Avengers and X-Men: Lauren Shuler Donner “Happy” to work with Feige
It was less than a month ago that the Disney-Fox deal shook Hollywood to its foundations with wide-ranging speculation on how it would affect business and jobs and unions and so forth. For a wide spectrum of fandom, however, the only thing they care about is whether they will get to see their favorite Marvel heroes finally share the screen together now that Marvel Studios (responsible for The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy series of films) and 20th Century Fox (who control X-Men and Fantastic Four) will likely be linked. During a Television Critics Association event (via Rotten Tomatoes), X-Men franchise producer/gatekeeper Lauren Shuler Donner spoke about combining the Avengers and X-Men brands onscreen once the sale of 21st Century Fox to The Walt Disney Company is completed in up to 18 months.
“Sure, why not?” said Shuler Donner. “Look, it’s 18 months away, so who knows. For me, I think Bob Iger is one of the smartest men in the country. Alan Horn’s an old friend. Kevin Feige was my intern and assistant and then my associate producer on the first ‘X-Men.’ Kevin and I started the ‘X-Men’ together, so for me if we work with Kevin, I’m happy.”
Of course, Feige has famously stated that Marvel Studios has always had contingency plans if the rights to any wayward characters owned by other studios came their way, as with Sony’s recent “leasing” of Spider-Man to them. Other properties such as Daredevil and Ghost Rider were inherited by Marvel from Fox and Sony, respectively, after their rights lapsed, but were ultimately relegated to television rather than the MCU proper. There’s also the issue of a tonal incongruity with the X-Men and Avengers worlds, in that the superheroes in Avengers films are more or less embraced by the public whereas X-Men films portray a world prejudiced against mutants who are, more or less, just superheroes the same as The Avengers members. It will be difficult to reconcile that tone without starting over completely from scratch. Yet another issue is a contractual one, in that many of actors playing the most iconic Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, etc) will be ending their run in the MCU either through contracts ending, perishing onscreen or both. So Marvel Studios will either have to have rebooted X-Men onscreen with less popular Avengers (Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Vision, etc) or recast Avengers, neither of which may satisfy fickle fans.
While Fox’s X-Men franchise has always maintained a certain level of financial and even critical success throughout the years, the studio famously rushed 2015’s disastrous Fantastic Four to the screen in order to keep Marvel Studios from taking control of the property. Now they may face a similar dilemma with Legion creator Noah Hawley’s proposed Doctor Doom film, which could get caught in the crossfire of Fox wanting to make a movie and Marvel’s own plans for the character.
“I haven’t had a phone call, and I’m just operating under the assumption that it’s business as usual,” Hawley said. “Obviously, the merger, should it go through, will take a year at least. Certainly no one’s reached out to me from Marvel or Fox to say, ‘Well, you know, maybe we should take a beat or maybe we should rush.’ I’m working on the script, and we’ll see what the landscape is when I deliver it. It’s coming. I’m almost done with the last ‘Legion’ script, and then [Doctor Doom] is my first responsibility.”
While Marvel Studios already has a pretty detailed plan for the films they want to make over the next 18 months, Fox is in a particular bind in that they have several Marvel properties in development, including Gore Verbinski’s Gambit starring Channing Tatum (gearing up for production), Drew Goddard’s X-Force film featuring Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool and Josh Brolin’s Cable, Deadpool 3, a Multiple Man film with James Franco, an X-23 solo film written by James Mangold and, should the first film be a success, a New Mutants 2 and 3. The creators working on most of these films have to wonder if their plans will be deep-sixed by Kevin Feige once Fox is absorbed by Disney. However, if the Disney-Fox merger should get squelched at any point over the next 18 months, 20th Century Fox could be left without a superhero slate or, worse (for them), lose the rights to Fantastic Four to Marvel through inaction.
What do you think Marvel and Fox’s plan should be? Let us know in the comments below!