Interview with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige
If you were to ask us back in 2005 “What’s the most unlikely Marvel hero we’ll ever see on the big screen?” Ant-Man would probably be in our Top 3. And yet, nine years after it was first announced that Edgar Wright would bring Marvel’s tiniest Avenger to the big screen (and after a couple of stumbling blocks), Ant-Man, starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña, Bobby Cannavale and more, will indeed be hitting theaters across the next week.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has been instrumental in making all of these happen in a way that’s appeased both fans of the comics and moviegoers in general, allowing Marvel to claim some of the top box office records for many years.
Directed by Peyton Reed, Ant-Man marks the end of Marvel Studios’ Phase 2 which began with 2013’s Iron Man 3 and it introduces the latest Marvel character that will carry through to next year’s Captain America: Civil War and presumably the next few Avengers movies as well.
As always, being the overarching visionary over the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kevin Feige is a wealth of information (when he isn’t trying to find a way to giving everything away in interviews), but when SuperHeroHype spoke to him last week, we only had a very short amount of time and didn’t get too far beyond talking about Ant-Man’s place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the reasoning that went into making Marvel’s most unconventional movie since last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy. (That said and in case you missed it, you can already read what Feige had to say about the Spider-Man relaunch being done with Sony.)
SuperHeroHype: I’m pretty sure last time we spoke, we talked about Ant-Man and for years it’s been one of those “I’ll believe it when I see it” so now I’ve see it, so congratulations, you actually got it made.
Kevin Feige: (chuckles) Great, thank you.
SHH: What’s interesting is that Ant-Man was famously one of the first Avengers and I thought he would be introduced in “Age of Ultron,” but you instead kept the idea of doing it as a standalone movie. Can you talk about that decision rather than having him branch off an Avengers movie?
Feige: The idea for the film predates the Avengers which is why as we were building to the Avengers film we were always keeping Ant-Man separate, because of this version of the Ant-Man story that we wanted to tell. But at the same time, we knew that in the film, which you’ve now seen, that we’re going to play on the idea of Hank’s history within the broader mythology of the Cinematic Universe: his time at SHIELD, his interactions with Howard Stark, his adventures as Ant-Man with Wasp in the past that we touch on briefly in the film. We always knew that the film we were going to do was going to do both—tip its hat to Hank’s history within the bigger part of the Marvel Universe but at the same time, do the story we really wanted to do, which was the Scott Lang story and the notion of this down-on-his-luck criminal that against all odds and in a very unlikely fashion becoming a superhero.
SHH: I like that it’s a standalone movie even though it has hints of other things. That’s what I liked about “Guardians” as well, that you can go in without knowing anything about the comics or Marvel history.
Feige: Good. That’s always the goal with all of our films and with this one in particular, getting across the mythology and the back story that we needed to while at the same time keeping it primarily from Scott Lang’s point of view, which I think allowed the audience in in a way that is always fun when the audience has a surrogate that they can go on the adventure with.
SHH: I’m impressed that you’ve been using Agent Carter to tie “The First Avenger” in with the modern-day MCU. You keep the movies separate, but you hint at ties between them.
Feige: That’s a great example (I hope it’s a great example), because if you don’t know who Peggy Carter is, then that opening scene of the movie, it’s just a powerful character who sits on this board that Hank Pym is not very happy with. If you do know, then you know all of her backstory, you know the connections to it. To me, that’s always the goal. It’s that Easter eggs are appreciated by people who are aware of things but do not bump for people who have no idea about anything except the movie they just bought a ticket to see.
SHH: I knew this was going to be a funny movie just by the nature of it and who was involved, but when you have Paul Rudd co-writing it with Adam McKay and have it directed by Peyton Reed, who has mainly done comedies, you’re really leaning more in that direction. And with the Russos, too, who mainly did comedies to take charge of the MCU?
Feige: That hasn’t been intentional necessarily to say, “Let’s hire people with comedy chops.” We want to hire people with creative chops and with clever chops that happens to be people who are also very good at comedy, because comedy is very, very hard and most people who are extremely smart, creative and clever happen to have a good sense of humor and can do difficult comedy. I’m glad that people think that the film is as funny as it is, but at the same time, I like when people tell me how poignant they feel it is based on the relationship between Scott and his daughter Cassie or Michael Douglas’ character Hank and his daughter Hope. Because at the same time, we want this movie to have as much heart in addition to as much humor as any of our other films.
SHH: In the MCU, even though there’s a lot of serious things going on, especially in “Age of Ultron,” there’s always been that element of humor. When you talk about the movies from the Distinguished Competition, a lot of people worry those movies are going to be too dark, but you’ve found a good balance.
Feige: To me, all of my favorite movies have a balance. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is an incredibly kick-ass action-adventure film. It also is hilarious in certain moments, so I think that holds true for all genres of movies.
SHH: It was pretty surprising back in October when you announced the complete line-up through 2019, which is very different since we’re used to you keeping things close to vest and then making a couple of announcements at Comic-Con. This was a pretty major thing to announce all those movies. If “Ant-Man” does well, what happens with a sequel to it? Would you shuffle things around to make it happen?
Feige: It’s a good question. We usually announce things when we’re confident that they’re happening, and some times, that would be a movie or two ahead and in the case of last October, it was, as you say, through 2019. Now one thing already shuffled after that, of course, was Spider-Man, so we always say that we love planning ahead, we love having a goal and a horizon to aim for, but we also love and always do bob and weave whether it’s creatively within the movies or within the structure of the overall phase, in this case Phase 3, but also in terms of… not necessarily release dates. We don’t shuffle those very much obviously. It is an interesting dilemma that would be a very high-class problem to have, which is having more ideas for more movies than you have slots to do. That’s a problem I’m willing to have all day long.
SHH: “Guardians” was one of the exceptions, because James teased “Guardians Vol. 2” at Comic-Con a couple weeks before the first movie was released. I’m not sure it was a joke or a tease but it was one of the few exceptions.
Feige: That’s true. We had been working on the overall slate and we very much believed in what we had with “Guardians.” I think if we were announcing that slate now, in as much as we believe so strongly in “Ant-Man” and how that has turned out, you might see something there. We have great ideas for the next adventure with Ant-Man if we’re lucky enough to do it and we’ll find a place to make it happen.
SHH: Of course, he can be in other movies, too.
Feige: Which, of course, he is.
SHH: I’ve noticed (and other people have commented on the fact) that the Marvel movies seem to have a very distinct look between them even with different directors. The Russos are doing a bunch of upcoming movies, but you also have “Doctor Strange,” which I assume would have to be a different look. Are you letting the directors decide how their movies should look or are you staying on top of keeping that consistency between them?
Feige: We always let the directors decide it frankly and I don’t think our movies—at least thematically, they may share some similarities—but I think “Winter Soldier” looks very different from “The First Avenger” which looks very different from Branagh’s “Thor” which looks very different from “Age of Ultron” which looks very different from “Ant-Man.” “Doctor Strange” in that same way I’m sure will have some similarities across them but is going to be, by design, a very different palette. In the way that “Ant-Man” differs from “Ultron” in the arenas for the action, same thing with the power base and the places in which the action sequences will occur in “Doctor Strange” is equally different.
SHH: You’ve already announced a “Black Panther” movie and he’s going to be introduced in “Civil War” but are you going to try to do more movies like “Ant-Man” or even “Thor” where you’re introducing the character in their own solo movie, or will you continue to play with introducing the characters in an earlier movie?
Feige: It always varies, it really does. It always depends on how the timing works out. It depends on what stories we want to tell. In the case of “Civil War,” we needed a third party, we needed a character who wasn’t on either Captain America or Iron Man’s side, which is why we went, “You know what? We’re doing a Black Panther movie, but it would actually be smart to have him fill this role we need in Civil War and introduce him here first.” So it always just depends on the story and the way we want to tell the story.
Ant-Man opens nationwide on Friday, July 17 with previews on Thursday night. Look for lots more interviews from the movie in the coming week.
(Photo Credit: Brian To/WENN.com)