Q&A: Kevin Feige

1:54 PM PST 07/21/2009 by Borys Kit, AP

The mild-mannered exec now controls the Marvel movie universe

THR's Comic-Con blog

He's been a Marvel employee since 2000 and president of Marvel Studios since 2007, but Kevin Feige's love of comic books goes back to his childhood. Now, as the man who produces all of Marvel's movies, Feige is attempting to do what only a kid might dream up: create multiple movie franchises that tie into one cohesive universe. But first, he's got to get a sizzle reel ready for this week's Comic-Con.

The Hollywood Reporter: How important is Comic-Con in Marvel's overall game plan?

Kevin Feige: It's part of the discussion when we work with Paramount on the campaign. That said, if we can't go down there with something great, then we don't go out there.

THR: Because the fans might turn on you?

Feige: It is a friendly crowd there. They want to love what they see. In many cases, they've been waiting in line for hours. But you need to bring something down there that is going to pass muster. This is my ninth or 10th trip, so we like to think we know what excites them, the first test being, if we're not excited, then we are not bringing it down there. I think we know what they are looking for: new information but not too much; they want to be teased. But they want to be brought into the editing room for a peek behind the curtain.

THR: Marvel has been very aggressive about staking out release dates. You basically have it mapped out through 2012. But what happens if a script isn't ready?

Feige: Unlike a major studio that's got 20 films, we're doing two a year, and we know exactly what they are going to be. Only animation has that same lead time and stakes out dates because they know exactly what they are working on. If they don't think it's going to work, they pull back. We don't develop anything that we don't plan to make, and if it does feel like we're rushing, then we change the date. You get one bite at the apple to knock it out of the park.

THR: But unlike other companies, your release dates have an impact on your stock price.

Feige: I think the way they announce it comes into play, but it's not what a certain press release is going to do. It's about what this decision is going to mean to the big picture. I do think the company has been good to think what it means down the line instead of chasing that jump of the stock price on that particular day. That being said, the stock is at an all-time high.

THR: Will there be a time soon when you'll move beyond summer releases?

Feige: I think if you're doing summer blockbusters, that first week in May or July is a comfort zone, and it has been since (2002's) "Spider-Man." But if and when we move into other kinds of movies or levels of movies, we would look at release dates all over the calendar. I like expanding what the definition of what a Marvel film is and what a comic book film is.

THR: You cast a relative unknown as the lead in "Thor." Will that be the Marvel casting strategy?

Feige: I think the Marvel way is casting the best actor for the part. It can be somebody relatively new, but it can also be someone like Robert Downey Jr., who you wouldn't necessarily call an unknown. Chris Hemsworth came by the ("Iron Man 2") set a few weeks ago. There was nobody around, but it was the historic meeting of Thor and Tony Stark. Within a few minutes, the crew was whispering, "There's Thor." Some of them had worked on "Star Trek," so they knew who he was, but you could feel the buzz. He was wearing a T-shirt, but he was an imposing presence on the set.

THR: Marvel has developed a reputation for being a tough negotiator on acting deals.

Feige: I hope with our track record that people can see us as a place that makes product that a lot of people will see. And that at the same time there's a comfort factor that we will not hang them out to dry. There's a sense of trust there. A trust with the filmmakers we work with, like Jon Favreau, Ken Branagh and Joe Johnston. We bring a sense of quality where they are not going to be just playing two-dimensional characters. Natalie Portman is very much trusting us and Ken Branagh to showcase what a great actress she is, the same actress that we see in her smaller films. We're trying something that's never been done before, a new idea of the same character appearing in multiple franchises. And the economic conditions of Hollywood are very different now than they've ever been before.
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