There is no more powerful woman in Hollywood. Not even a more influential Latina. Argentine Victoria Alonso (La Plata, 56 years old) is president of physical production, post-production, digital effects and animation at Marvel studios. Behind that string hides a fact: first there will be the two co-presidents, the almighty Kevin Feige and Louis D’Esposito, but Alonso is in charge of Marvel production. A position almost created at her whim, because she was reluctant, at the beginning of Marvel, to accept an executive position. “I’m a producer, the rest is added,” she says in a Madrid hotel room. She measures her words, she doesn’t like to do interviews, she avoids political readings to the fact that in Marvel this year she has come to the screen, within the second Doctor Strange, América Chávez, a superheroine with two mothers. “We just show what today’s society is like.” She doesn’t want to feel like a standard bearer either, but… “For too long I was the only woman and I have no interest in continuing to be.”
And yet, its mere presence already issues a declaration of intent. Last Wednesday, between laughs, Alonso haggled to talk about his vital journey until his current job position. “I never look at the past. It’s over. I always look ahead”, he assures. At the age of 19, she left Argentina to be an actress and studied theater in Seattle. She made her way down the American West Coast: she moved to San Francisco and finally settled in Los Angeles. Her acting didn’t pan out, so she started working as a production assistant and ended up at Digital Domain, James Cameron’s digital effects studio. And in 2003 she was already the visual effects producer for Big Fish, by Tim Burton. Two years later, Kevin Fiege recruited her for a fledgling Marvel studio, and she, who does not feel “comfortable within the framework of a corporation”, jumped on that train with the condition of being able to produce and take charge of the entire production. post production. “The movies belong to all their workers. That this is understood seems fundamental to me”.
The privilege of bringing comics to the cinema
Alonso insists that the past does not interest him. “People remember it to look at something else. And that distracts us from the present, from who you’re talking to.” Says someone who works in a production company whose films and series are devoured by nostalgic fans and very aware of the past. “I am aware that our base is generational, that when you were a child you would read Spiderman comics, that at that moment a seed of adventure was implanted within you that now we have the privilege of showing you in the audiovisual”, he points out. But to what extent do they respect comics? “They are our base. At the beginning of each production we study that version of the story. Even in costume details. Even if we change things, Thor’s hammer will always be Thor’s hammer. There are constants that will be religiously maintained.”
At Marvel, the production schedule exemplifies how a studio works in the very long term. Is there room for improvisation or is everything scheduled? “Yes and yes. You can’t produce that much and this size without planning. At the same time we have enough flexibility to change things that improve the results. What we did not foresee was the pandemic, that did give us a slap in the face.”
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Activist for LGBTI rights
On two occasions in recent months, once consciously and once by chance, Alonso has underscored Marvel’s progressive path. First, at the GLAAD awards, presented by the NGO Alianza de Gays y Lesbianas contra la defamación, last April, when in the acceptance speech for best film for Eternals, and in the midst of the social storm around the anti-LGTBi law in the State of Florida, he addressed Bob Chapek, CEO of Disney, and therefore his big boss: “Stop saying you tolerate us. No one tolerates me, let it be clear. Heat in Florida, humidity in Arizona, or a child’s tantrum are tolerated. I don’t want to be tolerated or normalized. Fight anti-gay legislation because silence means death.” Alonso is married to actress Imelda Corcoran, and the couple’s daughter will appear on several occasions in the interview, which takes place just after the announcement of the ban on the premiere of Lightyear in 15 countries for the kiss between an astronaut and her girlfriend. “It is important that people can express in their culture what is the reality of our culture. Everyone has the right to live as they want, and therefore not to show it in their country. In the US that kiss is an update of the family, and we will continue to show it. I hope the world accepts it”, he explains to EL PAÍS.
On the other hand, Marvel comics were always more inclusive than their competition. “It would be very irresponsible not to understand the moment in which each comic was made and the burden that comes with it. Think about Black Panther, and that it was created in the 1960s, in times of social revolution in the US. And at the same time, as filmmakers, we must understand that our films are produced for today’s audiences”. Every movie is political, and in the case of Marvel there is a clear message of female empowerment and diversity. “If you have the open mind of a 13-year-old in front of you, one of the best things we can tell you is that you can. You can dream, you can think, you can express yourself, you can win, you can lose… For two hours in front of our films there is an audience that is not looking at their mobile phones, nor is anyone bothering them —and that is why I support and love the rooms—, and that you can forget about all the social and cultural barriers created by classes, religions, families, friends… In those two hours you should only dream of freedom. As a filmmaker that is called a privilege. If half of all our spectators achieve it, they live it like that… for me that’s winning”.
SALMA HAYEK AND VICTORIA ALONSO SPEAKING SPANISH AT THE PREMIERE OF ETERNALS AND THE CONFUSED GRINGOS, VICTORIA I LOVE YOU HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA pic.twitter.com/rxetKCtAjG
— burbuja♡ (@powerfullwitch_) October 20, 2021
The second escaped him at the premiere of Eternals in October, when on the red carpet he began to speak with Salma Hayek in Spanish before the world press. When the Mexican pointed out that the journalist did not understand her, Alonso blurted out: “I’m not interested. everyone learn [español]”. The aforementioned laughs remembering that moment. “When I’m with Salma, sometimes I forget and we chat like comadres,” she confesses. “But she looks, it seems to me a necessary message. I did not say it with that intention, but as my truth, and if it resonates, it is welcome.”
At the end of the interview, Alonso ends up backing down. There will be girls who will see it and think that if an Argentine is a boss at Marvel, they can also achieve it. “Yes, I am aware. I wish I didn’t give interviews. For a problem, security accompanies me 24 hours, a reality of someone if it is a reference. That distinction unfortunately carries the taint of violence. For me it is 10 times more important to put up with that so that the girls have someone to look at, so that my daughter understands what she does for a living. I never thought she would end up here. I just wanted to tell stories. Now I tell stories, and I do other things.”
Back to producing in Argentina
A capital decision in recent times for Victoria Alonso has been her return to Argentina, this time as a producer. The filmmaker is behind Argentina, 1985, by Santiago Mitre, with a script by Miter and Mariano Llinás, both heavyweights of auteur cinema in their country, and with Ricardo Darín and Peter Lanzani, as prosecutors Julio Strassera and Luis Moreno Ocampo, respectively. Strassera and Moreno Ocampo led the accusation against those most responsible for the last military dictatorship in the Judgment to the Boards. “It is a necessary project for the history of my country, I would even tell you that I think it is the most important moment in our history,” says the producer. “We need it so that what happened during the time of the military dictatorship never happens again.”
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