President of Marvel Studios, Kevin Fiege, discuses the latest film from the "House Of Ideas" as well as some of their upcoming and long rumored future projects
Kevin Fiege has every fan-boys' dream job, President of Production for Marvel Studios. In 2008 the feature film branch of the "House Of Ideas" set out to do something that had never been done before, create one seamless world that several different film franchises would exist in ... essentially giving birth to the "Marvel Film Universe." It began with the box office hit Iron Man, which featured an after the credits cameo by S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson and continued with The Incredible Hulk later that year, which featured an appearance by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, linking the two films together. That strategy continues with the new movie Iron Man 2, opening on May 7th and the upcoming Marvel film's Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, which are currently in various stages of production. The hope is that all of this will lead up to The Avengers in 2012, which will feature characters from all of those films. In addition to that, Fiege is also overseeing the development of several other lesser-known Marvel characters to introduce on the big screen beyond the current slate of films. Last week, while he was out promoting Iron Man 2, we had an opportunity to sit down one on one with Kevin Fiege and talk candidly about the new film, preparing for The Avengers, the future of the Hulk, casting Captain America, Edgar Wright's Ant-Man and the next wave of Marvel films. Here is what he had to say:
With constructing your new film, "Iron Man 2," can you talk about the challenging task of continuing to set up the "Marvel Film Universe" in this movie for future films like "The Avengers"?
Kevin Fiege: Well it is daunting but its fun. It's never been done before and that's kind of the spirit everybody's taking it in. The other filmmakers aren't used to getting actors from other movies that other filmmakers have cast, certain plot lines that are connected or certain locations that are connected but I think for the most part, in fact, entirely everyone was on board for it and thinks that its fun. Primarily because we've always remained consistent saying that the movie that we are making comes first. All of the connective tissue, all of that stuff is fun and is going to be very important if you want it to be. If the fans want to look further and find connections than they're there. There are a few big ones obviously, that hopefully the mainstream audience will able to follow as well. But the most important thing and I think the reason that all the filmmakers are on board is that their movies need to stand on their own. They need to have a fresh vision, a unique tone and the fact that they can interconnect if you want to follow those breadcrumbs is a bonus.
Is there a lot of pressure on the company to have films like "Captain America: The First Avenger" and "Thor" be huge hits in order to justify making "The Avengers," which you are clearly are already in pre-production on?
Kevin Fiege: Yes and I think that's one of the reasons that it hasn't been done before. I think that we are confident in the choices that we are making and the way we're making them. They all don't have to be Iron Man size hits. There are various budgets and various factors that go into how successful they need to be to make the next one. But creatively speaking I think it's going to be rewarding for people to follow these movies starting in 2008 up through The Avengers in 2012. But I wouldn't say that's its just all a road heading to The Avengers as an end point. For us every movie is about expanding the Marvel Universe and the idea of the Marvel Universe. My goal is that moviegoers have that same experience comic book readers had, that when you turn the page anybody can pop up and any other character can come into it. We're really suggesting, unlike all the other films that we've made prior to Iron Man, that each of these heroes are not the only heroes that exist in those worlds, which is really what Marvel Comics have always been about. So with The Avengers coming down the line we really look at each film as being more of expanding that mythology. With Iron Man 2 it's really about expanding Tony Stark's mythology, which if people watch some of the movies to come particularly Captain America, you will realize that Tony Stark's mythology is the Marvel mythology. He is connected to the other characters in ways that are subtle and not so subtle.
Is the current plan to have each film spawn it's own three-picture franchise and not just have "The Avengers" be a sequel to "Captain America" or "Iron Man 2"?
Kevin Fiege: Absolutely. If you look at the comics, there would be ten, twelve or fifteen issues and then there would be a crossover event. Then the characters would go back into their own books and then come over for another crossover event. And those crossover events always ... if you look at them, you look at "Secret Invasion" or "Civil War," you know you could just read the seven issues of "Civil War" and get it. With "Civil War" it starts with that explosion in the town and it's a self-contained story. You don't have to have read all the comics of all the other heroes for it to match up. If you have you'll see more and you will experience more but if you haven't it still works. That's our challenge when it comes to The Avengers and you nailed it, The Avengers is not Iron Man 3, its not Cap 2 and its not Thor 2. It's The Avengers #1.
How important was it to Marvel's overall plans to be able to sign Samuel L. Jackson to a nine-picture deal to appear as Nick Fury in "Iron Man 2," "The Avengers" and beyond?
Kevin Fiege: Well it's the importance of tying all the actors down. It doesn't mean that we're going to make all those movies but it means we can if the audience wants to see them. So you don't find yourself in a position of changing lots of things every time.
"Iron Man 2" introduces the character of Black Widow, who in the comics eventually became a member of "The Avengers," so will each new film introduce a new member of the team or will there be some new characters saved to be introduced only in "The Avengers" film?
Kevin Fiege: Well clearly Thor and Captain America will be the primary introductory characters but they'll be a few (new ones). The Avengers is really, you are dealing with Iron Man, Thor, Cap, Nick Fury and potentially the Hulk to some degree, that's a lot of characters right there. I think that there will be a few beyond that but the fun of The Avengers to me is not, "Hey, lets keep introducing characters." It's not, "Lets go into this room and it's another character, then we go into another room and there is another new character there." That's not the fun of The Avengers to me. That might happen once of twice but the fun is in these characters that you've seen sort of owning the room in their own film, and in their own adventures, and then how do they act when they are all on par together in one story. Will Tony Stark take an order from Steve Rodgers? Will Steve Rodgers want someone like Tony Stark on his team? Is Nick Fury going to be able to handle all these characters? How's he going to react? What the hell is Hulk doing? How is Tony Stark, who thinks that he knows everything about everything and certainly thinks that he knows everything about science and technology, going to react when somebody tells him about these other worlds? That's the interesting thing in The Avengers.
Is "The Avengers" film essentially going to be an adaptation of Mark Millar's "The Ultimates" from Ultimate Marvel, the companies imprint that features re-imagined and updated versions of the classic comic book characters?"
Kevin Fiege: No, I wouldn't say that it is going to be any more "The Ultimates" than it would be, depending on how nerdy you want to get sort of the classic 616 continuity. But it will be clearly the Nick Fury that we have introduced, which is right out of there. I think there will be some elements and "The Ultimates" is a great starting point because ten years ago publishing said, "Hey what if we started a new? How do we reintroduce these characters?" I think they did a very god job. The storylines and some of the tonality of "The Ultimates" I think isn't quite what we'll be doing. But there are a lot of good ideas in there.
Are there plans for a sequel to "The Incredible Hulk"?
Kevin Fiege: Not before The Avengers.
But the character will definitely be reintroduced in "The Avengers"?
Kevin Fiege: We certainly plan on it. He was there in "The Avengers #1" and "The Utimates #1" so certainly The Incredible Hulk is a key part of these films leading up to The Avengers. Iron Man 2 has some clues to where these timelines take place as they relate to each other. So I certainly think Hulk will be a player on that team.
Are you hopeful that actor Edward Norton will return to play the role of Bruce Banner in "The Avengers?"
Kevin Fiege: A lot of it depends on the story, a lot of it depends on the schedule, a lot of it depends on the lofty ideas that we have and you have to work with the realties of people's schedules as to when they are available and stuff like that. So we reserve the right to say Hulk will be in it for sure, we'll see about Banner.
Is "Ant-Man" still in development with Edgar Wright set to direct?
Kevin Fiege: It is. Edgar was in town last week as he is finishing up Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. We've started to look at the Marvel calendar, Edgar's calendar and find a slot for them to match up. We were talking a lot about it over the last few months and especially last week. We're getting excited about it. I mean his take on it is very unique and is something that we are excited about. Once he gets Scott Pilgrim vs. The World out and finishes his promotional responsibilities we're going to have him come in and get a prep-calendar going.
Did you have any concerns about casting actor Chris Evans as Captain America because of his close association with another Marvel character, The Human Torch, after portraying him in both "Fantastic Four" films?
Kevin Fiege: Frankly, yeah I didn't even consider him for a long time because of the Human Torch. I didn't purposely not consider him but he wasn't on the radar. Frankly I was watching for other reasons Sunshine again, then I was talking to Edgar Wright about him and I started to see how he is growing. By the way I thought he was great in those two Fantastic Four movies, he was a standout in those movies. I started to look at how he's grown since then. We sat down and talked in a meeting and I said, oh my God, Steve Rodgers is sitting in front of me right now and I hadn't seen it for a long time. When we sat down and specifically started talking about Cap, yeah it was immediate. Cause Cap has a lot of size and is nothing like Johnny Storm. As you start to see more of Chris and where he is growing as an actor it's into a much more Steve Rodgers type place. He's in England now; he got on one of the first flights after the volcano nonsense went away. He's over there now prepping and rehearsing and the pictures that are coming back and the costume tests are pretty stunning.
Finally, there was a news story out last week, which stated that Marvel Studios is planning to make smaller budgeted films, reportedly in the $20 million - $40 million range, with their lesser known characters after this current string of big budgeted movies are released. Can you elaborate on that?
Kevin Fiege: Well, I'd say the story was ... we haven't talked budget yet; we never start talking budget we start talking story. But certainly we are looking at the next wave. We are going to do two films a year starting in 2011, so what is our post Avengers film in 2013 or 1024? So there are a lot of characters and meetings going on right now.
Would the characters that are introduced in these new films exist in the current "Marvel Film Universe" that you have created?
Kevin Fiege: It could be both I would say. I'm not sure that we will always point out specifically that they do take place in this universe but on the other side I don't think we'll go out of our way to say they don't. For instance, Runaways probably is in this universe but they aren't going to be running into Tony Stark or Nick Fury. Nick Fury doesn't just show up in every room.
By the way, just like in the comics.
One of the lesser known characters that was named in the article as a film that you are developing is "Dazzler," but she is a mutant and a member of the "X-Men" so isn't that a character that is owned by 20th Century Fox?
Kevin Fiege: Yes, that's Fox. Yeah, I didn't see that (in the article). That's not us, unless Fox is doing it?
So are the other characters that were named in the article, "Power Pack," "Luke Cage," "Dr. Strange" and "Ka-Zar," all in development as future projects at Marvel Studios?
Kevin Fiege: Yes, all of that is right except Dazzler.