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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Victoria Alonso, President of Marvel Productions, the most powerful woman in Hollywood

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There isn’t a more powerful woman in Hollywood. Not even a more influential Latina. Argentine Victoria Alonso (La Plata, age 56) is President of Physical Production, Post-Production, Digital Effects and Animation at Marvel Studios. Behind that string of characters lies a fact: first there are the two co-presidents, the almighty Kevin Feige and Louis D’Esposito, but Alonso is in charge of Marvel production. A position that was created almost on a whim due to her reluctance to accept a leadership position early in Marvel. “I’m a producer, the rest comes along,” she says in a hotel room in Madrid. He measures his words, he dislikes interviews, he avoids political readings, down to the fact that this year in Marvel he arrived on screen in seconds Doctor Strange, América Chávez, a superhero with two mothers. “We’re just showing what society is like today.” She doesn’t want to feel like a champion either, but… “I’ve been the only woman for too long and I have no interest in continuing to be.”

And yet his mere presence is a declaration of intent. Last Wednesday, Alonso haggled between laughter to talk about his life journey to his current job. “I never look into the past. It’s over. I’m always looking ahead,” he says. At 19 she left Argentina to become an actress and studied theater in Seattle. He walked the American west coast: he moved to San Francisco and eventually ended up in Los Angeles. Acting didn’t pan out, so he started working as a production assistant, eventually ending up at Digital Domain, James Cameron’s digital effects studio. And in 2003 she was already the visual effects producer for big fish, by Tim Burton. Two years later, Kevin Fiege recruited her for a fledgling Marvel studio, and she, “not comfortable working in a corporate environment,” jumped on the bandwagon with the stipulation that she be able to produce and handle all post-production. “The films belong to all their workers. That this is understood seems to me to be fundamental.”

The privilege of bringing comics to the cinema

Alonso insists he doesn’t care about the past. “People remember to look at something else. And that distracts us from the present, from who you’re talking to.” Says someone who works at a production company whose films and series are devoured by nostalgic fans and are very conscientious about the past. “I’m aware that our base is generational is that you read Spiderman comics as a child, that at that moment a seed of adventure was planted in you, which we can now show you in the audiovisual field,” he emphasizes. But to what extent do they respect comics? “They are ours Base. At the beginning of each production, we study that version of history. Even in costume details. Even if we change things, Thor’s hammer will always be Thor’s hammer. There are constants that are religiously maintained.”

At Marvel, the production schedule illustrates how a studio works over the very long term. Is there room for improvisation or is everything planned? “Yes and yes. You can’t produce that much and at this scale without planning. At the same time, we have enough flexibility to change things that improve the results. What we didn’t foresee was the pandemic, which gave us a slap in the face transferred.”

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Activist for LGBTI rights

On two occasions in the past few months, once intentionally and once accidentally, Alonso has underscored Marvel’s progressive path. First, at the GLAAD Awards, presented by the NGO Alliance of Gays and Lesbians against defamation, last April, when in the acceptance speech for best film for eternal, and amidst the social storm surrounding Florida’s anti-LGTBi law, he addressed Disney CEO Bob Chapek, his big boss: “Stop saying you tolerate us. Nobody tolerates me, to put it bluntly. Heat in Florida, humidity in Arizona, or a child’s tantrum are tolerated. I don’t want to be tolerated or normalized. Fight anti-gay legislation because silence means death.” Alonso is married to actress Imelda Corcoran and the couple’s daughter will appear on several occasions in the interview, which comes shortly after the premiere ban was announced light year in 15 countries for the kiss between an astronaut and her friend. “It is important that people can express in their culture what the reality of our culture is. Everyone has the right to live as they want and therefore not to show it in their country. In the US, this kiss is a family update, and we’ll continue to show it. I hope the world accepts it,” he explains to EL PAÍS.

On the other hand, Marvel Comics have always been more expansive than their competition. “It would be very irresponsible not to understand the moment each comic was created and the strain that comes with it. Think about Black Panther, and that it was made in the 1960s, during the social revolution in America, and at the same time, as filmmakers, we need to understand that our films are made for today’s audiences.” Every film is political, and in Marvel’s case there is clear message of female empowerment and diversity. “When you have the open-mindedness of a 13-year-old in front of you, one of the best things we can tell you is that you can. You can dream, you can think, you can express yourself, you can win, you can lose… For two hours, our films are watched by an audience that doesn’t look at their phone, nobody bothers them — and that’s why I support and love the spaces – and that one can forget all the social and cultural barriers created by class, religion, family, friends… In these two hours one should only dream of freedom. As a filmmaker, that’s called a privilege. If half of all our viewers make it, they live it like this… for me, that’s winning.

The second escaped him at the premiere eternal in October, when he began speaking to the world’s press in Spanish with Salma Hayek on the red carpet. When the Mexican pointed out that the journalist didn’t understand her, Alonso blurted out: “I’m not interested. all learn [español]“. The laughter mentioned above remembers this moment. “Sometimes when I’m with Salma I forget it and we chat like gossip,” he admits. “But look, it seems like a necessary message to me. I didn’t say it with that intention, but as my truth, and if it resonates, it’s welcome.”

At the end of the interview, Alonso backs down. There will be girls who see it and think if an Argentine is a boss at Marvel, they can get it too. “Yes, I am aware. I wish I hadn’t given interviews. In case of a problem, security accompanies me 24 hours, a reality of someone if it is a reference. Unfortunately, this distinction smacks of violence. It’s ten times more important to me to endure that so the girls have someone to look at, so my daughter understands what I do for a living. I never thought it would end here. I just wanted to tell stories. Now I tell stories and do other things.”

Back to production in Argentina

A major recent decision for Victoria Alonso has been her return to Argentina, this time as a producer. The filmmaker is behind Argentina, 1985, by Santiago Miter from a screenplay by Miter and Mariano Llinás, both heavyweights of auteur cinema in their country, and starring Ricardo Darín and Peter Lanzani as prosecutors Julio Strassera and Luis Moreno Ocampo respectively. Strassera and Moreno Ocampo led the charge against those most responsible for the last military dictatorship Judgment to the Chambers. “It’s a necessary project for the history of my country, I would even tell you that I think it’s the most important moment in our history,” says the producer. “We need them so that what happened during the military dictatorship is never repeated.”

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