If there is one person working in the Marvel cinematic universe, it's its overseer Kevin Feige, whose official title is President of Production at Marvel Studios. When you're given only about 11 minutes to pick his brain about the vastness of Marvel's Phase 2 (this week's THOR: THE DARK WORLD; CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER; GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY; THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON) and Phase 3 (so far, only ANT-MAN has officially been announced) films, well, the world most certainly is not your oyster, and you have to cram in as many questions as you can with little time for follow up. I guess the dream gig at this stage would be a proper, full-length interview to really dig into what Marvel Studios has accomplished to date, in addition to what we still have to look forward to.
I know Feige has been teasing some at press events about the possibility of a Marvel Universe crossover with characters from X-MEN or SPIDER-MAN or FANTASTIC FOUR, but since the last SPIDER-MAN film couldn't even get permission to feature Stark Tower in its New York City skyline, I wouldn't hold my breath. Still, Feige and company have dozens of high-profile heroes and villains they can choose from for starring and supporting roles, and I spoke with him a couple of weeks ago via phone from London about life after and beyond the AVENGERS. And what about those pesky ANT-MAN casting rumors that have Paul Rudd pitted against Joseph Gordon-Levitt? We get into all of it, including the two tags attached to the end of THOR: THE DARK AGE, one of which was not directed by the film's director, Alan Taylor. You may want to consider that bit of news and our discussion of it a SPOILER. Please enjoy my talk with the man in charge of bringing many of my comic book dreams to life, Kevin Feige…
Kevin Feige: Hey, Steve.
Capone: Hi, Kevin. How are you?
KF: I’m good. How are you doing?
Capone: Good. It’s great to finally talk to you.
KF: It's a pleasure.
Capone: With so much anticipation focused on what's coming up down the road for Marvel, I’m sure most of the questions you’re getting today are about what is studio is doing in the future. How do you keep people focused on, “Hey, we’ve got a movie coming out in a couple of weeks, too”?
KF: Well, it’s a combination, and I think most people are only aware of what’s coming out next, and that works to our advantage when they see the TV spots and the trailers, and hopefully go out to the theater to see them. It’s always the case with fans or with journalists, that it’s about looking ahead; that’s what Comic Con is always about. That’s what, you know, in a way some of the elements of our movies are about teasing the future. So, I think it’s all part of the fun.
Capone: I did want to ask, the first of the two tags in this film, did James Gunn direct that, or was that some third party that we don’t know about yet? I know that’s been the tradition, to have the director of the film being teased directing the tag as well.
KF: That was James, yeah, absolutely.
Capone: Alan [Taylor, director of THOR: THE DARK WORLD] didn’t even know for sure.
KF: No, no, it’s definitely James.
Capone: That’s what I figured, OK. That tag is going to blow people’s minds.
Capone: On this THOR movie, what was the toughest nut to crack in terms of telling the story with most of the same characters but making it different, maybe a little bit more lived-in than the first film?
KF: One of the first things we talked about was the aesthetic and wanting to build upon what we had established in the first movie, which was very intentionally meant to define itself apart from something like LORD OF THE RINGS or other fantasies or viking movies, and embrace the Kirby comic's gleaming angular designs. We wanted to keep with that because that’s what Asgard and the world of Thor is. We felt more comfortable saying, “OK, let’s go to other parts of these worlds; let’s show worlds that are a little more lived in and that can viscerally and texturally feel like real places.”
Part of what Alan brought to the party, and part of what we structured the production around was practical locations. Whether it was Iceland filming the Dark World sequences or Borehamwood outside of London for the opening sequences with Thor, or shooting London for London. We shot Albuquerque for New York and Cleveland for New York in AVENGERS. It felt fun to shoot a city for the actual city in this movie. Even Asgard was built on plates of Norwegian landscapes that we went out and filmed. While most of those landscapes were ultimately replaced with Asgard itself, the camera moves in those plates and some of the cloud layers in those plates were real and helped add, I hope, to a sense that this is a real place.
Capone: It feels, like you said, a little more lived in, a little more warm blooded for sure.
KF: Yeah, yeah. Good.
Capone: I think the biggest secret about this film that has yet to be revealed is that there's this big love story hidden in the midst of all this. A lot of the action stems from the love story, which might terrify some people, but it actually really works here.
KF: Oh, good, good. It was one of the early ideas to say, of course, “Well, the first one was about Thor being a fish out of water and coming to earth. How can we get Jane Foster to Asgard, and how can we make her not just a casual observer to the events of the movie but get her smack dab in the middle of it?”
Capone: Lest you think I wasn't going to ask you about upcoming projects, just this last week, the rumor mill spat out something about the ANT-MAN casting. I’m curious, how do names like that come to the surface? There’s a part of me that wonders, are those names being floated out there just to see what the fans think, or was that not intentional? Is the court of public opinion being used to cast your movies, Kevin?
KF: [laughs] No, no. We’re not savvy enough to be able to go, “Let’s float something out there and see what people think.” My guess is, that would backfire as quickly as we gain any actual information from it. And, like all rumors, sometimes they’re very close and sometimes they’re way, way off. But whichever rumors happen within the week of a junket, are the ones we get asked about.
We’re definitely beginning to think about cast for that movie. Edgar [Wright], I think, tweeted recently about pre-production officially beginning, which it has for ANT-MAN. We’ll start filming it middle of next year, so casting discussions have started. Some of those names are real; some of them are not. But, I think it gives an indication that we want to cast it the way we always do, which is finding the best actor, whether they’ve done something like this before or not.
Capone: Are Marvel and Edgar on more or less the same page in terms of the qualities that they’re looking for in the actor they choose for this character? It seems like there could potentially be more comedy than we’ve seen in a Marvel film up till this point. If these two particular actors are in the mix in any way, they are great choices to do the dramatic and the comedy. What direction are you looking?
KF: We’re definitely on the same page, as one would hope you would be with a filmmaker you’ve worked with for eight years on the same movie. I think it’s not particularly true that ANT-MAN would be any more or less funny than any of our other movies because all of our movies have a certain amount of humor in them. And, all of Edgar’s movies have a certain amount of drama in them. So, I think he just happens to have the perfect balance that has become the trademark of a Marvel movie.
In terms of qualities of an actor, it’s, without giving too much into who the particular roles are, these characters, as envisioned by Edgar through the comics, will require an actor that can do both, that can do it all. Which, by the way, Robert [Downey, Jr.] can do.
Capone: You’ve just described every actor you’ve hired so far.
KF: Yeah. And that’s why we hired Chris Pratt for GUARDIANS. So, it’s following that tradition.
Capone: How is GUARDIANS looking right now?
KF: It’s good. They finished last week, and James is heading back to Los Angeles to start cutting it together. But it’s unbelievably exciting what we’ve got so far.
Capone: Beyond the next AVENGERS film, have you thought about making the centerpiece of the Marvel universe something other than AVENGERS after that? There have been discussions about a Secret War storyline, for example. Have you considered life after AVENGERS, aside from the individual character films?
KF: Well, GUARDIANS is certainly that. It’s certainly a new thing, while still sharing some DNA with what’s come before. And if you look at what we’re putting out in 2014 and 2015, we’ve got sequels to established characters and introducing a characters in both of those years. I don’t know if that will absolutely continue into into 2016 and 2017, but it’s a nice rhythm if we can do it.
Capone: Have you considered what the "One Shot" that will go on the THOR: THE DARK WORLD DVD? Have you guys thought about that yet, or is that still to come?
KF: It’s still to come. I mean, it’s not like we’ll absolutely do one for every DVD; we do them when we have fun ideas to do.
Capone: They seem to have taken a life of their own, though; people are talking about and anticipating them almost as much as the films. Especially in this last one, "Agent Carter" on IRON MAN 3; and now they’re talking about spawning that character into her own TV show.
KF: Well, it’s certainly how they always start. It’s fun to know that when they work well enough that they inspire additional things.
Capone: Beyond ANT-MAN, have there been any official Phase 3 properties announced? I know there’s been talk of DR. STRANGE and THE INHUMANS. But have any been formalized?
KF: No, not yet. I think it’ll be sometime early part of next year when we announce what the 2016-2017 movies will be. All of the ones you’ve named are certainly contenders.
Capone: Back to this new THOR film for a second, what are you most excited about people discovering? Is there an element that you’re just like, “I can’t wait for people to see this?”
KF: Well, you’ve touched upon a lot of them. It’s the world-building that has continued in this one; it’s Odinson family drama and dynamic between characters, particularly Thor and Loki; and it’s the tags that look ahead to the future.
Capone: Kevin, thank you so much for taking the time to talk and best of luck with this.