Kevin Feige is a name that even the most rabid Marvel fans may not be familiar with, yet his is one that's appeared in practically all the credits of Marvel movies since "X-Men" in 2000. As one of the producers on "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk," Feige made his way to Comic-Con International in San Diego last month, where CBR News caught up with him to discuss "Iron Man" and the future of Marvel Studios.
The first thing that had to be asked, with the reaction the crowd gave towards Marvel's earlier "Iron Man" presentation, was how did it feel to hit the proverbial homerun at Comic-Con?
"Well if it was a home run it feels pretty good, you guys are the judge of that but I think it went well," Kevin Feige told CBR News. "I think 'Hulk' went really well. I think 'Iron Man' went off the charts."
One of the biggest concerns comic books fans have when it comes to seeing their favorite character depicted on the big screen is how faithful a translation it is from the original book. "I think people are going to find 'Iron Man's' very faithful to the comic, Feige said. "I'm pretty proud that we've done a version of the origin story. There were a lots of scripts that have been developed over the years; a lot of writers and a lot of incarnations over the past 10 years, and all of them had some strengths and some weaknesses but none of them were as true as we're being right now. We sat down with Jon Favreau and we connected. And the truth is, Stan Lee, who made a surprise appearance today which is very cool, mentioned he put Iron Man right into the then-present day conflict of Vietnam and, while we don't necessarily define it exactly, it's certainly made sense to update the story [and set it in] the Middle East.
"Downey, frankly, is one of the best actors we've ever worked with I think he's one of the best actors of our time," Feige continued. "I think if you look at the way we've cast our movies, for the most part, and [being a good actor] is the requirement; the main requirement -- much more so than box office performance or whatever the popularity of their last movie was. It's not whether they've been in a movie before or never been in a movie or been in some movies or been in a lot of movies. It's about connecting with character and it's about making the best casting choice possible. Tony Stark is an interesting character because he's got a lot of attributes that may be not be the most likable. He's extremely wealthy, he's extremely successful, he's extremely smart, he can be cocky and we needed somebody that could embody that but still be charming and still be likable and I think that's what Downey is."
How does a filmmaker get involved with a Marvel property, is this something where Marvel is actively tracking down who should bring their iconic heroes to life?
"It varies," Feige explained. "I mean, sometimes we go to the filmmaker and introduce them for the first time to a character or to a property. They respond to it and we get it going in a conversation. Sometimes they come to us with a passion with a lifelong love of the character. It really varies."
Feige used Gwyneth Paltrow as example. "It came together very quickly," he said. "She had found out about the film, she had found out that Robert was doing it, that Jon [Favreau] was directing it, and, frankly, I think her agents were familiar with the property and obviously with Marvel. And on a Friday I got a call saying she was interested and I didn't believe the agent. I said, 'You know I don't have time to do a dance, we need to cast somebody!' He said, 'No, no, we think we could make this happen.' We worked all weekend and she was in the movie on Monday."
Now that the filming on "Iron Man' has concluded" fans are curious to know how far into the post-production process Marvel is, and if a rough cut of the film has yet been seen. "Jon just saw it," Feige confirmed. "You know, directors get their ten-week cut and he is only about two weeks into it, so he just saw it and he filled us in on how he's feeling about it, and he's feeling pretty good. I think he mentioned that on the panel today. You know, on these giant movies there's lots of turnovers. You have to start turning sequences over to get into the visual effects pipeline. So that's all just beginning now."
One of the more interesting things to note about the upcoming 'Hulk' movie is that Edward Norton is not only starring in it, but writing it as well. Feighe explained, "As we were talking to him about the character in general, about the franchise in general, and of course about him playing Bruce Banner, he responded to the draft and we started talking about how to do another movie and why to do another movie and we were like, 'Dude, you're pretty smart about this stuff.' He offered [to write] and we were extremely enthusiastic about taking him up on that offer, and he did it in about four to five weeks and, of course, as with every movie he's continuing to tweak. He goes from the set to the trailer back to the set and he's pretty tired, which is why I'm excited that he was willing to come down here. Louie [Leterrier, director of the 'Hulk' movie] literally smashed his toe on the set while showing sort of how he wanted the Hulk to act, and he busted his toe right up. But [Louie and Edward] got on the plane and they've got no sleep at all but I was glad they made it."
Looking ahead to see what Marvel icon would be gracing the silver screen next, Feige wasn't so sure. "I don't want to say exactly what the next one is. That, as you can imagine, has to do with the script that comes in and the filmmaker that's interested and an actor and they're all pieces that need to come together but Captain America and Thor and Ant-Man are all on the docket and underdevelopment."
With the mention of Ant-Man, we had to find out if Edgar Wright ("Shaun Of The Dead") was still attached to the project. "Oh yes, I had breakfast with him this morning," Feige confirmed. "He was pitching me all sorts of scenes that were hilarious and that were very cool and I think it's going to be something unexpected from him and from us which is going to be a great combination."
As for if any actors have been attached yet, Feige said that Marvel is "really just continuing to talk about the story and the script, which is going to be coming in later this summer. [Edgar], as you well know, has been doing press on ['Hot Fuzz'] for… seems like he's been doing press longer than it took him to make the movie."
Most of the Marvel Comics films are PG or PG-13 family fare, but Feige was quick to point out that "the 'Blade' franchise was R, 'The Punisher' was R, and we'll do another 'Punisher' that is R." As for any new R-rated superhero franchises, Feige remarked, "Absolutely open to it. You know, clearly with 'Iron Man', with 'Hulk' and with whatever ends up being the '09 movie, they're these big tent pole franchises that we're continuing to do. If we're successful with that on our own then I absolutely want to do [make R-rated features]. Maybe do a sub-label in which we do films like that."
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