• Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Vincent D’Onofrio is the Kingpin of Marvel’s next gritty gamble, ‘Echo’

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Back in 2015, actor Vincent D’Onofrio was given a seemingly impossible task.

Bring an iconic Marvel villain, the Kingpin, to life in a Netflix live-action without the influence of Marvel Studios. Not an easy assignment when you consider that Marvel Studios was at the height of its Hollywood popularity at the time, and that other Marvel franchises outside of its scope (Fox’s pre-merger X-Men and Sony’s Spider-Man) were losing cool points for missing out on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s interconnective party. But then a funny thing happened.

He actually did it. And he did it very well.

Alongside Charlie Cox’s irreplaceable Daredevil, D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk/Kingpin, a top-tier bad guy in Marvel villainy in the pages of the comic books, became one half of what might just be the best and most violently intense Marvel rivalry on-screen, between Hell’s Kitchen’s Man Without Fear and the Kingpin of Crime.

D’Onofrio and Cox crafted definitive versions of their respective comic book characters, so much so that when “Daredevil” was canceled by Netflix in 2018 to make way for all things Marvel at Disney Plus, D’Onofrio was convinced that he would get to shave his head again sometime soon and return to the role.

That was not necessarily a sure thing. It was up to Marvel Studios and its president, Kevin Feige, to decide whether “Daredevil” and its universe would get a new life, as they gained control of the franchise.

“Charlie [Cox] and I talked about that all the time,” D’Onofrio told The Washington Post. “I actually just kind of knew that we were going to come back. My intuition told me that. I just couldn’t believe that they were just going to let that go. So it wasn’t a surprise to me that we eventually got that call.”

Now, D’Onofrio’s Kingpin and Cox’s Daredevil are Marvel Studios-certified. Cox made his first Marvel Studios appearance on the Disney Plus series “She-Hulk” as a love interest to the titular star (Tatiana Maslany). D’Onofrio made his Marvel Studios debut on Disney Plus as well, appearing on “Hawkeye.” Both actors will resume their Marvel main event on the upcoming Disney Plus series “Daredevil: Born Again.”

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The significance of D’Onofrio’s MCU arrival isn’t lost on him. His performance as the Kingpin on Netflix won such fanboy approval and credibility that casting anyone else in the role would have seemed almost criminal.

And now that the Kingpin is a part of the MCU, D’Onofrio knows fans are expecting a next-level performance as part of his return.

“We meet [Daredevil] fans all the time, and they remind us: … ‘Are you going to do the right thing? Are we going to get those characters from the Netflix shows [in the MCU]? Because that’s what we want,’” D’Onofrio said.

He is aware that the MCU was at peak power when he was making the Kingpin his own over at Netflix in the mid-2010s. Now that he and Cox are in the MCU, there is an irony that their arrival runs parallel to the first time Marvel Studios has gone through a rough patch with reviews, box office numbers and controversy. The MCU’s first flirtation with vincibility doesn’t weigh on D’Onofrio’s mind, however, as he prepares to do what he hopes is his best work yet as the Kingpin.

“I’ll speak for myself. Maybe I’m naive about it. I’m just not into [recent MCU criticisms] enough,” D’Onofrio said. “I’m not into the whole, ‘This is working and now it’s not anymore,’ kind of thing. It doesn’t affect me whatsoever. I have a job to do right now, and that is to kick ass with the story that we’re bringing forward.”

D’Onofrio has returned to the role of the Kingpin in the Disney Plus series “Echo,” which debuts its entire five-episode season on Jan. 9. D’Onofrio’s Kingpin once again stars alongside Maya Lopez/Echo (Alaqua Cox). The two both appeared on “Hawkeye,” laying down the foundation for their awkward adoptive father/daughter, uncle/niece, crime boss/protégée relationship that is explored further in “Echo.”

“Echo” will be the first title under Marvel Studios’ “Marvel Spotlight” banner, an indicator that the show, while connected to the MCU, doesn’t require viewers to have an encyclopedic knowledge of every Marvel movie and streaming series that has ever existed. Along with the complicated relationship between the Kingpin and Echo, the show will also explore Maya’s relationship with her Indigenous roots, tracing back to the dawn of the Choctaw tribe. Even as it’s essentially a Marvel Studios stand-alone, D’Onofrio said, “Echo” can serve as a bridge to what he and Cox have planned in the future as “Daredevil: Born Again” prepares to resume filming.

“‘Echo’ is turning out to be the perfect introduction for my character in ‘Born Again,’” D’Onofrio said. “More than ever, we are connected to the original [Netflix] series. There’s a lot of great things happening when it comes to … the way Charlie and I get to approach the characters again.”

Marvel Spotlight is also much grittier and more violent than the PG-13-ness that prevails over most of the MCU. D’Onofrio said that “Echo” has a similar vibe to “Daredevil’s” TV-MA flavor, and that Feige gave him a green light to bring that same edge to the Kingpin’s return. This isn’t a watered-down Kingpin because he’s now in the MCU.

“I definitely felt the same as when I was bringing [the Kingpin] forward for the first time at Netflix,” D’Onofrio said, of balancing the Kingpin’s calmness and unpredictable brutality. “You’re really uneasy about this guy. He’s sort of sympathetic. You feel kind of empathetic towards him at times. And other times you’re just like, ‘Oh my god, this guy’s like a monster.’”

D’Onofrio already comes off like a seasoned Marvel Studios acting veteran. He knows what’s coming for the Kingpin on “Echo” and “Daredevil: Born Again.” He’s read the scripts. He knows fans will be excited, and, most of all, he knows he’s sworn to secrecy.

“There’s all these things going on in my head that I would love to tell … but I can’t,” D’Onofrio said. “But I just want [fans] to know you should expect something very cool.”

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