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Avengers: Endgame has been dominating at the box office for a week now, which means some of its more detailed moments (beyond its character arcs and big plotlines) can be picked apart. Moments like cameos. And not big, flashy star cameos, either, but blink-and-you-miss-it esoteric cameos that even the most dedicated professional only notices upon second viewing. And it has to do with football. Football and Thor.
** WARNING: Spoilers from Avengers: Endgame follow. **
No, Thor’s weight gain has nothing to do with the NFL. But thanks to the sharp eye and quick reporting of io9’s Germain Lussier, Marvel fans now know the connection between fantasy football and the Lebowski-esque God of Thunder: Matthew Berry.
Berry is the go-to fantasy football commentator and expert for ESPN, and, in Avengers: Endgame, he made his MCU debut as a S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra agent. Remember when Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce (the real jaw-dropping cameo in the film) rolled up to Tony Stark and Thor in the past? Well right next to him was Berry, plucked from the sports desk by one of the film’s co-directors.
“It happened through the grace of Joe Russo,” Berry said. The two men became friends over fantasy football, so Russo reached out a few years ago when he found a part for Berry. “They hand me the script, it’s like two pages... and it makes no sense to me,” Berry said. “All it is is the dialogue. I see dialogue between Alexander Pierce, my character, Tony Stark, and Thor. Then you see like one or two lines from ‘Other Tony’ and I’m ‘What the heck is ‘Other Tony?’ ”
Piecing this together in a pre-Infinity War world wasn’t easy, but Berry had nothing but time as he twiddled his thumbs and kept his lips sealed in the excruciating period between Infinity War and Endgame. “I’m in the lobby of Stark Tower. They’re wearing what they were wearing in The Avengers. Clearly, it’s either a flashback or it’s time travel,” Berry said. “Also Alexander Pierce is there. He’s dead. So, I also realize, ‘Oh, I must be Hydra.’”
So after connecting the dots that most fans wouldn’t until they were midway through the film, Berry leveraged his cameo for all it was worth in order to contribute something of his own to the iconic film. Thankfully he’d brushed up on his Thor lore beforehand.
“There was a moment where they’re like, ‘OK. Tony’s just fallen. Ad lib as you would normally do,’ ” Berry said. “We did that fall like four or five times with different reactions to it. The last couple of times I turned to Thor and I’m like, ‘Don’t you have a magic hammer?’ or something like that. I forget exactly what I said two years ago but I said something to the effect of ‘Use your hammer to help him out.’ And so Thor tries and obviously it works and that ended up staying in the movie.”
Wait, what? That was from a fantasy football guru and not one of the comic-versed experts behind the film?
Sorry, nameless Hydra agent, but Thor’s quick thinking and rash application of godly might was utterly in character — so the glory had to be his. And Berry gets that. “They cut my line which, truthfully, [makes it] a better moment. Thor doesn’t need the S.H.I.E.L.D. guy’s suggestion,” Berry said.
But for a newcomer to the MCU to make such a lasting contribution to a movie that fans will always remember as closing out a chapter of their lives? That’s pretty good for a newbie.