We all know that it takes a lot more people than actors and directors to make a movie, particularly a blockbuster superhero action one. But, even if we’re sitting in the theater waiting for stingers and see many hundreds of names scroll by, it’s still easy to forget about them – even the ones in charge.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige is the person in charge of keeping the Marvel Cinematic Universe exciting, interesting, original, and consistent. That can’t be an easy job, and – with a few possible exceptions (Iron Man 2, for example) – he’s done it very, very well. Marvel films are coming out at a rate of two per year, which is pretty fast for movies as big and expensive as they are, so the fact that they’ve managed to maintain a high standard of quality (one which Captain America: The Winter Soldier manages to raise) speaks highly for the whole team behind and in front of the cameras, and of course for their boss.
On my recent trip to LA, the bloggers I was with and I were privileged to sit down for a group interview with Feige. While he obviously couldn’t divulge anything spoiler-y, he did talk quite a bit about how the Marvel Cinematic Universe has evolved, what they tried to do with the first Captain America sequel, how awesome Guardians of the Galaxy is going to be, and a little about 2015’s movies, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man.
Here are some of the highlights from the interview:
QUESTION: Marvel Comics has always had a rich continuity between titles. That’s something that had never really been done in movies before. What problems did you face bringing that aspect to the Big Screen?
KEVIN FEIGE: Well, that was one of the reasons to do it. It had never been done before. You don’t get a chance very often to do something in this business that’s never been done before in 100 years of cinema. When we became our own Studio and got the financing, the first idea was make a great Iron Man movie. The second idea was, wait a minute, we can begin to tie these together. The biggest challenge making that continuity is to broaden the Universe as opposed to making it feel like a Club. We work very hard to make each of the movies feel like a stand-alone movie, but at the same time connect to everything else.
Q: Were you worried about any fan controversy surrounding the Winter Soldier, like there was when he first showed up in the comics?
KF: No, they had already done it. There are two characters in the Marvel Universe that are never gonna come back to life: Uncle Ben and Bucky Barnes. And about 10 years ago, comic book writer Ed Brubaker said, “I have an idea to bring Bucky Barnes back.” I’m sure they were like, “What are you talking about? You can’t do that.” And they pitched the idea and it was great. And it was the Winter Soldier idea and it was done so well. I think fans went, “No, you can’t — Oh, that’s great, we love that.” We just took the successful blueprint that they had already done and brought it into this movie.
Q: In terms of overall tone, how is Captain America: The Winter Soldier different from the first Captain America movie?
KF: Well, it’s two things. We always want our movies to feel different. We have two movies a year and if they start to feel redundant… people are going to lose interest. And we will lose interest. I’m not interested in making the same movie over and over again. It’s very important to us that we mix them up and they feel very unique.
We had a wonderful opportunity where you have a character whose origins were in the 1940s. At the end of that movie, we reveal that he’s alive in the present day. He’s got a brief adventure in the Avengers movie but doesn’t have a lot of time to think about his current situation. He’s got to stop this horrible event from happening.
So now Winter Soldier was the movie where we got to say, “Okay, here’s Steve in the modern day. Let’s do something totally unique.” And that led us to the notion of doing the Marvel superhero version of a ’70s action movie, a ’70s political thriller. He doesn’t fly, and he doesn’t go visit other planets. So that gave us an opportunity to do the kind of action that we haven’t necessarily done before in our movies which is a ground base and visceral type one. You know, car chases and hand-to-hand combat. I’m glad people are responding to how unique the tone of this movie is and how different it is not just from the first Captain America film but from any of our movies.
Q: Is there any hope of including other characters like Spider-Man or the X-Men from the other studios?
KF: No. I think we’re all busy making our own movies. Sony’s busy working on Spider-Man movies. Amazing Spider-Man 2 is coming out very soon. Fox is working very hard on X-Men and they’ve got an X-Men movie coming out very soon. And we clearly are spending a lot of time doing our two movies a year.
I don’t want to say [“never”] necessarily but I don’t know that that would happen any time soon. We’re certainly not planning for it.
Q: Talk about casting people you know of.
KF: It varies. I mean sometimes we do; and sometimes it’s auditioning actors. Frankly, with Anthony [“The Falcon”] Mackie, that’s a case where that’s who we wanted. That’s who the Russos [(the film’s directors)] wanted. We thought he’d be great and he agreed, and then he was great, which was nice.
[We got] a call from [Robert] Redford’s agent saying do you have anything that might be good for him, and we went Holy Mackerel, we sure do. We’re working [on a] Three Days of the Condor-esque Captain America. And we made some adjustments to that character [(Alexander Pierce)] to increase his stature and to make it worthy of Robert Redford playing it.
But oftentimes, it’s just meeting with people and finding people who are interested. Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd, on Ant-Man, both were sort of first choices, in terms of the characters they’re playing for us. And it’s very nice now, 9 or 10 Movies into our Cinematic Universe that people seem to be excited about joining us and seem to trust that they’re not gonna look silly in a costume or talking to a comic book character. They realize we take this very seriously and when somebody like Robert Redford or like Anthony Mackie, or any of our actors, sign[s] up, that’s a big responsibility for us, the filmmakers to… bring our best to the script and to the production and to the final product.
Q: What are you most excited about right now with Marvel Studios?
KF: I am most excited about how the world reacted to that Guardians of the Galaxy teaser. That teaser represents the tone and the vibe of the movie quite overtly. So we were sort of leading with our most unique and different element, which is not always what movie marketers do.
As we’ve been talking about today, each Marvel Studios movie needs to be unique, needs to feel like its own fresh entity. But Guardians takes that to the extreme. It happens to be based on a Marvel comic book but for all intents and purposes, from an audience who has no idea those characters are from the comics, it is an original movie put out in the summer where there are a lot of sequels. So I hope people are as excited as we are to see something wholly new and wholly original. That’s what I’m most excited about.
Q: Do you hope Guardians becomes a series of films?
KF: Well, sure. I mean, it takes place on the other side of the galaxy but at the same time, there are elements in it that directly link it into our Cinematic Universe. The truth is, we make every movie one at a time so we’re putting everything we have into that first movie. Are there other stories to tell, are there ways we could take them on other adventures? Absolutely. But we never find ourselves going, “Oh, this is a great idea. Let’s save this for Part 3!” No, if you don’t put it in here, there won’t be a Part 3. We need to put all the great ideas in the movie at hand. So that’s where all of our energies are going right now into Guardians.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens in theaters this Friday, April 4. I’ll be publishing more interviews for the movie over the next week right here on GeekDad, and of course my review / things parents should know on Friday.
Note: Interviewing Kevin Feige was part of a press junket I attended that was paid for by Disney. All opinions expressed are my own.
All images copyright by, and courtesy of, Disney.