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Age of Ultron deleted scene stars a surprisingly familiar face

Our introduction to one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most powerful heroes nearly came much, much sooner.

A special feature included with the Infinity Saga box set illustrates an interesting tidbit disclosed by Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige back in 2015: that Carol Danvers, AKA Captain Marvel, was almost introduced at the conclusion of that film.

You may recall that Age of Ultron ended with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) assembling a new Avengers team; Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) was taking a breather, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) was M.I.A., and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) was off-planet investigating the Infinity Stones. Gathered at the Avengers HQ was James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) in his War Machine armor, Sam Wilson/the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and new allies Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).

The latter made her entrance by flying into the facility, and eagle-eyed viewers noticed that something about Maximoff looked just a little bit... off in that scene. That's because the special effects shot wasn't designed for her, but for Danvers, who had yet to be cast — and the subsequent shot of the new team assembled before Rogers and Romanoff was filmed with a stand-in for Captain Marvel front and center, one who was subsequently digitally removed from the scene.

The unaltered shot is finally available for fans to "oooh" and "aaah" over on the recently-released box set, but Feige went public with its existence shortly after Age of Ultron's release. Speaking with Birth.Movies.Death in 2015, Feige explained that while the good Captain's inclusion was actually part of an early draft of the screenplay, he was never exactly on board with it.

"[Captain Marvel] was in a draft [of Age of Ultron]," Feige said. "But to me, it would have done that character a disservice, to meet her fully formed, in a costume and part of the Avengers already, when 99% of the audience would go, 'Who is that?' It's just not the way we've done it before."

Feige went on to recall how he essentially humored Whedon, who had gotten it into his head that introducing an iconic, never-before-seen character during Age of Ultron's final seconds somehow wouldn't have confused the hell out of the audience.

"The way we reveal Scarlet Witch [in costume] at the end of the movie? Those were Captain Marvel plate shots," Feige explained. "[Whedon] said, 'We'll cast her later!' And I said, 'Yeah Joss, we'll cast her later.'" Feige then pantomimed whispering to someone else, "We're not putting her in there!"

Fortunately, Whedon eventually saw it Feige's way, and the King Geek explained that it was actually the director's idea to reuse those plate shots for Maximoff's entrance. "Finally, Joss was like, 'Let's use those plates to let Scarlet Witch fly into frame, give her a big entrance,'" Feige said. "And that makes sense — she's come to their side, and she deserves the cool intro, which will feed into another movie we start shooting in a few weeks."

The movie to which he was referring, of course, was Captain America: Civil War. That flick's first act hinged on a terrible accident involving Maximoff that prompted the world's government to fast-track the adoption of the Sokovia Accords, which required all superheroes to essentially be registered government agents. Whether or not to fall in line caused a serious rift among the Avengers, leading to the titular conflict — a conflict which, it's safe to say, would have gone a heck of a lot differently had Captain Marvel been involved.

Were any other Marvel heroes almost introduced in Age of Ultron?

Whedon may have eventually remembered that giving out-of-left-field, unheralded introductions to iconic heroes isn't exactly how the MCU has historically gotten down, but before he did, he had designs on introducing another Marvel hero in that final scene, as well. He may even have actually done it — had the deal between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures to share custody of Spider-Man been reached just a little bit sooner.

Shortly after Age of Ultron's release, Whedon visited the Empire Film podcast to talk about the picture, and he casually disclosed that if he had gotten his way, ol' web-head would also have inexplicably appeared alongside the Avengers in that final scene.

"I said, it would be great if we could just add a few more, if we could have a Captain Marvel there... And they talked about it. I was like, 'And Spider-Man, we could do that too,' because Sony had approached us during [the production of the first Avengers movie] about a little integration," Whedon said. "So I would have put both of them in, but neither of the deals were made. And then they were like, 'We're making a Captain Marvel movie and we've got Spider-Man as a property,' and I'm like, 'I've already locked my film, you f***ers! Thanks for nothing.'" (via Slashfilm)

While we understand Whedon's frustration, and chuckle at his deadpan account of the Captain Marvel/Spidey saga, we submit that this is one instance in which a lack of corporate synergy caused everything to work out for the best. Spider-fans had been pining for Peter Parker's entrance into the MCU for years at that point; his introduction in Civil War was just brief enough, skipping the origin story while still giving us a good feel for who this kid was (and the extent to which he idolized Stark). Simply having him pop up in Avengers HQ with zero explanation at the end of Age of Ultron would have blown a few minds, sure — but it's also safe to say that those minds would have swiftly pivoted from "Holy crap!" to "Wait, what?" in no time flat.

As for Captain Marvel, we can thank Feige and his master plan for saving that awesome character from an equally baffling introduction. Whedon was famously burned out by the time he completed Age of Ultron, so we're going to go ahead and give him the benefit of the doubt in guessing that these ideas were the result of a slight case of brain fritz brought on by the director's sixteenth cup of coffee that day.

The Infinity Saga box set has been released, but good luck getting your hands on one at the suggested retail price of $549.99; the first shipment sold out almost immediately, and they're currently going on eBay for close to twice that. Hopefully, Marvel and Disney will get reinforcements on retailers' shelves in plenty of time for the holidays.