Avengers: Endgame actress Karen Gillan was in her trailer on the set of Guardians of the Galaxy when she heard a knock at the door. Someone was eager to see her intricate makeup as Nebula, an adopted daughter of the intergalactic warlord Thanos.
A mustached smile greeted her. It was Stan Lee.
The legendary writer, who became the guiding force behind the rise of Marvel Comics, gasped at her hours-long, cosmetic transformation into a purple-and-blue space pirate.
The actress was about to film a major fight sequence, she told him as they parted ways.
Lee turned around, clenched his fist close to his face and uttered, "Knock 'em dead."
"That's the coolest thing that's ever happened to me," Gillan said at Monday's Avengers: Endgame world premiere at the Los Angeles Convention Centre.
Lee, who died in November at age 95, was on the minds of several stars and filmmakers attending the film's first public screening.
It took place in a custom-built 2000-seat theatre with a 21-metre screen.
Anthony and Joe Russo's movie, opening in Australia cinemas on Thursday, features Lee's final film cameo.
It marks the end of an era after 11 years of surprise appearances throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Benedict Wong, who plays Doctor Strange's sidekick Wong, described the event as bittersweet.
"As much as it's a real joyous moment, it's obviously tinged with sadness," said the actor, who met Lee a few times.
His favorite was the first time they met, at 2016's Doctor Strange premiere.
"I just said, 'Stan you don't know me -' and he immediately interrupted and said, 'You're Wong. You're great!'
"And it was a big welling-up moment."
The actor wished he'd been among the dozens who came to the Endgame set to watch Lee perform his surprise scene.
Executive producer Trinh Tran laughed as she remembered it.
"People you normally wouldn't even see on the set showed up, and you're like, 'Where did all these hundreds of people come from?'
Markus was "a little worried" that moviegoers would think the cameo was developed after Lee had died, though it was invented and shot prior to that - even before Lee's appearance in the March release of Captain Marvel.
"This is a unique cameo, and he was so in it," writer Stephen McFeely chimed in. "He went for it. It was fantastic."
As he spoke, cries from cosplayers dressed as some of Lee's characters were heard through the convention centre doors.
Second unit director Sam Hargrave said viewers should look out for Lee in a driving scene. Hargrave shot the sequence with Lee and a stunt double.
- Tribune Content Agency