Shang-Chi isn’t just a part of Marvel’s cinematic universe now. Following his superhero origin story — which saw him content mythical dragons and soul-sucking kaiju, underground fight clubs, assassins with knives for hands and his dad — Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is told, in so many words, that’s he’s part of a bigger universe. He just doesn’t know it yet.
Now he does: Card-carrying Avengers Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), as well as Wong (Benedict Wong), pop up in the movie’s post-credits scene to ask Shang-Chi to join their club. They also want to know about his rings, which are actually beacons sending a message to… Well, that’s for a future Marvel movie to reveal. So Shang-Chi isn’t just part of the MCU. He’s at the center of it.
For his part, director Destin Daniel Cretton can’t wait to see what comes next. Cretton Zoomed with ET to discuss both of Shang-Chi’s post-credits scenes, filming those major Marvel cameos and why a certain character had to die.
ET: If there’s ever a complaint about a great Marvel villain like this, it’s that they are only in one movie and then killed off. And when you cast a legend like Tony Leung, was there ever a version of this where Wenwu survived?
Destin Daniel Cretton: Yes, there was.
What ultimately led you away from that version?
Some things just work and some things don’t. We’re constantly searching for the version of the story that feels most authentic to the characters. I mean, even though these characters are operating on a very operatic level, there’s still things that you try that just feel like cheats. And that was one of them. But, you know, also in the MCU, anything can happen.
Let’s talk about the post-credit scenes. I know that sometimes it’s different on different movies, but I assume you shot both of these, yes?
Since Short Term 12, you haven’t made a single movie without Brie. [She also starred in The Glass Castle and Just Mercy.] And she’s in this, too! Was her inclusion something you campaigned for? Or something that came from Kevin [Feige] and the people at Marvel?
It was definitely something that I asked for early on, but you can’t really push for something if it doesn’t make sense to the universe. And we weren’t sure if it was going to make sense until fairly close to when we were going to shoot it. Because so many other things are being written at the same time, we had to make sure that it would make sense that she could be in the scene, and when it did, we got her. It was one of the last things that we shot of this movie and it was really special. It was really nice to, not only to get get to hang out with her a little bit before we shot but to see Brie walk out of her trailer in full costume and as Captain Marvel was really kind of mind-blowing. Like, to see your friend dressed in that uniform, playing that role was very cool.
Especially from where you started together on Short Term 12, did you have a pinch me moment of like, “Holy hell, how did we both end up in this universe”?
Yeah. There were a few times when we would just look at each other and just start laughing, because it’s like, what the hell are we doing here? [Laughs]
What was it like getting to direct her, even just in one scene, as Captain Marvel?
It was really fun. I think because I’ve known her for so long, she’s just one of the easiest people to work with. I don’t even have to say anything. It’s very fun working with her.
Scenes like this tend to be done so secretive. Like, I would believe if you told me that Simu and Awkwafina didn’t know who was in that scene with them until the movie came out. Were Brie and Mark on set with them on set for the rolling out of the Marvel welcome wagon? Or was that filmed separately?
No, they were shot with Wong. So, Benedict was on set with them. Both Brie and Mark were shot separately.
Did Simu and Awkwafina know who they were talking to in that scene then?
Yes, they did. By the time they shot. I think they didn’t know up until the day that they were doing the scene, but yes. I remember Simu walking on to set holding the sides, looking at me going– But there’s two things happening that emotionally are so connected in the MCU and on set. There is the ushering in of these characters into a group of established superheroes. But in real life, there is an ushering in of these actors into a community of established actors. And we could not have chosen a more perfect, perfect group of actors to do both. Both those characters and the actors, someone like Mark Ruffalo and Brie Larson and Benedict Wong being there to welcome Awkwafina and Simu into the fold, it was a very special moment.
Usually when I leave one of these movies, the post-credits scene tease a new character or a plotline that you can track down in the comics. But I left this one being like, “I don’t know!” What sort of guidance can you give me or what direction can you point me in?
Really? If you look into the comics, if you watch that end-credit sequence, it’s not– You don’t have to dig very deep to at least point yourself in a direction. [Laughs] It’s definitely there.
We don’t know where Shang-Chi and Katy will necessarily pop up next, but having been the one to usher these characters into the MCU, what does it feel like to let your action figures now go into the sandbox for other filmmakers to potentially play with?
It feels awesome. I do love these characters, and I can’t wait to see them interacting with other members of the MCU. And they will hopefully not always be branded as the Asian superheroes, that they will just become superheroes doing their thing in the midst of the MCU. That’s very exciting for me.
We have to talk about the second credits scene, because Meng’er [Zhang] is a star.
Did you get to meet her in person? If you meet her in person, you will see even more of how much of a star she is, because she is so different from her character. She’s a joy. She’s so fun.
Obviously, she’s taken over the Ten Rings, which I have to imagine will create some drama between her and Shang-Chi. Where does their relationship as brother and sister stand by the movie’s end?
I feel like this family as a whole has taken steps towards healing, but I also think that it would be pretty unrealistic to believe that everything has been patched up. I think there was a very clear, emotional through line that Xialing had been dealing with throughout our movie that was not addressed. And she clearly deserves as much attention as Shang-Chi does in the context of her family. There is a line in the middle of the movie where she tells Katy that if her dad won’t let her into his empire, she’s going to build her own. So, to see her sit on that throne and redefine it in a way that is uniquely hers is very exciting. I think there are many ways to view that moment. And they’re probably all right.