Writers at the website Arabic Marvel recently conducted an exclusive interview with Moon Knight director Mohamed Diab. The candid conversation covers his honest frustrations with the Marvel studio system, his feelings on the future of Moon Knight in the MCU, and his hopes for James Gunn’s DC Universe. The original interview can be found on their website, but the highlights are below!
[Note: The original translation and commentary below were provided to us by ArabicMarvel.com]
During his participation in the Saudi Film Confex held in Riyadh, the Arabic Marvel team had the opportunity to meet director Mohamed Diab, the first Arab director in the history of the Marvel cinematic universe. Diab directed four episodes of the series.
Mohamed Diab’s relationship with Marvel Studios
We began the conversation with Mohamed about the story of Marvel choosing him. After his agent presented the project to him and he read the script of the first episode, Diab wrote an initial pitch that reached 200 pages in just two weeks. Mohamed made it to the final stages of the selections, as he was one of three other directors who would present their ideas to Marvel Studios’ head, Kevin Feige. Mohamed was able to secure the opportunity to work on the ambitious series. Mohamed mentioned the prominent challenge of working with Marvel.
“On independent films, you have complete control… When you go to the studio system, it’s like being part of a committee; every decision needs the approval of the entire committee. So, your job becomes to convince them, and it’s very difficult, especially since they’ve done 28 projects before you.”
Mohamed Diab also spoke about his experience dealing with Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel Studios and one of the most important names in Hollywood, mentioning that he was incredibly serious in his work.
“Dealing with Kevin was a surprise. I thought I would only meet him two or three times. Kevin Feige is not a normal person! He was present in every meeting, every meeting about the script, we discussed the extras, and he would ask me for my opinion on this and that, and if it was good. We talked about the colors and shapes of the costumes. He was involved and present in every aspect. I was amazed that there is a person who can work on this number of projects at the same time.”
The difficulties that Mohamed faced in convincing the committee resulted in him getting less than 80% of his vision in the work, due to the different studio system. One of the many questions we had in mind was the duration of the series, being only six episodes. Was this a choice or imposed on the director?
“Marvel had determined it from the first day. Marvel’s series projects are all six episodes except for special projects like WandaVision. The usual format is six episodes. Loki is the only series they said will be in two parts from the first day. Marvel’s way is not the usual way where if the project succeeds, I say let’s renew it for a second season. It’s their plan, successful or not, they have a plan.”
Mohamed Diab’s vision for Moon Knight
We then asked which characters from Marvel he would’ve wanted to include in the series:
“For me, I was very curious to know what would happen, I would like to bring Hulk to the equation. why? Because Hulk has two personalities. And Moon Knight has two personalities. Imagine that both of them can be friends and cause confusion – you’re friends with this one and not liked by the other. The complicated relationship and who can be friends with whom among the four.”
After immersing himself in comics and the Marvel universe during this amazing experience, Mohamed undoubtedly formed opinions about other Marvel villains. So, we asked him about his favorite:
“I really like Kilmonger, and I like Thanos because I love gray characters. I don’t like black and white. I love characters with depth. I tried my best with this character (Arthur Harrow), and by the way, this character is completely invented. Marvel likes to create a character, and then we give them a name. There’s a character named Arthur Harrow in the world of Moon Knight, but the truth is that this character, with the idea that he touches people and knows everything, is completely invented by me and Sara, entirely from our imagination. So, I was very proud that he was a character with depth. He doesn’t kill anyone; He kills villains.”
One of the things the crew emphasized in the series was presenting new ideas welcomed by Mohamed Diab. One of them was storytelling during action scenes:
“The idea that you’re in the middle of action and that it cuts. This was something I liked, a brilliant idea. It was one of the best things I was proud of in the action. Now, this way you indulge people more in the scene and they just can’t get up and go eat a snack or something. Because sometimes I get bored of action scenes because I know it’s ten minutes, I’ll go eat and come back. And the hero would win after an intense fight. Now, anything can happen.”
During the interview, his great passion for movies became apparent. So, what if Moon Knight were a movie?
“I wished this would happen. Firstly, I’m a cinema director. The difference between it and television is that in cinema, I work for two years, focusing on 120 scenes by myself. Each scene becomes something I memorized, understood, digested, and lived. On television, I made a thousand scenes, no matter how much I studied, there were days it was all a blur. That’s normal. Secondly, production, my budget was above $150 million, the same as a movie budget. But the budget in the action was spread over six hours instead of two. So, I could have done this action ten times better, but in less time. At that time, it was [one of] the most expensive series in human history. Every day I would tell them, “this isn’t enough.”
Marvel is known for its extreme secrecy during the production of any work, and it had a specific impact on the Moon Knight experience. To what extent is Marvel secretive?
“I don’t know what will happen in Moon Knight after the series. I want to tell you that 95% of the actors don’t know anything except their scenes. They don’t even know what the Moon Knight series is about. You have security guards sitting all day, and my computer has a device that makes a sound every now and then at home. I was not allowed to print the script until a week before shooting. The matter is so secret to an incredible extent.”
Mohamed Diab on James Gunn, Zack Snyder, and the DC Universe
Since Mohammed delved deeper into the world of superheroes, we asked him about his favorite hero outside the Marvel universe:
“I’m a fan of Batman. I’d like to give Batman a different take, a Noir style. A movie with drama. Christopher Nolan made us all see that it’s a dramatic movie about someone with tragedy. The new perspective in The Batman is very nice. Whether it’s Batman or someone else, the idea of a person with a real human story, not just a flying superhero.”
In our final question to him as a fan of the superhero world, what is Mohamed Diab’s opinion on James Gunn leading the DC cinematic universe?
“I know that some people don’t like James Gunn, but I see him as a great artist who will do great work. Frankly, I didn’t like the past period. The last film, Justice League, was significantly better than the first version, but in the end, Snyder’s work in all the movies he made didn’t appeal to me. I liked James Gunn’s films much more. I think he’s a much greater artist and a very clever writer, and he will do excellent work for DC. I hope people won’t just criticize him because if he loses the DC audience, he’s done. But he is an artist, and he will create wonderful things.
“If the Guardians’ comics had come to me, I would have said, ‘What is this nonsense?’ But three really great movies came out of it. As a director, if the Guardians comics had come to me, I would have zero perspective on it. It turned out that something that seemed incredibly trivial produced three very enjoyable and beautiful movies.”
[Note: The original translation and commentary above were provided to us by ArabicMarvel.com]
For the full interview, check out ArabicMarvel.com! I think one of the most interesting takeaways is Diab’s frustrations with the Marvel system and further insight into Marvel’s habit of reinventing obscure comic characters (for example Arthur Harrow in Moon Knight or the Clandestine in Ms. Marvel).
What did you think of Mohamed Diab’s work on Moon Knight? Are you excited to see Oscar Isaac in the role again? Let us know on social media @MyCosmicCircus and join the Discord for more coming soon!