Who is not in 'Avengers: Infinity War'?
There are an estimated 327 million people in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and perhaps you have wondered: How many of them are in "Avengers: Infinity War"? Fifteen percent? Thirty-four percent?
Spoiler: Nobody knows for certain how many people appear in "Avengers: Infinity War," opening Friday. It's a mystery. The Marvel Studios and IMDB cast lists indicate about 80 cast members — some playing Iron Man and Spider-Man, some playing Man on Bus.
But 80 sounds laughably, conspiratorially low.
I've seen the trailers and TV commercials and so have you — does that look like 80 people? "Avengers: Infinity War" stars Chris Pratt and Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth, Chadwick Boseman and Benedict Cumberbatch and Don Cheadle, Idris Elba and Angela Bassett and Peter Dinklage. It stars Cobie Smulders and Tessa Thompson. It stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as the evil mastermind Ebony Maw, and Pom Klementieff as the benevolent mastermind Mantis, who has the power of super empathy. (Please note: That is not a joke.) It stars the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel and, though his body is present, the mumble of Benicio del Toro. Thanks to motion-capture animation, it stars the movements of DePaul University graduate Sean Gunn (Rocket Raccoon) but not his body. It stars both the movements and body of Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk.
It stars many, many others.
But my hand is cramping. So, maybe the more direct way to understand the torrential casting of "Avengers: Infinity War" is to ask: Who is not in "Avengers: Infinity War"?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (as of May 2017,), there are 43,470 people in the United States who call acting their profession. Of those 43,470, 17,020 work primarily in the motion picture industry. In Illinois, there are 2,040 people who identify themselves as actors (for movies and otherwise) — the third largest concentration (by state), after California and New York — yet only Carrie Coon, who lives in Wicker Park, has a major role. She plays villain Proxima Midnight. Her husband, playwright and actor Tracy Letts, is not in "Avengers: Infinity War." So that's one. Which suggests that Common, Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Hudson, Bill Murray, John Cusack — any Cusack — are also not in "Avengers: Infinity War."
I did the math and apparently only 0.000024 percent of the United States population appears in "Avengers: Infinity War." Again, that sounds wrong. But in full disclosure, I am bad at math. Besides, you could argue that Donald Trump is in "Avengers: Infinity War," in the sense that he rules the zeitgeist, and broad, blockbuster entertainments like this generally, metaphorically reflect the tenor and temperature and concerns of their times; but also in the sense that "Avengers: Infinity War" is about a large, imposing being (Josh Brolin) who arrives to undo the past 10 years of plot development, angering liberal Hollywood.
Similarly, you could argue "Avengers: Infinity War" stars the wishes and financial backings of everyone who encouraged it — anyone who attended any of the 18 interwoven Marvel films since "Iron Man" in 2008. In other words, every one of us.
Which is not a criticism: I like many of these films and believe, decades from now, we will look back on this era as similar to the age of the Western, which had hits and misses, artists and curiosities and hacks, then burned itself dry.
"Avengers: Infinity War," you might have heard, is the convergence of a decade's worth of Marvel productions and plots, most of which have been interlocking and complementary, telling a single, vast storyline, the cinematic approximation to Marvel's soap opera of a comic book universe. That's why one film features such a big ensemble — it's the childhood tea party/crossover event that Snoopy, Barbie, Mickey and Chewbacca all attend. It is how we played when we were children and unconcerned about character licensing and cease-and-desist letters from Disney lawyers, except in this case the party cost $300 million (the second most expensive film production ever).
Of course, casting this enveloping is not unique to "Avengers: Infinity War." Film productions that involve the W-2s and schedulers of every sentient creature in Southern California have long been touted as a kind of HR Department special-effect magic. But like "super group" in the music business, "all-star cast" in the motion picture industry is a mixed blessing, meaning "Grand Hotel" and "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" but also "Cannonball Run" and the most recent "Murder on the Orient Express."
The problem is always screen time.
"Avengers: Infinity War" is a spacious 2 hours and 40 minutes, yet if filmmakers dedicated, say, 15 minutes each to four actors — Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Hemsworth, Evans — they would have only one hour and 40 minutes left for the other 35 or so performers with some recognizable status.
If everyone had very chill agents and all agreed on the same amount of screen time, that means, at most, less than three minutes each for the remaining three dozen stars. But if an egalitarian miracle broke out and everyone agreed to two minutes of screen time, there would be room for another dozen or so actors. Which would be good, because, looking at census data, and looking at the cast, here's who's not in "Avengers: Infinity War":
Enough women — the U.S. is about 51 percent female, though of the recognizable, marquee-worthy cast, "Avengers: Infinity War" is roughly 35 percent female.
Enough Latinos — they are 18 percent of the U.S. population, but mostly represented in "Avengers: Infinity War" by the Puerto Rican-born Benicio del Toro.
There is one Native Hawaiian (Jacob Batalon, who plays Peter Parker's best friend), but not one Native American; and since we're sorting by census categories (which separate Native Hawaiians from Asian-Americans), there is not one Asian-American either. (Benedict Wong, who plays Dr. Strange's sidekick, is British.)
Also, though about 17 percent of the main cast identifies as African-American — population-wise, it's about 13 percent — none of the core members of the Avengers is a person (or alien) of color.
That said, this is an international production — so, a lot of British actors. And Avengers membership will change: The next "Avengers" opens next May, and if the movie Avengers are as transient as the comic book Avengers, inevitably there should be room for anyone left in the United States who has not yet appeared in an "Avengers" film.
Besides, Disney, which owns Marvel Studios, recently acquired Fox, which controlled the movie rights to two additional Marvel super teams, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. "Avengers" movies are only going to get bigger. Help will be wanted.