Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Sebastian Stan and more are set to star in the newest MCU team-up.
Thunderbolts are go!
Disney and Marvel officially confirmed the cast of the new MCU team-up film at the D23 Expo last September, and fans are already eagerly speculating about the upcoming anti-hero squad -- despite the fact that it'll be at least another year and a half before we get to see them onscreen together.
Returning to the MCU in the upcoming film are Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian, Wyatt Russell as John Walker/U.S. Agent, Hannah John-Kamen as Ava Starr/Ghost and Olga Kurylenko as Antonia Dreykov/Taskmaster.
The film, directed by Jake Schreier, will also see Sebastian Stan reprising his longtime role as Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier, after he and Anthony Mackie most recently starred in their own Disney+ spinoff, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Marvel president Kevin Feige confirmed the Thunderbolts team-up at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2022, as he introduced Marvel's Phase 5 slate of film and streaming projects. The Thunderbolts film will cap off Phase 5, with a planned release date on Dec. 20, 2024.
Schreier spoke with ET about the film at D23 in September 2022, where he avoided all possible spoilers about the script or plot, offering instead a perfectly cryptic, Marvel-approved answer to what fans can expect from Thunderbolts.
"I think you'll see an incredible group of people, who share a certain kind of past trauma, coming together," the director shared, "learning to work together in a way and overcoming some nondescript obstacles we can't speak to."
Here's more of what we know about the upcoming team-up:
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
Valentina is to the Thunderbolts as Nick Fury is to the Avengers, and fans have already seen Louis-Dreyfus' character recruiting two members of the team in her scenes with Pugh and Russell in Black Widow and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, respectively. (In some parts of the comic canon, Valentina and Fury are also an on-again, off-again romantic pairing -- however in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, it was revealed that this Valentina used to be married to Martin Freeman's Everett Ross.)
So, what does it mean for the Emmy winner to continue carving out her place in the MCU? "It means that my children now really respect what I do for a living," Louis-Dreyfus joked with ET at D23.
Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova
Pugh wasn't able to join her castmates at D23, but sent along a video message about how excited she was to play Yelena in the Thunderbolts team-up, after introducing the character in Black Widow and furthering her story in the Hawkeye Disney+ series.
In the Marvel comics canon, Yelena takes up the Black Widow mantle, and following the death of Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff in Avengers: Endgame, there's plenty of speculation that the official title could be in the future for Pugh's character, who seems to have becoming something of an assassin-for-hire in the MCU so far.
David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian
In Marvel comics, Red Guardian has a colorful backstory with the Winter Guard, an Avengers-esque team of Russian supers. But Harbour told ET that he couldn't be more excited to bring his bumbling-but-brutal aging super soldier -- the comedic relief of Black Widow -- back to the big screen with the Thunderbolts team.
"It's a unique MCU movie in the sense that you've got a bunch of misfits and outcasts and losers and people that don't really live up to the super in superhero," he shared at D23 Expo. "I think audiences have some complicated feelings about a lot of us, and that's a terrific thing going in."
In another ET interview in February 2023, Harbour shared how excited he was to reunite with Pugh in the team-up film.
"I really like what they've pitched me so far, even though I haven't seen the full script," he shared. "I really love the relationship that I have with Florence's character, and I really like the idea that [Alexei is] going to be with the anti-Captain America in Wyatt Russell."
"I feel like there's a lot of fun to be had," Harbour added, calling the Thunderbolts team a group of "cool losers." "I'm really excited about it. I was wondering if I would be brought back, or how I would be brought back. And this really is beyond my expectations of cool."
Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier
For Stan, who's now played Bucky Barnes for over a decade, "I was simply told that it's time to go to work," he joked with ET at the D23 Expo. "[Time to] get the arm back."
While he knows by now to keep mum about any specific details, the actor noted that picking back up with his character following the events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, "It'll be interesting to see, yeah, 'cause we left them off in a really specific place."
So, what can viewers expect from the Thunderbolts team-up? "Chaos," he teased. "It's probably gonna be a lot of, I don't know, turmoil and people crying."
"I think it's gonna be fun," he added in a February 2023 interview with ET. "I'm really excited about it. [There's] a lot of great people that I haven't worked with before, and some returning as well."
And of course, even in the absence of Anthony Mackie, the pair's legendary banter continued. When asked if he might also make an appearance in the forthcoming Captain America: New World Order, where Mackie's Sam Wilson officially takes up the cinematic mantle, Stan quipped, "I specifically requested that I would need some time from Anthony, because I need to sort of find my way back to me."
Wyatt Russell as John Walker/U.S. Agent
Russell joked that any specific character details about Thunderbolts are "above my pay grade," but demurred when asked if he'd like to see a redemption arc for his character, who got a recruiting visit from Valentina using his shield to publicly beat an adversary to death.
"Maybe," he couched. "But then, you know, you like playing guys who have problems. It's kind of more fun... Ideal is, keep the problems, solve a few, but then you still got skeletons in the closet to bring them back."
Hannah John-Kamen as Ava Starr/Ghost
John-Kamen told ET that she felt "relieved" to get the call to reprise her Ant-Man and the Wasp character, getting to dive deeper into the misunderstood antagonist, who was revealed at the end of that movie to be a molecularly unstable woman just trying to survive.
"I was like, 'Great, I can come back and figure out more about Ava and Ghost," the actress told ET. "Kind of [explore] how she's going to work in a team... I was relieved to get to tell the story more."
Olga Kurylenko as Antonia Dreykov/Taskmaster
The Black Widow actress was also absent from the cast's D23 appearance, but there's plenty of comic canon to mine for theories about how her character could fit into the team-up. Taskmaster's ability to mimic fighting styles has made the character a well-known adversary of Captain America, Ant-Man and Spider-Man in the comics, and has worked with everyone from Wilson Fisk to Kraven the Hunter, opening the door to plenty of possible future storylines.
Harrison Ford as General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross
Ford is joining the MCU in the role originated by the late William Hurt, who played the supporting military character from 2008 until his death in March 2022, appearing in The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame and Black Widow.
The Indiana Jones star will first appear as Ross in the upcoming Captain America: Brave New World, and Anthony Mackie spoke with ET about working alongside the action movie legend after sharing an on-set pic of the two watching dailies together.
"It's been a lot of fun," Mackie shared. "I thought Harrison would be the old curmudgeon, angry dude, but he's not at all. He makes fun of people, he allows people to make fun of him. Whenever he's ready to roll, he's like, 'Let's shoot this piece of sh*t!' And everybody's like, yay, Harrison's ready to shoot!"
Steven Yeun as TBA
In true Marvel fashion, the Minari star admitted to ET at the Los Angeles premiere of his new Netflix series, Beef, that he couldn't share a single detail about his as-yet-unnamed Thunderbolts character, but said he was excited to take on the role and reunite with Beef director Jake Schreier.
"I loved the direction that they're trying to go with this film, and I loved the character that they wanted me to play," Yeun shared. "It was just exciting to do something new. I was into it."
Ayo Edebiri as TBA
The Bear star also kept mum on her as-yet-undisclosed Thunderbolts role with sitting down with ET to chat about voicing April O'Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.
"I can't tell you anything about it," she teased with a laugh. "I can't- I don't even know if I understand the question? I just can't even answer it.... I love my future job at the corporation Marvel, and I will not say anything about it."
Thunderbolts is set to hit theaters on Dec. 20, 2024.
All interviews were conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike, which began on July 13, 2023.