Negotiations for a Captain America movie adaptation originally started in 1997, Mark Gordon and Gary Levinsohn were set to produce with Larry Wilson (“The Addams Family”) and Les Bohem (“Dante’s Peak”) penning the script, with financing help from Artisan in May 2000. (Variety)
However a lawsuit between Marvel Comics and Captain America co-creator Joe Simon halted the proceedings, a settlement was agreed upon in September 2003 (Variety) but by this time the original plans had been scrapped.
The project kick-started again in 2005 with Merrill Lynch’s $500m investment and a new plan to create 10 movies, one of those being Captain America, with distribution by Paramount Pictures.
In 2005 then producer Avi Arad commented on the plans (MTV), with a projected 2008 release date and Jon Favreau at the helm.
“Captain America is the most famous character out there, by name. The biggest opportunity with him is as a man ‘out of time,’ coming back today — looking at our world through the eyes of someone who thought the perfect world was small-town America. Sixty years go by, and who are we today? Are we better?
“I have a writer,” he says. “And I have someone in mind to be the star, and I definitely have someone in mind to be the director. This script is going to take a little bit of time, because it has to be a masterpiece. It’s ‘Back to the Future’ kind of stuff.”
SHH!: So why did you decide to do an Iron Man movie?
Favreau: […] I’d always [Avi Arad] about “Captain America,” this was long before Marvel broke off and became its own studio, so that was the one I was interested in, because I thought there were a lot of comedic possibilities with a guy who got frozen and then turned around and now is fighting for America. “Iron Man” has always been the flipside of “Captain America,” representing maybe more pragmatic, darker aspects of America. When we first talked about the notion of doing “Iron Man,” I felt excited because it lends itself, very easily, to the technology that is available today. Where as an organic superhero, you know anybody who is a guy in tights is a little scary in CGI, but a robot-based guy is really a marriage made in heaven, so I’m exploring what the technology has to offer. To me, with the political climate what it is now, it’s such a complex character and these times are so complex, mirroring in a lot of ways, his inception in the 60’s when on the cusp of Vietnam, it was just as unpopular to have an arms manufacturer as your hero. I really wanted to explore that so it’s very exciting to me in that way. It’s also exciting because it’s Marvel’s first movie on its own.
Then in 2007 current producer Kevin Feige reported a 2009 release with David Self writing (hired in 2006) (IGN),
“I have a writer on Captain America right now. […] I’m hoping to get a director on that very soon, to get that into the pipeline in the next year or so. David Self is writing Captain America.”
The movie would be split half and half between present day and World War II. Feige also commented on the political climate and the strongly American themed hero:
“I certainly think we’ll have to play with that. Play with Captain America being this patriotic propaganda machine on one hand, but being a very human Steve Rogers, interesting, fascinating hero in his own right,” Feige says. “The good news is Marvel is perceived pretty well around the world right now, and I think putting another über-Marvel hero into the worldwide box office would be a good thing. The script David Self is writing [and] the director that we end up hiring… we certainly are going into it with our eyes open that these are all things that we have to deal with much the same way that Captain America, when thawed from the Arctic ice entered a world that he didn’t recognize, and had to sort of deal with the changes, whether it was when Stan [Lee] did it in the ‘60s and that world Steve Rogers was coming into, or the world of 2009.”
“He’s a Norman Rockwell character who is faced with today’s America and is forced to look at his own past, things in the ‘40s that weren’t necessarily what they were cracked up to be, and also how today’s country may be different than it looks,”
The movie’s production was put on hold by the 2007–2008 Writer’s Guild of America strikes, with production starting up again in January ’08. On May 5th 2008 the film’s release date was set at May 6th, 2011. Joe Johnston (Jumanji, Jurassic Park III) officially signed on to direct in November 2008 with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Chronicles of Narnia) hired to re-write the script.
With Barack Obama’s election, international opinion on American politics has had an up surge in popularity leading to changes in the movie, Kevin Feige (EW):
“The idea of change and hope has permeated the country, regardless of politics, and that includes Hollywood. Discussions in all our development meetings include the zeitgeist and how it’s changed in the last two weeks. Things are being adjusted.
The production release date has since been pushed back slightly, to July 22nd 2011.