Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, loves his work. On the eve of bringing phase three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a close with the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, he just seems happy to be here. “How cool is it that we’re in London?” he asks rhetorically with a smile. Huddled in a quiet room at the Corinthia Hotel, Feige is a long way from his native Boston, where he lived until he was three. Arguably the most powerful man in Hollywood today, Feige has likely made dozens of trips to Europe throughout his tenure, but still harbors the excitement of that 16-year-old who saw Tim Burton’s Batman in the theater 30 years ago. He’s playing for the opposition now, but it doesn’t make it any less fun. Fandom is forever.
However, to take his good nature for naïvete would be a mistake. He knows damn well that millions of comic book and movie fans are hanging on his every word like Dr. Strange in deep meditation. He answers all of my questions honestly, but carefully. With so much anticipation for the next phase of Marvel’s movie franchises, he can only say but so much, but he doesn’t run either. To sit in his chair, you’ve got to have a thicker skin than Ben Grimm. So we loaded up our Element Gun and fired off the tough questions. Read ahead to see how he fared.
BET: Spider-Man Far From Home is now my favorite live-action Spider-Man film…
Kevin Feige: With Into the Spider-Verse being above that?
Yes. So when you saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, were you nervous at all for Far From Home?
No. But I loved Spider-Verse and thought it was great. I wasn’t nervous, but I was thankful that we went with Mysterio when we were deciding what villain to use. We wanted to do a villain that hadn’t been seen before. And Mysterio was high on the list. There were some questions about his powers and is it too confusing and the illusions and things like that. [But] we were like, no that’s what would be fun. I saw Spider-Verse and said thank God we went with something daring and complex. If it had just been an average Spider-Man villain chasing him around buildings and trying to hit him with a blast, it would have seemed really lame next to Spider-Verse.
What made Spider-Man: Far From Home the ideal way to end phase 3?
KF: Seeing those ramifications of End Game and how it personally effected Peter and launching Peter into being his own hero. So much of Peter’s story in the MCU so far has been in his relation to Tony [Stark] and the other Avengers, and he has plenty of problems to deal with [now] that are all Peter related. Because it’s so connected to End Game, it felt like the perfect finale to this 23-movie saga.
Do you think The Incredibles has been an influence on the MCU?
KF: I don’t know if it has specifically any more so than all great movies are an influence to us and all great movies help inspire us. But I don’t know any more than that.
I asked specifically because of how [redacted for spoilers] bears a striking resemblance to [redacted for spoilers].
KF: That was pointed out to us after the fact, to be honest with you. [laughs] And it was a little different. But that was not intentional. It’s a great story point.
I interviewed Samuel L. Jackson on the set of Captain Marvel, and he playfully lamented that everyone else got to Wakanda except Nick Fury. Will Nick Fury ever make it to Wakanda?
KF: There hadn’t been discussions about it previously from anybody except Sam. [laughs] What the future holds, who knows? Sam was very funny in this roundtable we did talking about how he’d disappeared for a while. He shows up in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and then he’s not in Captain America: Civil War and hadn’t been in a number of the movies for a while. I remember meeting with him two years ago and saying, ‘I know it’s been a while, Sam. Here is our plan. 2019 is going to be the year of Fury.’ And we walked him through young, two-eyed Fury in Captain Marvel, the one poignant shot of him in End Game and seeing him in this [film]. And it’s fun now to see the year of Fury complete.
Was “Bitch, please. You’ve been to space” in the script or ad-libbed?
KF: That was one of the very first lines scripted for the movie. No matter how excited we are in the room, it’s not until Sam says it that it comes to life.
Do you ever watch YouTube series like “How This Film Should Have Ended”?
They just released one for Avengers: End Game the other day. One scenario is that Red Skull sacrifices himself for the soul stone out of boredom…
KF: [laughs] But nobody loves him, so that wouldn’t work.
Another was Thor putting his hammer on Thanos’ chest so he couldn’t move and then chops his head off.
Then Wong pops up and chops his head off with the portal. How do you react when you see fan theories like that?
KF: Those are traditionally very funny. There is that [series] and “Honest Trailers.” There were times on [Captain America] Civil War years ago where those things were more in the culture, and as we developed the movie trying to make sure there were as few plot holes as possible, we’d be like, ‘We don’t want this to show up in honest trailers.’ The answer to this larger question we’re having in the room, if we don’t solve it, they’re going to call us out on it. So oftentimes it’s a motivator.
Of the Netflix Marvel heroes, which one would you be most excited to get into a movie first?
KF: I don’t know. There were a lot of great characters that were on those Netflix series, and I think there is a period of time…it’ll be a while before we could use any of them based on what the contracts were, so I’m not sure. And also, even answering that question is a spoiler. But there are some great Marvel characters there. Who would you want to see?
Luke Cage for sure. When I spoke to Ryan Coogler at the Black Panther junket I asked him about a possible crossover with Black Panther and Luke Cage, and he immediately deferred to you. And I asked Cheo Coker as well for Luke Cage. He’d love to see it but deferred to you as well.
Robert Downy Jr. recently gave a plug to Ironheart. What are your thoughts on RiRi Williams joining the MCU?
KF: I think it’s a great character, and it’s been fun to see how she evolves in the comics. I just saw that quote, too. But again, the future…
One last future question. There is a rumor that Killmonger will be returning for Black Panther 2. Any truth to that?
KF: Pure rumor. The honest answer to that is that is pure rumor and speculation, because Mr. Coogler is just only in recent weeks sitting down at his keyboard and beginning to outline the movie. It’s early, so nothing is set yet in any way that far, because Mr. Coogler is sitting down and will share it with Nate Moore and myself in coming weeks.
Lastly, how does it feel to know that you’ve developed a fan base that is so passionate about these characters that they’re constantly pitching who should be next?
KF: It’s really amazing, and as much as it’s a testament to the movies, which has grown the fan base and built it, it’s a testament to the wealth of characters that Marvel has. I remember almost five years ago at the El Capitan and pitching Phase 3. We announced 10 movies or so. I did a Q&A with a small group of press right afterward. The first questions were, “OK, so those 10 movies sound great, what about this character and this character?” I said, people, we just announced five years’ worth of movies. At first, I thought it was frustrating, but then I said, no, that’s incredible. You can announce 10 full movies, and people still go, “Great, what about this character?” It’s a great, great privilege.
(Photo by Emma McIntyre/BAFTA LA/Getty Images for BAFTA LA)