There are few power players in Hollywood right now riding as high as Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige, who has spent 13 years bringing Marvel Comics characters to the screen ever since he was given an inconspicuous Associate Producer credit on Bryan Singer’s 2000 X-Men.
Since then, he’s been involved in some capacity with every single Marvel movie that’s followed, both good and bad, but the turning point came in 2006 when many of the character rights of Marvel properties that had been auctioned off to save the company in the ‘90s were returned to Marvel. Marvel Studios then became something much bigger, a full-on production company where they could bring the Marvel Comics characters to the big screen without interference from the studio executives and production people who invariably would not understand the characters as well as Marvel proper.
Most SuperHeroHype readers will already know the rest of the story quite intimately as the 2008 release of Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk, led to the 2010 release of Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011 and then last year’s mega-blockbuster Marvel’s The Avengers. Together, those six movies have grossed $1.8 billion domestically and $4.1 billion (!) worldwide. That doesn’t even include the $300 million that Marvel Studios’ latest movie Iron Man 3 made in its first week internationally.
It’s become somewhat of a tradition for SuperHeroHype to get on the phone with Kevin Feige on the release of each movie and he was nice enough to take time out on the North American opening day of Iron Man 3 to talk to us.
Having spoken to Feige a few times over the years—even back to before the success of the original Iron Man–we’ve always found him to be an amazingly straight shooter, so that even if he gave us a vague answer, there’d always be some sort of underlying hint about the future. That was the case the last time we spoke to him just a few days before The Avengers came out (which you can read here), but this time we bounced between the past and future of Marvel Studios and got some great anecdotes about how they’ve arrived at Phase 2.
SuperHeroHype: Thanks for taking time out to talk to me. I know this is a busy day for you with Iron Man 3 opening in about 7 hours.
SHH: It must feel good to have a $300 million buffer from international before the movie even opens in the States, which is amazing.
SHH: Well I’m glad it works out, but personally, as a North American, I’d rather see the movies open here first.
SHH: I keep returning to Comic-Con 2006. Every time I talk to you or think of a Marvel movie, I keep going back to everything that was set up back then. I remember talking to Favreau about Adi Granov’s artwork and how that inspired the look of the movie. And that was from the “Extremis” storyline which you’re doing now. So was there always a plan to bring Extremis into the Iron Man world.
Feige: It’s funny you bring up Comic-Con 2006 because I did this thing for EW Capetown the other night and we talked a lot about Comic-Con 2006. That was the coming out party for Marvel Studios. We weren’t even in Hall H – I think we were in one of the other ballrooms, and you’re right. We debuted an Adi Granov piece of artwork and that was the only bit of artwork we had at that point, but we looked at the “Extremis” comic a lot and as you know, half of “Extremis” really is a retelling of his origin story with the incident in the cave and the Mark I and that provided a lot of inspiration for us tonally, a bit of the look, the dynamic between Yinsen and Tony Stark for “Iron Man 1” And Robert and John, we would always go, “This extremis stuff is really cool” and I would jokingly and off-handedly say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s Part 3. This was in the early days before we even started filming “Iron Man 1” so we had no idea. Part 3 seemed like a pipe dream at that point and I would say, “Yeah, we’ll save it for Part 3” and when it came to actually start working on Part 3 I went back to that. I said, “Let’s look back at this storyline because we had done Iron Man vs. a big guy in a metal suit, we had done Iron Man vs. a big guy in a metal suit with laser whips, and we had done Iron Man vs. a bunch of aliens in armor or metal suits. So we knew we didn’t want to do that again. We knew we did not want to have Iron Man vs. a guy in a metal suit at the end of the movie. That naturally led back to where it all started with Extremis.
SHH: Also the Mandarin, because I remember at the junket for the first movie, Jon Favreau was saying, “Well save Mandarin for the third movie.” There was a little hint of the character in the first movie but you didn’t tease it or anything. Was that third movie always going to be Mandarin or did you question whether or not he would work in the movie world.
SHH: Ironically, I never actually made it into the Marvel panel at Comic-Con 2006. I was there and I interviewed Favreau and Edgar Wright but never got in there.
SHH: I want to ask more about Extremis, because it’s an interesting concept. It’s something Warren Ellis came up with that’s a pretty heavy science concept. I haven’t seen the movie myself, but is it something that kids and the normal popcorn crowd can get, is it easy to explain compared to a guy in a suit of armor?
SHH: You’re very meticulous about how you’ve introduced things into the Marvel Universe whether it’s technology or magic. What aspect of the Marvel Universe would you want to introduce next that’s still out there and how can that be connected to what you’ve done before? Is there a way to bring Daredevil and street crime into this current world or is that too far off from what we’ve already seen?
Feige: No, I think that frankly would be easy. We’re still exploring the stuff that’s not as easy, which is we’ve been to Asgard, we’ve been through the Bifrost. We peeked a little bit through that portal at the end of the Avengers and now obviously in “Thor: The Dark World” and particularly in “Guardians of the Galaxy” we’re going full bore through that portal to literally the other side of the Marvel Universe, the entire universe, to explore the cosmic side of our characters and our storylines. That I think we’ve only still experienced the surface of that, and there’s much more to be done there.
SHH: Some of the cast have been saying that they don’t think there will be an “Iron Man 4.” Is it too early to make a statement like that? How do you feel about that? Do you feel it’s time to allow another character to step into the spotlight? Does Tony Stark need a rest?
SHH: It’s interesting how you changed the approach in announcing movies and dates. Phase 1 you kind of set the dates for all the movies building up to “The Avengers.” Phase 2 has been a little slower and tentative, trickling out information and doing reveals at Comic-Con. Do you know when you’ll need to start thinking about 2016 and beyond or do you have to really get “Avengers 2” done before worrying about that?
SHH: Not to make light of my situation, but when you dated “Ant-Man” six months ago for November 2015, I told my editor, “I’m going to have to stay alive long enough to see this movie in theaters. I’m too invested in this movie happening at this point.”
SHH: But I made that joke and I regret making that joke now, but I have to ask: Why is Marvel so dedicated to making this movie happen after all this time while Edgar finishes up other movies? I mean, projects in Hollywood die right and left faster and for dumber reasons while “Ant-Man” has stayed alive. So why are you so dedicated to making this movie?
SHH: I want to touch upon “Captain America” for a second. Just by coincidence, I was watching this doc last night about “Arrested Development” and of course, the Russo Brothers directed it. So far, I feel like they’re the most unconventional choice Marvel has made so far, especially for a story like “Winter Soldier,” which is dark espionage. Can you talk about that decision and are they going to bring some humor to the darker material?
SHH: The huge development last year was Disney buying Lucasfilm and adding it to their roster, similar to what they did with Marvel a couple years ago. Does that affect you guys at all and how will that play into the future when there will be “Star Wars” movies taking up screens normally dedicated to Marvel?
SHH: Well, “Make Mine Marvel!” Cause I’m a Marvel guy all the way.
SHH: Best of luck with this weekend although I’m sure you don’t need the luck.
Iron Man 3 is out now everywhere.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)