous motives who typically shows up in the aftermath of the international incidents kicked up by earth’s mightiest — and when she does, she has a knack for recruiting the most broken and vengeful among them into her service.
[Warning: spoilers ahead for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”]
The Contessa last appeared in the 2022 blockbuster “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” where the audience learns she’s been named director of the CIA. This sets the stage for her strongest outing to date, the upcoming film “Thunderbolts,” which Louis-Dreyfus told Variety will film this June.
The plot has been described by Marvel chief creative officer Kevin Feige as the tale of a “rag-tag bunch” of unincorporated superheroes, including Florence Pugh’s Yelena Bolova and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes. Louis-Dreyfus is no longer content with cameos, she said. She wants to crack some skulls.
“I actually pitched it,” Louis-Dreyfus said, “I told them I really, really want to fight. We’ll see if that happens. I haven’t seen the script yet.” When reminded about Marvel’s intense stunt training, she reluctantly agreed, “Ugh. I’d better get in shape.”
Others hitting the gym for “Thunderbolts” included Wyatt Russell returning as the character U.S. Agent; David Harbour reprising his “Black Widow” role of Red Guardian; Olga Kurylenko as Taskmaster; Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost; and Harrison Ford, making his Marvel debut, as Thaddeous Ross. They’ll all be answering to Louis-Dreyfus, top Marvel production executive Nate Moore teased last summer, as her character will emerge as the MCU’s most formidable behind-the-scenes leader since Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury.
“There’s so much secrecy around it,” Louis-Dreyfus told Variety of the gig, “when I first started shooting it I had to go set wearing a black cloak with a hood and keep my head down so nobody could see it was me walking onto the soundstage.”
She also confirmed “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler’s recent revelation that the Contessa’s significant role in “Wakanda Forever” was scaled back to accommodate more storyline surrounding the death of King T’challa, played by the late Chadwick Boseman. Her storyline will be further unpacked in “Thunderbolts” and beyond. While we wait to learn more about the Contessa, Louis-Dreyfus has been been finding ways to make the character her own.
“In the original comic she has sort of a white streak in her hair, but I thought purple would make it a little more of this world today,” the actor said of the neon streak the Contessa rocks in her hair. “And I didn’t want o her to look too much like Cruella, or anything like that.”
“Thunderbolts” is currently slated to open on July 26, 2024.
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