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Feige was among the many in the Hollywood community remembering Lee, the outsized and gregarious comic book creator with an outsized influence in modern pop culture, who died Monday.
Feige had begun working as a Marvel exec in the early 2000s when Lee first called him and left a message.
“The light on the phone was blinking and I checked the message,” Feige tells The Hollywood Reporter. “‘Fearless, Feige!’ he said. “‘Fearless Feige, this is Stan Lee.’ It was just a voicemail, he just needed something. But I was, ‘I think Stan Lee gave me a nickname.’ It was amazing.” And it was a message he kept for years afterwards.
Feige first met Lee in person on the set of 2000’s X-Men movie when the co-creator of X-Men, Spider-Man and Iron Man shot what would become the first of his now-famous cameos. He was with the group of producers when Lee came over, and it wasn’t long before the then-26-year-old Feige was geeking out.
“It seemed like a tradition you should not break, even though it was the first one,” Feige said of the decision to keep those cameos going.
Most of the producer’s interactions with Lee centered on those cameos, which never disappointed.
“It would be a holiday on set, when he came to do this cameos. That’s how much he inspired people. Whether it was the beginning of the shoot, the middle, the end, the energy would skyrocket when he came on the set. Those are my strongest memories,” recalled Feige. “And as much as we and the audience love the cameos, Stan loved and was so proud of every one.”
Feige was mum on any future cameos — “One of the many things I learned from Stan was that everyone likes a surprise,” is all he’ll say — and as far as dedications or any future shout-outs, he said, “We’ll think about an appropriate way [to honor him], but even in the 18 years I’ve been at Marvel, the appropriate way is to do justice to the amazing characters and stories that he created. And we’ll continue to do that.”
Feige said he would cherish the many movie posters Lee had signed for him, but right now he was sad: “He was a 95-year old man, I’m realistic, but he’s also Stan Lee. He’s a mythological legend who’s had more energy than me ever since the first day I met him. Part of me thought he would live forever.”
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