Exclusive: Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige talks Infinity War and beyond!
Marvel Studios gave ComingSoon.net the opportunity to have an exclusive 1:1 chat with franchise producer and MCU mastermind Kevin Feige! We discussed his reaction to seeing Avengers: Infinity War complete for the first time, Jack Kirby’s influence on the Marvel aesthetic, a specific theme that runs through the MCU, and bringing X-Men into the fold! Check out the interview below.
An unprecedented cinematic journey ten years in the making and spanning the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time. As the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, a new danger has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, his goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and use them to inflict his twisted will on all of reality. Everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment – the fate of Earth and existence itself has never been more uncertain.
Confirmed cast members for Avengers: Infinity War include Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Mackie, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olson, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Sebastian Stan, Don Cheadle, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Pom Klementieff, Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong, Sean Gunn, Tom Holland, Paul Rudd, and Josh Brolin.
Anthony and Joe Russo directed the film, which is produced by Kevin Feige. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo and Stan Lee are the executive producers. Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely wrote the screenplay.
Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War is opening in theaters on April 27. Then, the Avengers assemble again for the still-untitled fourth film, set for May 3, 2019.
ComingSoon.net: In terms of storytelling, you’re known as pretty much the most meticulous Dungeon Master in Hollywood. That said, despite all the planning and layering that goes into these films, what was something you were genuinely surprised by when you saw the final product of “Infinity War”?
Kevin Feige: It’s a good question. We haven’t shown the movie to anybody yet, so it remains to be seen how the world feels about it, but it’s a very emotional experience. Even I had taken for granted how many adventures we’d gone on with these characters and how many stories you’ve seen these characters in, and to see them go up against someone like Thanos, to see them be in a position where they might be completely outmatched, you’re not used to seeing that. Even I got surprised at how emotional that was. A lot of that was due to the script that Chris Markus and Stephen McFeely wrote, a lot of that is due to the direction of Joe and Anthony Russo, and MUCH of it is the performance that Josh Brolin brings as Thanos which we had very big expectations for. We knew if we teased a villain for six frickin’ years through many multiple movies, once he actually shows up he better deliver. That was always where we knew the pressure there was to deliver a big bad in Thanos, and Josh Brolin just brought his A-game and crushed it. I think he did an unbelievable job.
CS: Obviously in any creative process, you adapt and make changes along the way. What was the biggest deviation you had to make from your original conception of the overarching story of Phases 1-3?
Feige: I don’t know if there were any… It was an evolution. In all storytelling you’re a writer… What do people teach you? Writing is rewriting. There’s always the evolution of the story you want to tell. We always would set markers on a distant horizon you could aim towards. In the three Phases, I would say we got very close to those markers. In places where we deviated it was because we chose new markers, we chose new places to head to and head towards. I can’t think of any moment in particular where we deviated, it was always an additive. It was an evolution of adding more elements to it and fleshing out. The goal was always to emulate up on a big screen the experience that comic book fans had through the decades reading Marvel Comics. That’s what we wanted to do at the studio with “Iron Man 1” which Samuel L. Jackson graciously agreed to do a cameo for us in that film, to make an announcement that there was a bigger universe than you know. The fact that we’ve been able to start with a little tag scene and promise something bigger, now through all three Phases and certainly through “Infinity War” is really pretty amazing.
CS: I got to interview Brad Bird recently and was fascinated to learn he’s not a comic book fan, despite having made one of the best superhero movies ever with “The Incredibles.” It got me wondering, which Marvel Studios directors over the last ten years were the biggest legit comic book fans?
Feige: It really varies. The truth is being a fan of the comics is not a prerequisite to work or to make a movie. Understanding the characters, seeing the potential of the characters and having the vision to bring it to life is really the primary thing. I’m not embarrassed to say I’ve always been a bigger fan of movies than I have been of comics. The kind of movies I liked as a kid were sometimes based on comics, “Superman” and “Superman II,” or they could have been. “Back to the Future,” “Indiana Jones,” “Star Wars”… they could have been based on comics. So I’ve always responded to these kinds of movies, and the filmmakers that we work with need to have the vision to see the cinematic potential of these characters. All of them, by the time cameras are rolling, know the characters inside and out. No matter how many times Taika Waititi will tell you he doesn’t know or read the books, he knows A LOT about these characters and these comic books because of the nature of the development process. Peyton Reed is a legit comic fan who had drawings of Ant-Man that he made when he was a kid, but it really does vary.
CS: One aspect that is a recurring motif in the MCU is establishing institutions and then exposing the dirty underbelly of them. You saw it in “Iron Man 2” with Stark’s father, you saw it in “Ragnarok” with Asgard, in “Winter Soldier” with S.H.I.E.L.D, and even the fallibility of The Avengers in “Civil War.” Can you talk about the importance of that thematic and how you plan to explore that further in the rest of Phase 3 and 4?
Feige: You just blew my mind. I didn’t realize that was such a thematic running through all of our movies! I’m glad you told me that! (laughs) Yeah, I guess that’s true. What’s great about comics, what’s great about film, what’s great about any fictional narrative is almost no matter what, intentionally or not, they are a product of their time. Whether one considers themselves political or an avid reader of current events, things will just be absorbed by filmmakers and writers and creators up on the screen, and I think a lot of that is what you just mentioned. I think a lot of it is it is a noble endeavor to expose the truth that hurts. The best of our heroes, in addition to having superpowers and punching hard and being able to fly and wield extraordinary weapons, one of the ways of demonstrating heroism is to see people standing up for what they believe in, or to acknowledge the hard truth. That’s what Tony Stark did as literally his first proactive thing he did after busting out of that cave was to sit at a press conference, eat a cheeseburger and say his company is not making weapons anymore. So right from the very beginning that has been one of the things that Marvel Cinematic Universe characters can do to demonstrate their heroism, and that certainly continues in all those examples you rightly pointed out and I think will continue in various forms of heroism in our films to come.
CS: I’m a huge Jack Kirby fan, especially of his second wave of Marvel stuff in the ’70s like Devil Dinosaur and Machine Man and Eternals, which was kind of Kirby’s “cubist period.” We saw that wild Kirby aesthetic faithfully represented in “Ragnarok,” but could you see going even farther in that direction in a future film?
Feige: Yeah, the Kirby aesthetic is amazing. It appears in everything we’ve done for the most part with every Marvel comic. Embracing it more fully in “Ragnarok” and in some of the ideas we have going forward can certainly be expected.
CS: I know the Disney/Fox deal is a long ways away, so you can’t talk specifics of that, but a big conversation among fans is how something like “X-Men,” where supers are ostracized, could exist in the same universe where The Avengers are by and large celebrated. Obviously they’ve co-existed in the comics for decades, but as a fan do you think those two worlds could be reconciled in a more grounded cinematic universe?
Feige: You’re right, it’s too far out to talk about whether it will happen of not. We’re not working on it in any way, shape or form. We’ve got five films on the docket we’ve already announced that are taking a big percent of our time. But I will say to your very good question that if you look back to Phase 1 and after “Iron Man” was released and we announced our upcoming films, one of which was “Thor,” people said, “How in the WORLD can you bring in a Norse god who flies with a hammer into the world you’ve established of Tony Stark and Stark Industries?” That was sort of the reason we made the “Thor” film the way we did, was to ease character into a world together, even though they might not understand each other and might have trouble getting along at first, that’s the fun of it. But tonally there’s always a way, and as you said the comics have been navigating it quite well for half a century.
CS: A trend in superhero franchises is they have to cost $150 million plus and saving the world is the end goal, but “Deadpool” proved that a smaller superhero movie with less global stakes could win the day. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was a step in that direction, but how do you think smaller, more character-oriented movies where the stakes are exclusively personal and the set pieces and budget are a little more contained would work in the MCU?
Feige: I think they can work! I think “Iron Man 1” had a final fight on a freeway between two people, and right, as you pointed out “Homecoming” and even “Black Panther,” which was for the fate of the kingdom not the fate of the world. The stakes have to feel real, your heroes have to fell endangered, feel like they have something to overcome, whether it’s fighting their prom date’s father or fighting for the throne of their homeland, or fighting to save half the universe.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)