With Marvel’s first Disney+ release just days away we were invited to sit down and chat with Moon Knight director, Mohamed Diab! Mohamed shared a lot of interesting behind-the-scenes info about what went into the making of the show, the 200-page pitch deck that got him the gig and how the Moon Knight team went about representing Marc Spector’s Dissociative Identity Disorder on screen!
Hey, Mohamed! How are you doing today?
I’m doing great. How are you?
I’m good as well. I’m not going to waste too much time, but I apologize for any repeat questions, I’m sure you’ll get a lot of them.
Thank you for that, but don’t worry about it, it’s my job.
Fair enough! Okay, first question. In the past, many directors have shared, you know, how they came into working with Marvel. For example, Destin Daniel Cretton shared how he put together a vision for Shang-Chi; what was that process like for you coming on Moon Knight?
Um, I didn’t, by the way; I never did a pitch in my life. So this was the first time pitching.
So I mean, putting a real pitch, usually a pitch with my mouth, just like talking. But me and my wife (Sarah Goher), who is my partner, we write together. She produces everything that I do. We read Moon Knight, and we were blown away; we felt like this was the right project for us.
And not just because it has some Egyptian mythology and current Egypt. But it just connected to us from a dramatic point of view, our films are usually very intimate and about at their core are about small stories. And we felt we could expand on that and make it more dramatic, and we had a vision of it. So we put together a 200-page pitch. But it was very fast. It’s not like it’s all pictures, but it covered everything! It covered where were we going to shoot? How will we develop the characters, the editing, the action, the score, the colour, the music, some Egyptian music, references, everything you can imagine.
It took us 12 days and nights working on it. But the moment we were done with it, we knew we would get the job we do. I told Sarah if we didn’t get it, something’s wrong with the world. It’s not about covering everything. We just had a very specific vision on how to do it, and it felt unique and different. And now, after two years, that is the show that we’ve done.
That presentation became the Bible of the show for us. A visual Bible or the Bible of everything that we were working on. When Justin (Benson) and Aaron (Moorhead) came on the project, that’s the first thing I handed them in the presentation. I told them, this is where the design of the worlds and that’s maybe that’s one of the reasons our episodes don’t feel that much different. It feels like okay; we are living in the same worlds.
I enjoyed that you mentioned that like you put so much work into developing the world because it was apparent in the show. Especially in the ways you highlighted Egyptian culture, especially with the score. Compared to your past works, you’ve always done an outstanding job of highlighting Egypt in the past and modern-day Egypt through pop culture and experiences of folks in Egypt today. What was that research process like to adapt a comic inspired by Ancient Egypt and then set Moon Knight in Egypt today?
I thrive off challenges! I love to make movies about things that I know nothing about. When I made my first film with Cairo 678; it’s about sexual harassment through the eyes of three women. And I’m a man; my biggest fear was to sound like a man in the film, the director of the storytelling. So I would say because of that film, I tried my best to understand women more.
Through Amira, a Palestinian film, I knew some stuff (about Palestine), but I wanted to sound like a Palestinian. So I’ve delved into the culture as much as I can. The same thing here. Once I got the job, I read every comic book. I’m a comic book fan, by the way. I didn’t know anything about Moon Knight, per se. But I know everything about comic stories and comic books, so I tried. Now I think I have a Ph.D. and Moon Knight.
But, you just immerse yourself, try to think like the character. At the same time, bring yourself, and that’s what makes it unique, in a way sometimes seeing a different country from someone else’s point of view, understanding Marc and Steven from someone else’s point of view. I think not knowing a lot about it was an advantage because I wasn’t carrying around the weight of the comics. The only thing that had the priority for me was how to make a good story. So I think that was an advantage, and it helped a story it helped shape this new vision of Moonlight.
I see that coming through! I was discussing the show with a friend of mine who also received screeners, and we were talking about how, even outside of like the MCU, it’s a very well done standalone show at large. It establishes Moon Knight without spoon-feeding you the beginning of who he is.
One thing that we both noticed in the show was that a lot of work was done to sort of set up the pantheon of the other (ancient Egyptian) deities. So did you work with someone who was an expert in Kemeticism while you were fleshing out these storylines? And just beyond that, because we know that Khonsu and Bast will play a more significant role in the forthcoming films, are there any other like Kemetic deities that you’d want to see join the MCU?
In every aspect of the show, we had experts. When it came to mental health, we had experts. When it came to Egyptology, we have experts who were like our guides through the journey.
Also, I don’t… Marvel is so secretive. But at the same time, I love that. We don’t know what’s going to happen, which God is going to happen. But I want to tell you something that even though it was set that Ammit is the goddess here in our story, I was allowed to play with it. You read about her, and you try to understand and try that. Like, I want to show you someone like Arthur Harrow, who is known in the comic. But with his ideology and stuff, we were allowed to develop it and completely change the villain and make him into something of our own.
That doesn’t exist in the comic books. So I would imagine that, first of all, Khonshu is the store. I think you’re going to see a lot of Khonshu. In my opinion, you’re going to see a lot of Moon Knight. They’re fascinating characters. Who else is going to join depends on what story are you telling? I don’t know. Is it going to be Moon Knight joining another superhero? I don’t know if it’s going to be a standalone story. What is the theme of our story? Do you know what I mean? So it depends on what story you are telling because the themes all have to align together. But the good thing is Egyptian mythology is a goldmine for stories and great deities, and every one of them has their own philosophy, and I love that.
Yeah, it’s also wonderful to hear that Marvel gives you such free rein. You mentioned that you had mental health experts involved in helping you out. Marc Spector/Moon Knight has DID (Dissociative identity disorder), and your show takes a pretty unflinching look at what it’s like to have multiple personalities and live with DID. What was the creation of that process? Like what did like how did the mental health experts help you there?
First of all, we tried from the beginning of the show, using experts, we were trying to be respectful and try our best to depict it as close as possible. But it’s very important to say that this is a fictional depiction because there are supernatural elements to it. And it’s based in a fantasy world, but we did try to respect it as much as possible. I want to tell you that I went through a journey. I learned a lot.
We all know DID as a multiple personality disorder, and the name has changed. But my information came from movies. And I think it was a bit shallow. My experience and my knowledge were very shallow about it. I know, a lot more right now. And I feel like, at the end of the show, you’re going to feel that you, just like me, you’re going to learn more about DID. What was, what’s the second part of the question?
That was it; you answered everything there! Well, thank you so much for your time. Are there any parting words you want to mention viewers?
This needs to be watched more than once; you will enjoy the second time around even more.
Well, I have a couple more replays left. So I’m going to go hop over to the screeners, and rewatch but thank you so much for taking the time today!
Thank you so much.
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.
From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.
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