'Agent Carter' breaks glass ceiling with a karate kick

05:00 AM, Aug 25, 2013

Director/Co-President Marvel Studios Louis D'Esposito, left, and actress Hayley Atwell attend the Marvel One-Shot San Diego Comic Con screening of 'Agent Carter.' Imeh Akpanudosen, Getty Images for Disney/


Written By by Brian Truitt, USA TODAY

If superhero-ing were supposed to be left mostly to the boys, no one sent Peggy Carter the memo.

British actress Hayley Atwell’s role as the World War II-era government agent and love interest in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger didn’t allow for many fight scenes, but she is definitely a woman of action in Agent Carter, a new 15-minute Marvel Studios mini-movie that is featured on the Blu-ray/DVD release of Iron Man 3 (out Sept. 24).

Atwell says she slipped right back into Peggy’s shoes after being away for a while — literally, she wore the same footwear as she did in The First Avenger.

The costume was a very big part of who she was in Captain America because of that silhouette, that 1940s pencil skirt, and the proper, very prim, very British and well-put-together (woman) who takes care of her appearance,” she says.

A year after her flame Cap (Chris Evans) crashes his plane — and unbeknownst to her is frozen in ice before being unearthed in present day — Peggy is working for a precursor to S.H.I.E.L.D. Her male colleagues keep her down and don’t respect her. But when she’s the only one in the office when the call comes in for an important mission, Peggy throws herself into the fray against a slew of bad guys. (One poor sap gets karate-kicked right through a window.)

Peggy breaks the glass ceiling on the job, and the character does the same in the world of superheroes. While Marvel has been proactive in creating key female characters for its big-screen world — most notably Scarlett Johansson’s Avengers super-spy Black Widow — Agent Carter showcases one who takes the lead of a story.

The short film’s director, Louis D’Esposito, a co-president at Marvel Studios, points out that while Peggy’s in a man’s world, she never forgets she’s a woman. That fact is fact embodied when she pauses to look into her compact after a brutal fight.

She just kicked five guys’ butts, she’s about to go after someone else, but she takes that moment to look at herself and make sure her hair is good,” he says.

Agent Carter and other “Marvel One-Shots” aim to explore various corners of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (which was established with the first Iron Man movie in 2008), much like Marvel comics do every month, says Marvel Studios producer and president, Kevin Feige.

You see that in TV shows if a show is successful enough to go five or six years, but you never see it in movies necessarily,” he says. “We love the notion of continuing to build the cinematic universe in all sorts of different places.”

And if there’s ever a chance to tell another tale with Peggy, Atwell says she’ll always be game.

She’s a good role model — she’s got a good moral compass in her and she’s always going to be fighting the baddies. And she looks good in a pencil skirt.”