Kevin Feige has made a pretty good case for being the most successful Hollywood producer of recent years. The 40-year-old President of Production at Marvel Studios started barely a decade ago, graduating from being Lauren Shuler Donner's assistant to associate producer on the first "X-Men" movie — the film that launched the 21st century wave of comic book film — and since then, has had some kind of role or credit on every Marvel-derived project.
But things stepped up a level in 2007, when Marvel started financing their own movies, and Feige was named President. Since then, he's supervised the impressive run of success that the company's had with the "Iron Man" movies, "Thor" and "Captain America," and most importantly with "The Avengers," which teamed all of the above and went on to become the third-biggest film of all time.
That success has allowed Feige to become the rare executive/producer with name recognition, thanks to frequent interviews, and his annual appearances at Comic-Con. With the company's latest movie, "Thor: The Dark World" in theaters in the next few weeks (read our review here), we sat down with Feige in London, where he's currently prepping Joss Whedon's sequel "The Avengers: Age Of Ultron," to discuss the new film, crossovers with T.V. hit "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D," the Phase Three pictures, and the possibility of retrieving stray Marvel characters. Read on below.
After "Thor" turned out to be a hit, what was the starting point for the sequel?
Firstly, we loved the Walt Simonson run of the comics, and that was one of the main influences on the first film, too. And Malekith, and the Dark Elves in general, we thought that would be an interesting beginning for this story. But it was also really about evolving the relationship between Thor and Jane, because Jane wasn't in "The Avengers" at all, and he promised her he'd return at the end of the first movie. And also, continuing that evolution between the brothers [that started in "Thor" and continued in "The Avengers"].
You ended up with Alan Taylor directing, who made a few indie movies, but is better known for his TV work like "Game Of Thrones." When you're looking for a filmmaker for a project, is there one quality they all share that you're after?
They all have an immense amount of talent, whatever they had done before. It's rare that they've made a big giant action or superhero movie, but they've done something impressive. In the case of Alan Taylor, it's the best television of the past ten years. As I was hiring filmmakers for our next group of movies, I looked to the TV world, which I hadn't done before. I don't think I'd intentionally avoided it before, but I did specifically look to it this time, in large part because I admired the choice of David Yates for the last four "Harry Potter" movies. So I ended up with Alan Taylor for this film, and the Russo Brothers for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." And they're very different. "Game Of Thrones" is sweeping and epic and people can sort of equate it to why we do this, while the Russo Brothers are doing a whole other thing with 'Winter Soldier' to their work on "Arrested Development" and "Community." But it really was the diversity of Alan's background that sold us.
One thing that struck me from the new movie, which seems inspired by "Game Of Thrones," is that the fantasy locations feel more grounded and lived-in. Was that one reason you picked him?
Absolutely, that was something we talked to him about when we first met with him. We wanted Asgard, and the other realms we visit in this movie, to feel more lived in, more viscerally realized. We shot the first "Thor" film on real locations in New Mexico, and then on stages, and of course there's going to be stage work on any big movie you do, but we did want to do more location shooting, which is why we set the film in London, went to London, did some second-unit shoots in Norway. So many of those Asgard shots are actual plate photography of landscapes that we then put the city on. And Alan had some experience with that from "Game Of Thrones."
You're presumably starting to think about the next wave of movies. Have you seen anything recently, film or TV, that's impressed you, that made you think the directors might be good for a Marvel movie?
Frankly, we just finished this one, we're deep into the edit on 'Winter Soldier,' "Guardians of the Galaxy" just finished production, and we're here in London prepping "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" and back in Los Angeles, Edgar Wright is officially beginning prep on "Ant-Man," so that's been taking up the time. At some point, middle of next year, is when we'll start to solidify what the movies are for Phase Three, and then writers and filmmakers will follow.
Though most rumors of disagreements between yourself and Alan Taylor have been quashed, he's admitted that you differed on the choice of composer, and his pick of Carter Burwell was eventually replaced by Brian Tyler. What was the source of the disagreement?
To be honest, we're huge fans of Carter Burwell, "Miller's Crossing" is amazing, I even go to a deep cut like "Conspiracy Theory," which is an amazing score, [and] all of the stuff with the Coen Brothers. It just didn't seem like the right fit, and we had to make a call early on. If post-production had been a year-and-a-half, we might have had time for trial and error, it might have worked. But it just didn't seem like the right fit, and we'd just had a spectacular experience with Brian Tyler on "Iron Man 3," and he enthusiastically stepped into this, and delivered what I think is the best score we've had in a Marvel movie.