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Inside the Firing of Victoria Alonso: Her Oscar-Nominated Movie ‘Argentina, 1985’ at Center of Exit (Exclusive)



The Oscar-nominated drama Argentina, 1985 was at the center of last week’s sudden firing of longtime Marvel Studios executive Victoria Alonso, The News84Media has learned.

Alonso was one of the eight producers of the international production that was distributed by Amazon. However, by doing so, she breached her contract, several times, according to sources. After repeated warnings, the situation came to a head the week after the Oscars and ultimately led to her termination. It was a seismic shakeup at Marvel, where for years Alonso was part of the holy trinity — along with Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige and co-president Louis D’Esposito — who led the Marvel Cinematic Universe to ever-greater heights.

According to insiders, Alonso breached an 2018 agreement that saw her violate the company’s standards of business conduct that stated employees would not work for competing studios.

Sources say that Alonso did not ask permission to work on Argentina, 1985 nor did she give notice but did the film of her own volition. (However, an IndieWire published last month on the film stated that she did have permission for the film.) When Disney found out about the project and the violation, her longtime service and veteran status engendered the company to give her a dispensation on the condition she would not work on the movie further. She was to also not promote it or publicize it in any way. The situation of a top executive working on a movie outside company confines was deemed serious enough to involve the management audit team and a new memo was signed, according to an insider.

A rep for Alonso declined to comment. A rep for Disney also declined to comment.

The film premiered in September 2022 at the Venice International Film Festival and soon the drama was on the awards track. Alonso then found herself front and center in the circuit of screenings and Q&As, panels and interviews.

According to sources, she was reminded of her agreement and her breach several times but the appearances continued. She even appeared on the Oscars arrivals carpet not as a Marvel executive associated with Marvel’s multi-nominated Black Panther: Wakanda Forever but rather as a producer, walking with her film’s director, Santiago Mitre.

What also rankled Disney executives was that while she worked on the promotion of her movie, her purview of Marvel’s visual effects as president of physical and postproduction, visual effects and animation production was busier than ever.

Throughout the last year or so, as Marvel put out an unprecedented level of series and movies, a general impression emerged that VFX artists were not well treated by Marvel, attributed to factors including long hours, razor-sharp deadlines and a lack of a singular vision

Movies, including the February release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumaniahave come under fire for sub-par visual effects work while Alonso’s reputation became more and more polarizing.

“You can only ask a person to stay until 1 am working on VFX shots for so long before things start to break,” says one post-production source. Another post-production talent says they have avoided working with Marvel because of Alonso’s reputation for being challenging.

Still, she had her supporters, including Eternals star Salma Hayek, who called her “best wife ever” in December 2021 post.

In any case, things came to a head post-Oscars, and Alonso was terminated for cause.

For the Buenos Ares-born Alonso, Argentina, 1985 was a personal tale. The feature stars Ricardo Darín as Julio César Strassera, the prosecutor who led the case against those behind Argentina’s reign of military terror that led to the disappearance of 30,000 people. “I’ve made a lot of stories about superheroes,” Alonso told IndieWire in the story published last month. “And I’ve always wanted to tell a story about what happened in Argentina, because I should have been one of those 30,000 people.”

Alonso’s firing was sudden and shocked the town because of the hushed nature. Some have speculated that Alonso was being silenced because she was an outspoken against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “As long as I am at Marvel Studios, I will fight for representation,” Alonso, who is gay, said at the time. Disney took a stand against the bill, resulting in a clash with the state government and ultimately the loss of a special tax status. It is a move that will likely cost the company millions.

But other sources say that being vocal had only increased Alonso’s profile within the company. She was asked to represent the company on the board of GLAAD, joined the company’s Pride 365 leadership team, and made a deal with the company’s publishing division to write a memoir.

In any case, the VFX industry will be closely watching what follows. Marvel is one of the largest VFX clients because of the scope of its work — its tentpoles regularly had in excess of 2,000 VFX shots, sometimes more than a whopping 3,000 per movie.

It is unclear who will take over for Alonso in the interim — at least some vendors are now working with VFX producer Jen Underdahl for now. Insiders acknowledge whoever assumes her duties could face similar challenges to Alonso, who helped put out the unprecedented 18 films, TV shows and specials that Marvels released in 2021-22.

Says one VFX pro: “Whatever criticisms are being leveled against her, she’s not an island. Part of the problem is the aggressive release schedules.”

That aggressive schedule could already be in the rearview mirror, however, as returning CEO Bob Iger has stated an intention to slow down Marvel’s output.

—Carolyn Giardina and Aaron Couch contributed to this report.

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