When you get to talk to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, you never have enough time. After all, he knows everything that’s going on behind-the-scenes at the studio, including which projects are getting ready to be announced. So when I recently landed an exclusive phone interview with him for Iron Man 3, I tried to use the time to find out about a million different things.
During the wide ranging conversation, we talked about how long he’ll be staying at Marvel, how the studio goes about choosing directors, whether The Avengers sequel be called The Avengers 2 or if it will have a subtitle, whether they have considered casting Dwayne Johnson in a Marvel movie, the status of the Doctor Strange movie, if anyone is currently working on a Falcon or War Machine spinoff movie, whether they have cast Thanos yet, if they be at Comic-Con, D23, or both, and so much more. If you’re a Marvel fan I promise you’ll enjoy reading this interview.
KEVIN FEIGE: You’re the first person that’s ever asked me that question.
I think a lot of people should be asking that question because being honest, there is a reason why all the Marvel movies are good and I think it has your name on it.
FEIGE: Oh, that’s very nice. My contract negotiations are not nearly as exciting as Mr. Downey’s. I’m here for a while, certainly through Phase Two.
Do you see yourself still running Marvel in five years?
FEIGE: I don’t know, the truth of the matter is, I always sort of set a goal or set a horizon line and look towards that. Then say, “Once I get to that horizon line I will see where we stand.” For a long time it was X-Men 2 and then for a long time it was Iron Man and Incredible Hulk – are we going to be a studio by then or not? Is it going to work or is it not? Then it was Avengers, now it’s Avengers 2. So, two years after that, three years after that, I can’t even begin to guess.
I put on Twitter and Facebook that I was going to be talking to you and there were a ton of people that submitted questions. I’m going to try to breeze through them, some of them are really good. First one: You guys have take directors that many studios have passed over and they’re turning in fantastic movies. What’s the secret formula that other studios are missing, in terms of these directors?
FEIGE: It’s the characters and the franchise, and the current atmosphere of appreciation for our films with the moviegoing audience. In other words, if we release an Iron Man movie, no matter what people would come to the theater right now. That might be different in a few years from now but right now, if you put out a movie called Iron Man, if you put out a movie called “Marvel Blank” a certain amount of the moviegoing public is going to come to see it. That’s a huge safety net, which then means it’s not just about figuring out “what do people want to go see?” People want to go see what we have right now – thank goodness, and we never take that for granted because the winds could change at any moment. Which is why we say, “Okay, here’s this wonderful safety net. People want to come see our stuff, now we want that stuff to be interesting. We want them to be rewarded above and beyond just ‘oh, I want to see a suit flying around or I want to see somebody pick up a building.’” How do we make it more interesting than that? Not just for the audience, but for us.
I’ve been doing this for 13 years, I want it to be interesting every time, I want it to be different every time. And, as you’ve heard me say before, we have the best pre-vis artists, the best concept artists, the best costume designers, the best production designers, the best visual effects supervisors, the best visual effects vendors in the world ready to work on our movie and do an amazing job and make them look as good if not better than any of the other movies out there. So, when we bring in the filmmaker, it’s not to give us all of those things because we have all of those things. When we bring the filmmaker, we bring somebody to help us elevate the material with those things, to help us do something different with all of those resources at their disposal. When you talk to Shane [Black], you hear him talk a lot about that. He’s a guy who’s used to sitting in his bedroom typing on a laptop with ideas that pop out of his head. And then one time with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – which is spectacular – he was able to do that on a small scale. We said, “Do that for our movie. Do that for something this scale, don’t worry about what you think it’ll cost or how you can pull it off, just write it.” With his co-writer Drew Pearce, they wrote some pretty spectacular sequences that we gave to the team to figure out how to accomplish.
Can we expect to have The Avengers 2 to have a subtitle or is it going to be called The Avengers 2?
FEIGE: I would say that if you look at the trend of our upcoming movie, Iron Man 3 is the only one that has a number. I like “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” instead of “Star Wars 2, Star Wars 3.”
With the world-wide success of the first Avengers movie and how it’s one of the biggest movies of all time, how has that impacted the way you’re developing the sequel? You have to feel a little bit of pressure to top or equal what you’ve already done.
FEIGE: Well Joss has said it on the record in the past, it’s not about going bigger. It’s not about, ‘And this time there will be five more explosions in this section!’ I mean certainly you want to up the ante, you want to exceed people’s expectations, but I think there are various ways of doing that and Iron Man 3 is a very, very good test for us of doing exactly that. The first movie we make after The Avengers has our hero spending more time out of the suit than any of the other movies; that seems potentially counterintuitive to some people, but that was exactly why we did it. We didn’t want to say, ‘Oh now it has to be bigger and he fights 100 people in armored suits.’ Yeah the action sequences are big, there’s more action in Iron Man 3 than in the other two movies, but at the same time it’s a much deeper and a more exploratory character journey on the heels of our biggest spectacle with The Avengers.
Joss is looking at just that and now we’ve been consistently talking about this leading up to Avengers, what is most interesting to us – and that’s why we hired Joss Whedon in the first place – is the interaction between the characters. That’s more fun to us than the massive action scenes that are going to have to come with it and we’re going to have to figure out. They’re going to have to be clever and raise the bar. But already, the scenes that Joss has of just the characters sitting around interacting are hilarious. They’re awesome and moving and a notch or two above the first movie. To me, that’s where you want to top yourself.
I completely agree, the scenes between Robert and Mark Ruffalo are the things that I think most people are most looking forward to seeing in the sequel. Have you guys considered casting Dwayne Johnson in a Marvel movie?
FEIGE: I think yeah, I mean his name has come up in the past. I’m a gigantic fan of his, I think he’s an incredible – I might have met him once a long time ago, but I haven’t really met him. I don’t really know him – but I think he’s an unbelievable personality and an unbelievable sort of force of nature. He’s awesome in Pain & Gain, he was great in G.I. Joe, he’s really kind of an amazing human being. His Twitter’s always cool and he promotes the hell out of everything he does. I would love him to be part of the Marvel universe somewhere, someday.
What is the current status of a Doctor Strange movie?
FEIGE: Doctor Strange is something that I talk about often and it’s sort of next up for us to dig into and explore. Our executive producer on Iron Man 3, having just gone through having done Captain America: The First Avenger and as I was finishing, he started working on the bones that would become Iron Man 3. Now that he’s finished Iron Man 3, he’s working on the bones that will become Doctor Strange. Now that Iron Man 3 is finished, some of our “spare time” is going to be debuted on trying to crack Strange.
So that’s a real priority for you guys.
A lot of women asked me this question, are there any plans for more women superheroes such as Wasp, Captain Marvel, or any other characters from the Marvel universe?
FEIGE: Yes, yes there are. And even if you look at Avengers, if you look at Iron Man 3, Captain America: Winter Soldier that we have in production right now, all have strong female characters – stronger than I think people even would’ve guessed. It’s a priority for us because we have an enormous amount of incredibly strong female characters in comics.
Do you see a woman superhero being the lead of a new franchise? Predominantly in the past, it’s been a hard transition to get the primarily male superhero audience to come out for a female superhero. Do you think that’s something you guys will be able to crack or is it going to work over time?
FEIGE: I think over time, it’s going to work. I’ve said in the past that you should choose a list of female action superhero movies that haven’t worked. I don’t believe they haven’t worked because they had a female in the lead, I believe they didn’t work because they weren’t good. They weren’t technically well done movies.
Is there anybody currently developing, writing a Falcon or War Machine spinoff movie?
Have you guys cast who will be playing Thanos?
Recently you’ve talked about how certain characters, like Ghost Rider and Blade are back in the Marvel fold. Is Electra back with Marvel?
FEIGE: Electra is part of the Daredevil contract, I believe. I believe, don’t quote me on that, I’d have to check with legal and it would take a long time and I’d have to get on the phone with business affairs, but I think she’s included under the Daredevil rights agreement.
Do you see a future where it’s possible that something could be worked out with Fox or Sony where some of the characters that they’ve gotten can somehow be brought back into the Marvel fold when you guys are making a movie? Whether it’ll be working together, or do you see it’s never going to be together?
FEIGE: There’s certainly nothing in the horizon that indicates that we’re going to be doing anything like that any time soon. But as I’ve said, I’ve been in Marvel for 13 years, and I’ve seen a lot. So, I would never say never when it comes to what we could do to characters on the screen.
There’s been a lot of talk about who is in Guardians of the Galaxy. Who is officially cast in the movie, can you say?
FEIGE: I can’t because I sometimes forget what we’ve announced and what we haven’t announced. As we did with Winter Soldier a few weeks ago, we will most likely do a start of production release in the next few months, once we start production, that announces and lays out everything official.
FEIGE: We shoot it this summer in the United Kingdom.
The whole thing is being shot over in London and the surrounding areas?
FEIGE: That is correct. We’re shooting in the studio space where we shot Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The First Avenger.
Disney has D23 and you guys have always gone to Comic-Con, are you planning on doing both or just one or the other?
FEIGE: The last time they had a D23, we did both Comic-Con and D23. I expect we do something similar for that. I mean, certainly Comic-Con is our traditional home for these kind of things and that’ll continue but we had a good time at the last D23. I suspect we will at this one as well.
If you could give any advice to DC and their Justice League movie, what would you tell them?
FEIGE: I don’t know. I’m sure they have smart people over there who have a plan and know what they’re doing. Man of Steel looks like it’s going to be awesome and obviously Dark Knight is awesome. I don’t know. It’s what I say all the time and have said over the years, which is, have confidence in the characters, believe in the source material, don’t be afraid to stay true to all of the elements of the characters no matter how seemingly silly or crazy they are. I don’t know, I think the Marvel characters have a bit of a leg up for all the reasons that Marvel fans are aware of in terms of the emotional complexity of the characters and the flawed nature of the characters. Those are obviously the elements we want to accentuate amongst all the action.
I think there have been a lot of great DC stories and there are a lot of great DC characters, and if they focus on those things the audience will be interested. It was a very unique model that we were lucky enough to be able to do – introducing each individual hero before introducing The Avengers. That, to me, is what was always interesting about The Avengers. The Avengers are not The Guardians of the Galaxy, are not The Dirty Dozen, where you spend a movie introducing each character and putting them together for the first time. The Avengers was cool because they were preexisting characters that teamed up for a big event. I think that’s why Justice League was cool, Justice League was first. That’s what they did first in comic form.