Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige THE AVENGERS Set Visit Interview
As the President of Production at Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige knows a thing or two about how The Avengers movie came together and the history of the project. Thankfully, when I was on set last June with a few other reporters, Feige was more than willing to answer any and all of our numerous questions. During the extended interview, Feige talked about the plot, how the film will impact other Marvel movies, if they were able to do things in The Avengers that they couldn’t do in other Marvel movies, his thoughts on 3D, how being bought by Disney has affected the way they make movies, Easter Eggs, the action set pieces, the updated costumes, new Iron Man armor, and so much more it’s impossible to sum it all up. Trust me, if you’re a fan of Marvel movies, you’re going to enjoy this interview. Hit the jump to either read or listen to the interview.
As usual, I’m offering two ways to get the interview: you can either click here for the audio or the full transcript is below. The Avengers opens May 4.
KEVIN FEIGE: Well, you see, there came a day… [laughs] Well, what have people told you it’s about? Come on. You’ve had two intelligent actors in here.
They’ve told us about their characters, but they don’t know what to say about the plot.
FEIGE: Well, you know, the movie as everyone knows, I think, is primarily about… An event occurs and we don’t want to get into too much about what the event is, but an event occurs that causes problems for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who runs this organization, S.H.I.E.L.D.. And I understand you’ve already been on the bridge set earlier today… If S.H.I.E.L.D. was this organization that just stepped out of the shadows occasionally in other movies to see what was going on, in this movie, we’re on the other side of that. In this movie, we’re through S.H.I.E.L.D.’s point of view, this organization who’s responsible for sort of taking care of the world and making sure everything runs smoothly and when a billionaire genius inventor creates a suit of armor and blasts out of a cave, it’s going to get on their attention. And when a hammer falls into the middle of the desert, it’s going to get their attention. And when a green guy appears rampaging through Harlem, it’s going to get their attention. And if and when a super-soldier were to be discovered frozen in the ice, that would also get their attention.
[References to other movies and their ties to Nick Fury.] How much time has passed before he’s at the point where he can bring them together and try to create a team?
So at the beginning of the movie, it’s not like Nick Fury has a problem and he calls The Avengers and they’re already together in a room?
FEIGE: Absolutely not.
So it’s going to be showing them assembling still?
The Avengers impacts future movies in the Marvel canon, including Iron Man 3. Will the events of The Avengers have a trickle-down effect for any future stand-alone movies? Or do you view this as just like in the comics, where there was an issue that could happen on its own and not really affect larger comic series?
After Avengers is out and you get to something like Iron Man 3 or Thor 2, does mean we’ll be seeing S.H.I.E.L.D. more, since the general public is going to know what S.H.I.E.L.D. is and you’re not going to have to set it up as much?
Is there something you were able to do on this film that you haven’t been able to do on any of the previous solo films that you’re really excited about?
FEIGE: The first day that cameras started rolling, I kind of felt like it had actually happened. I was at Comic-Con in 2006 and somebody said, “Hey, I noticed that you have Captain America and Thor and Hulk and Iron Man within Marvel Studios. Do you think one day you could do an Avengers movie?” And I said, “Maybe someday. You know, it does make sense with all of those characters coming together.” And the first day of production at the end of April, I thought, “Holy mackerel. It’s actually here.” And being on-set with all of them in costume is pretty astounding.
FEIGE: Yes, but I feel pressure with every movie we make, every single one is a reflection. Frankly, even not-Marvel movies I feel pressure on. Look at the movie that just came out recently and didn’t perform the way people thought it would perform and all of the headlines are, “Oh, are people tired of the comic book genre? Is this the beginning of the end of the superhero genre?” So when there’s a Dark Knight, I go, “Oh, thank God. That’s great.” I want everybody to do well and continue to get people interested. So there’s pressure on every one, even ones that aren’t ours. Can you imagine?
We’ve already had three superhero movies this summer with more coming. We’re obviously not there yet, but does somebody need to consider the possibility of a short-term saturation at any point?
FEIGE: You can until you look at next summer. Nobody’s pulled the plug on movies that are in the works for that. My goal is that people judge all of them as individual movies, no just our movies as individual movies, which is very important, that they don’t just feel like episodes in some grand Avengers saga, but frankly every movie. And some of the smarter articles, and maybe somebody in this room wrote it, but I read something that said that claiming that people are tired of comic book movies is like claiming that people are tired of movies based on novels or movies based on TV shows or movies based on any existing property. It’s too broad a statement, it’s impossible to really say.
FEIGE: To be fair, they do. To a certain extent, that’s what Hollywood is all about and what Hollywood trades are about is that kind of Monday morning quarterbacking. That’s the way a lot of studio executives work. “Who had the No. 1 movie? Look. We’ve gotta get this person.” And if it didn’t work, “Ew, that person’s horrible, don’t go near them.” But I also think it’s because it’s so high profile. Look at the buzz and marketing leading up to Thor, leading up to X-Men, leading up to Green Lantern. So it’s just a big target. That’s a high profile.
Going back to Avengers, how are you dealing with the Bruce Banner situation? You’ve had three movies, three Bruce Banners. New actor. Are you hoping Avengers might lead to Mark (Ruffalo) playing Bruce Banner is a new Hulk movie? Or do you feel like that’s been done?
FEIGE: Well, it’s certainly been done already, but you wouldn’t rule anything out and the deal we have with Mark certainly takes that into consideration. Joss (Whedon)’s goal in this movie is to make the most beloved Bruce Banner since Bill Bixby and he’s sort of unabashedly trying to achieve that. He’s shot a number of scenes in this movie, including the scene that is his introduction into the movie, and we’ve seen it cut together and damned if it doesn’t come close to doing that. You really feel for this guy.
Speaking of technology, can you talk about how you’re approach 3D on The Avengers and you feel about it on future Marvel films?
FEIGE: It’s a film-by-film decision. 3D gets a bad rap for various reasons. It’s a hard thing. It really is like… If there were some big, high-profile sound system that came out… If when SurroundSound came out however-many-years-ago, they charged you two or three bucks extra, well, when the speaker’s buzzing, people are going to get annoyed and, frankly, I’ve been in theaters were the speakers were buzzing and nobody even gets up to to complain about it and I go, “Am I really going to have to be the one to get up and complain about this?”
But that dark issue, which varies from theater to theater and varies from movie to movie and varies from projector bulb to projector bulb, people have paid extra money for that, so it’s going to get annoying if it’s not done well, so I sort of understand that. I think Thor looked great in 3D. Captain America, which is almost finished, looks great in 3D. I think Transformers, which I’ve not seen yet, but my guess is it’s going to be awesome in 3D. And there are others that aren’t worth is.
FEIGE: This is currently in 3D.
So you’re shooting in 3D?
FEIGE: No, no, no. We’re to turn it into 3D.
Was that decision by Joss, that he didn’t want to mess with the technology?
FEIGE: On Cap on Thor and on Avengers, it was all filmmaker decision. It’s an expensive proposition either way and it’s an expensive proposition to mount the testing that we mounted on both, in particular, Cap and Avengers. We brought in the cameras and shot a whole day on it. As a matter of fact, the scene at the end credits of Thor with Selvig and Nick Fury and the Cube and the suitcase, Joss directed that and that was our 3D test. We shot that with 3D cameras and after that day, Joss said, “No thanks.”
You spoke before about the “event” that sets the film in motion. How long do you plan on keeping that under wraps before you reveal that?
This is your first film with Disney, can you talk about how that has changed things at all, working for that big company?
FEIGE: Well, it’s actually the fourth movie with Disney, because we were just finishing Iron Man 2 when this all happened, so we were officially part of Disney for the prep period and casting on Thor and prep and shooting and casting on Cap. But it is the first one that they are marketing and distributing, so is true, which is sort of my way of saying that nothing has changed from Iron Man to now in terms of any sort of executive overlords mandating content on our movies. Paramount has done a spectacular job for us marketing and distributing Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor coming up on Captain America and Disney will have to rise to that challenge on The Avengers. I think they can do it.
Do they have any sort of control? How do you decide on movies that get made? Is it on you? Or are they just distributing?
FEIGE: The slate had been pretty well defined over the last few years. As we get into 2013 and 2014, they’ll be part of that discussion. It’s their money now. So they’ll be a part of that discussion on movies, but we haven’t really had any of those discussions yet.
So that hedge fund that you guys started, that’s out of the equation?
FEIGE: That’s been gone since two months after Iron Man came out. [laughs]
FEIGE: Do you think everybody would say that Hawkeye’s the core and the heart?
I was curious about how he plays in this situation, where you have all of these known characters who have already been in movies and who have these powers and he’s just a guy with a bow and arrow who’s sort of a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well.
FEIGE: Well, everyone gets an introduction into this movie as if they’ve never been in any other movie before. That is the way the movie is… This is a “Part 1.” This has been a rallying cry and one of the reasons we wanted Joss to come on-board, is because he understood the characters and he understood the importance of the fact that… And frankly, he was not interested in doing a half-Iron Man 3, half-Thor 2, half-Captain America 2, half-Hulk, whatever. He was interested in doing The Avengers: Part 1.
And how do the Skrulls factor into the film?
FEIGE: The Skrulls are not in the film.
Are there any characters you guys go after in the film who maybe don’t want to be part of the Avengers, who are there as Easter Eggs for the fans?
FEIGE: You mean are there characters you don’t know about?
Well, S.H.I.E.L.D. goes after certain people to be in the group. Perhaps they go after certain people and they’re like, “Nah, I don’t want to be part of your group.”
Are you, I guess, more involved with some of the other movies like X-Men? Are you guys being more involved with those? Obviously, Fox and Sony must be seeing what a great job you’re doing on your own. Are they kind of coming to you more for help with getting those things?
FEIGE: It varies — I wouldn’t say for help. I mean there’s certain – there’s some approvals and contractual agreements. And then, you know, I know a lot of the people there for many, many years. So there’s that thing. It’s more on the Sony side, on the Spider-Man side with the new Spider-Man film.
How much of a game plan do you have in place beyond Avengers? I know you probably can’t tell us, but everything starting with Iron Man has led up to Avengers and we’ve all known about the plan.
FEIGE: Well, Iron Man 3, which you know – which has been announced. And then we haven’t announced things yet, but we are thinking and plotting out towards 2015, which anybody in their right mind thinks it’s a million years away and everybody in my company thinks it’s, we’re late! That’s right around the corner! What are we going to do?
How do you top something like this?
FEIGE: You know, it’s again — it’s the same thing after how do we top Spider-Man, you know and after two years with the company, three years with the company I had the biggest weekend of all time and it’s like I went, “Is this – is it – where do you go from here?”
FEIGE: And we found a place to go and I think we’ll continue to find places to go. Certainly now that the characters are established, like the comics continuing to tell those stories and then every few years bring them together again I think would be cool. And whatever happens there alters their dynamic as they go back into their own worlds and keep that going.
FEIGE: Well, I mean, it’s like managing any franchise. Two to three years usually is what makes the most sense. Depending what happens, it can be four years, but two to three years.
But you want to launch this as a next franchise from Marvel.
Yeah, not just a one off kind of special thing.
FEIGE: Yes. Yes.
Can we talk about the action set pieces in this film and comparing them to the previous films you’ve done. Do you feel that with this being the Avengers you need to have one set piece that are just like, “holy shit”?
You know, we, in planning the action scenes of the movie, we did the pre-viz and Joss — you know, frankly, he’s done more pre-viz on this than any movie we’ve ever done. This has been board and pre-viz, you know, every – not every frame of course, but certainly all the action scenes. And you watch them and you go, wow, that’s giant. But how do you top that? You go, “We better top that because that’s just – that’s the, you know, third action scene of the movie. That’s the middle action scene.”
If I can actually say, well I brought up the action scenes, but I would, for me, and I’m sure for almost everyone in this room and all the fans out there, we’re also just as excited to see Captain America and Tony Stark and the interaction between the characters. How much time did you spend to get that sort of dialogue just right and those scenes just right because that’s almost just as important, if not more?
And you know, the great news is Joss was overseeing the people that were doing the boards and the pre viz, but he wasn’t drawing them, he was writing all those words and all those interactions and all of that great dialogue. And it’s why, you know, the harshest critics around, like Robert Downey, you know, he comes in every morning and goes, “Okay, now how am I going to tear this apart…It’s pretty good. Pretty good.” [laughs] And you know, he’ll plus it and he’ll, you know, but that’s Joss’ strong suit.
Is this a disaster movie? I mean, have you been looking at any of the like, obviously Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay kind of have cornered the market on insanely, crazy disaster movies. Have you been trying to — are the set pieces kind of on that scale at any point or is it…?
Can you talk a little bit about the word that’s out today that you’re not doing a presentation at Comic-Con. Just out of curiosity, what went in to that decision?
FEIGE: You know, I think it’s — my fear is it’s spinning into a, “Oh, Marvel’s abandoning Comic-Con; studios are abandoning Comic-Con,” which is, at least in our case, is not the case at all, you know. You guys walked around the set today and you may have noticed that there were some big giant walls and pieces missing. [laughs]
So we’re going to have a very big booth this year and, the biggest one we’ve ever had, with a ton of stuff going on there and there’ll be various things outside of Hall H. It’s just Hall H that we’re not doing. We’ll have a lot of other things going on. Cap is coming out that weekend and there’ll be a few events going on to celebrate that and it’s much more booth-focused this year in and around it.
Is there a runtime you’re aiming for considering how grand this film is and how many people are in it?
FEIGE: We never really aim for a runtime necessarily. I mean, it’s just whatever the end – whatever the movie ends up being. It’s a long script, though.
Speaking of Cleveland, I am curious about what kind of outdoor stuff are you doing in the city? And are you sort of — are you going to have superheroes in full costumes running around the city?
FEIGE: We didn’t. We did when we were doing auditions for the Maria Hill character, we had four or five actresses that came in and Sam Jackson was cool enough to come in that day and do all the scenes with that actress because, you know, Maria Hill’s going to be standing next to him the whole movie or much of the movie. But other than that, we didn’t, you know, just the timing of it, you know.
So it was always in the back of our heads, but other than the Maria Hill instance, there wasn’t sort of a mix and match screen test.
Was Maria Hill – is Maria Hill above Coulson or is she above Coulson. Is he kind of, they have they’re like interplay between them ‘cause…
All right. And how much is the character in — ’cause she was sort of the last of the people cast, well after most the big announcements .
FEIGE: I mean, it’s not an insignificant part. I mean it’s — she’s got a lot of screen time.
On a visual level, you know, clearly when you’re defining the look of Iron Man, the look of Thor, the look of Captain America for their own movies, that’s really all you’re concerned about. So when you’re bringing them all together were there any sort of challenges in tweaking any of their individual outfits, you know, just to make sure that again on a visual level, the seven of them standing side-by-side looked like, yes, they are part of the team, they are part of the same world?
And we did – obviously, Captain America is going to have an updated costume for this movie. Tony’s always tinkering with his suits so you can imagine that there’ll be a few incarnations of the suit. Hulk essentially is that, you know, we’re designing to the actor, so that’ll be Hulk, but it will be slightly different designed Hulk than you’ve seen before. And with Thor and Loki, it’s essentially their outfits from the previous movie, but we did want to rough and scuff it up a little bit in Loki’s case, you know, he’s dropped off into the abyss after all, who knows where he – what nether worlds he’s been in, in between movies.
Was it equally awesome the first day they all – everyone was in a scene together? I mean, you must have been nervous the night before, like are these guys going to be able to act together?
FEIGE: Yeah, I wasn’t that nervous. I mean, they’re all great. I mean, it’s all – they’re all such good actors that – and Joss had delivered such great words for them to say that you’re always nervous on the day before you begin. But we had a few – they weren’t all together on the first day. So it was sort of mixing and matching leading up to the time when they were all together for the first time. And it was great. And it was frankly what you wanted because it was, you know, the first time that the characters are interacting was also the first time that the actors were interacting. So for a certain extent, we didn’t want to do a boot camp where they all become chums and get to know each other and become a perfect well-oiled machine ‘cause that’s not what they are, you know, for a good chunk of this movie.
FEIGE: Is it just what?
Is it all just bromance or is there romance in the film?
FEIGE: Well there’s a lot of bromance going on, but I see, you know, Scarlett is in there, Maria’s in there, it is – there is less of a love story in this movie than there have been in any of our other movies, yeah.
Are there any casualties – this is much bigger an epic than the other films. Are there any casualties in this? Are we going to see — are we going to lose any of our beloved characters?
FEIGE: Well, I mean, even if we were, I certainly wouldn’t tell you.
But I’m just saying, are there consequences?
Where does this movie leave a space for like a Nick Fury movie or Black Widow movie or like even if it’s a smaller budget movie because obviously you’ve got this huge scale movie. Can Marvel do a smaller scale movie without people going, oh it’s not like the Iron Man or Avengers or…
FEIGE: Well, I think so. I mean, you don’t want to do something that seems like The Avengers movie without the Avengers. But you know, when you have Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson, I mean, these characters own franchises at every studio. I mean, certainly. You know there is Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye movie that could be cool. There’s a Scarlett Johansson Black Widow movie that could be cool.
You know, is there, you know, if S.H.I.E.L.D. is an organization, it could easily be its own movie or TV show.
I think more of a Nick Fury origin, because obviously there’s like a lot of stuff we don’t know about him before S.H.I.E.L.D, yeah.
FEIGE: Sure. So, I mean, all of that is on the table. Some of those things are more active than others.
The TV projects that would, that you guys are tossing around, I don’t know what stage they’re at, but would that be part of the shared universe?
So the ABC Hulk would be a different thing?
What’s the thinking behind that?
FEIGE: Well, you know, the thinking behind it is there’s enough going on with all the movies that we’re developing to go into that and that Hulk series, you know, is sort of designed to be focusing on a different part of Banner’s life and Banner’s sort of journey. And frankly, it’s not – you know, you don’t want Clark Gregg and I don’t want to call Clark Gregg you know every day and go, “And so Mr. Jackson, would you mind going down ….” I got to do that for the movies.
You guys are partnering now with Disney/Pixar. Is there a desire on your end to work with Pixar to make, you know, a movie together?
FEIGE: Well, I think the notion of an animated movie based off of a Marvel property is a no-brainer and it’s something that we’ve been talking about. You know, Lasseter and Ed Catmull are now both Pixar and Walt Disney animation. So, you know, I don’t where, you know, whatever project would fall where necessarily. And frankly, Pixar is all about original properties and original ideas, but, you know, an animated version of one of our characters, one of our 8,000-plus characters would seem to be something that could happen at some point.
Where is Ant-Man? Wasn’t that announced like way back, the very first …
FEIGE: I sat at Comic-Con 2006…
Yeah, I remember that.
FEIGE: With Louie Leterrier, Jon Favreau and…
And Edgar, yeah.
FEIGE: Edgar. Yeah, he delivering a second draft in a few weeks, which I think has been my answer for five years.
FEIGE: See you tomorrow. Thanks, guys.
For more from our Avengers set visit: