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Hawkeye Finale: Vincent D'Onofrio on Kingpin's Appearance and Status in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Clint and Kate's partnership and the arrival of Daredevil villain Kingpin rock the MCU in different ways. D'Onofrio sheds some light on his character's revival for Hawkeye.

by | December 23, 2021 | Comments

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Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye and Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop in HAWKEYE

(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios)

The Hawkeye finale settled up this adventure for Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) in a pretty satisfactory manner. Kate solved her mystery, Clint protected his secret(s), and the two became partners; in fact, they’re just about ready to share the name, which we always knew would be the case.

But just as its main story wrapped up with a holiday bow, there are plenty of Marvel Cinematic Universe happenings on the periphery to consider. None are perhaps larger the confirmation that Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, has been operating in Manhattan all this time. Sure, that might seem obvious from the way he was presented Netflix’s Daredevil series, but that show is from an era before Marvel Studios involved itself with television. A reported divide between the studio and the former Marvel television unit was so vast that early plans to connect shows like Daredevil to the films were more or less scrapped. In lieu of a film character making an appearance, Daredevil and the four other Netflix shows made fleeting references to “The Event” from Marvel’s Avengers and occasional jokes about the superhero team. The movies, meanwhile, made no reference to the more street-level shows at all.

Then, almost as quickly as the Blip occurred, the Netflix shows were cancelled and the characters slowly returned to Marvel Entertainment’s control. Soon after, Marvel Studios absorbed the television operation and the new unit was off making shows for Disney+. The question about the Netflix shows, however, remained. Did they happen or were they cast aside like, seemingly, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Fisk’s appearance in the final two episodes of Hawkeye and the brief Matt Murdoch (Charlie Cox) cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home seem to indicate one possibility: Daredevil happened in part if not in its entirety.

And for Vincent D’Onofrio, the actor who plays Fisk in Daredevil and Hawkeye, the events of the Netflix series and history it offered to Kingpin still informed his choices in the role.

“I executed the character is the same way I executed it in Daredevil, which is that everything is based on his childhood,” he told Rotten Tomatoes when we spoke to him in the wake of the Hawkeye finale.

The episode may suggest a certain end of the character, too, but D’Onofio also chatted with us about the possible future of the character, working in secret on the show, and the hope he might return to his other famous New York-based character, Law & Order: Criminal Intent’s Detective Robert Goren.

Vincent D'Onofrio as Kingpin in Hawkeye

(Photo by Marvel Studios)

Erik Amaya for Rotten Tomatoes: How did you navigate the security challenge involved in keeping Kingpin’s appearance a secret while still championing his return on Twitter?

Vincent D’Onofrio: It’s not a secret that that’s the kind of the modus operandi of these companies these days — like Marvel — is that the minute they ask you to do something, you become part of their team to how they execute releasing a project. And the way that they do it at Marvel is, I think a kind of cool way, where they keep as many secrets as possible. And they keep [filming] quiet and let time pass. And then the reveal comes bigger, and the audience has mustered up all these scenarios. And it becomes this huge thing. And then the release of it becomes this event. Yeah, sounds like a good thing to me. I’m in. You know?

And then there’s the other thing: that we just don’t know, by the way. There are literally things that I just simply don’t know, and that helps too. Because if I don’t know, I’m in the same boat as you.

How long ago did you know this was in the cards? It was reported earlier today that Charlie Cox knew for years that he was going to be in Spider-Man: No Way Home.

D’Onofrio: Yeah. I didn’t know for years. I think I knew … I think it’s almost a year. It was early this year, I knew.

And even though Fisk and Daredevil did fight at one point on the Netflix series, this still feels like the most physical Kingpin has been so far. And after spending so much time in art galleries and worrying about Vanessa, was it a pleasure to be this out-and-out villainous, strong Kingpin?

D’Onofrio: I think that he is definitely physically stronger [in Hawkeye] and he takes more physical abuse. And I think that’s exciting because that’s more like the canon of the comics. But I also think that he’s the same guy that was in Daredevil and that his emotional life is the same. Because the way that I executed the character is the same way I executed it in Daredevil, which is that everything is based on his childhood. And so, that’s where all of his stuff comes from when you see him in scenes.

And I know that story-wise, that the Blip has happened, that he’s lost a bit of his power and that in Hawkeye, he aims to get it back. He aims to make that city his again, because he thinks the city belongs to him. So that’s how I feel about it. And I also think that what I just said is key to playing this; I think he needs to have that emotional life, so he’s grounded at the same time. He can have this huge strength, but he’s still fascinating as a character because he’s more complex.

Which actually leads to this question: is he still motivated by that need to control or has it mutated into cruelty?

D’Onofrio: No, no, no. It’s not cruelty. It’s never cruelty from my point of view. He’s just misunderstood.

And also from your point of view, or at least considering how you perceive Fisk here on Hawkeye, did you presume that the events of Daredevil took place?

D’Onofrio: Oh, sure. I don’t know how much it’s going to matter. But I do know that in my mind, and in the mind of the people I was working with on Hawkeye, that they connected as many dots as possible, for my sake. And some were impossible.

So Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer) is still out there somewhere?

D’Onofrio: I hope so. Yeah.

As someone who now has an investment in seeing Kingpin continue, do you think we’ll see him again soon or did Maya’s (Alaqua Cox) single shot lay him up for the foreseeable future?

D’Onofrio: I think I can only approach it as somebody with the investment to see Kingpin continue. That’s my hope that he will. You know? And in my mind, from when I was a kid, Kingpin existed in Punisher, Spider-Man, and Daredevil. And so, that’s where he lives for me.

So, always the Manhattan heroes as his adversaries?

D’Onofrio: I mean, if it was to go bigger, then that’s fine. But that’s way beyond anything that I think about. I think he’s a multifaceted character, Kingpin. Or Wilson Fisk, I should say. And I think that he can … handled the right way, he can be in any part of the MCU that they want to do.

Was that your laugh or arm in the episode three flashback to Maya’s karate class?

D’Onofrio: I believe it was my arm, which was attached in some way to my mouth, which essentially vocalized the giggle. The laugh wasn’t scripted. It was just the young woman that was playing the part was just so adorable.

And now for a silly question: Is there a Doctor Strange in the Law & Order universe and can he arrange for one more rematch between Robert Goren and Nicole Wallace?

D’Onofrio: I hope that someday Dick Wolf decides to bring back Goren. And then I would say it would be a crime not to include Olivia d’Abo. But then I do have to say the idea of [Kathryn] Erbe and I being on the same set together and playing those characters would be so much fun.

92% Hawkeye: Season 1 (2021) season 1 is now streaming in full on Disney+.