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It’s been awhile since a movie premiere caused this much of a ruckus in Hollywood. Then again, the unveiling of The Avengers is no ordinary premiere.
The gathering of stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo and others congested traffic for blocks around Hollywood Boulevard’s El Capitan Theater and Grauman’s Chinese on Wednesday night. (In a rare move, traffic officers were on the scene in the surrounding neighborhoods, and orhestrated automobile control even as far south as Sunset Blvd.)
On the red carpet, amid the glare of the lights and the cameras, was Marvel’s Kevin Feige, in many ways the architect of this years-in-the-making ensemble superhero movie.
“I hate the cameras, the hate the red carpet…the only thing I’m excited about is showing people the movie,” he said. “Every decision we make, on set, in the cutting room, is with the intention of evoking a laugh, a scream, a thrill for the audience. And tonight we get to unleash it.”
The fact that The Avengers happened at all is something of a Hollywood miracle. In the mid-2000s, when Marvel began to finance its own movies, the characters were dismissed as second tier superheroes unworthy of big-screen treatment. But since Iron Man became a box office hit in 2008, Marvel enjoyed a successful run of blockbusters focusing individually on Captain America, Thor and Hulk, even as the studio set its sights on having its characters come together for a giant adventure. Through these films, Marvel found success in appealing to average moviegoers while retaining the interest of passionate and obsessive fans of the comic-book source material.
“[Tonight is] the biggest deal to us. From the moment we got out funding to be our own studio, this was the dream,” Feige said.
He said Avengers is the capper to “phase one” of the Marvel plan, with pieces already falling into place for phase two. Iron Man 3 is due to begin shooting in six weeks, sequels for Thor and Captain America have release dates, and there’s room for one or two new movies.
“I loved that in comics, you could read all your individual heroes and you could follow their adventures, then every few years there’d be a crossover event that would bring them all together, in one book,” Feige said. “Then they’d go their separate ways again, have their own adventures, and a few years later, they’d get back together again. I want to replicate that in movies.”
Of course, it’s not easy to bring high-profile actors together—given their success in other movies or franchises, some may want to move on—and Marvel has earned a dubious reputation for failing to find amenable terms for newcomers and returning collaborators both in front of and behind the cameras.
“Scheduling has always been an issue and will always be an issue,” said Feige. “The famous discussions about Marvel contracts and Marvel’s negotiations, all of that is with the mindset of trying to bring all these people together.”
Joss Whedon, who directed Avengers, defended Marvel’s reputation, saying “The Marvel dictate is more director-friendly than any other studio. They went with [Jon] Favreau and [Kenneth] Branagh to do action movies, and those were names that weren’t on anybody’s lists. They go with guys who have a specific vision.”
Meanwhile, Downey said he is looking forward to making the next Iron Man movie more character-based, perhaps reigning in the cocky attitude of the genius playboy Tony Stark.
“There’s a little bit of a return to that, I think, just for entertainment’s sake, in the Avengers, which is appropriate,” Downey said. “But for Iron Man 3, we are going to back to the exploration of this character, which is what made the franchise work to begin with.”
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