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Secret Headquarters directors wanted to make a new type of superhero movie

Part Batcave, part man cave

jack, as played by owen wilson, creeping around while wearing pink kitty headphones Image: Hopper Stone/Paramount Pictures

Paramount Plus’ Secret Headquarters draws from many different superhero movies past. Owen Wilson’s character Jack Kincaid is secretly the Guard, a superhero who uses alien technology to rise up as Earth’s guardian, à la Green Lantern, and wears a metal suit strongly resembling Iron Man’s. But the bulk of the action takes place in the Guard’s titular secret headquarters. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman told Polygon that they looked at the Batcave from Tim Burton’s Batman movie as inspiration for the setting, as well as Lex Luthor’s lair in the first Superman movie. But they also drew from a few unlikely sources.

“A little bit of Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs. Kramer,” Schulman says, naming the 1979 divorce drama about a workaholic father losing custody of his young child.

“A little bit of Tom Hanks’ apartment in Big,” adds Joost.

charlie, a young boy, sits with his dad, jack, on a couch with popcorn and soda in front of them Photo: Hopper Stone/Paramount Pictures

The biggest part of Jack’s character isn’t that he’s a superhero, but that he’s a dad and a superhero. Much of the movie focuses on his relationship with his son, Charlie, who has no idea that his dad is a superhero and feels like his dad abandoned the family for “work” reasons. So the vibe for the headquarters was part Batcave, but also part man cave (“I’ve always hated [that term] but it’s appropriate here, because it literally is a cave,” says Joost). It’s a lived-in bachelor pad, with takeout containers and a guitar that he could probably practice a bit more.

While the superhero movie does see the kids and the Guard facing off against bad guys, the main tension is between Jack and Charlie. Schulman and Joost wanted to focus on a different conflict than normally seen in superhero movies for a very specific reason.

“Because it’s not a Marvel movie,” explains Schulman. “Those are great and they’re excellent at what they do. We’re trying to sort of carve out a different space in the genre. For us, that meant focusing on the family dynamic, on the father-son relationship. The superhero movie from the perspective of the kid. For us that meant exploring the job itself and the stress that parents feel trying to balance work and life and then if you’re being very, very nail-on-the-head about it, you think, Oh, well, it’s actually kind of ironic if what his job is is saving the world but all his son wants is for him to save his family.

Secret Headquarters is out now on Paramount Plus.

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