Vanity Fair Holiday 2017 [Cover + Shoot]

On a sweltering October weekend, the largest-ever group of Marvel superheroes and friends gathered just outside of Atlanta for a top-secret assignment. Eighty-three of the famous faces who have brought Marvel’s comic-book characters to life over the past decade mixed and mingled—Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk, bonded with Vin Diesel, the voice of Groot, the monosyllabic sapling from Guardians of the Galaxy. Angela Bassett, mother to Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, flew through hurricane-like conditions to report for duty alongside Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brie Larson, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner, Laurence Fishburne, and Stan Lee, the celebrated comic-book writer and co-creator of Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men.

One week before the Marvel 10th-anniversary photo shoot, on the set of Avengers 4, I watched Marvel’s biggest stars lounge on comfy couches under a canopy in the long stretches between takes. Mark Ruffalo scratched Scarlett Johansson’s back, while Johansson, Chris Evans, and several other Avengers hunched over their phones in a competitive game of Words with Friends. I reached for a camera to record the moment—some of the most famous faces in the world lit up by phone screens just like the rest of us—but the ever vigilant Marvel security team had wrapped my phone in layers of protective tape. Later, Chris Hemsworth mentioned that very moment to me.

“I thought, Could somebody take a photo of this? We’re all aware that this is going to be the last time we get to hang out like this.”

And yet the actors who have contributed so much to Marvel’s past successes have little doubt about the studio’s future. “I feel a lot of joy for the next generation,” Johansson said. “It’s a bittersweet feeling, but a positive one.”

In true Marvel fashion, members of the original Avengers team will help pave the way for the new guard. The latest Captain America introduced fans to Boseman’s Black Panther while Downey’s Tony Stark mentored Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming—“serving at the pleasure of young Master Holland,” Downey said with characteristic flair. Spider-Man’s return to the Marvel fold is a coup for Feige, who helped orchestrate a hero-sharing arrangement with Sony. [cont] Cover & Photo in the Gallery!

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