The Underdog: Kevin Feige on ‘The Avengers’ [Updated]
Kevin Feige has the coolest job in the world. As the President of Production at Marvel Studios, he's responsible for bringing some of the most beloved superhero characters in the world to the big screen, and his track record is pretty impressive so far. The Avengers might seem like the culmination of a life's work, but as you'll see in our interview with Feige, it's only the beginning. He's got a lot to say about the future of Marvel Studios, although he's reluctant to reveal much of it. He does reveal some news about the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie (which we broke separately a few weeks ago), explains that he'd love for Joss Whedon to return for The Avengers 2, and he even explains why – out of all the alien races in the Marvel Universe – they settled on the Chitauri for their first big villains, and not a more famous race like the Skrulls.
In the process he dropped some spoilers, which we redacted until after the film's opening weekend in order to preserve the surprise. Now, we present the full version. Enjoy!
CraveOnline: I would like to talk to you about some of the more interesting creative decisions that were made about The Avengers, if I may.
Kevin Feige: Okay!
You have the whole wealth of the Marvel Universe to come from, and… the Chitauri? Really?
I remember you kept saying, “It’s not Skrulls, it’s not Skrulls,” but the Chitauri were the Skrulls in the Ultimate Universe.
Well, the Chitauri were the Chitauri in the Ultimate Universe.
Yes, but they filled that role. They were shapeshifters. I was a little worried as a comic book fan, that that’s where it was going, and that it was just a semantics thing.
That there’d be shapeshifting stuff, you mean?
We did not want to do any shapeshifting at all. There was enough going on in the movie, to do that [too]. That was one of the reasons why we didn’t want to do Skrulls. And the fact that [Chitauri] is a cool name, and as Joss said, there’s not a lot of history to them, necessarily. And they are sort of a marauding race, that is… Thanos, who you will not write about until after the movie comes out, kind of gets ragtag groups of people together to serve him, to do his bidding. It was only the hardcore segments of our audience that were so hyper-focused on who the aliens were… The truth is, we had said it from the earliest trailers: Loki’s the bad guy, and he’s got an army. And the reveal, as you’ve now seen, is not necessarily who that army is, but who he made that deal with to get that army.
So it was always going to be aliens. You were never going with The Masters of Evil…?
That was always the initial plan, to go cosmic.
Well, we had already gone cosmic with Thor, so we had already brought that into the world…
But that was more about cosmic coming to Earth, while this is more about Earth going cosmic. First contact, getting to meet other races…
A little bit. A little bit. But again, that is what Thor was, and midway through The Avengers, when they go "Why are you doing this, why are you doing this?" And was because of him! And Nick Fury points right at Thor, it is because of what went down, and the repercussions of that from Thor. One of the biggest challenges was always going to be, well, Iron Man has won all his battles in two movies now, Thor did pretty well fighting the bad guy in his movie, Captain America saved the day from the Red Skull and turned the tide of World War II in his movie, what the heck are they going to be up against where they all have to come together? And even then, barely survive? So we always knew we wanted it to be pretty big, and some of the best battles, as you well know, in the comics, are against aliens. So that’s certainly what we wanted to do.
Everyone’s either asked you this, or I’m the only one.
Here it comes…
Was there anyone who was actually campaigning to call The Tesseract, “The Cosmic Cube?”
You’re the only one!
Really? No one else cares? This matters to me!
You’re the only one. The answer to that is no. We call it “the cube” a few times.”
“The Cosmic Cube” had such a poetry to it…
I realize no one cares. In a perfect world, would you bring Joss back for Avengers 2 or would you want to spread it out and bring more voices into it?
In a perfect world? It would be Joss for Avengers 2.
Have you discussed it at all?
No. I mean, we have, as I’m sure you have read… Marvel has very specific contracts and very specific options and things like that, and we have that with all of our actors and all of our filmmakers. But we’re not going to force anybody to do anything they don’t want to do, necessarily. So we’ve had very preliminary conversations on the scoring stage late at night, things like that, but the goal has always been [to] finish the movie. Make this movie. That’s where we are now. So we’ll have… I hope to have deeper discussions in the coming months.
Everything’s been building up to this, from Iron Man and Incredible Hulk, building up to Avengers. So this is the big one, the thing everyone’s been waiting for.
I think it’s all been building up to this since The Trip to the Moon. Since The Gold Rush. It’s all cinema history.
But you’re going to do Avengers 2 at some point, that’s the plan…
It would be nice.
How do you top this? How do you top everyone getting together for the first time?
Well, here’s the truth: people have asked me after Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man came out, “How are you going to top this?” After Iron Man came out, “How are you going to top this?” The truth is, you never set out to… We’re not going to sit around a table and go, “How do we top this?” “Uh… There are TWO portals! It’s a bigger thing!”
In terms of a level of escalation, in terms of narrative, you’re telling one long story arc now.
Again, Joss is very good about thinking [that] it’s not about topping it. How do you evolve it? How do you evolve it in a way that’s going to be satisfying and unexpected to he audience? Those are the questions we ask. Those are the things… We already have Iron Man 3 scripted. We already have Thor 2 scripted. We already have the next Cap movie scripted. We know what our second movie in 2014 is going to be, but we haven’t announced it yet. And all of the characters will change over the course of those movies, the dynamics between those characters will change, and much of the infrastructure of the world of the Avengers will change. So by the time they meet up again, if we’re so lucky as to make another Avengers, many, many things will be different. How do they then relate it? How do then they respond to it? That hopefully will provide that evolution to something interesting. I imagine… I’ve been reading The Making of The Empire Strikes Back. Have you read these, books, The Making of Star Wars…?
I love those books. They’re amazing. The Jedi one comes out next year. They’re better than any of the other “making of” books because so much time has elapsed that you can see the frame of mind the people were in then, when you talk to people today they’re honest about it. Nobody can be honest about things when it’s this recent.
They’re still in promotional mode. They’re trying to sell tickets.
Exactly. But those book are incredible, and you think about, in the early chapters of that “making of” book, Star Wars… how do you do it again? They defeated the Empire. They blew up the Death Star. They got their medals in the beautifully framed last shot of the movie. Where do you go from there…? You add a little green puppet. “What?!” And you make a big revelation about family history. “What?!” Those were completely unexpected, and that’s the best one if you ask me.
It is the best one, yeah.
So that’s always, how do you go into new, unexpected modes.
You said you were going to announce a new movie soon, but every [other] Marvel movie coming out soon is sequel, and we’re very excited for those…
The three we’ve announced, yeah.
How much of a priority is it to start introducing new characters now that everyone is more accepting of the superhero genre?
The highest priority is whatever the next movie up is, which is going to be Iron Man 3, and making it original and unexpected, and that’s why we brought in Shane Black. But I think whether it’s Ant-Man, or Dr. Strange, or Inhumans, or Guardians of the Galaxy…
[Laughs] We are very excited about bringing things like that, maybe things exactly like that, to the screen. I loved Comic Con 2006, when we, as Marvel Studios, did our first panel, and a newspaper put us in the cover of their Entertainment section saying, “Marvel Calls Out the B-Team.” We went… “We don’t think Iron Man, Thor and Cap are the B-Team! Whoa, what?” I like being the underdog.
It must be hard now.
It is hard now, but when you tell people, “Hey, you know what will be really cool? This movie, and there’s a raccoon, and there’s a tree,” and they go, “What?” And people like you know what it is and get excited.
Oh, I’m stoked for it.
The majority of people go, “Did you say a raccoon and a tree?” “Oh yeah, they’re going to steal the whole movie. They’re hilarious.” “Uh, okay… I’ll believe it when I see it.” I like that.
I like it too. I know it’s too early, but The Guardians of the Galaxy would be the new version if you were pursuing that?
Yeah, I mean it’s more Star Lord and Drax and Gamora and less Vance Astro and that [team].