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Director Mohamed Diab Reveals Why Moon Knight Was The Beacon That Drew Him To The MCU - Exclusive Interview

A new day is dawning in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it comes with a lunar glow that transfixes people worldwide each and every night. Featuring the talents of director Mohamed Diab, it's the new Marvel Studios miniseries called "Moon Knight" — a six-episode tale that marks the first live-action adaptation of the beloved comic book character who made his debut in the panels of Marvel Comics' "Werewolf by Night" #32 and #33 in 1975.

Diab — who is also an executive producer on the series along with production colleague Grant Curtis and Marvel President Kevin Feige — directs Episodes 1, 3, 5 and 6 of the series, while his fellow directors Justin Benson and Adam Moorhead are at the helm of Episodes 2 and 4. Debuting today on Disney+, "Moon Knight" follows the harrowing adventures of former mercenary Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac). Because of his struggles with dissociative identity disorder, Marc also lives an alternate life as a good-natured but conflicted museum gift shop employee, Steven Grant, in London. Above all, Marc/Steven has the ability to transform into superhero Moon Knight, the avatar of Khonshu (F. Murray Abraham) — the Egyptian god of the moon and vengeance — and he's being targeted by a dangerous cult leader, Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke).

"Moon Knight" marks the MCU directorial debut of Egyptian filmmaker Diab, whose credits include the acclaimed international drama "Cairo 678." In an exclusive interview with Looper, Diab, explains what drew him to taking a big creative stake in "Moon Knight," gives his thoughts about Isaac, and offers his thoughts on why the character is a great fit for the stylings of the MCU.

Diab says Moon Knight tells an intimate story in a bigger scale

I think it's wonderful how Marvel not only brought you and your perspective as an Egyptian filmmaker to "Moon Knight," but to do so with an international cast and crew to tell the story from a global point of view. You truly are getting the best of all worlds here, aren't you?

I am lucky. Someone was asking me, "Which is your dream superhero project?" I thought about it for a second and then I said, "I already got it. It's a show that has everything a director dreams of." I come from smaller movies that are very intimate. Ironically, today, I would tell you that this is an extension of my movies, because at its core, it's a story about someone who's trying to live with himself and I can identify with that just like everyone else. To tell that intimate story on a great, bigger scale, that's everyone's dream.

I remember Oscar, when he joined and he told me, "What the hell are you doing here?" and I told him, "Intimate movies are not exclusive to a small budget, we can do that there." Definitely, he was one of the [biggest helpers] in pushing to do that, to make it into a character study. Having Ethan, oh my god, such a great collaborator. Same with May [Calamawy, who plays Layla El-Faouly, a mysterious character from Marc's past], I'm lucky. Definitely, Marvel gave us a chance to play and change, and we had great writers and great executives, and everyone let us do whatever we want.

That's the perfect part about having the opportunity to do this as a series on Disney+, the fact that you are giving the story time to breathe, and allowing for those intimate moments that you know already as a filmmaker.

Absolutely. From the moment they hired someone like me, they wanted me to bring who I am. The pitch that I put together, 200-page pitch to get the job, it was me and Sarah [Goher], my wife, who's a producer on the show. Once we were done, we looked at each other and we said, "If we didn't get the job, something's wrong with the world." [We] really felt that we were born to tell that story and we don't feel bad about every story we pitch for. That pitch is the show today.

Isaac was reluctant to sign on to Moon Knight at first, Diab says

I can't think of a better person to play Moon Knight than Oscar Isaac. If you think about it, you have Marc Spector, Steven Grant, and Moon Knight, and in his own way, he's giving three performances here. I think he's been terrific throughout his whole career, but the way he transforms back and forth to these characters, it might be, honestly — and I've loved his work forever — it might be the best thing that he's done to date.

I think so. I'm so happy that you're saying so, because again, Oscar was so reluctant in the beginning. He came from "Star Wars," "Dune," and "X-Men," and he wanted to do something small and intimate. To achieve all that in that big scale, I'm so proud of that. Definitely, Oscar carries the show on his shoulders, and it was a marvel seeing him transforming. The camera pans right and left and he has his reflection camera, and he changes  there's no tricks there. He actually becomes a different person. I always say that he even when he's Marc, he gets a bit taller. It's the demeanor changing. When you were paired with great talents like Oscar and Ethan, and May, you're lucky.

What's amazing when you talk about that, seeing him become these different characters, I think first and foremost, it's really important to know that, yes, Oscar Isaac is a very well-known actor, but you completely forget about it when you're watching him and that to me is the hallmark of a great actor.

Absolutely. I want to tell you something interesting. He's playing Steven and he's playing Marc and none of them are Oscar Isaac. He's completely different than the two of them. He's playing two completely different characters that are far away from him, and he can do a lot more, too. He's one, like Ethan, they're not here to put on the cape and get figurines. No, no, no. They're here to do something special.

Although the figurines are pretty cool, let's be honest!

Who doesn't want a figurine? I wish they could include directors!

Diab's first exposure to Moon Knight came only recently

Marvel comic books, films, and figurines, for that matter, they have this international appeal, and I'm wondering at what point in your life did you first become aware of "Moon Knight"? As such, did you put it out there that, "I hope that I get the opportunity to make it a live action version of this tale someday"?

I was always a comic book fan, but we only got the big stars, [like] "Batman," "Spider-Man," and ironically in Egypt, you [sometimes get them in the same issue] because the publisher is the same. That was like 34 years ago or something. I learned of "Moon Knight" after reading script, and then I went in and read all the comic books. One of my biggest challenges was how to get that job and that's why, as I told you, we put those 200-page [pitches together] and we got it. One of the other big challenges [that] was part of my pitch was, I want to show Egypt as real as possible. We actually shot [in] Egypt and Hungary, so imagine the challenge.

My two heroes were my set designer Stefania Cella, and Meghan Kasperlik, the custom designer, the two of them ... I remember the day that we had this huge square in Hungary with all those Egyptian extras, and it feels crazy because you see the chaos and we brought Egypt alive, and all of a sudden, you turn around and we're in Budapest. It's crazy, but I have to thank them because a lot of times I kept talking to them about how many times I saw it done in a wrong way and even though we didn't shoot in Egypt, they gave me Egypt.

Moon Knight's costumes resulted from a collaborative effort

You mentioned the costume designer. Honestly, Mohamed, I've seen a lot of superhero costumes, but this has to be the coolest one I've seen on a Marvel character. I especially love the ceremonial costume. In particular, what goes through your mind as a director when you see what you're envisioning come to life like that? When he steps on the set, it must be exhilarating beyond belief.

If you are fan, like me, of comic books and if you're seeing the longest and the most successful run in cinematic history, and you are becoming a part of it ... every day when we were designing the and when I say "We," I mean everyone involved. This is like a collective. Oscar came and added a lot, Meghan added a lot, everyone added something. The moment you see it happening and you know that your good input is there, you feel like you're part of history. You know that the way it looks and the way it feels is going to stay for the longest time because I believe in the character, and I believe it's here to stay.

You feel like you're part of history, you're part of the new story being toldm maybe the biggest and the most interesting story right now in the world ... Actually, I want to tell you the most challenging suit was actually Mr. Knight, because imagine in a design, you're seeing someone with a normal white suit and that, on camera, is a challenging thing. It could look very, very cheesy. I have to give it to Meghan, again, for designing that suit and making it look so cool. At some point, it was Oscar's favorite.

The humor of Moon Knight fits in with the sensibilities of the MCU

How do you see "Moon Knight" fitting into the overall setting of the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forth?

Marvel keeps everything a secret, so I actually don't know, but I would tell you, I can't wait to see him driving everyone crazy. Imagine someone talking to him and he turns to Moon Knight, turns to Marc, turns to Steven, but the best thing about the comedy of the show is no one is cracking jokes. It's coming from what's happening, situational. Steven doesn't know that he's funny. He's not trying to be funny. He's different ... A lot of Marvel characters are very funny, but I'm imagining that seriousness or that kind of humor, that different kind of humor, blending in the MCU. I want to see him with as [many] people as possible.

The first episode of "Moon Knight" is now streaming on Disney+. New episodes will premiere every Wednesday through May 4.

This interview was edited for clarity.