The Avengers is a great film, and that means that prospects have never been better for the folks over at Marvel Studios. They’ve been building up to this moment for four years now and it has paid off gloriously. This means that the future is wide open for Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige – but what does that future hold in store?
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Feige one-on-one and took the time to ask him about the future of Marvel studios and the Marvel cinematic universe. Read on to learn about the potential of The Hulk going forward, why Shane Black was the right choice for Iron Man 3 and the fear of superhero saturation.
Obviously you have Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 pipeline along with Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man, but The Avengers is the first Marvel movie to be made by a writer/director. I’m curious if that’s something that motivated your choice of Joss Whedon and given how successful it is, is that something you guys can see continuing to do going forward?
Well, no. It’s a case by case and a person by person basis. Our interest in Joss, we aren’t going to hire Joss Whedon and have him not write the script [laughs]. So we always knew that it was a two-for-one in that case. With Shane and Edgar, they’re both co-writing. Drew Pearce is co-writing with Shane and Joe Cornish has been working for years with Edgar. But it was clearly a very positive experience with Joss on the writing/directing front.
I do want to ask about the Hulk, because he was my favorite part of this film. Now, when The Incredible Hulk came out it didn’t do as well as the other movies you’ve produced…
Well, we did better than Ang Lee’s Hulk, didn’t do as well as Iron Man.
And I know you have a television show in development.
There is a television show in development.
What are the future plans for Hulk?
There are not a lot of plans going forward. The plan was make an Avengers movie where people like yourself came out of it saying, “I love the Hulk!” If we’ve done that, that is a huge achievement. We have, as you can imagine, many, many options with Mark Ruffalo, so we’ll start to figure out when and what that will be. We’ve announced the 2013 movies, we’ve announced one of the 2014 movies – the second 2014 movie is not going to be a Hulk movie. So we’ll see if and when we can put it together. Frankly, it took a lot of time to get this version of the Hulk. So we’re not going to turn around and rush something and undo all that good will. So we’ll see, but the first step is being very encouraged and hoping that when the world sees the movie they react the same way to the Hulk.
Is there a chance that Mark Ruffalo could star in the Hulk TV show?
[Shakes head with a smile] No.
There’s no secret formula to how it is. It’s basically, “Do we have an idea for a beginning, middle and end that excites us enough that we want to dedicate between two and five years to bring it to the screen?” We had that with Iron Man, we had that with Thor and Cap, and certainly with Avengers. And I think we’re close on a few other ones. You know, I think people know the general ones. Ant-Man, it’s been more than five years and I think that too is closer than it’s ever been.
You mentioned the 2013 and 2014 movies earlier, and one thing that I found really interesting is that you guys now have a movie coming out in September (Thor 2) and early April (Captain America 2). Up until now all of your movies have been coming out during the summer months, but is it part of Marvel’s goal to take over the entire movie release calendar and what motivated those particular decisions?
In fact we made that decision even before The Hunger Games came out a few weeks ago. I mean, look at what that did in March. There’s real thought that we don’t have to be crowded all top of each other in a twelve week period. The audience will come regardless of the time of year, so it’s just sort of baby steps outside of the comfort zone we’ve made of May and July. And if it doesn’t work we’ll run right back! [laughs] But we think that without there being giant movie on top of giant movie on top of giant movie that there’s some more breathing room.
And up to this point you’ve done up to two movies of year. With an expanded calendar is there any chance of seeing more?
Two years a movie is fine. Maybe someday or some year, just based on a script being ready or a filmmaker being available or something coming together that we would end up with three in a year, and yes, we do think there are enough months in a year to spread them apart, in a way. But it’s not a goal, necessarily, to go to three pictures a year. Two is plenty!
Plus you have less to worry about in terms of superhero saturation.
Sure! The truth is that I’ve been worrying about that since about 2003, which, believe it or not, was the first year that we had three Marvel movies come out. And, you know, I really believe, as long as they’re good, as long as audiences respond to them, as long as they don’t fall into a rut of being very predictable and very similar, then I think we can keep going. There are a lot of comic books that aren’t Marvel, and those obviously we have nothing to do with, no control, but I will tell you that I root for every single one. A) because as a fan I really want to see a cool movie, and B) because people tend to love the comic book genre all together, so the success or failure of a DC property or another company’s property can impact – not necessarily our box office or anything, but our perception. And you get more questions like, “Aren’t you getting sick of this? Such and such movie didn’t do well.” Such and such movie wasn’t great! So I root for them all. And this summer in particular, between Avengers, Men in Black – if you want to count that as a comic – Spider-Man, Dark Knight [Rises], I’m rooting. Two of them I know very well and have seen, the other two I’m really rooting for. And I certainly have high hopes for Dark Knight.
Yeah, that’s a big part of it. Here’s what’s great about Shane Black: this is what he’s been doing his entire career. He’s been taking genres that have been sort of tread upon – action movies, buddy cop movies, Philip Marlowe-esque noir movies – and, being completely true to them, and yet spinning them on their head in an incredibly unique and fresh way. That’s what Iron Man has always been about. That’s what we hope all of the Marvel movies have been about, to some extent. The highest compliment we can get, just from somebody who comes out of our theaters and goes, “I usually don’t like these kinds of movies, but this was great!” You’ve told me that five times, I think you like these kinds of movies now! [laughs] But we want to do the unexpected and bring it to another place, and who better than Shane to do that? His connection to Downey… Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is something that [Jon] Favreau and I watched a lot of when we were making that decision to bring Downey into it. So Shane has already been on the movie for over a year, and he’s chomping at the bit to get filming in about five weeks (Editor’s Note: interview took place on April 12th).
A couple years ago at Comic Con you announced that The Punisher had been brought back under the Marvel fold. I’m curious if you and Marvel are actively trying to bring characters back from other studios.
Where they are available and where it’s possible they will come back to us, I’m sure. But certainly, Sony is very busy building the Spidey empire. Fox has a revitalized X-Men franchise thankfully that is looking awesome. So I expect that those will remain there for the time being.
What about Fantastic Four? I know there have been some grumblings over there…
They are. They’re working on another step. I think that’s a little further out, but it’s something that they very much want to continue.
I keep hoping, particularly with Maria Hill being introduced in this film, that somewhere down the line we might see a movie based on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Civil War. Obviously that’s a large scale thing, but do you think it’s something that Marvel could ever possibly do?
With the Fantastic Four in it?
Even without, just the characters that you have.
Well, if you want the best, right? I love it. I don’t see it as a part two, but beyond that I think it could be great. That’s one of the best crossover events we’ve done.