There’s a faint meowing sound coming from the Los Angeles set of Captain Marvel. This isn’t exactly the kind of place you’d expect to find almost a half a dozen cats hanging out in cages alongside the likes of Brie Larson (making her first appearance as the titular superhero) and Samuel L. Jackson (returning for his ninth appearance as Nick Fury). But, Marvel’s first female-led superhero film prominently features a cat, so there are cats on set — four of them, to be exact, all playing the same role.
In the original Captain Marvel comics, Carol Danvers has a cat named Chewie. For the Captain Marvel movie, our heroine has a cat named Goose. And yes, Goose is named after the Top Gun character, as the late 1980s Tom Cruise film served as a major inspiration for not just the film’s fighter pilot action, but also Carol’s own role as fighter pilot. It only makes sense to name the cat Goose. (And, spoiler for a movie that came out in 1986, hopefully this Goose fares better than his original namesake.)
But why are we even talking about this cat? Just what does Goose have to do with the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe? Knowing how Marvel loves to hide easter eggs and references to other titles in their films, Goose probably has a much greater role than we even realize. While producer Jonathan Schwartz wouldn’t offer up major specifics during a visit to the film’s set back in May 2018, he does explain that, “Carol’s [cat] friend is a very important part of the conflicts, [and] we thought would be really cool to see in a movie. That’s basically where [the idea to include Goose] came from and it’s awesome.”
Goose also might be [small spoiler] a Flerken, though no one on set would actually 100% confirm this. However, the answer to this question is probably yes. Or, as Jackson himself quipped during a conversation with reporters in-between filming, “I’ve heard the cat referred to as a Flerken. I didn’t know what that meant [at the beginning]. I vaguely have an idea now what that means.”
All it means is that Goose is more than likely a member of an alien race that resembles cats — and as always with the MCU, if he is a Flerken, that’s going to be important for not just Captain Marvel, but all other films going forward into Phase Four of the MCU. Might we see Goose pop up in Avengers: End Game? We’ll find out soon enough.
As for the cats themselves, Schwartz is eager to tell us that, “In order to have a cat on screen — and this is what I learned doing this movie — you have to have an A-team of cats who all have a specialty, so there’s like a cat that you hold, and a cat that rubs up on your leg, and a cat that will swipe at you, and a cat that’s just the face cat.”
And since everyone likes to know the who’s who of animals on-screen, Captain Marvel has enlisted four different orange tabbies from Animals for Hollywood to play the role of Goose: Gonzo, Rizzo, Archie, and Reggie. In case you’re wondering, yes, all the cats get along very well with Jackson, as the chemistry we see on screen between the veteran actor and the felines is very real.
Reggie is considered the “hero” cat, and the cat the CGI will be based on for the final film. As Ursula Brauner, one of the onset trainers from Animals of Hollywood, explains that’s simply because she took him to the first meeting to cast the cat, and he’s the most experienced with on-camera work.
The scene I observed filming required Goose to walk down a hallway in an alien ship, and the five-second shot took maybe an hour to film. That’s not at all because the cat was being in any sense of the word difficult. Rather, the cat (Reggie) needed to be coaxed a certain direction and he just wasn’t hitting his mark. The cats have been trained to do different things hearing different sounds, or as Brauner told us, “One sound means walk, one sound means run… It’s always a work in progress. We’re trying to communicate to [the cats] what [they’re] trying to do. We have to explain to [the cats] what [they] need to do… The tricks are super easy and it’s [teaching] them function in this environment.”
During downtime on the set, the cats are tucked away in a dark, cool corner of the soundstage, where visiting journalists (like myself) can get up close and personal with them, and oooh and ahh at the orange tabbies as they chase feathers tied to strings. For those looking to own their own Goose, a few merchandise items have already been revealed that feature the cat. Considering how adorable the feline comes across in the trailers — and I can confirm they’re adorable in real life, too — and combine that with the possibility of cat-superpowers, you’re going to want a Goose. Carol’s now the only Avenger with a household pet, so it’s only fair if viewers get to take him home, too.
So while Captain Marvel might be Marvel’s first female-led outing, as Brauner puts it, “As far as we’re concerned, it’s a cat movie.”
Captain Marvel is in theaters March 8, 2019, and tickets are on sale now.