Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles, during an "Iron Man" set visit, CBR News and members of the press sat down with Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige to get an update on some upcoming projects slated for development and release, including updates on "Captain America," "Hulk," "Thor" and much more.
Kevin, you've been running Marvel films for a while now without Avi Arad at the head. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill.
They're big shoes to fill, they are. But I've been walking right in step with those shoes for about seven years now. It felt like a good time and I think he'll tell you it felt like a good time for him to move on and expand out. Day to day for me has not changed a whole lot. It's a little bit more responsibility and he and I made a lot of decisions together over the course of the seven years anyway, so it's been pretty good.
You guys are making self-funded films now, you're the ones calling the shots. If you guys had been running the whole show on "Fantastic Four," how different would "Rise of the Silver Surfer" be?
I won't speak specifically to that, how it would be different. The truth is, obviously, if you look at the "X-Men" films, the "Spider-Man" films, the majority of our films, we've had great partnerships. But it's nice having the final say. I think anyone in this town will tell you that. It's very nice having complete control over it. I think we've learned good things and bad things from all the experiences we've had and all the movies we've made. The pressure now, of course, is if there's something people don't like or don't respond to, there's no one else to point to. We're at the end of the line. It's just us. But it's empowering and again, we feel the good decisions have been made along the way in all our films, we had a great deal to do with and we're going to continue them.
Can you talk a little about how you go about being protective of the details of the comics when you're working with these filmmakers?
The challenge is to be very rigid and demanding and overbearing, but make them think you're being collaborative! Of course we're very protective, of course we're very demanding. But we also know we've gotten the success that we've gotten by taking certain liberties and knowing exactly when to stay within the canon of the comics and knowing when to adjust that a little bit. Oftentimes I'll make a suggestion and the filmmaker will go, "You can't do that! That's not in the comic!" So, it's a very good interaction that we have.
Do you hear from fans a lot, saying, "What are you doing to our characters that we love so much?"
More often before the movie comes out, in terms of what they think might be happening or what they're reading between the lines. In fact for the most part, after the movie comes out they come back. The biggest thing with "X-Men" was that Hugh Jackman was 6'3". The character is 5'3". How would we ever survive that? Well now people don't even think about it anymore. The big challenge on "Spider-Man" was organic web-shooters. Noorganicwebshooters.com! That was a big challenge on it, and now you see the movie and people don't even question it anymore.
Can we get an update on the various Marvel Films projects?
Sure. We've got "The Incredible Hulk" going into production on the day "Iron Man" goes into post-production, July 9 th . We just cast William Hurt. I'll be going up to Toronto next week.
I have a writer on "Captain America" right now. Hope to have a director soon. I hope to get that into the pipeline within the next year or so, and the same thing with Thor. Mark Protosevich is writing "Thor." David Self is writing "Captain America." Jonathan Mostow is doing a re-write on "Sub-Mariner" with the intention to direct and that script should be coming in a few weeks.
Thomas Jane announced that he won't be in a second Punisher film. How are you going to get that franchise going?
Lion's Gate is putting that one together with us right now. I think they'll be announcing a director in the near future and another star in the near future. The only reason I have any interest in doing another Punisher movie is to do a better Punisher movie. If Marvel thought we wouldn't be able to do that then we wouldn't make it.
With all the Marvel characters getting their own movies, is there a possibility of an "Ultimate Avengers" type of storyline or feature?
Yeah, What prevented certain characters from crossing over in the past was that they were all divided up between different studios with big giant gates in between them and they couldn't play in the same sandbox. But now that we have Hulk and Thor and Cap and Iron Man apparently would indicate to me that it might be fun to all see them in the same sandbox at some point. But certainly we're introducing them and building them as their own franchises first.
No Marvel Zombies?
Marvel Zombies would be pretty cool!
Is there a clear idea of what you want to do next after The Incredible Hulk?
Captain America. For sure.
How would you tackle the challenge of America not being seen so well across the world? Is it going to be a traditional red, white and blue spandex thing?
Well, we'll certainly have to play with that and play with Captain America being this patriotic propaganda machine on one hand, but also being a very human Steve Rogers, an interesting, fascinating hero in his own right. The good news is Marvel is perceived pretty well around the world right now and I think putting another uber Marvel hero into the box office right now is a good thing. We're going into it with our eyes open, we know these are things we'll have to deal with – much in the same way that Captain America when thawed from the arctic ice into a world he didn't recognize had to learn to deal with the changes, whether it was Stan's world of the '60s or 2009.
So, no chance of a period piece?
Right now what we're developing would be about half and half.
You've announced David Goyer as the director of the Magneto movie. His work tends to be very dark, are you going in a dark direction with that film?
If anyone knows Magneto's history or remembers the first scene in "X-Men," it's not the lightest story. I think Magneto will have elements that are well suited for Goyer's tastes.
How close are you to a director on "Wolverine?"
Not signed a director yet. There are a lot of people in the mix. It's hard. I think it's very close, I've thought that for four or five weeks now.
Which will be released first, Magneto or Wolverine?
I think Wolverine will be released first.
Could Iron Man and Iron Fist exist at the same time or would that be too much?
They're so different with the exception of the Iron title. But we have control of Iron First and I'd love to do it someday. There were a couple of interesting scripts that were developed at one point that need a lot of work, but that's definitely something I see coming one day.
Are you using animated features as a testing the waters to see what audiences would like?
We're doing it because it's a good business model. It's a good idea to release those direct-to-DVD animated features and they're selling very well. The advantage is that you do see people's reactions to characters maybe a younger audience would know like Dr. Strange. There is something nice about the DVDs continuing; the ever-expanding comic audience that comes from these DVDs, so that by the time an Iron Man film or a Dr. Strange film comes out, there's a hunger for it and a knowledge of a whole other audience for the film.
What about a Power Pack film?
I would love to put a Power Pack script into development, actually. I would love to do a sort of PG, "Goonies" style film. Those kinds of films I loved in the '80s when I was growing up.
Are we likely to see "independent" Marvel films now? Things that are smaller films with smaller budgets. Is that a possibility?
Sure. Obviously right now the idea is to continue the early success we've had, the summer event thing, but yet I think we've got lots of characters that could be smaller horror movies or smaller kids movies or small anything. Eventually we'd like to expand into that, but for the time being it's really about the tent pole. It's really about bringing the larger characters to life.
Are you worried about over saturating the market with comic book movies?
You know, people have been asking me that question since 2002 when "Spider-Man" came out. And now it's been five years since then. I would only be worried about it if they all started to be exactly the same and if they all started to be told exactly the same way and they were all about a guy who put on a spandex costume and went into an alley to beat up a mugger. But they're not. And I think whether you're familiar with all the comic lore or you just go and see the movies, Iron Man and the Hulk are going to be two totally different movies. "Batman Begins" and "Superman Returns" were two totally different experiences. Yes, they all have their origins in the graphic novels or comic books, but they're almost sub-genres unto themselves. I would call "X-Men" as much a science fiction story as I would a superhero story. I would call "Iron Man" a similar thing, as an action adventure film as much as it is a superhero film. I would be worried about over saturation if these were all the same, but if you look at how different "300" is from "Spider-Man." [I'd worry only if] they all start seeming and smelling and sounding the same – which obviously is very important to me that they don't .
What about "Spider-Man 4?"
We couldn't be happier with the success of "Spider-Man 3." It's on its way to being the top grossing Spider-Man of all time and there will be another Spider-Man adventure. I don't know what that will be. It's just beginning; we're still promoting "Spider-Man 3" in some parts of the world. We're still very much in "Spider-Man 3" mode.
The critics had a problem with "Ghost Rider," but it still made a lot of money. Is there talk of a sequel?
Not that I know of. They're still working on the DVD so, no discussions yet.
Why do you think Marvel characters have been in most cases tremendously more successful than DC's in the film business?
I don't know. Any answer I give will be biased, obviously. I do think our characters translate better. Comic book readers and non-comic book readers can relate to our characters. I don't think it's a coincidence that their most successful character is Batman, who has the most flaws and the most issues, like a Marvel character. But I think they have some great ones and I think they're going to make some great movies – and I don't think that will create an issue of over saturation. I think people are going to be hungry and enthusiastic for these kinds of stories. Nobody wants to see a cool Green Lantern movie more than I do, that would be awesome.
I've been working with Marvel for seven years now, but if you go back to "X-Men," I started three or four years before that. And I remember the birth of your websites and the fansites popping up, and people saying "It's the curse of the Marvel movie, it's going to suck." So to go from that place to now is certainly something we enjoy and not something we take for granted.
We've talked about how much money previous movies have made. Where do you take your lessons from, is it the critics, is it the box office, is it the fans and how do you apply those lessons to future projects?
Well almost never from the critics and almost always from the fans. And also the way we feel about the movie. If there are flaws that you see in some of our films, I guarantee that I see them as well. Really, I guarantee you that I see them even more than you guys do. If there are things that you guys think are really cool and kick ass, I see those as well. The danger is when you say, "Okay if people don't like these kinds of things, but people do like these kinds of things, so let's make a movie with none of those things." That's how you get cookie cutter studio-mandated pictures.
It's not being afraid to make decisions based on what we think will work and knowing those decisions are somewhat informed by reactions to our other films. But it's not like there's a unified voice to the fans. Quite the contrary. You will see the greatest debates ever on your forums and your websites.
We heard talk of the rights to Daredevil reverting back to Marvel sometime soon. If that happened would it be a complete reboot of Daredevil in the movies?
No, Fox still has the rights to Daredevil. I assume they'll have that for quite some time.
What happened to the Luke Cage movie?
We never got a script for the Luke Cage movie while it was at Sony that did it justice. That was everyone's point of view. The rights to that have reverted back to Marvel and I would love to do a Luke Cage movie. Again, looking for ways to continue the Marvel movies with fresh content with different points of view and I think Luke Cage would absolutely fit into that.
Can you talk a little about how you got Edward Norton in the new Hulk movie, and how will this new movie be different from the first one?
This Hulk movie will be different from the first one because this one will be good.
Frankly, there are elements about the first one which we are very proud of and obviously elements that we're not. The cast for that first movie we were very happy with. You couldn't ask for a better cast. Eric Bana was great and they were all great. But in looking to sort of reboot and looking to start the franchise fresh and new, we wanted to start with a clean slate. It wasn't Eric Bana that I was trying to improve upon, it was Bill Bixby. Bill Bixby is the one I think of and most people think of when they think of the Hulk story. And we started asking, who is it that could get that kind of empathy? Then we start talking about someone like Ed Norton.
Did you like Ang Lee's comic book thing in and out of the film. Do you think those took away from the story?
I liked them. I thought some of them were really cool. I don't think to make a comic book movie you have to have comic book panels in it. Obviously "Spider-Man" did a great job translating it without any transitional panels.
Is Hulk going to be big budget like Iron Man?
They're both very, very big, let me put it that way. And frankly, the budget on Hulk is still coming together. We'll spend what it takes to bring Iron Man to life, we'll spend what it takes to bring Hulk to life.