Oscar Isaac stars in the new Marvel series Moon Knight.Image: Marvel Studios 2022 / CSABA AKNAY
“Moon Knight” is the latest Marvel series on Disney +, which comes up with some special features. The title character is anything but a classic superhero, rather Oscar Isaac embodies a character with a dissociative identity disorder: sometimes he is the shy, clumsy museum employee Steven Grant, sometimes the hardened former CIA agent Marc Spector takes over the body of the protagonist. Especially at the beginning, the two identities fight against each other rather than with each other. In between is May Calamawy as Layla, who is married to Marc and only meets Steven as the story progresses. The series is likely to be one of the most diverse Marvel productions to date, which is not only reflected in the cast and crew: Egyptian mythology provides the framework for the story.
Before the release of the fifth episode, watson interviewed the two main actors Oscar Isaac and May Calamawy, who promise to have a serious word with Marvel on an issue in the near future…
watson: How did you approach the two characters you play? Were they developed sequentially or both together?
Oscar Isaac: Steven came first. When I had the script for the first episode and I with Kevin Feige [Produzent der Serie, Anm. d. Redaktion] When I spoke about the possibilities for the project, I was unsure. I realized that the story is set in London and I thought: What would I enjoy? So I developed this character at home – first for my family and especially for my four-year-old son. He especially liked it a lot and he wanted me to continue with it. In the end I kind of fell in love with this character.
And the Marvel bosses waved your design for the character through right away?
Oscar: I then presented it to Kevin and he said, “Sure, let’s try that.” He has to give him credit for that, because I don’t think they were completely convinced with Marvel. Still, they wanted me to go through with it. (laughs)
Oscar Isaac plays two characters in “Moon Knight”: Marc and Steven.Image: Marvel Studios 2022 / CSABA AKNAY
And how did Marc come about?
Oscar: The next thought was: What would be an interesting counterpoint to Steven? In a way, it was fun to now indulge in the idea of a more traditional, darker hero – because at the same time, that little Englishman lives inside him. The tension between these two poles was ultimately what gave me the most pleasure.
“I don’t think they were really completely committed to Marvel. Still, they wanted me to do it.”
Let’s briefly talk about the many action scenes. Do you find them difficult? After all, you originally come from the indie film or art house area.
Oscar: I’m quite artsy-fartsy, that’s true, and yes, I do find them difficult. (laughs) I started training for the scenes early on. The main thing was to stay mobile. I didn’t want to go to the gym just to be pumped up and unable to move properly. Also, it gets boring when everyone has the same physique (in fact, that’s my excuse for not exercising). It was definitely a challenge, but we also had a great stunt team that did the things I could never do.
A charge that is often leveled against Marvel production is that they mostly have no erotica. You two play a couple in “Moon Knight” and even have a kissing scene in episode four. Should there be more of this?
May Calamawy: I wasn’t really aware that Marvel productions were viewed that way. But now that you mention it… (laughs)
Oscar: Marvel movies should feature bare genitals, more like European productions.
Oscar Isaac and May Calamawy play lovers in Moon Knight.picture: marvel studios 2022 / GABOR KOTSCHY
… especially since the depiction of violence in comic book adaptations is apparently okay.
Oscar: This is so ridiculous. You can show corpses anywhere, but with sex scenes, you’ll be met with rejection. It’s this bizarre American prudery that ultimately leads to the over-sexualization of everything in this country. As long as there’s no blood, people can be shot in movies. So maybe one could show genitals as long as they are not touched? I dont know. We’re going to talk to Marvel and see what we can do.
May: Yes we’ll do that. Our kiss on Moon Knight was really sweet, I think, but then everyone said, “Oh god, that was the most awkward kiss ever,” and made fun of it. (laughs)
Oscar: But that’s exactly how it should be, after all it’s Steven’s first kiss.
May: It’s just natural when you have feelings like that for someone. This is how people express themselves. So yes, when there are kisses, that’s a great thing.
“You can show corpses anywhere, but with sex scenes, you get rejected.”
Layla only finds out late that there is a second personality slumbering in her husband.Image: Marvel Studios 2022 / CSABA AKNAY
Mental health is a major theme of the series. Should more mainstream productions also address more serious issues like this?
Oscar: Yes, but some already do, although at the moment a lot is more “mythology”. With abstraction you can tell profound things. Totalitarian regimes, for example, fear nothing more than abstract art, because the messages aren’t as clear and you don’t immediately know what this or that character is thinking. With abstract symbols, however, you can convey very real things to the audience. It’s an interesting challenge to use this big stage to deal with something profound.
May: I think Marvel has always been good at subliminal themes like that. “Moon Knight” takes the next step in mental health. But elements of it are always there. The series hopefully amplifies it in some way. We want viewers to be curious and think about what another person is going through – that’s true of any character drama or film.
What’s striking about Layla: She doesn’t have any superpowers, but she doesn’t need or want to be protected by a man. May, do you see a feminist approach in this?
May: She is definitely a feminist. I would say that applies to everyone involved in the series. You can just tell by the way Layla is portrayed. I read a comment on the web related to the scene when Layla fights this Heka priest and it gets really dangerous for her. The post read, “I was just waiting for Moon Knight to show up and save her.” But then it doesn’t happen and I was so happy because you can see that she can do it on her own and at the same time remains very human. Layla isn’t the only one capable of this though, so bring in more women so they can experience the same thing about themselves! This makes the presentation much more real.
“Viewers should be curious and think about what another person is going through – that’s true of any character drama and any film.”
May Calamawy Praises Moon Knight’s DiversityImage: Marvel studios 2022
Do you think Disney has a special responsibility when it comes to diversity and avoiding stereotypes? After all, millions of people watch Disney and Marvel films and series.
May: Yes, everyone has this responsibility. Disney has pioneers that other people look up to. With that comes a responsibility Disney should take seriously — and they do. You’re doing it right.